“Conversation with an Engineer” by Strong Towns

The following is a production of StrongTowns.org.


Note: Strong Towns is not responsible for any mental duress resulting from repeated watching of this video. We are also not responsible for angry reactions from planners and engineers confronted with the illogic of their world view. If watching as part of a group, we recommend having a padded room or some type of physical restraint system available to keep those that develop a temporary feeling of hopelessness from doing damage to themselves or others.

As DeKalb tries to figure out how to come up with $6 million a year more to repair our neglected streets without chasing out more of our population, there are ways to put together better answers. For our city, it means a major shift away from its Edifice Complex (public spending on buildings that don’t contribute to the tax base) and development of a grownup’s appreciation for basic infrastructure.

A Tale of One Public Servant

Private citizen Arthur Clennam finally catches Mr. Barnacle in. Mr. Barnacle heads up Circumlocution, a government office with a far-flung reputation as a model for How Not to Do It.

“It is competent,” said Mr. Barnacle, “to any member of the–Public,” mentioning that obscure body with reluctance, as his natural enemy, “to memorialise the Circumlocution Department. Such formalities as are required to be observed in so doing, may be known on application to the proper branch of that Department.”

“Which is the proper branch?”

“I must refer you,” returned Mr. Barnacle, ringing the bell, “to the Department itself for a formal answer to that inquiry.”

“Excuse my mentioning–”

“The Department is accessible to the–Public,” Mr. Barnacle was always checked a little by that word of impertinent signification, “if the–Public approaches it according to the official forms; if the–Public does not approach it according to the official forms, the–Public has itself to blame.”

~Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit, 1857

A Few Words About Video Gambling

The city council of DeKalb approved first reading last night of an ordinance that would overturn a ban on gambling devices to allow video gaming with payouts.

Also, in a daring use of Home Rule authority, it has decided to consider allowing the machines in an establishment where kids hang out.

Come August 27, probable date of second reading, we may be leaving more cautious communities in the dust! Guess who passed the ordinance below:

WHEREAS, states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina have abandoned experiments with the legalization of video gaming because of regulatory difficulties, corruption, and the high social costs associated with this form of gambling; and

WHEREAS, video gaming is designed to entice people to play longer, faster, and at higher rates of wagering, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor…and City Council agree that legalized video gaming would present a variety of adverse impacts on residents…including the potential for corruption, impact on the costs of law enforcement, regulatory difficulties, and high social costs; and

WHEREAS, the legalization of video gaming within the City…is not consistent with the family-oriented values reflected in our community as identified in the City’s Strategic Plan; and

WHEREAS, the overwhelming majority of input received from…citizens calls for prohibiting video gaming in the City…video gaming is prohibited within the corporate limits of the City…

Make the jump to see if you guessed right. Continue reading A Few Words About Video Gambling

Call the Wa-a-a-mbulance for Belvidere Township

WATB alert!

BELVIDERE — Belvidere Township’s legal fees have skyrocketed 383 percent from five years ago.

The township has been scrutinized for months with residents filing lengthy Freedom of Information Act requests and writing memos that require legal responses. People have questioned the township’s budget, public comment process and whether the government body should even exist.

Township Supervisor Patrick Murphy said his board has now asked [contracted township attorney Keri-Lyn] Krafthefer to attend each township meeting. He said officials are being “picked on” and must consult an attorney before taking any action.

City of DeKalb administrations also depend on lawyers to guide their every move at meetings and to keep the public out of their beeswax, but you don’t hear them crying about it! Continue reading Call the Wa-a-a-mbulance for Belvidere Township

Be the First Illinoisan to Fly a Pet Drone!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit to bring you lists of authorized drone pilots/sites and map their locations.

You do not have to be President of the United States to own and fly drones. We are lucky to live in such an egalitarian country!

[looking at map] Geez, get with the program, Illinois.

Bonus: Do-it-yourself drones

Interesting Search Terms

Here are a few of the search terms people have used recently that led them to the citybarbs blog. Thought you might enjoy.

“hunted houses”

“universal rest group dekalb”

“i lost minutes for a meeting”

“1971, that was a bad year for libraries”

“pig poop is black”

People also wanted to see firefighters saving cats, find out which non-home ruled municipality uses hotel tax to pay police salaries (so do I, now) and seek mybigblackbuddy.com.

Each month, visitors also still come to read about Henry Ford’s soybean suit and the loss of Milan Krpan.

CCEC Disapproves of DeKalb’s New Police Cars

Citizens Community Enhancement Commission members are upset their logo was totally rejected as the new design for the police cars, so now they want a do-over:


1. New Police Squads

[Assistant City Manager Rudy] Espiritu distributed pictures of the new police cars. A survey was done with Police personnel, and the staff selected the logo in the pictures, he said. The logo recommended by the CCEC
received no votes, he added. However, he said, it is placed on the bumper.

Mr. Barnes disagreed that the logo selected was the best choice. He added that police cars market the image of DeKalb.

He suggested that in the future, the voting be open to all City staff, residents and the CCEC. Mr. Rasmussen agreed and added that the logo looks garish and needs to be subdued. Continue reading CCEC Disapproves of DeKalb’s New Police Cars

Declining Attendance at the Taste / Corn Fest

I am not surprised that after high-profile news reports of mobs of thugs attacking people in downtown Chicago in broad daylight that the attendance at the Taste dropped. But, attendance was down in previous years as well. No matter what anyone says, unless there is a popular band at Corn Fest, its attendance dropped, too. Sun Times columnist Neil Steinberg wrote some hilarious yet probably good suggestions (if anyone had the guts to use them) on how to improve attendance at the Taste, most of which could be applied to Corn Fest:


FY2012 Budget Comments, Smart-Alecky Edition

The proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 is now available. I’ve just begun reading it. Here are a few reactions so far.

[From the 2025 Vision Statement] Its downtown is the heart of the community…

Translation: We hate that the Super Wal-Mart is the closest thing DeKalb has to a town square. Continue reading FY2012 Budget Comments, Smart-Alecky Edition