DeKalb can become “business friendly” when this city manager is gone

DeKalb city council had another goal-setting session Tuesday evening.

It was a good session, as was last month’s, but at one point I had to laugh, and it was during the perennial make-DeKalb-more-business-friendly discussion.

I dearly wish more council members truly understood that friendliness is impossible under city manager Anne Marie Gaura. Unless you are one of a favored few, you run into a culture that not only disregards the basic tenets of good service, but systematically finds ways to make the going harder.

Alderman David Jacobson tried to explain this again Tuesday. He talked about “the hoops you have to jump through, and the games you have to play” as a local business owner.

Likewise, I’ve become an expert in the travails of the general public, and the latest example involves council’s establishment of a state-mandated “TIF interested parties registry” for the proposed new downtown TIF district. The TIF Redevelopment Act only requires that the city adopt “reasonable registration rules,” which this crew took as an opportunity to create something decidedly unfriendlier than what came before. Continue reading DeKalb can become “business friendly” when this city manager is gone

DeKalb city council’s planning meeting was actually pretty great, because morality

As yesterday’s post made clear, I’ve not been impressed with DeKalb city council strategic planning sessions for several years. Here’s a portion of my description of this dispiriting, dreadful process:

They place the tables in an enclosed rectangle so the audience is facing people’s backs, and between this unfortunate positioning and their failure to use microphones, what you hear is dependent on the projection skills of each individual. Meanwhile, the audience has to wait an average of four hours for a chance to speak to its representatives, after all the decisions have been made.

It’s sketchy. Unacceptable. A 100% shut-out in every meaningful way.

But last evening wasn’t anything like that. It was actually pretty great. This was accomplished partly by the addition of good microphones, but mostly by the subtraction of city staff from the equation. Gone was the incessant noise of half a dozen discount Machiavellis. Only mayor, council members, and a facilitator participated. They set themselves a bunch of goals for the next 12-15 months, and in my opinion they really nailed a lot of it, especially in critical areas like operations and budget/finance.

Because I didn’t observe the entire process (I left for a while to see what the library was up to) I don’t know which of these goals made the final cut, so I won’t try to present the details myself.

But I will share a big-picture impression of the exercise. Continue reading DeKalb city council’s planning meeting was actually pretty great, because morality