You May Raise My Taxes When…

Is it wrong to prefer a Council meeting without Wogen and Simpson? I’ve decided there’s no immediate need to get rid of Wogen unless he starts showing up again, or if the 3rd Ward wants the mayor to appoint somebody to the spot. And Simpson can take as much time off as he likes unless the 1st puts up a fuss.

Four hundred ninety-six days and counting

In other news, I’ve decided it’s A-OK with me for Council to raise my taxes — as soon as the following conditions are met: Continue reading You May Raise My Taxes When…

MICA

Tuesday night at the joint City Council–Financial Advisory Committee meeting, staff announced they had researched several providers of liability insurance and had made a decision on a favorite, an outfit called the Municipal Insurance Cooperative Agency (MICA). There were three red flags when the MICA plan was laid out. One was that we were not allowed to hear from any of the other contenders. A second was hearing that the risk pool is very small, 23 I think they said. The third is that the premium sounds too good to be true: a premium of $1 million per year offered to a city with, currently, a $790,000+ per year indemnity plus legal and administrative costs.

Tuesday night I didn’t know what the red flags meant, exactly, but on Wednesday an insurance expert (who would like to remain anonymous, though I’d be glad to give credit) called me up and clued me in. After digesting the information I crafted an e-mail to the Council, which follows… Continue reading MICA

Expenditures of Distinction, August 2009

This month’s Expenditures of Distinction are brought to you by the August 24 agenda packet except for one expenditure from July 27.

Expenditures of Distinction — Disdain Division

$353 for Blackberries for I&T (p. 99)
$17,000 to Re:New DeKalb (p. 154) in administrative fees for two Architectural Improvement projects Continue reading Expenditures of Distinction, August 2009

Another Meeting Marathon to Nowhere

City Council’s most damaging flaw is its low overall level of intellectual curiosity. Between the grandstanding and the gotchas and the preening and pomposity, there is little time or inclination left for understanding the fundamental shifts necessary for our continued well-being, much less prosperity. Whatever energy might have been devoted to real study of big-picture issues is instead spent at scrutiny of minutiae and potshots at the individuals who understand, care, and represent the struggling DeKalbite best.

Mac McIntyre expressed the only compassion to be witnessed in Council Chambers last night. He set real people of DeKalb — the foreclosed-upon, the unemployed, the underemployed — against the next extravagance contemplated for the downtown. The cognitive dissonance must have caused instant, painful hissing of synapses, for, instead of mirroring and applying the compassion, the response was defensive and dismissive.

And, even with hard numbers in front of them, Council continues to miss the point. Continue reading Another Meeting Marathon to Nowhere

Your Tourism Dollars at Work

On July 13, 2009, City Council once more approved a $50,000 allocation to the Chamber of Commerce‘s tourism branch. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, City Barbs has obtained some financial information. This is how they spent the money last year:

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Tourism Fund
a.k.a. DeKalb Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB)

Statement of Functional Expenses — Cash Basis
for the Year Ended December 31, 2008

Salaries & wages — $35,054
Payroll taxes — $3,098
Rent — $5,200
Office Supplies — $331
Postage — $345
Telephone — $960
Meals & entertainment — $366
Automobile — $249
Gifts — $75

Subtotal: $45,678

Actual touristy stuff after the jump. Continue reading Your Tourism Dollars at Work

Your Tourism Dollars at Work, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

This was going to be about why the City Council should hold DeKalb Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) accountable for its $50,000 annual allocation. It’s still about that, but also counters a story being floated in some circles today about how Re:New DeKalb nobly requested their $45,000 allocation come from TIF this year instead of the General Fund so Council could have the option to restore social services funding.

This is utter hogwash. Re:New’s funding wasn’t supposed to come from the General Fund. It was supposed to come from the Economic Development Fund, funded by the hotel-motel tax. This was set up last year after the Financial Advisory Committee recommended to earmark certain revenues for certain purposes.

What it’s really about is a screw up, and the inability of this city to live within its means. Continue reading Your Tourism Dollars at Work, Part 2

EPI Meeting #1 Live-Blogging

–Holy cow. I wondered what “modified” accrual accounting is.* So, they use cash accounting for expenditures but accrual accounting for revenues? We need to talk about that some more.

–Grandstanding. Nobody said there would be a vote to eliminate the post-employment health insurance! It is, however, clear that the city can no longer continue to pay 87% of the premium. Kay pointed out that the premium seems to be too high.

–Mac (FAC) commenting on the fact that only 5 of 8 council members filled out the survey on EPI implementation priorities and we don’t know who did and who didn’t. No one from the Financial Advisory Committee was asked. Continue reading EPI Meeting #1 Live-Blogging

My Fault

The DeKalb Rescue Me Now website notes that there is a growing call for putting citizens’ comments near the end of Council meetings instead of the beginning, as happens now.

It used to be this way, but changed almost a year and a half ago when residents, including myself, called for a change:

Look at standard procedure at council meetings: The ordinance comes up for discussion; residents speak for three minutes each; the council immediately votes without further consideration or response to speakers’ pleas. Ditto the satisfaction level for the “citizens’ comments” session that, incidentally, occurs just about when everybody’s pulling their coats on. It disgruntles the speechifying residents. “Re-gruntling” grows less likely over time.

Mayor Van Buer set to changing the order of Citizens Comments right away, though almost immediately you could spot the disadvantage. With the old way, if you had filled out the Speakers’ Request form, you had the opportunity not only to speak to the issue you had arrived with, you could also comment on actions taken earlier in the evening if you had time left over. Continue reading My Fault

Almost-Live Blog for Council Meeting

Alderman Teresinski has been reporting on happenings in his ward and did so again tonight. What a novel and refreshing use of Agenda Item L, Reports & Communications. He gets points for that.

I was disappointed that my own alderman, Mr. Gallagher, had nothing to say about last week’s Economic Development Committee meeting since almost half of it was about the deterioration of South 4th Street. IMO he is too much the Re:New DeKalb cheerleader and not hooked enough into his own ward. A ward committee would be just the ticket, don’t you think?

Three months after it is issued, the EPI report finally makes an agenda! Having meetings devoted to its recommendations is a good start, though trying to pretend that public input has been valued in the past is bogus. “Squeaky wheel.” “Only complainers come to meetings.” But I am open to a new start. Put an EPI forum on the city’s website and you can color me impressed. Continue reading Almost-Live Blog for Council Meeting