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

3/17/09

From the diary on my campaign site:

Getting tired of the whole “we have a balanced budget” and “we have a surplus” talk…Tell you what -– let’s go with that. Let’s just say we believe the surplus is real, on condition that if it disappears right after the election, the city manager is held responsible and dismissed.

Nobody’s been held responsible or dismissed yet, except for 3 firefighters.

Caving?

Good for AFSCME. The union did its job.

AFSCME members voted Wednesday night on a proposal where they will take a wage freeze for one year, and in return, the city will not lay off any workers through the remainder of the contract, which expires Dec. 31, 2010.

I think it would have been fairer to the rest of us if the no-layoff period and the wage freeze period had ended up the same, considering how this affects flexibility in dealing with the financial crises; but, at least they’re holding firm on th — oh, wait.

In addition, AFSCME’s health insurance premium costs will not go up in 2010, Biernacki said. Currently, employees pay 15 percent of the premium, which was supposed to increase to 20 percent on July 1, 2010.

How does the city’s continuing to pick up that 5% of the premium for 70 employees affect the purported $480,000 in FY2010 savings achieved with a citywide wage freeze? The question must be asked and answered before Council can vote on the proposal. I tried to look at Monday’s meeting agenda online to see if it is addressed in a memo but not only did the agenda not load properly, it messed up my browser.

City of DeKalb to Honor Contracts When It Feels Like It

Last night I once again spent four hours in Bizzaro World. It was very hot inside and about the same hot outside, yet the exit from the city council meeting felt like a breath of fresh air.

Well, it did until a certain city official tracked me down as we stood outside in little groups to process what had happened. He wanted to take me to task for “not providing context” to my gym membership figures when I spoke at the last council meeting. Seems he felt I should have gone into detail about which portion comes from payroll deduction vs. how much from the city, etc.

[rant on] Continue reading City of DeKalb to Honor Contracts When It Feels Like It

Rally for Human Services Tomorrow

DeKalb Community Coordinated Child Care (4C) is planning a rally at Rep. Bob Pritchard’s office Thursday (tomorrow) at noon. The reason: social service agencies expect to be funded by the state this coming fiscal year at half the usual levels.

If this happens, agencies such as Children’s Learning Center daycare, which serves many low-income families with subsidized childcare, would have to close its doors. This would affect the livelihoods and well-being of hundreds of families.

Now, I’ve never visited Rep. Pritchard in his local office because he is just so very good about responding to e-mail, but I see it is listed as being at 2600 DeKalb Avenue in Sycamore–oh! I do believe that’s also where the DeKalb County Community Foundation is headquartered.

FY2010 Budget Thread

City of DeKalb is thinking of cutting Re:New DeKalb’s funding.

The second change is a reduction in funding to Re:New DeKalb from $50,000 to $45,000 annually.

“This is in consideration in both a reduction in human services funding and as a first step for Re:New DeKalb to be fiscally independent from the city by Fiscal Year 2012,” Espiritu said.

Currently, Re:New is funded by the economic development fund, which relies solely on hotel-motel tax revenues.

If this budget is approved as it stands so far, human services funding will be cut 25%, not 10%. That’s not a very good start on Re:New, then, especially if they indeed propose to phase out the allocation completely within three years. Let’s also make clear that Re:New will never be self-sufficient of tax dollars in any real sense, as its raison d’etre is to spend TIF dollars and its staff enjoy benefits through NIU. Continue reading FY2010 Budget Thread