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

Fire Fighter Open Thread

From Monday’s City Council meeting agenda:


The City and IAFF Local 1236 have reached a tentative agreement. As part of this agreement, IAFF members agree to an eleven month wage freeze in year one and a six month wage freeze in year two during the remaining two years of the agreement. Members also agree to waive their carrying fee compensation through the term of the contract. In return, the City agrees to offer reinstatement to the three laid off firefighters and to hire an additional recently vacant position. The City also agrees that any firefighter that retires on or before September 5, 2009 shall be eligible for health insurance premiums that were in effect prior to June 29, 2009 but shall be subject to any changes that may occur in the future. Additionally, the City agrees not to lay-off or furlough any Union member through the term of the current contract (June 30, 2011). The terms of this variance agreement will result in approximately $350,000 in savings over the remaining two years of the agreement. Please direct questions about this item to Assistant City Manager Rudy Espiritu.



DeKalb needed to save $500,000 citywide this year. Does the two-year agreement help them meet this milepost? Has anybody done the math? Bueller?

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

Notes & More from 8/10/2009 Council Meeting

When people say, “I am not making this up,” as the public works director did last night in explaining the lack of competitive bids for waste pickup, I begin to wonder about the occasions when they don’t say it. You?


Mayor Povlsen is still calling comments he disagrees with “misinformation” based on a continued presumption of residents’ ignorance of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Here is a challenge. I’ll put together a quiz team of eight citizens from last night’s audience to compete with City Council in an exercise to test TIF knowledge. We could call it the TIF Olympics. Let’s hold it on Halloween — I think the results would be pretty scary from the residents’ point of view, if Mr. Baker’s confession is any indication. Continue reading Notes & More from 8/10/2009 Council Meeting

Dear Citizen

An e-mail exchange between a resident of the 4th Ward and Alderman Gallagher was forwarded to me.

From: mark cxxx []
Sent: Tue 8/4/2009 3:13 AM
To: Gallagher, Brendon
Subject: RE: Southside fire station


When you get a chance I would like to discuss something that I recently came across.

Fire Station No. 2 (South 7th Street) no longer has a fire engine housed there, only an ambulance. According to the new blog Save DeKalb, the reduction was effective August 1. I am going to visit this location and confirm these findings and highly suggest you do the same.

What is your take on the the fact that the 4th ward and south side no longer has adequate fire protection? Is this a permanent condition or can you speak with Ald Naylor and bring forth an agenda item to be voted on by the city council to force the FD to keep an Engine on the South side?

Might be worth bringing up at the next Council meeting.



Dear Citizen: Thank you for your email regarding Fire Station #2. Given the current staffing levels for our fire department, Chief Harrison has had to make some changes as it relates to fire protection.

It is my understanding that Fire Station #2 is now an EMT only station based on our current staffing.

When revenues return to our city, be it through retail sales tax, cost cutting, etc…, I hope we can return Station #2 to its past staffing levels.


Brendon Gallagher
4th Ward Alderman
City of DeKalb
200 S Fourth Street
DeKalb, IL 60115

815.787.7727 voice

Thus the quality of representation in the 4th Ward becomes clearer.

CPI & Waste Management

The City of DeKalb is getting ready to approve a new 4-year agreement with Waste Management (pp. 122-128) for residential pickup of trash. One proposal is to tie increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), allow for a minimum annual increase of 2% and cap it at 6% no matter what fuel prices are doing. Staff have rejected that option, so Monday Council will consider a contract containing a 0% increase the first year but then 4% per year for subsequent years through FY2013. Staff prefers this plan because “the volatility of fuel pricing would place unnecessary risk upon residents and such a pricing plan would not be in the best interests of the City.”

Prices per “service unit,” then, would jump from 14.62 to 16.45 over the life of the contract — but wait! This may yet be a moot point because the city could opt to sign on to the “Toter” program citywide upon termination of a pilot program March 31, 2010. If the “Toter” program is adopted by DeKalb, households would be charged $17.79 initially, with three raises of 4% each by the end of the contract. In other words, we could go from the current rate of $14.62 to right around $20 by the end of FY2013.

By comparison, the worst-case scenario of a 6% annual increase over the 4 year contract period would result in an FY2013 rate less than $18.50.

The maximum unnecessary financial risk to residents, then, will be posed by the city itself under this plan.

The First Step

One of the citizen commenters at the council meeting last night brought up the City of DeKalb’s Management Pay Plan. She was scandalized by the leap from Step 1 to Step 2. It is easy to see why. Grade One starting pay, for example, is $18.158 per hour but on the first anniversary it jumps to $21.199. That’s a 16.75% increase. After that, annual increases are a more modest 2% per year and in fact they call it the “Two Percent Pay Plan.”

What the commenter seemed not to know is that all city contracts take a big jump from Step 1 to Step 2 (or Step A to Step B).

In 2008, the Police Contract (p. 35) started a patrol officer at an hourly wage of $26.69, which increased to $29.08 at Step B.

The AFSCME contract schedule (p. 40) pays a Building Supervisor at a rate of $28.291 the first year and $33.20 the second.

A new fire fighter makes $23.979 hourly to start, then goes to $29.524.

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