This Election, Let’s Discuss Remedial Action for DeKalb

The Chronicle has published a letter to the editor that caught my eye. It’s about local candidates and their positions on the issues.

The words that they use may change, but the rhetoric is the same.

The writer goes on to list the same old, same old: DeKalb-NIU relations, easing of the tax burden, and jobs/business climate. He wants to hear specific ideas.

While I largely agree that some city candidates are hard to pin down, I believe the real issues in DeKalb are more fundamental, and require remediation before we can progress.

Here’s an example from Sunday. I attended the DARA forum for DeKalb mayoral candidates. One of the candidates took the position, in what struck me as a somewhat scolding tone, that residents should not share grievances unless they have the solutions already worked out. Apparently this person has already adopted city hall culture where citizens are separated into friends who have their attention, and whiners who don’t. Continue reading This Election, Let’s Discuss Remedial Action for DeKalb

DeKalb City Manager Oversteps Purchasing Authority Again

Recently I came across this City of DeKalb memo circulated via a council meeting agenda in October:

With former Commander Smith’s retirement in June, the City faced an immediate crisis by not having on-call IT personnel who are familiar with the City’s specific computer systems and able to keep them operational at all times. On June 29, 2016, the City Manager entered into an agreement with Mr. Smith to provide IT support services to the City’s public safety computer system. An agreement to retain Mr. Smith until a new IT Director is hired needs to be approved by the City Council in the event the contract exceeds $20,000.

And here’s part of the resolution accompanying the memo:

WHEREAS, the City’s Purchasing Policy states: If any City purchase increases the total over $20,000 for the current fiscal year, the contract must be presented to the City Council for approval; and

WHEREAS, the ratification of said agreement constitutes approval to the exceed the $20,000 staff spending limitation; and…

Sounds like city manager Anne Marie Gaura can spend on anything she wants, as long as the tab comes in under $20,000, right? Sure seems like it sometimes. Continue reading DeKalb City Manager Oversteps Purchasing Authority Again

DeKalb City Manager Ignored a Policy She Didn’t Like

Remember this from October?

This week, city staff asked the city council to waive the residency requirement for the IT director candidate that they like. It was presented as super-urgent, and council went along.

The problem with this (besides their ongoing preference for carpetbaggers, I mean) is that it goes against a policy set by council that identified the IT director as an emergency response position. That is, this person has been categorized by council as needing to be close to hand in case of emergency.

Council should have insisted that the policy be followed, at least until the matter could be revisited for deliberation at a public meeting. Instead, the city manager’s convenience was prioritized over a public safety consideration.

Were you perhaps puzzled about how the top IT candidate got so far in the interview process when residency was an issue for him? I’ve got yer answer lying in my email inbox. Out of five ads placed for the IT director, there are zero mentions of the residency requirement.

DeKalb Tried to Hide Settlement Agreement with Former Community Development Director

Last year, City of DeKalb got caught violating the Illinois Open Meetings Act (OMA) in approving a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.

There were actually two violations, but the one we are concerned with here is DeKalb city council’s failure to take its final vote on the matter in a public session of city council.

Because it looks they’ve done it again. Continue reading DeKalb Tried to Hide Settlement Agreement with Former Community Development Director

DeKalb City Manager’s Office Tried to Keep ‘STEAM Team’ Under Wraps

City staff are proposing to spend $400,000 in 2017 for a STEAM learning center — and that’s just for the architectural service called “building analysis.” The city is already spending $75,000 on a consulting firm, and council has been spending time in closed sessions to discuss the purchase or lease of property. This is an expensive undertaking, ripe for abuse, and should be done only under the watchful eye of the public.

But obtaining information can be difficult, what with our city hall existing now in a perpetually locked-down position, and today I want to share an example. In April 2016, the Request for Proposal for the consultant referred to decisions made by the “stakeholder project team.” In early September, a posting on the city’s website about a survey taken of the community also mentions the “project team.” Do you get the idea that there’s some sort of committee at work? Me too. However, when we ask about the actual makeup of this “STEAM Team,” staff in the city manager’s office deny us.

Here’s how the attempts to get this information have played out so far. Continue reading DeKalb City Manager’s Office Tried to Keep ‘STEAM Team’ Under Wraps

Letter from Clerk Liz Peerboom on the State of the DeKalb City Clerk’s Office: ‘This is Your City. Take it Back’

Here’s a letter to the editor from Liz Peerboom, whose career as a deputy clerk and city clerk in two communities spans nearly 20 years. Currently the clerk for the Village of Maple Park, Peerboom was awarded the title Rookie of the Year by the Municipal Clerks of Illinois in 2011, in part for implementing improvements to meeting protocols, in-person customer service, and website user experiences. She was also lauded as a team player at the village hall.

Peerboom has served in DeKalb city government both as a deputy and as the elected city clerk, and DeKalb is still her home.

Editor:

When the City of DeKalb was founded in 1865, the City Clerk was full time. Of course, at the time, there were fewer residents and the Clerk did everything from the statutory duties to that of water billing clerk, payroll clerk and accountant. They even did birth and death certificates.

Fast forward to 2012, when the City of DeKalb found itself without a Clerk after then City Clerk Steve Kapitan resigned. The reaction of the City Council was to slash the budget for the City Clerk for the next election to $5,000 per year, making it a part-time position. That’s where I came in…

In 2013, I ran as a write in candidate and won the election. When I was sworn in, I was ready to work and bring the City Clerk’s office back to the office it had once been. Even though it was part-time, and I worked another part-time job, I came to meetings in the evening as required and came during the day to attest documents and oversee what I thought was my office. Right away, they moved me into an office with the Deputy City Clerk, and although it was small I made due because I was a team player. Then, when the Clerk’s office was moved down the hall to where it is now, suddenly I did not have a desk, but only a filing cabinet where I kept my recorder (used for closed session meetings) and the City Seal. The City Seal is used to attest documents and is supposed to be under the control of the City Clerk. Continue reading Letter from Clerk Liz Peerboom on the State of the DeKalb City Clerk’s Office: ‘This is Your City. Take it Back’

DeKalb Council Votes for Convenience over Public Safety

If we’re to change anything in DeKalb city government, we need city council members who understand their role as policymakers and as supervisors of the bureaucrats.

Have I ever passed this on to you? During a conversation last spring about the clerk issue, I was told that council members are fellow city employees.

Who told them that? How is it that there are council members who do not understand the difference between elected officers and staff? Continue reading DeKalb Council Votes for Convenience over Public Safety

Sycamore Versus DeKalb: Comparison of City Clerks

Once upon a time, City of Sycamore and City of DeKalb had duly elected, full-time city clerks. Sycamore still has one. DeKalb’s, however, was destroyed in 2013. Low compensation and transfer of powers to the city manager’s office have deprived us of elected clerks and clerk candidates ever since.

Whatever the city thought it was doing when it allowed this state of affairs, the reality is that DeKalb residents may soon be facing their third election in which zero candidates for clerk appear on the ballot. Continue reading Sycamore Versus DeKalb: Comparison of City Clerks

No, Daily Chronicle. The DeKalb City Clerk has Not Received a Raise

The compensation ordinance that will apply to our next city clerk has NOT received final approval. So there is no, or at least not yet, a “hefty raise” for the clerk as claimed by the newspaper today. It was only first reading. They only reveal this fact in the final sentence of the article.

The issue is scheduled to come back before the City Council for final consideration Oct. 24.

Until then, all compensation numbers are placeholders, and a lot could conceivably happen between now and then.

The mayor’s compensation is $22,500 and is not expected to change. The clerk’s compensation is $5,000. The proposed rise in compensation for the clerk is only up to $8,000.

What SHOULD happen is that council members, at the very least, take a look at how the office of the mayor and the office of the city clerk are the same. The mayor’s position is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. The city clerk is an elected, citywide, officially part-time position with statutory powers. They have to get the same number of signatures to get on the ballot. They go to the same meetings and they sign the same documents. Continue reading No, Daily Chronicle. The DeKalb City Clerk has Not Received a Raise