Lord Stanley’s, FOIA requests, and questions of consistency

It’s a story that won’t die. That’s because DeKalb handled condemnations of Lord Stanley’s and Stanley’s Annex poorly, but officials still won’t admit to errors except to say they should have treated the residents of the upstairs apartments better (i.e., the city should not have threatened them with imminent eviction).

This week the Daily Chronicle has examined the city attorney’s role in the matter. The city maintains that his role is strictly advisory. This is not consistent with what we’ve observed, as exemplified by an email shared with you last week, in which the city attorney appeared to be leading the process.

So today’s theme is consistency and lack of it. Continue reading Lord Stanley’s, FOIA requests, and questions of consistency

City emails reveal tactics in the condemnation of Lord Stanley’s

Emails obtained by a member of the City Barbs Facebook Group indicate City of DeKalb worked the Lord Stanley’s and Stanley’s Annex condemnations of April 6 in a decidedly business-unfriendly manner, and then blamed social media for frightening residential tenants with impending forcible eviction.

As indicated in last weekend’s post, the city failed to follow proper procedure in condemning the Stanleys, particularly as concerns notice of code violations.* DeKalb did eventually give the building owners written notices, but not until Monday, April 9, which was the same day as the original deadline for making repairs and avoiding permanent condemnations and evictions. Continue reading City emails reveal tactics in the condemnation of Lord Stanley’s

Cutting through DeKalb’s spin on the condemnation of Lord Stanley’s

***Update 4/17/2017: The Daily Chronicle published a related letter to the editor: “Social media uproar warranted regarding condemnation.” Thanks, DC.***

City of DeKalb is in spin cycle over actions taken to condemn Lord Stanley’s and Lord Stanley’s Annex earlier this month, defending its actions during the last council meeting and now on a blog hilariously called “Just the Facts.”

Item One: City is currently presenting the inspections that led to condemnation as routine fire-life safety inspections. Yet an April 7 newspaper story quotes the city attorney as saying condemnation was the culmination of months of work.

Also, the chief building official (CBO) accompanied the fire-life safety inspector on these inspections. This is anything but routine. Indeed, the CBO — the one person empowered to condemn buildings and declare structural emergencies — was hired on the argument that he would send out inspectors who are the most appropriate yet cost effective personnel for each job. He chose himself. Why?

And why the inconsistency over the stated level of involvement pre-condemnation? It’s actually weirder to think they went from zero to condemnation instead of advancing through the usual process of escalation. Continue reading Cutting through DeKalb’s spin on the condemnation of Lord Stanley’s

Gaura made significant changes to DeKalb’s administrative organization without public discussion

DeKalb city manager Anne Marie Gaura has pulled some police and fire department personnel under the umbrella of DeKalb’s Community Development Department, following private consultation with selected persons but no public discussion.

Staff employed in the PD’s Crime Free Housing Bureau, and the FD’s Fire Prevention Lieutenant (FPL), will now report to a Chief Building Official (CBO) in Community Development.

Crime Free has several functions related to code enforcement that is centered around property maintenance and criminal incident reporting and tracking, while the FPL conducts Fire Life Safety License inspections and fire-related reviews of building plans.

It’s a done deal — the city is already advertising for the CBO, for example — and the only reason it appeared on the city’s Committee of the Whole meeting agenda was to fulfill a request to address “Alderman Jacobson’s issue,” as Gaura called it during the meeting. Continue reading Gaura made significant changes to DeKalb’s administrative organization without public discussion

Another Anniversary

As City Barbs turns nine today, I want to express my pleasure and gratitude to you who have let me know in so many ways that the blog has value to you.

I am as excited as ever to begin another year. There’s the fresh smell of grassroots growing in the air and it makes sense to me that City Barbs continues to operate in service of perspectives and ideas that differ from those of the local political-media establishment.

Do you come here often? If so, you’ve noticed less frequent postings over the past several months. Schedules come into play, of course, but much of the change reflects a shift to posting more on Facebook. A lot of interesting public documents have come to light since the College Town Partners leak and I can’t resist the Facebook photo album format for displaying pages side-by-side with descriptions of their context. Hope you will check out the group if you haven’t already.

Lastly, here’s a plug for some o’ that grassroots freshness. You are invited to attend FOCUS DeKalb’s latest meeting — Part Deux to the town hall that drew almost 100 individuals. Find the deets here: Town Hall Meeting Tonight.

DARA to Council: Rethink Housing Bureau Structure, Costs at Budget Time

The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has sent city council members a letter and with general budget recommendations for FY2014.

EPI, of course, refers to Executive Partners, Inc., their latest report to the city and the April workshop we talked about yesterday.

DARA to Council p1 photo budgetinputletterfy2014p1_zpsb41eef46.jpg

Jump for more. Continue reading DARA to Council: Rethink Housing Bureau Structure, Costs at Budget Time

Rockford Working Its Way to Landlord Registration Program

It’s registration without tons of new staff or inspection ordinances of dubious constitutionality.

Right now, the only thing between the city and a new landlord registry is the right software, said Paul Arena, president of the Rockford Apartment Association.

The property managers want the database to link to the city’s police and code enforcement reporting tools so they can receive an e-mail when something happens at one of their properties.

Arena said he’s confident that it can be done through a program that won’t put additional demands on city staff.

Let’s compare in our signature DeKalb-centric way.

The City of DeKalb put together what observers can now conclude was supposed to be a puppet task force to promote its rental inspection ambitions. The task force ended up not being a puppet, thereby forcing the administration to a) try an end run around its work by contracting with rental inspection “experts,” b) introduce (and re-introduce) and advocate its own ordinances at council though they ran counter to task force recommendations, and c) ensure victory by waiting until a key council member went on vacation to hold the final vote.

The City of Rockford negotiated directly — and, it appears, sometimes fiercely — with its landlords, and will soon bring to its council an ordinance that has the support of both parties.

Which city would you rather deal with?

Related: Licensing & Inspection Program Could Help Turn a TIF Blueprint into Reality

First Reading of Housing Ordinance Changes Comes Tomorrow

The agenda for tomorrow’s city council meetings is here. Now, it finally becomes apparent* that the $6 million they’ve got stockpiled in the TIF 2 fund is mostly going to go into the Municipal Building. Of course, the use of TIF money for this purpose will bring in all kinds of new private development and tax revenues…somehow…right?

Also up for consideration at first reading are changes to the housing ordinances (see PDF pp. 39-40. As previously discussed, the main problem with the proposals (besides the costs) is the blurring of police functions with code enforcement functions. Such disregard for roles and boundaries will come to no good and I’m quite surprised the police department seems willing to risk its reputation with a mess like this.

At any rate, the DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has sent another letter to the administration about these ordinances. I’ll place it after the jump. Continue reading First Reading of Housing Ordinance Changes Comes Tomorrow

Two Poodles Bring Zombie Housing Ordinance to Council

DeKalb’s Committee of the Whole agenda for Monday includes a zombie ordinance.

Enclosed is an old draft of an ordinance prepared by Klein Thorpe, and Jenkins in which property maintenance items were at one time included in a former draft of the Chronic Nuisance ordinance.

The Housing Task Force rejected the ordinance, and Council already gave direction in this matter. Nevertheless, two council members (henceforth to be thought of as “Biernacki’s poodles” due to my having drawn personal conclusions) requested it be brought back onto the agenda.

The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has responded by pointing out that the agenda addition brings building code into proposals that were meant only to address residents’ behaviors.

What’s wrong with that? Potentially plenty. It means the zombie provisions are not tweaks, but rather constitute a proposal for a MAJOR POLICY SHIFT from code enforcement being a primarily a “civilian” activity to becoming a police function.

There are a lot of implications — not the least of which is the elimination of Public Works jobs — and they deserve their own discussions on the merits.

Make the jump to read the memo on this agenda item. Continue reading Two Poodles Bring Zombie Housing Ordinance to Council