The Hooplah in Elmhurst

hooplah buttonsSometimes it helps perspective to check out what other communities are doing. DeKalb’s not the only municipality with code enforcement that sometimes looks inconsistent or arbitrary. I’ve been following such a story in Elmhurst for more than a year.

A documentary about the Elmhurst controversy is titled “Hooplah” and residents have adopted the same name for their activities, which primarily involve support for a hoop house ordinance but also end up contributing to the larger cause of good governance.

A hoop house is a passive-solar sheltering structure that helps a gardener extend a growing season. It functions kind of like a greenhouse, except that it is a temporary structure that does not have a foundation, and uses flexible plastic sheeting over plastic or metal “hoops” instead of rigid walls.

nicoles hoop house

Here are two examples of hoop houses. The one above is gone, because City of Elmhurst made the owners take it down after a couple of months. The one below, also in Elmhurst, has reportedly stayed put continuously for 10 years. What’s the difference: size, anchorage, lot coverage? Nobody knows. Guidelines and requirements don’t exist — not yet anyway.

a neighbors permanent hoop house

Hooplah started when Nicole Virgil and her family decided to take their raised-bed organic gardening to the next level by growing as close to year-round as possible. The plan involved assembling a hoop house in the fall and taking it down in the spring. It is something they assumed was an accessory structure to gardening as is, say, a shed. But then a neighbor complained about it, and City of Elmhurst forced the Virgils to take it down in February 2017. Continue reading The Hooplah in Elmhurst

A Few Words About Video Gambling

The city council of DeKalb approved first reading last night of an ordinance that would overturn a ban on gambling devices to allow video gaming with payouts.

Also, in a daring use of Home Rule authority, it has decided to consider allowing the machines in an establishment where kids hang out.

Come August 27, probable date of second reading, we may be leaving more cautious communities in the dust! Guess who passed the ordinance below:

WHEREAS, states such as Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina have abandoned experiments with the legalization of video gaming because of regulatory difficulties, corruption, and the high social costs associated with this form of gambling; and

WHEREAS, video gaming is designed to entice people to play longer, faster, and at higher rates of wagering, according to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and

WHEREAS, the Mayor…and City Council agree that legalized video gaming would present a variety of adverse impacts on residents…including the potential for corruption, impact on the costs of law enforcement, regulatory difficulties, and high social costs; and

WHEREAS, the legalization of video gaming within the City…is not consistent with the family-oriented values reflected in our community as identified in the City’s Strategic Plan; and

WHEREAS, the overwhelming majority of input received from…citizens calls for prohibiting video gaming in the City…video gaming is prohibited within the corporate limits of the City…

Make the jump to see if you guessed right. Continue reading A Few Words About Video Gambling

Website Transparency Standouts

The Illinois Policy Institute recently re-tested government website transparency in DuPage County’s York Township and released results last week.

Dubbed “The Local Transparency Project,” grades are based on the availability to the public of vital community information such as public meeting schedules, government employee salaries and tax rates. Since the project was launched by the Institute in February 2010, more than 160 government entities have been graded.

The government entities that scored above 80 percent were: DuPage County, Elmhurst School District 205, DuPage High School District 88 and the municipalities of Elmhurst, Hinsdale, Downers Grove and Lombard. The village of Lombard, in fact, maintained a score of 100 percent that initially awarded in May 2012.

Almost all of the websites gained points the second time around, and the top sites made such improvement as to suggest conscious responses to the first test.

And it’s not just about uploading content, but organizing it in such a way that it is easy to find.

The Village of Lombard website is tops for several reasons. Redundancy is one. For example, you can get to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) information and forms from both the “How Do I…?” menu on the front page, and via the “Online Forms by Department” menu. An “A-Z” index is also available, which is how I found out the village offers extra goodies for residents, such as a directory of local contractors who meet village requirements for insurance and so on. Continue reading Website Transparency Standouts

Calling Fowl in Batavia

The Daily Herald reports that the City of Batavia’s Community Development Committee is researching the possibility of allowing residents to house chickens.

This Kane County development seems kind of fitting in view of Garfield Farm’s efforts to save the Black Java breed.

I’ve done some homework on keeping chickens in the city, and I know city slickers who raise chickens (not in DeKalb, though). It is legal in cities and towns across the country. What happens in your neighborhood depends mainly on whether your neighbor is conscientious, just as it does with dogs. Given a properly staffed code enforcement division and the right ordinance, I could maybe get behind a few coops in DeKalb.