Fun with Friends of Goliath

The Illinois Supreme Court refused last week to hear an appeal against the DeKalb County Board’s decision to allow Waste Management’s landfill expansion plan. In response, Daily Chronicle editor Eric Olson patted the Stop the Mega-Dump people on the head.

Their effort was driven by their convictions. Members of the unfortunately named Stop the Mega-Dump believed what they were doing was right and the county was in the wrong. They took it as far as they could because they cared about the effect this landfill expansion would have on our shared environment.

There, there.

[sympathetic cooing noises]

Suddenly, he attacks! Continue reading Fun with Friends of Goliath

Write-In Candidates in DeKalb County So Far

*Update: Final list of candidates is here.*

In the article, “DeKalb County Certifies Preliminary Ballot,” the county clerk stated that there are about six people who have filed as write-in candidates in April’s Consolidated Election so far. As of 9:30 a.m. today there were indeed exactly six:

  • Michael Franckowiak – Genoa Park Board
  • Veronica Bruhl – Kaneland Board of Education
  • Rick Goken – Shabbona Township Trustee
  • Virginia E. Toppe – Malta Library Trustee
  • Charles G. Rose – DeKalb Regional Board of Education
  • Antonio C. Amaya – Genoa Park Board
  • We could see additional declarations of write-in campaigns this week because the deadline is Thursday, after which the final list of candidates will be posted at

    While I’m at it I’d like to recognize John Acardo and the Office of the DeKalb County Clerk & Recorder for their high standards of professionalism and customer service. Nobody answers requests for information faster than they do, the communication is very good and I like how I am treated.

    Library Talks to the City About Issuing Bonds for Its Expansion

    Here’s the latest.

    DeKalb library leaders asked the DeKalb City Council on Monday if it would consider borrowing $7.5 million for the $24 million construction project, which would add 47,000 square feet to the 19,000-square-foot building at 309 Oak St. Library leaders need to secure $15.5 million by June 1 to qualify for an $8.5 million state construction grant they were offered last month.

    No, that’s not quite right. They weren’t “offered” anything. DKPL applied for the grant last April and its number finally came up, probably because a couple other libraries lost referenda in November (but we don’t know for sure, because I’ve been foiled in my FOIA inquiry).

    It’s a crying shame for taxpayers that DKPL turned in an application with a plan to spend $24 million, because the eligible construction costs only come to about $13 million. This means there are a lot of goodies in there that the state won’t cover. When DKPL board members say they really, really tried so hard to save taxpayers money, the fitting response is a derisive laugh. Continue reading Library Talks to the City About Issuing Bonds for Its Expansion

    DeKalb TIF Absurdity

    Wow, today’s Chronicle article about TIF seems very one-sided and in need of additional viewpoints.

    That’s what blogs are for!

    Let’s start with the statement about Sycamore Road.

    DeKalb’s districts helped revitalize Sycamore Road with the additions of Target, Walmart and major shopping corridors.

    Revitalize? Do they think Sycamore Road was full of slums? It was mostly farmland. Last I checked, farmland was an asset in DeKalb County. But, to start a TIF district you need to declare the area you want to develop as a sort of disaster area known as “blight.” In Illinois TIF parlance, “blight” is anything a municipality needs it to be, as long as it can persuade the General Assembly and governor to buy in. So…corn fields equal blight in DeKalb.

    Yes, it’s a corruption of TIF; and the most amazing part, to me, is how a publication can write about Illinois corruption on a regular basis and yet not recognize local examples of it.

    Back to the article. How about this:

    “We’re blessed to have the working relationship we do with the taxing districts,” [DeKalb city manager Mark] Biernacki said. “We work to make that longer term more short-term by ending TIF districts in less than 23 years.”

    DeKalb’s largest TIF district was amended, expanded and renewed for an additional 11 years in 2008. This assertion of Biernacki’s that DeKalb closes TIFs early should not have gone unchallenged, yet it totally did.

    Also going unchallenged is the notion of opening new TIFs in town AT THIS TIME. I can’t believe we are going there and will spend the rest of the post explaining why it we shouldn’t. Continue reading DeKalb TIF Absurdity

    Property Tax Levy & IMRF Contributions

    In “DeKalb Gives First Approval to Property Tax Levy,” we get this:

    The aldermen had previously set the ceiling for a property tax levy at $9.67 million, and were given two options by city staff to set the request at either $9.67 million or $9.63 million – the amount the city levied last year.

    According to the Chronicle, the city council appears to support the higher levy, and the rate would go up, too, to about 79 cents. Anything else?

    The city uses property tax revenue to fund pensions of city staff, police officers and firefighters. The $9.67 million request would be able to fund all the police and fire pensions, and 45 percent of the pensions of city staff. The other 55 percent will have to be made up from one of the city’s other funds, she said.

    Let us summarize (using both today’s Chronicle story and Monday’s CB post.)

    • As a rule, city property tax collected ONLY goes to city pensions.

    • The property tax levy will probably go up for tax year 2012.

    • As the levy goes up, the rate will go up, too — about 7 cents.

    • A 7-cent hike would probably set a record.

    • Despite a probable record hike — and the investment gains we showed you Monday — it’s said we still need to put more money up front to cover rising costs.

    Continue reading Property Tax Levy & IMRF Contributions

    Chronicle Editorial Board Hasn’t Lived Here Very Long

    Chronicle staff should live in this county for awhile before commenting on certain issues, such as what one can find today in “Our View: Falling home values a trying trend in county“.

    When the housing market was healthy and new homes and businesses were built at a healthy clip, the opposite was true. Property values grew faster than the rate of inflation, property tax rates fell, and along with them, the tax cap led to decreases in annual tax property tax bills.

    The person who has seen her property taxes rise on a modest home since 1993, some years by HUNDREDS more, is somewhat irritated to hear the Chronicle try to tell her otherwise.

    Still, let’s stick to the facts. Here are the property tax rates and levies for the City of DeKalb* for each tax year since 2000:

    2000 – 0.50490, $1,892,659
    2001 – 0.52989, $2,121,088
    2002 – 0.60566, $2,514,566
    2003 – 0.59666, $2,600,088
    2004 – 0.60000, $2,738,052
    2005 – 0.59302, $3,022,165
    2006 – 0.59672, $3,400,147
    2007 – 0.60000, $3,742,937
    2008 – 0.60000, $3,875,130
    2009 – 0.65000, $4,185,457
    2010 – 0.68990, $4,196,889
    2011 – 0.72052, $4,197,062

    Rates never fell during this period. Why? Because tax caps don’t apply to Home Rule communities.

    Let’s do another one. Continue reading Chronicle Editorial Board Hasn’t Lived Here Very Long

    DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle Trashes the Stop the Mega Dump Group

    In “Time to Dump Landfill Protests,” the Chronicle lays out reasons for trashing the efforts of the little people.

    Reason 1:

    There’s nowhere else for the anti-landfill group to turn short of the Illinois Supreme Court, which might decline to hear the case.

    Stop the Mega Dump should quit because the Supremes might reject it? WTH?

    Reason 2:

    It’s understandable that an expansion that would allow the landfill to accept as many as 2,000 tons of trash a day would be unpopular. At some point, however, the community and the company should be allowed to move forward.

    Yeah, like maybe after an attempt at a Supreme Court appeal. What’s the rush, Chronicle?

    Reason 3:

    The impact of the expansion has not been felt. Waste Management has assured residents that a larger landfill will not endanger their health and safety.

    Wow, great show of healthy journalistic skepticism.

    More importantly, though, the newspaper is in effect trashing STMD’s contention that the process of approving the expansion was so fundamentally flawed, the threats to public health such as hydrogen sulfide emissions, groundwater contamination and vulnerabilities to seismic activity were never seriously examined and considered. Continue reading DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle Trashes the Stop the Mega Dump Group

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

    The Daily Chronicle lays out today the arguments for and against licensing and inspection of rental properties.

    There are four proposed laws before the council, but it’s the issue of licensing that has garnered the most attention and debate from aldermen, city officials, and landlords. City Manager Mark Biernacki has previously described it as being the linchpin of all the city’s efforts to improve the quality of its housing stock.

    [Local realtor and landlord Dan] McClure said he believes a licensing program could be abused by the government in the future. Although he does not mind firefighters coming through his various properties to inspect them, McClure disagrees with the notion that expanding inspections would help.

    “It just seems like a tremendous invasion of privacy of the tenant to me,” McClure said. “I don’t understand why they want to get involved with this.”

    Good point, Mr. McClure. However, no interviews of tenants appeared in the article, so we’ll never know what they think.

    But let’s move on to asking why city staff want licensing and inspection so badly that they’ve hired people to manage a licensing programs that didn’t exist and to do an end run around its own Housing Task Force.

    You could argue that the main motivator is concern for tenants of very modest means and few options, but then I’d have to ask why none (save for a few students) were included as members of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force.

    You might also suspect that the plan represents a new revenue stream, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong- wrong.

    But here’s an alternative theory: that the main point of pushing licensing and inspection so hard for so long is because a grand plan is involved, and that plan is the 2008 Amendment to the Central Redevelopment Area Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District. Continue reading Licensing & Inspection Program Could Help Turn a TIF Blueprint into Reality

    NIU Misconduct Allegations Have Now Hit the Chicago Tribune

    **Update 9/7: Here’s an image of yesterday’s print edition of the Northern Star with synopses and photos. In reading it again I’m struck at how much time and money have been spent already and still NIU is unable to determine whether any of its employees have done anything wrong.**

    …and the Trib has more about specific allegations than we’ve heard before. (What we’ve heard before is mostly here and here, and if you still want more check the NIU tag.)

    One of the two employees who resigned in July was John Gordon, director of the university’s 10,000-seat Convocation Center, which hosts about 200 events a year, including concerts, athletic events and meetings. Gordon allegedly had a Convocation Center custodian go at least four times in the past year to his home, where she cleaned the windows and floors, washed dishes and vacuumed, according to an interview and documents obtained by the Tribune.

    The employee told the Tribune she was picked up in the morning at the loading dock outside the Convocation Center and driven to Gordon’s home about two miles away. She said she was given a “tip” of $20 to $40 for the work.

    According the the article, the employee filed a grievance about this treatment in May.

    Other allegations against both Gordon and Robert Albanese, the other NIU administrator who resigned under a cloud, include accusations that they kept NIU property at their homes, according to the report. For example, Gordon was said to have kept a snowblower and vacuum cleaner.

    And, yes, the “coffee fund” information is there, too.

    The article was written by Chicago Tribune reporter Jodi S. Cohen and front-paged for print subscribers this morning. The link to the online article is here, but it’s behind a subscription gate. The Northern Star and the Daily Chronicle also posted stories today on their own websites that contain the allegations uncovered by the Trib.

    NIU “Coffee Fund” Updates

    NIU Today: NIU confirms the existence of a “private, non-university bank account named ‘coffee fund.'” In the article, NIU says, “Any determination of criminal charges will be made by the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s office after reviewing the evidence collected during the criminal investigation.”

    Northern Star: State police are now involved as far as advising “how to proceed.”