City Claims Ellwood Plan a Product of Public Meetings. It’s Not

I kinda figured they would do this (my emphasis).

II. Background:
In May, 2010, community members, financial institutions and city officials participated in an informational meeting to discuss the progress of the 2003 North 5th Ward Neighborhood Plan. The meeting was facilitated by the Center for Governmental Studies on behalf of the City. The meeting had four main purposes:

1. Update the community on the progress of the original plan that City Council adopted in 2003.

2. Determine if uncompleted tasks were still relevant and important.

3. Identify boundaries of the 5th Ward North, the Historic District and the TIF District; and

4. Identify current issues facing the neighborhood today and actions needed to address them.

Since the first meeting in May, 2010 when original recommendations were made, the City, and most importantly the residents, have worked together for positive changes. Throughout the process the City and residents have used multiple contact methods to ensure that residents, neighbors, landlords and community members had an opportunity for input. There have been several public meetings held to discuss implementation strategies and in July, 2010 a neighborhood association/watch was formed to help address resident issues. The results of these efforts are illustrated in the attached Ellwood Historical Neighborhood Implementation Strategies document.

I’ve looked over all the documents available from the City of DeKalb having to do with the North 5th Ward Neighborhood aka Ellwood Historic District, and made a report previously.

The City of DeKalb cannot honestly claim that the EHD meetings were public meetings. Public meetings include public notices and meeting minutes that the city council receives and files. Neither of these things has happened.

It is my opinion that, as soon as city officials started spending money on EHD and attending its meetings, it should have begun following the Open Meetings Act. However, EHD is not officially a city committee. It falls into a gray area so I didn’t say anything before.

I’ve done some reading, though. In OMA case law you can find examples of such de facto government committees being made to follow OMA because the government unit dedicates resources to them and they function as committees. Clearly, this is true of EHD. The city has sent out mailings, hired NIU as a facilitator and given the group an allowance of $100,000 of TIF money. A lawsuit would probably be a winner.

Meanwhile, I’ll not allow them to lie about the meetings being public and I hope you won’t, either.

AG Says City of DeKalb Did Not Violate Open Meetings Act in April

Just as I was thinking it must be time to check whether something got lost in the mail, news of the Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor’s (PAC’s) decision arrived about a possible Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation made by the City of DeKalb last April.

Back then I submitted to the PAC a Request for Review of the decision to place the question of putting out a Request for Proposal (RFP) for outsourcing all legal services on the April 25 agenda, even though the proposal had been voted down April 11 in favor of a more limited RFP. Continue reading AG Says City of DeKalb Did Not Violate Open Meetings Act in April

City Again Deprived of State of the City Address

Here’s what the mayor is supposed to do:

Sec. 3.1-35-5. Mayor or president; general duties. The mayor or president shall perform all the duties which are prescribed by law, including ordinances, and shall take care that the laws and ordinances are faithfully executed. The mayor or president from time to time may, and annually shall, give the corporate authorities information concerning the affairs of the municipality and may recommend for their consideration measures the mayor or president believes expedient.

Here is what he did.

Eggs & Issues: State of the City
Date: 7/19/2011
Time: 7:30 AM TO 9:00 AM

Hopkins Park Community Center
1403 Sycamore Road
Terrace Room
DeKalb, IL 60115

(815) 756-6306

Event Description: This is a great opportunity for Chamber members and the community to gather with DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen and DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki for a discussion on the State of the City. The presentation will also include information provided by T.J. Moore, Director of Public Works, an update on ReNew DeKalb, and an introduction to the economic development plan for the city by Roger Hopkins. Breakfast will be provided with registration.

Surprise! There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. DeKalb’s Number One Super Duper role model, Naperville, allows its Chamber of Commerce to host its State of the City address in similar fashion.

However, Naperville’s is conducted as a public meeting, with easy-to-find full transcript, video and presentation materials put up at its website.

From the local newspaper coverage today, it looks to me like care was taken not to have more than one alderman attend the DeKalb meeting, in order to avoid technical violations of the Open Meetings Act. Reminders: allowing reporters does not in itself fulfill OMA; and one alderman does not “corporate authorities” make.

ReNew DeKalb’s Annual Meeting

ReNew DeKalb’s annual meeting is set for Thursday, July 28, beginning at 5 p.m.

From the info provided at DeKalb County Online, it is unclear when the actual business meeting starts (and there seems to be nothing about it on ReNew’s own website as of this morning). Perhaps it’s the “community presentation” part?

Knowing this is important because ReNew has some obligations per its contract with the City of DeKalb.

VIII. SUBMISSION OF ANNUAL BUDGET, AUDITOR’S REPORT & MEETING MINUTES: ReNew DeKalb shall annually submit a copy of their approved annual budget and Auditor’s Report and copies of any board meeting minutes of any meeting where the use of City funding is discussed or acted upon within thirty (30) days of the approval of such documents.

ReNew DeKalb hereby certifies it shall comply with the Open Meetings Act when the use of City funding is discussed or acted upon.

ReNew DeKalb should always comply with OMA because spending city funds is the reason for its existence. OMA compliance includes:

  • Holding the meeting at a venue open to the public
  • Publishing a meeting notice and agenda in advance

  • Taking minutes of the meeting to establish a public record via submission of the minutes to the city

  • Ellwood Historic Neighborhood Meetings

    The following is a summary of documents obtained from the City of DeKalb involving a group from the 5th Ward, the City of DeKalb, and the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) at NIU.

    The 5th Ward group was first called a “task force” although it has never been an official city committee. Now, the informal association is known as the Ellwood Historic District or Ellwood Historic Neighborhood.

    [table id=17 /] Continue reading Ellwood Historic Neighborhood Meetings

    Legal Services Outsourcing Question Revisited

    The May 23 Committee of the Whole meeting contains this discussion item:

    1) CONSIDERATION OF A DISCUSSION REGARDING LEGAL SERVICES FOR THE CITY OF DEKALB. The City Manager has received a request from a minimum of three aldermen to place on this agenda an item to discuss further the matter of outsourcing of our legal services functions.

    For the record, I thought the old city council should have tabled the discussion in the first place, in favor of the newbies’ taking it up as budget business. Now this is happening, but we’ve wasted a significant amount of meeting time getting here. Also, under the circumstances of a possible Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation, the timing is interesting. Continue reading Legal Services Outsourcing Question Revisited

    Library Finally Shows Up

    DeKalb Public Library (DKPL) showed up for a dog-and-pony show at City Council last night, armed with packets of information that, once again, escaped being received and filed publicly by Council. The only conceivable reason for such a presentation is to rewrite the narrative of its dealings of the past three years into the meeting minutes, actively assisted by city staff and unchallenged by a negligent, collaborative legislature.

    Still, there were educational moments. How else would we find out that an end-of-year fund balance of $1.2 million equals zero? That DKPL is actually quite poor in spite of its only recently abandoned plan to purchase $2 million in real estate?

    At least Director Coover treated Council more like adults this time by including an actual Illinois Public Library Annual Report (IPLAR) in each packet. Perhaps someone will think to ask about the omissions in Section 26, which we will look at over the jump. Continue reading Library Finally Shows Up