P.E.T. Does It. Why Won’t ReNew?

Last week I submitted a FOIA request to the City of DeKalb to review meeting minutes from the Preservation of the Egyptian Theater (P.E.T.) organization. Today I stopped by the Municipal Building to pick up two years’ worth, which translated to minutes of 17 meetings. Such accessibility is made possible by a provision of P.E.T.’s contract with the City of DeKalb (p. 242):

F. SUBMISSION OF ANNUAL BUDGET, AUDITOR’S REPORT & MEETING MINUTES: P.E.T. shall submit a copy of their most recent annual budget, Auditor’s Report, and copies of any board meeting minutes of any meeting where the receipt or use of City funding is discussed or acted upon, within thirty days of the approval of such documents.

P.E.T. hereby certifies it shall comply with the Open Meetings Act when the receipt or use of City funding is discussed or acted upon.

You may recall that I also submitted a FOIA request for ReNew DeKalb meeting minutes from the past two years because ReNew has the same clause in its contract with the City, and when doesn’t ReNew talk about use of City money? –but, even after an appeal, they are not forthcoming.

Some follow the rules while others flout them.

Thanks, P.E.T., for choosing the former.

Your Tourism Dollars at Work

On July 13, 2009, City Council once more approved a $50,000 allocation to the Chamber of Commerce‘s tourism branch. Through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, City Barbs has obtained some financial information. This is how they spent the money last year:

DeKalb Chamber of Commerce Tourism Fund
a.k.a. DeKalb Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB)

Statement of Functional Expenses — Cash Basis
for the Year Ended December 31, 2008

Salaries & wages — $35,054
Payroll taxes — $3,098
Rent — $5,200
Office Supplies — $331
Postage — $345
Telephone — $960
Meals & entertainment — $366
Automobile — $249
Gifts — $75

Subtotal: $45,678

Actual touristy stuff after the jump. Continue reading Your Tourism Dollars at Work

Your Tourism Dollars at Work, Part 2

Part 1 is here.

This was going to be about why the City Council should hold DeKalb Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) accountable for its $50,000 annual allocation. It’s still about that, but also counters a story being floated in some circles today about how Re:New DeKalb nobly requested their $45,000 allocation come from TIF this year instead of the General Fund so Council could have the option to restore social services funding.

This is utter hogwash. Re:New’s funding wasn’t supposed to come from the General Fund. It was supposed to come from the Economic Development Fund, funded by the hotel-motel tax. This was set up last year after the Financial Advisory Committee recommended to earmark certain revenues for certain purposes.

What it’s really about is a screw up, and the inability of this city to live within its means. Continue reading Your Tourism Dollars at Work, Part 2

FOIA Request Rejection & Appeal

Kay’s post about Governor Quinn’s signing the new, improved FOIA legislation is great news, but comes too late to help with this current and ongoing situation.

Let’s start with a recap of events. I have been trying to obtain, via the Illinois Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), ReNew:DeKalb meeting minutes. Re:New, as a private organization, does not have to respond under FOIA directly; however, a provision of its contract with the City of DeKalb requires it to submit certain documents to the city. Here is the provision of the Re:New contract (p. 249) upon which I have based my requests:

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 receipt or use of City funding is discussed or acted upon within thirty (30) days of the approval of such documents.

“City funding” is not specific to Re:New’s annual allocation. It includes the use of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) monies, too. The Egyptian Theatre has the same provision in its contract with DeKalb (p. 242) and its allocation is TIF funding (p. 237). Re:New is all about TIF, from the Architectural Improvement Program (AIP) to special projects like the skating rink. In fact, it would be surprising to find out that there are any Re:New meetings whatsoever that don’t discuss some aspect of the use of city funding. BTW, this has Open Meetings Act implications, too, but that’s a separate complaint. Continue reading FOIA Request Rejection & Appeal

Notes & More from 8/10/2009 Council Meeting

When people say, “I am not making this up,” as the public works director did last night in explaining the lack of competitive bids for waste pickup, I begin to wonder about the occasions when they don’t say it. You?

*****

Mayor Povlsen is still calling comments he disagrees with “misinformation” based on a continued presumption of residents’ ignorance of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). Here is a challenge. I’ll put together a quiz team of eight citizens from last night’s audience to compete with City Council in an exercise to test TIF knowledge. We could call it the TIF Olympics. Let’s hold it on Halloween — I think the results would be pretty scary from the residents’ point of view, if Mr. Baker’s confession is any indication. Continue reading Notes & More from 8/10/2009 Council Meeting

FY2010 Budget Thread

City of DeKalb is thinking of cutting Re:New DeKalb’s funding.

The second change is a reduction in funding to Re:New DeKalb from $50,000 to $45,000 annually.

“This is in consideration in both a reduction in human services funding and as a first step for Re:New DeKalb to be fiscally independent from the city by Fiscal Year 2012,” Espiritu said.

Currently, Re:New is funded by the economic development fund, which relies solely on hotel-motel tax revenues.

If this budget is approved as it stands so far, human services funding will be cut 25%, not 10%. That’s not a very good start on Re:New, then, especially if they indeed propose to phase out the allocation completely within three years. Let’s also make clear that Re:New will never be self-sufficient of tax dollars in any real sense, as its raison d’etre is to spend TIF dollars and its staff enjoy benefits through NIU. Continue reading FY2010 Budget Thread