The Redevelopment Commission

TIF oversight in DeKalb is a joke. Recently I asked to see several years’ worth of minutes of Joint Review Board meetings, which apparently are as perfunctory as can be since there is no substance to the minutes, much less evidence of real oversight. How could there be? They only meet once a year. Then there’s ReNew DeKalb, whose mission often seems to be to spend taxpayers’ money without the bothersome commitment to transparency* that public bodies are held to.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Redevelopment Commission oversees the city’s two tax increment financing districts, which collect tax revenue within their districts and use the revenue for a variety of infrastructure projects. The Redevelopment Commission meets the 2nd Thursday of each month.

Check it out. The Redevelopment Commission has its own page on the City of Valparaiso** website, complete with links to agendas, meeting minutes and financial reports, even members’ names and contact information. Why can’t we do this? Continue reading The Redevelopment Commission

Expenditures of Distinction: ReNewing Eduardo’s

Instead of the usual “Expenditures of Distinction” categories this month, we will focus on recent TIF spending. The City of DeKalb spent another $4700 out of the TIF Fund (.pdf p.52) on the Van Buer parking lot, this time for something called “FIBRCONE,” which brings the past two months’ parking lot embellishments to over $15,000 that I know of. There are two possibilities here. One is that the finishing touches on the parking lot were rolled into this year’s streetscape project. The other is simply that each little job happens to come in under the $20,000 threshold at which Council needs to approve the expenditure.

Either way, we’ve been deprived of our say in the matter.

The biggest bird flipped catapulted at the people, however, is the monument they are building on the sidewalk at Eduardo’s. You can really tell who ReNew’s favored business people are; Hillside gets a bit more sidewalk while Eduardo’s gets brick walls and what looks to be a large concrete fountain.

Every dollar going to reward ReNew’s most avid supporters of downtown “pay to play” is a dollar that cannot be spent on the police station expansion.

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.

Another Meeting Marathon to Nowhere

City Council’s most damaging flaw is its low overall level of intellectual curiosity. Between the grandstanding and the gotchas and the preening and pomposity, there is little time or inclination left for understanding the fundamental shifts necessary for our continued well-being, much less prosperity. Whatever energy might have been devoted to real study of big-picture issues is instead spent at scrutiny of minutiae and potshots at the individuals who understand, care, and represent the struggling DeKalbite best.

Mac McIntyre expressed the only compassion to be witnessed in Council Chambers last night. He set real people of DeKalb — the foreclosed-upon, the unemployed, the underemployed — against the next extravagance contemplated for the downtown. The cognitive dissonance must have caused instant, painful hissing of synapses, for, instead of mirroring and applying the compassion, the response was defensive and dismissive.

And, even with hard numbers in front of them, Council continues to miss the point. Continue reading Another Meeting Marathon to Nowhere

TIF This

Medill (that is Northwestern’s journalism school) student Adam Verwymeren created a satirical description of TIFs in language so easy a five-year-old, a caveman, or a politician can understand, called: TIFs for Tots.

Enjoy!

When you are done with the online children’s book, try Ben Joravsky’s TIFs for Dummies. Do not miss this key section:

“Think about this. If the schools, parks, and county can only get $100 from a TIF district, what do they do when their expenses go up to $200? They have to raise their levies—the amounts they each get from the property tax pie—to compensate for the money diverted to the TIFs. When they do that, property taxes go up. No matter what the city tells you, TIFs are tax hikes, plain and simple—the more you create, the higher taxes go.”

More resources on TIFs: Continue reading TIF This

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

Chicago’s TIF Sunshine Ordinance

Ald. Manny Flores on TIF

Long before workers occupied the Windows & Doors factory, the company received $10 million in TIF funding from the city years ago. Following that, Aldermen Manny Flores (1st Ward) and Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward), worked on developing a new ordinance on TIF transparency. It eventually passed the City Council and Mayor Daley signed it. It will appear as part of the Chicago City Codes Web sites July 30th. That site is not easily linked from another Web site. So, inside the scroll box on the Progress Illinois Web site is the ordinance as originally introduced back in February.