Free FOIA Seminar in DeKalb

NIU will host the first of about a dozen November seminars covering key changes to Illinois transparency laws on Monday, November 9, in the Holmes Student Center. The informational seminars, offered by the Illinois Attorney General’s office, are free and intended for both public officials and other residents who are interested in changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Open Meetings Act (OMA) that will go into effect at the beginning of next year.

Monday’s seminar will run from 1-3 p.m. in the Sky Room on the 16th floor of the Holmes Student Center. Although it is free, registration is required because seating is limited.

For more information, e-mail specialevents@atg.state.il.us or phone the Conference Registration Line at 1-866-376-7215.

The seminar does not take the place of required state training for FOIA and OMA officers of governmental units.

H/T B.F.

Banks are Still Failing

Maybe you’ve read that nine more banks failed last Friday, including two Illinois banks. That makes 19 for Illinois and 115 nationwide in 2009 so far.

Prior to the collapse of nearly 85% of the failed banks this year, major public enforcement actions were handed down by the Federal Insurance Deposit Corporation (FDIC), the Office of the Currency Comptroller (OCC), or the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS). These actions are listed online and are eminently searchable in a variety of ways.

FDIC is an independent agency charged with maintaining stability in the U.S. banking system. Its enforcement search form is here.

OCC regulates all national banks and federal branches of foreign banks. It is a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Click here for OCC enforcement actions.

OTS supervises savings associations and their holding companies. It is a division of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Find its enforcement search function here.

Let us know if you find anything interesting.

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.

The Flood-Prone Property Selection Maps

In response to the interest generated by news of FEMA funds released for additional buyouts of flood-prone homes, here are maps of the properties considered by the Stormwater Task Force. Properties labeled 1.0 or higher are considered to have favorable benefit-cost ratios. The first four properties bought and demolished were 814 W. Taylor and 829, 901, and 909 Colby Court.

floodmap1

floodmap2

floodmap3 Continue reading The Flood-Prone Property Selection Maps

High School Construction Contracts

Here is the list of contracts awarded for the construction of the new DeKalb High School. School Board President Mike Verbic sent it to me and a few others in late July, but I didn’t put it up then because I expected it to show up on the revamped District 428 website. Well, either they haven’t posted it there yet, or I am unable to find it. So here ’tis.

While we’re at it, let me show you a nifty tool for looking up ownership of companies. Continue reading High School Construction Contracts

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.

Expenditures of Distinction, August 2009

This month’s Expenditures of Distinction are brought to you by the August 24 agenda packet except for one expenditure from July 27.

Expenditures of Distinction — Disdain Division

$353 for Blackberries for I&T (p. 99)
$17,000 to Re:New DeKalb (p. 154) in administrative fees for two Architectural Improvement projects Continue reading Expenditures of Distinction, August 2009

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