Public Watchdog.org

Another Reason To Wonder…

02.06.09

As we’ve written before (“The Culture Of Secrecy,” 12/17/07), secrecy is the tool of choice for politicians and bureaucrats who want to cover up the inefficiency, waste and corruption in the governmental bodies they run.  That’s why we favor that antidote to secrecy: transparency.

Unfortunately, all our local governmental bodies have a long way to go to achieve the kind of transparency that would make them an open book to the taxpayers and voters of our community, although the Park Ridge Park District deserves a round of polite applause for putting video recordings of its meetings on its website – at what we understand to be a tiny fraction of the box-car numbers the City Hall bureaucrats came up with for televising City Council meetings.

But just this past Tuesday (Feb. 3), the Culture of Secrecy engulfed two meetings that were held in the Mayor’s Conference Room at City Hall – by something called the “Intergovernmental Joint Review Board” – which purported to be the “Annual Meeting” for the “Dempster/Greenwood TIF” (the “new” Bredemann auto dealership property) and for the “Uptown TIF,” respectively.

We scoured the City’s website and could find nothing that identified what this review board does, or who is on it; and we fared no better when Googling it.  To a suspicious Watchdog, that’s the first sign that something may be amiss.

The second sign that something is amiss is that there were no posted background materials to accompany either the Dempster/Greenwood TIF agenda (pdf) or the Uptown TIF agenda (pdf), even though those agendas make reference to an “Annual TIF Report” for each TIF and to an “Update on TIF Status” for each.

And the third sign that something is amiss is that these meetings were scheduled for 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. on a Tuesday.  How many citizens could be expected to attend such a meeting in the middle of the work day…or could have attended previous ones on Tuesday, January 9, 2007, at 9:00 and 9:30 a.m.; or on Thursday, December 13, 2007, at 9:00 and 9:30 a.m.?

The City has sunk a ton of our tax dollars – and no small amount of debt, as we understand it – into the TIFs.  A detailed and easily understandable current accounting of the performance of those TIFs should be readily available on the City’s website for anybody who wants to check it.  But instead, not only can’t we find the “Annual TIF Report” for either of those TIFs, but we can’t even tell who is on the Intergovernmental Joint Review Commitee.

That’s just bad government, folks.  And, in a bad economy, it causes us to wonder even more about the state of City finances and what kind of decisions are being made based on information not readily available to the average citizen.  

9 comments so far

Very little to wonder about.

They don’t want anyone to start asking tough questions so they hold the meetings at times that make it nearly impossible to attend for the average citizen.

They don’t want anyone to start asking tough questions about the financial status of the TIF’s so they don’t post any of those numbers that were likely discussed at the meetings on the city’s web site.

They are treating us like mushrooms folks… keeping us in the dark and feeding us shit.

ATTENTION JENNIFER JOHNSON AND CRAIG ADAMS — this post is yet another free story idea for you. Secret TIF meetings? Go for it! Would love to see quotes from Mayor Howard Frimark and City Manager Jim “we’ll-soon-be-in-” Hock, explaining these meetings.

I’d like to know how much the City borrowed for each TIF, how much interest it has paid on that borrowing, and the property and sales taxes generated for each TIF since the time each of them was created.

Any idea where I can find that info?

A12:18,

The FOIA is your friend. You can expect to maybe have your intial request denied; an all too often employed delay tactic used by government bodies…see Maine Township for example. Then, after a court or other authority demands the documents be turned over to you, the wrong documents or incomplete documents may be turned over to you; another often used delay tactic.

But, eventually you should be able to get the documents you seek.

Yes indeed, the FOIA is your friend. And yes indeed, government bodies misuse it.

Big Picture,

It is, in fact, your web address that has gotten you relegated to the spam folder. You’re really far less bright and capable than you give yourself credit for.

Enjoy your day.

You think Ms. Johnson or Mr. Adams will actually look into the matter of secret meetings?

Since discovering PW and PRU I’ve often gotten the message botth papers aren’t doing the best at covering such stuff which is why these sites have come in to existance.

At last Monday’s meeting Ms. Johnson seemed to have been on good speaking terms with Frimark.

Interestingly considering last summer if I remember right he expressed some dissatistaction if something she wrote up.

Mr. Adams just might do that. Ms. Johnson probably won’t. She’s one of the least intellectually curious reporters you’ll ever meet, and thick as thieves with Frimark.

think as thieves?

Never heard that expression before.

Jennifer Johnson’s idea of digging for a story is asking somebody a question. If she did half the work the blogs seem to do, she’d at least have the information to write a better story, assuming she can understand what’s going on and actually write well enough to communicate it.

The Advocate is just a big ad book with a few “news” stories in it to make it look like a newspaper.



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