Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Bernie Sanders Next Tuesday in Illinois Because...

Tutty always votes in Illinois primary elections.  As far back as Tutty can remember he's voted Republican.  People that read this blog know that Tutty is a staunch fiscal conservative.

So some of Tutty's closest friends were shocked to learn that Tutty was publicly supporting the Senator from Vermont's quest for the Whitehouse.

"He's a socialist commie." some of them cried.  "He wants the tax rate to be 75%, you've lost your marbles Tutty." others said.

Unfortunately folks, it is a little bit late for us here in northwest Illinois to concern ourselves with socialism.  This is perhaps one of the most socialistic places in the United States, yet no one has ever pitched a fit about socialism until Bernie Sanders called himself a "Democratic-Socialist".

Tutty has written numerous times about how the Stephenson County Board could use legislation promoted by a Republican State Representative (Jim Sacia) to borrow money against our future incomes without so much as public notice.  Taking our money and giving it to whom the Stephenson County Board wants to give it too is socialism.

When he was running for office Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a Republican that Tutty endorsed on this blog, said he wanted to make it so Illinois public bodies could not borrow money without referendum approval from those they are borrowing the money from.  Haven't seen that legislation yet.

Units of local governments borrow money all time against the public, many times the public is not even aware.  For instance how many people in Stockton, Illinois are aware that the Stockton Park District is going to borrow money against residents' future incomes?

Here is a picture of the legal notice folks.

That there folks is socialism, yet know one will even show up to object.  Although in fairness to the Stockton public they may not have known about the March, 16 public hearing if not for this blog, but that's intentional too and all part of socialism.

And don't even get Tutty started on how Mayor Jim Gitz, during his first stint, used home rule powers to borrow money for building a new library earlier this century, now we had to borrow money to repair and remodel the old historic building because it no longer has a revenue stream, what we're going to do with the old City Hall is a mystery and we have less real library services than we had 15 years ago. decide.

And all of our elected Republican representatives say that socialism is terrible yet they do nothing about it when it is happening right under their noses.  Last I knew the residents of Stockton were represented in the Illinois General Assembly by Senator Tim Bivins and Representative Brian Stewart, both Republicans.

Tutty has a very difficult time believing that the Republican party is really the party of conservatism based upon their actions and not upon their rhetoric.

Then Bernie Sanders came with what Tutty thinks is the paramount issue in national politics.  The influence of corporate money.  Senator Sanders has not taken any corporate or super-pac money.  He has come this far with contributions from nearly 4 million individuals averaging less than $50 a contribution.

Meanwhile, establishment Republicans, Democrats and the media remain willfully ignorant of the damage the influence of corporate dollars has done and continues to do to democracy in our great country.  Of course, establishment Republicans, Democrats and the media are the ones which profit from the status quo.  And yet they claim that Senator Sanders is the commie...go figure.

And when it comes to the cost of trillions of dollars for is obvious there are very few fiscal conservatives in Congress regardless of party affiliation.

It really is a sad day for Republicans when someone calling themselves a Democratic Socialist is more fiscally conservative on the issues of corporate influence and the cost of war.

Another thing about Senator Sanders that Tutty very much appreciates.  His genuineness.  Tutty strives to always be honest so it is very easy to spot others that aspire to be honest and forthright with others.  Tutty will disagree with everyone at some point but is very important to be respectful and caring.  Senator Sanders has integrity, is polite, and has a real concern for posterity.

Let's hope that Senator Sander's grace is contagious and more politicians become inflicted.

Senator Sanders will face an uphill battle in Illinois, the state Democratic Committee with Michael Madigan at the helm will do nothing to help, that's a foregone conclusion.  Illinois Democrats really need to think about taking the reigns away from Madigan.  He's had his time, at least Illinois Republicans appear to practice rotating leadership.

Tutty does regret not being able to vote in the Republican side in the races for State's Attorney and Judge of the 15th Judicial Circuit Court.  However, right now it is very important to show Washington D.C. just how fed up with the status quo we really are, a vote for Bernie Sanders will go far toward that end.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The City of Freeport's Snow Plowing Policy Needs Revision

Tutty has received quite a few complaints about the City of Freeport's snow plowing policy after the very wet snow which fell yesterday and last night.

Tutty cannot understand why the Gitz administration allows public work's director Tom Dole to completely pull the snow plows off City streets during a snow/ice event.

Freeport is a large enough city to have a full time fire department as well as full time ambulance service.  In Tutty's opinion, public works should keep at least two snowplows in service at all times if for nothing more than the main roads and to assist on police and ambulance calls if needed.

Furthermore, Freeport has several employers that run 24-hour operations.  In an urban area people need to be able to get to and from work.  That, in itself, is an economic issue.  If every time we have a snowstorm in Freeport we have to shut down the town, it is not very inviting to prospective employers.

Furthermore, the City of Rockford public works was reporting that they would have plows on the main roads for 30-hours straight.

Why can't Freeport public works keep at least two plows out at all times?  Anyone?

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tutty's Four Neglected Ladies

Tutty was in downtown Freeport, Illinois this morning to visit four of his favorite ladies, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.  Those astute (or maybe not so astute) in Freeport history will recognize these as names of the four pre-WWII Italian marble statutes which decorate the property of Freeport's Carnegie library building.

These statues were a gift to the citizens of Freeport by W.T. Rawleigh and were brought to this country "duty free since they are objects of art, for civic donation and not for personal use" (Journal-Standard, September 29, 1932, Page 6, column 2).  The marble statues are the work of the famous Ferdinand Vichi studio of Florence, Italy.

Being that Tutty's four ladies are now over eighty-years-old, Tutty does not expect them to be blemish free or still have skin as smooth as a baby's bottom.  Decades of exposure to rain, sleet, snow, wind and sunshine will take a toll on everything.  However, it would be nice if the well being of Tutty's four ladies could come to the forefront in the discussion of Freeport's "artistic" future.

Just this weekend there was an article of in the Journal-Standard of a new coalition brandishing a new agenda for downtown Freeport, the group is calling itself "City Centre Freeport" and has already secured a "pledge" from the Northwest Illinois Development Alliance of $10,000 annually for the next three years, according to the news story.

Of course City Centre Freeport includes a banker because like nearly all local groups that claim to have our best interest at heart they need to be able to spend our money before we even earn it, the Journal-Standard story did say that the group's  "current plan is to fund the revolving loan through bond sales; the bond debts would be repaid through TIF revenue."

A representative of the Freeport Art Museum was quoted in the article as saying "What we're really talking about here is creative place-making, and that's a buzz-word that you hear a lot that's basically how to harness the arts in these revitalization plans that contribute to the livability of a place.  There are resources that the art museum can use to help this project."

What the news story did not mention is why this group would be any better at handling tax increment finance dollars that the current downtown group, Freeport Downtown Development Foundation, or why the people comprising the new initiative did not try to seek a place on the FDDF board and go about change that way.

Right now the City of Freeport has had to borrow money just to be able to remodel our beloved and historic Carnegie library and to shore up the City Hall building.  The last thing Freeport taxpayers need is yet another public body allocating limited tax dollars in a different direction.

Furthermore, and to the real point of this article, Tutty is very saddened by the fact we hear so much lip service about making Freeport an "artistic" destination when there has been no effort whatsoever made to nurture Tutty's four ladies back to respectable public health.

If the City, or any other public body, has $5,000 of taxpayer money to give away to help create an artistic atmosphere in downtown Freeport, something needs to be done immediately to preserve and protect Tutty's four precious ladies.

Tutty's four ladies are true and genuine works of art and do more to provide Freeport with culture than any newly formed group could ever hope to provide with all the money in the world.  Here are pictures of the way Tutty's four ladies appeared today, with Spring first, followed by Summer, Autumn and Winter, the last being a head shot of Spring.

They are enough to make Tutty cry.

Tutty hopes that you appreciate these four ladies as much as Tutty does and hope you will express to local officials that they are in desperate need of public expenditure and should be top priority...otherwise we should stop trying to convince outsiders that we care anything about that which is real art and genuine culture.
As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Will Freeport Property Tax Payers Have $13 Tax Rate?

While Tutty will return to issues with the Housing Authority of the City of Freeport (HACF) in the near future, Tutty feels the need to touch on Freeport property taxes this morning.

It's hard to believe that within the last decade Freeport's property tax rate was less than $10 (ten) per one-hundred-dollars of assessed value,  Tutty expects that the 2015 tax levies for the units of local government with taxing authority over the citizens of Freeport will result in a tax rate of over $13 (thirteen) per one-hundred-dollars of assessed value (EAV).

Here is picture of  when the total tax rate went over $10 for the eight units of local government that comprise the vast majority of Freeport tax bills (not all real estate parcels within the City of Freeport are in Freeport Township or the Freeport Park District).  This reflects the 2007 and 2008 tax rates which were payable in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

And here is how the tax bill looked for the 2013 and 2014 tax years payable in 2014 and 2015 respectively.  The two most recent property tax bills.

There are several comparisons that readers can make on their own and draw their individual conclusions.  In the last two completed tax cycles the rate went up by more than half-dollar, from about $11.96 to just under $12.50.  Tutty expects that the total rate will climb by as much this year.

While Stephenson County is "tax-cap" county and subject to Property theTax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL), which means most of the taxing bodies on the Freeport property tax bill can only raise their annual levy (the amount of money they ask county clerk to collect) by the rate of inflation or 5%, whichever is lower, for a long time now the rate of inflation has been far less than 5% so the levy growth has been set by the rate of inflation.

However, because of declining property values, even static levies can push up tax rates, if there is less value to spread the levy across something has to give.  Most taxing bodies have legal rate limits that they cannot exceed, an example would be the Freeport Public Library, if the library board asks for a larger levy than their tax rate will allow, the county clerk will adjust the levy down to keep it at a set rate.  The library's max rate is 40-cents, the additional comes from a few extras that state law allows to be included above and beyond this ceiling.  That is one reason the Park District and Highland Community College like to have current debt, there is generally never a rate limit for paying off outstanding debt, which makes it more likely for them to be able to get the levy they request.

Furthermore, HCC is one of two units of local government not bound by tax caps, the reason for that is that Ogle and Carroll Counties are not tax-cap counties, Stephenson and Jo Daviess Counties are but for a taxing body to be bound by PTELL, all of its taxable property must be in under PTELL.  If Ogle and Carroll Counties would approve PTELL, Highland would then be limited in what they could levy.  This year the HCC Board of Trustees is taking full advantage of their non-PTELL status to raise their levy significantly.  As a matter of fact, HCC officials have admitted that it will result in tax rate of more than 50-cents per hundred-dollars of EAV.  This, despite the promises that all of their borrowing and back door referendums would not increase the tax rate...and these are people that claim to have public education as their goal.

Along those same lines, the Forrestville Valley School District is headquartered in Ogle County, therefore not bound by PTELL, so even though German Valley residents live in a tax-cap county they do not have tax-cap protection with regards their school district, Forrestville Valley.

The City of Freeport, despite being wholly contained within Stephenson County is also not bound by PTELL.  The Property Tax Extension Limitation Law has no bearing on home rule units of local government.  If the City was not home rule, they would be bound by tax-caps as every other municipality in Stephenson County is, that is why Mayor Gitz can propose a property tax rate almost 50% larger than last year.

What would the City of Freeport do if they were not home rule?  How could Mayor Gitz ever govern?

Here is a link to some more information on PTELL for those interested, note that the first sentence says that, "The PTELL is designed to limit the increases in property tax extensions (total taxes billed) for none home rule taxing districts."

Regardless of laws, falling properties values and the like, there is a complete void of leadership when it comes to addressing Freeport's continually escalating property tax rate.  At $13 per one-hundred-dollars of assessed value, the effects are sure to be very matter how nice our parks are or how many classes HCC offers...thinking people will avoid setting up shop in Freeport.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker tutty.baker@gmail.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Freeport Housing Authority, State Statutes, And Mayor Jim Gitz

Tutty has ruffled some feathers by simply asking questions of the Freeport Housing Authority. Tutty plans on continuing to ask questions of the FHA, as a matter of fact, readers can expect those questions to be much more pointed.

Thus far, there is still not documented, certifiable answers to Tutty's questions from the last post. The executive director of FHA, Larry Williams proffered a verbal explanation to a Rockford television station.  the Chairman of the Freeport Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, Tiffany Nieman offered a verbal rambling on Facebook which centered more on personal experience and FHA goals than clarifying Tutty's questions.  FHA employee Andra Taylor, Larry Williams right hand man, also justified the expenditure on Facebook, and again with no links to or pictures of pertinent documents. 

Tutty still wants verified answers to the original questions Tutty posed.  Tutty learned a long time ago that trusting a public official regarding public business and finances without asking for and receiving documentation is the peak of journalistic naivete.

Unfortunately, in today's world, most people that call themselves journalists seem to think the First Amendment was put in place to protect government from citizens when in reality it is in place to protect citizens from the government.

Want an example of the above?  If you go to WIFR, channel 23 in Rockford, Illinois with a complaint about a public official they won't even think about covering it unless you have  verifiable documentation, yet FHA executive director Larry Williams went to WIFR, channel 23 and he had an entire news story done for him.  Tutty will bet you dollars to donuts that WIFR did not ask Mr. Williams for one shred of evidence beyond his words.  How about it WIFR news director?

Anyway, On to today's issue.  Tiffany Nieman, the board chair of the Freeport Housing Authority Board of Commissioners does not live in Freeport, which makes it unlawful for her to serve on the FHA Board by the way Tutty reads the Illinois Statutes.

The Illinois Housing Authorities Act unambiguously states that, "Every commissioner shall be a resident of the area of operation of the Authority;"

If you would like you can read it yourself, here is a link to the full act:

Tutty is amazed at how much money FHA has paid out in legal fees yet, apparently, none of the attorneys have bothered to check for compliance with the Statutes.

And where is the appointing officer, Mayor Jim Gitz at in all of this?  Is he simply just appointing whomever he wants with no regard for Illinois Statutes?

Does the line Tutty put in bold actually mean anything or do you suppose the Illinois General Assembly just put that in there for decoration?

One thing became apparent to Tutty over the weekend.  The Freeport Housing Authority administration, its board of commissioners and its ranking employees sure don't like being questioned about their use of public funds.  Tutty only has a few words for them...get use to it because Tutty is not even warmed up yet.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Questionable Financial Affairs of the Freeport Housing Authority

Recently Tutty was approached by some concerned citizens regarding what they felt were questionable spending practices of the Freeport Housing Authority and it's Chief Executive Officer, Larry Williams.

After an initial review of documents Tutty agrees that there are, at the least, some very important questions in dire need of a public explanation.

One of these questions (but certainly not the last) has to do with a nearly $16,000 check written to the "Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County".

Here is a photo of the Freeport Housing Authority check history in pertinent part:

Some will say Tutty "blindsided" the Freeport Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and City Hall by posting this picture on Face Book before talking to the officials in question.  Fact is, if the commissioners don't have a good explanation right away on an outside the community expenditure of nearly $16,000, they are obviously doing a very poor job of oversight of public dollars and deserve to be blindsided.
Secondly, Tutty is sure Jim Gitz was made aware of questionable expenditures within the Freeport Housing Authority long before Tutty was.  Tutty expects that he was contacted as a last resort and because the Executive Director of the Freeport Housing Authority serves on the community viewpoint board of the Journal-Standard the chance of this story seeing the light of day in the local newspaper was probably pretty slim.
What's more, this is an issue that Freeporters obviously want answers on,  in the last 24-hours thirty-five people have shared the above picture on Facebook.  These shares have included many comments, most questioning what the Freeport Housing Authority got for the nearly $16,000 paid the Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County.
But Tutty has no allegiance to any other than the enlightenment of the Freeport public and these most certainly were public dollars collected for specific purposes...or suppose to be collected for pre-determined purposes.
As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker, 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

First Ward Alderman Tom Klemm Has Some Issues...As Does Mayor Gitz

According to a news story in yesterday's Journal-Standard, First Ward Alderman Tom Klemm "chided" his colleagues on the City Council floor during their last meeting.  Apparently Tom Klemm is upset because some documents reviewed in a closed session of the Freeport City Council have seen the light of day.

Note to Tom Klemm, Illinois statutes never, Tutty will repeat, never require a meeting to be closed.  Illinois Statutes give reasons why a meeting can be closed, but the law never requires closure of a public meeting.  Furthermore, no one can be punished for discussing what went on in a closed is not a crime by any stretch of Mr. Klemm's imagination.

And if Mr. Klemm is so upset by things in a closed meeting being made public, where was he five-years ago when the Illinois Attorney General's Public Access Counselor determined that the Freeport City Council violated the Illinois Open Meeting's Act by improperly discussing public business behind closed doors?  Maybe Tom Klemm doesn't realize it, as he's never been known for his astuteness, but violating the Open Meeting's Act is criminal.  (Journal-Standard 12/10/2010)

Corporation Counsel Sarah Griffin essentially made the entire City Council criminals, yet Tom Klemm didn't seem interested enough to take a public stand on that issue.  Is Tom Klemm interested in representing the needs of his First Ward Constituents, or the wants of the Jim Gitz administration?

Tom Klemm is apparently worried all this "negative" press could hinder people's decision to relocate to Freeport.  In Tutty's opinion, an overall property tax rate of $12.50 per hundred-dollars-assessed-value does much more to prevent thinking people from moving here, yet Tom Klemm hasn't shown up at one Park District tax hearing or Highland Community College tax hearing to express his concern.

Is Tom Klemm really concerned about the future of Freeport or he more concerned about the well being of his friends in the Gitz administration?

And what about a mayor and city attorney that make "verbal" agreements with taxpayer dollars while never informing the Freeport City Council, the legislative body?  Is that conducive Tom Klemm, to encouraging people to move here?  Or the violation (the one that's been proven) of the Illinois Open Meeting's Act...does that not too hinder the arrival of new residents?

Tom Klemm should know exactly how many building permits  have been issued in Freeport the past five-years for new single family residences.  People have not and will not be flocking to Freeport any time soon and it has nothing to do with this latest show of incompetency from Mayor Jim Gitz and Corporation Counsel Sarah Griffin.

Tutty says latest because we all remember Mayor Jim Gitz and Corporation Counsel insisting the City of Freeport owned the old Carnegie library.  However, when the City tried to quiet the title to the property through the 15th Judicial Circuit Court and a none-lawyer showed up to contest the City's sworn claim it was determined that the City had to purchase the property.  This after 18-months and more than $40,000 in public expenditures for legal fees.  Corporation Counsel either understands rudimentary real estate law or she doesn't, the latter was publicly proven between 2008 and 2010, the court case number is 2008MR6.

Perhaps Tutty's next post should center on the time when Mayor Gitz and Corporation Counsel Sarah Griffin misled the Freeport City Council on a $10 million bond issue.  Telling the Freeport City Council that they were only being asked to approve an expenditure of $963k for an "ambulance, dump truck, and street sweeper" when in reality they were seeking approval to borrow $10 million.  Mayor Gitz and Corporation Counsel lied through their teeth to the Freeport City Council.

If Mayor Gitz wants to deny the above reality, Tutty can post the videos of the council proceedings on You Tube for the world to see, maybe that would spark his memory.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker