Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Freeport Library Director Makes More Money Than the Mayor of Freeport

At their January Board meeting the Freeport Public Library Board of Trustees voted to give library executive director Carol Dickerson a 2% raise, retroactive to May 1, 2013.

The fact that library revenue has been dropping for several years did not seem to phase the Freeport Public Library Board.  Here is a link to the January board minutes, you can find library board meeting minutes by following this link. http://www.freeportpubliclibrary.org/board.htm

Nor does the library board seem to be aware that Ms. Dickerson, with almost as many supervisors as employees, as well as an administrative assistant, makes more money than Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz.  Tutty is not going to put the actual numbers up here, but Ms. Dickerson earns more than $85,000 per year for a job that is simply not that difficult.

And why does the City of Freeport insist on calling Ms. Dickerson a "Department Head" when the Freeport City Council has absolutely no say so in how much she makes?  Is Mayor Gitz and the eight aldermen that dumb?

Freeport Public Library on the morning of February 25, 2014

Furthermore, why do Freeport Mayors allow the library board to choose their own members?  Read library board meeting minutes from last November where library board member Judy Barney told the board that "Larry Pittsley, former board member would agree to again be a part of the board."
A few short weeks later, Mr. Pittsley was appointed by Mayor Jim Gitz to the Freeport Public Library Board and his appointment was unanimously approved by the Freeport City Council.
According the meeting minutes from their August 2013 library board meeting, "There was some discussion by the board members of recruiting applicants for openings on the board."
Tutty does not believe it is healthy for any public body that handles more than a million-dollars annually in public funding to be choosing their own members.  Clearly, it is an effort--and meant to limit, any type of dissent among the ranks.  Another problem, once these board members are seated they cannot be removed without cause until their terms are expired.  While Mayor Gitz and Corporation Counsel like to lead the City Council to believe that the City has control of the library board that is quite simply not the case.  It's already a proven fact that the Freeport Public Library and the City of Freeport can sue each other in open court and in the State of Illinois it is not possible to sue yourself.
It is past the time for Mayor Jim Gitz and the Freeport City Council to wake up where the administration of the Freeport Public Library is concerned.  How, on God's green earth, can City of Freeport leaders justify the fact the library director makes more money than the Mayor of the City of Freeport...and it has been like that for more than 10 years.
Come on Freeport City Council, where are you at on this and why is it allowable for the Library Board to choose their own members.  This is not in the best interest of the Freeport public.
As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker tutty.baker@gmail.com

A Gubernatorial Endorsement For the Illinois Republican Primary

Tutty, as regular readers of this blog know, seldom takes a stance on statewide issues or partisan politics.  However, Tutty feels the Republican Primary for Illinois Governor is important enough to the people of the Land of Lincoln that Tutty wants to endorse a candidate.

Tutty is endorsing Bruce Rauner for the Republican nomination of Governor of Illinois and here is why, Mr. Rauner is not a career politician, unlike his rivals.  Mr. Rauner offers a real chance for Illinois to achieve term limits and pension reform.  Pension reform is absolutely necessary if Illinois if Illinois is ever to regain fiscal strength.

Dyed in the wool Republicans in Illinois do not like Mr. Rauner, but most of them are simply Democrats in disguise.  Both of northwest Illinois' Republican General Assemblymen voted against pension reform.  I guess they are too blind to see how unsustainable the Illinois pension system actually is...it also should be noted that Senator Tim Bivins also earns more than $75,000 annually in Illinois Municipal Retirement Funds, plus what he makes being a member of the Illinois Senate.

Please, voters of northwest Illinois, take a look at the pensions being paid by Highland Community College.  Steve Jennings, former Highland Instructor and member of the HCC Board of Trustees collects (can't use the word "earns") more than $75,000 annually in pension for a paltry 19 years of service.

Here is a link to pension being paid by HCC:

http://www.webploration.com/Pensions/PBE.php?row=0&Employer_search=highland community college&sel_id=6158&pe_op=send&PE_submit=Find Pensions

Where in private sector can someone earn more than $75,000 annually in northwest Illinois?  Please, someone provide Tutty with a list of private sector jobs in northwest Illinois where that much can be earned working, let alone collect that much in pension.

The one thing Illinois school administrators and unions agree on is they don't want pension reform.  And why would they, it is a cash cow for them.

Bruce Rauner is the only Republican or Democratic candidate for Illinois governor that offers the people of the State of Illinois a chance at real pension reform and Tutty would like you to vote for Mr. Rauner in March 18th Illinois primary.  Early voting starts next week

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Another Problem With Increased An Increased Sales Tax...

For months now leaders at Freeport School District #145 have been promising to "educate" the public on the upcoming (March 18th) referendum to increase the sales tax on general merchandise, including prepared food and beverages, by one percentage point.

Tutty is still waiting for an education beyond the rudimentary facts put forth by local school leaders.

The Freeport School Board has reportedly changed its policies so that any money gleaned from the new tax will go toward debt reduction and property tax relief.  However, what the D145 board and administration have neglected to tell the public is there is nothing binding about this policy change on future boards or even this board of education.   A month after the election, the board could immediately rewrite their policies once again.

Heck, the Freeport School Board and their attorneys have not even been willing to follow State Statute with regards as to how they levy for tort issues.  How long has that lawsuit been going on now D145 Board and administration and how much have you spent on attorneys fees trying to argue that Freeport School District is not bound by State of Illinois law?

If the Freeport School Board is not willing to follow state statute, how can the public expect them to abide by their own policy changes for very long?

Anyway, on with the topic of this post.  Financing operations by sales tax is a very unfair way to finance public needs.  While local officials, school and otherwise, continue to say that sales tax is a way to lessen our load as those living outside of Freeport help to foot the bill.  This is only slightly more than a half truth.  As much as Freeport and Stephenson County might collect from those living elsewhere, at least the same amount of money goes out of Freeport in the form of people going to Rockford or Wisconsin to do their business.

And the people that can get out of Freeport to do business are usually the people with money who live on the west end of town.  About 15% of Freeport households have no car, meaning they have to do all of their business here, they cannot escape the astronomical sales tax rate within the City of Freeport.

Tutty says "astronomical" because we already have the highest sales tax on prepared food and beverage in Illinois outside the City of Chicago.  If this proposed tax goes through, Freeport's sales tax on food and beverage will be as high as Chicago's.  Tutty doesn't know if anyone else has noticed, but this is not Chicago and people will not flock here to see rock concerts or professional sports anytime soon.

In his article in this morning's Journal-Standard, Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz wrote that, "Between 2004 and 2013, our reliance on the sales tax has jumped from 30.9 percent to 42.7 percent of our funding base." (Because the City of Freeport is home rule, no referendum of the voters has ever been held despite the sales tax being increased three separate times since 2003).

What this means to Tutty is that while Freeport has continued to grow geographically, the funding for public services has been being shifted from the rich to the poor--a type of reverse Robin Hood if you will.  Everyone has the same amount of basic needs, things like toilet paper, toothpaste and cleaning supplies.  An increased sales tax takes a much larger percentage out of a person's finances who's making minimum wage compared to someone who is earning $30 per hour.  And the person earning the higher amount can usually get out of town and avoid the higher taxes all together, not so with the person earning minimum wage and trying to support a family.

What's more, the person earning the higher amount usually has a choice in where to live, not so with the person earning minimum wage.  If the wealthy don't want to pay high property taxes, they could downgrade much easier than the poor can upgrade.

While it costs much more to deliver services to the west side of Freeport, huge yards often require two sanitary sewer manholes per property and much more in street miles and the ancillary expenses (snow removal, repaving etc.) that accompany more miles of streets.  Local leaders seem bent on reducing the costs for those that can afford a four-car garage and the vehicles to fill it while switching the cost of public services to those that share a manhole and have no off-street parking.

If someone would like to argue that this is not the case, please put your thoughts to writing and Tutty will publish it here as long as you don't use any swear words or other profane language.  Tutty's goal is to always run a family friendly blog with public enlightenment being Tutty's ultimate goal.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

How Ignorant And Unaccountable Can The Journal-Standard Be?

If you happened to pick up this morning's hard copy of the Journal-Standard, Freeport's almost daily newspaper, there is a glaring example of just how ignorant and unaccountable the staff at the newspaper is--is it any wonder residents of Freeport and Stephenson County are so sorely uninformed on local politics (you know, that thing many of us call Democracy).

On today's editorial page there is a column written by Jim Sacia, according to the Journal-Standard, Mr. Sacia is still the State Representative of Illinois' 89th District.  Here is a photo of the pertinent part to which Tutty refers.

Besides the newspapers obvious ignorance, Tutty wants to know why the Journal-Standard continues to let Jim Sacia, private citizen, write a column about national affairs when the newspaper has yet to hold him accountable for the harm he has caused the taxpayers of Stephenson County while living in Winnebago County.

Jim Sacia was instrumental in pushing the legislation through the  Illinois General Assembly that created the Big Blumdoggle known as Mill Race Crossing.  Mr. Sacia's ignorance regarding this issue has always been full blown.  Mr. Sacia didn't even know the legislation he sponsored gave Stephenson County officials the authority to borrow money without notice or referendum.  Mr. Sacia still insists that Mill Race Crossing will...someday...be a success, yet he has yet to use a column to explain just how that will happen or how it was in Stephenson County taxpayers' best interest to give the Stephenson County board such sweeping financial powers with public money.

So Journal-Standard, if you want to allow Mr. Sacia to write a column and pretend to be an expert on all things governmental, please ask the former General Assemblyman to explain his lack of accountability to the taxpayers of Stephenson County, and while your at it, why don't you explain how your newspaper can lack so much accountability to the same taxpayers.

You have a press and should have the ability to explain that to the voters and taxpayers of Stephenson County if you're accountable that is.   Should it really be that hard for the local newspaper and former state representative to be accountable to the public they are suppose to be serving?

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

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A New Sales Tax For Stephenson County Schools?

On the March 18, 2014 Primary ballot Stephenson County voters will be asked to approve a one-percent hike in the sales tax on general merchandise sold in Stephenson County.  Here is picture of the actual question which primary voters will see:

Stephenson county school superintendents say they want to "educate" the public on this issue.  Tutty doubts if that is true and here is why--how come this proposition was placed on the primary ballot?  Clearly school leaders know that voter turn out is much lower for primary elections than general elections, making it much easier to get public questions passed if you can get your own supporters to the polls.  Secondly, not one local school leader has mentioned the fact that voters can request a "non-partisan" ballot so they can vote on public question without declaring a political party.  If Stephenson County school superintendents were so keen on "educating the public" why has this fact been completely evaded?

Thirdly, Tutty wants to know how much revenue Stephenson County school districts have foregone because of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts?  Tutty has not heard one word about that issue.  Why should the public shell out more money for local schools when local school leaders have not lifted one finger to protect the money they already receive through property taxes?

Tutty does not know of one instance where a Stephenson County school board has submitted a written objection to the creation of a TIF district.  Just the opposite, when Mill Race Crossing was being supported, every school district in Stephenson County reportedly supported the creation of the Big Blumdoggle.  Furthermore, not one single Stephenson County school district formally objected to the Stephenson County Board borrowing $6 million without notice or referendum to develop a parcel located in the Forrestville Valley School District which just so happens to be an Ogle County school district.

Tutty would really like Stephenson County school leaders to address these issues on a point by point basis...if in fact they are really serious about educating us poor souls lacking the eruditeness of school administrators.

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Mill Race Crossing...A Decade of Blind Speculation and Propaganda

After almost ten-years of consistent propaganda from local news outlets--yes, Rockford television stations that includes you--regarding the blind speculation that is Mill Race Crossing, there appears to be no break from the status quo.

Just this morning another front page story in Freeport's almost daily newspaper, the Journal-Standard touted the potential benefits of a biofuel company called "EnerGenetics Energies"  http://egembrs.com/ would bring to Mill Race Crossing  (Yes, the Journal-Standard reporter doing this story used the word "would").  The reporter, Tony Carton, included a piece of sheer propaganda as a stand alone paragraph with no qualification whatsoever, here is a picture of that paragraph:

The Journal-Standard, front page, January 15, 2014, Freeport, Illinois

Say what?  The reporter says the company "would" bring as many as 600 jobs paying an average of $45,000 a year.  Tutty of the opinion that everything a public writer carves into stone should be able to be qualified.  Tutty invites readers to take Tutty's paragraphs apart word by word.  Tutty thinks that Mr. Carton is full of nothing but barnyard waste.

How many employees does the company have at present?  What was the company's gross revenue for last year?  Who are the company's largest customers?  Again, the Journal-Standard story was not journalism, which would have asked some of these questions, it is pure and plain propaganda.  If it is not, please Journal-Standard editors, qualify the above paragraph with a minimal amount of fact, not just what a company spokesman has asked your employee to report.

Thus far, with a very minimal amount of research, Tutty has been unable to determine the current number of employees at EnerGenenetics or the company's current annual sales.  What Tutty did find is that EnerGenetics is looking for willing communities to help them expand, one of the questions the company asks of potential sites is the "Availability of local water (minimum of 250,000 gallons a day/potable)".  Here is a link to EnerGenetic's questionnaire, http://egembrs.com/mbr-joint-venture-opportunity/.

In Tutty's opinion, anyone with half-a-brain would see that this fact would put Mill Race Crossing out of the running.  Someone please tell Tutty and his readers where 250,000 gallons of potable water a day--minimum--is going to come from and who is going to pay for it?  Where are the permits and who is holding them?

And why in the blazes should the citizens of Freeport or Stephenson County pay to run water and sewer to a development not within Freeport School District or any school district based in Stephenson County?  While the so-called Mill Race Industrial Park is located in Stephenson County, this part of Stephenson County is part of the Forrestville Valley School District which is based at Forreston, making it an Ogle County school district.  That's why property tax caps do not come into play on the school tax in this part of Stephenson County.  Ogle County is not a tax cap county.  School districts wholly contained in Stephenson County must abide by tax caps (the property tax extension limitation law PTELL).

Tutty thinks that Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz is smart enough to know that while any potential jobs sound good, we can not continue to bury the 10,000 + water and sewer ratepayers of the Freeport Water and Sewer Commission with blind speculation and propaganda.

Real and sustainable economic development depends upon an honest analysis of the facts, and that is not what has gone on here for almost a decade now.  Is it really too much to ask of local news outlets to put a little bit of investigation into the subjects they trumpet?  Tutty would be embarrassed to put forth such propaganda to support blind speculation.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Freeport's Saturday Scenery

Tutty hopes everyone made it through the recent cold spell unscathed, while we didn't set any low temperature records it's been some time since Freeport had sub-zero temperatures take hold over an extended period.

Tutty had a hard time keeping the cabin warm, this much is for sure.  The Freeport City Council postponed its regularly scheduled meeting until this coming Monday night.

The cold made for some interesting scenery along Stephenson Street in Freeport the past couple of days,  Tutty took the following pictures this morning and thought readers of this blog might appreciate something somewhat different from Tutty.

First Presbyterian Church, Freeport, Illinois, January 11, 2014
Masonic Temple, Freeport, Illinois, January 11, 2014
Rawleigh Building, Freeport, Illinois, January 11, 2014

Although the temperature has been above freezing the past day or so, parts of these building are still so cold that the fog is freezing to them.
Tutty thought that was kind of neat. 
As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker, tutty.baker@gmail.com