Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Freeport Ordinancs Not Enforced

Much has been said lately about trying to improve Freeport's appearance.  The City has torn down numerous "eyesores" in an effort to curtail the seemingly endless blight is some Freeport neighborhoods.

Earlier this year a house was demolished in the 200 block of North Cherry on the west side of the street.

This house being gone did improve the neighborhood, however, someone is now using the empty lot to store a trailer filled with rubbish, including and upholstered davenport.

Here is a picture of how the site looks like today:

Why has the City nuisance inspector tolerated this even for one day?  There is a license plate on the trailer--it clearly belongs to someone--someone in obvious violation of City of Freeport Ordinance.

The City of Freeport forbids residents from placing upholstered furniture on their front laws but if you put trash on a trailer you can store it on an empty lot?

Tutty hopes that this issue is remedied sooner rather than later.  The City of Freeport should not continue to let this type of thing happen anywhere in the city, there are ordinances in place to address this exact type of behavior.

If City hall can't solve this one small problem immediately, how will they ever solve the larger ones?

Addendum added on September 13, 2014.  The trailer has been removed from the lot.  Tutty wants to thank the powers that be for removing this eyesore.  Tutty felt it was important because of the message it conveys to the visitors from out of town that randomly visit the Freeport Alano Club, which sits almost directly across the street the empty lot.  Tutty may end up removing this post entirely in the near future.  Once a horse is dead, Tutty sees no reason to keep beating.  Thanks again Freeport City officials.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wanted...A New Media For Northwest Illinois

The Thursday just passed found a legal notice in Freeport's almost daily newspaper, the Journal-Standard.  The legal ad was from Highland Community College and provided taxpayers with formal legal notice, as required by Illinois Statute, that the HCC Board of Trustees intend to employ what is known as a "back door referendum" to borrow $3.3 million in General Obligation debt.  The legal notice stated that if a petition was submitted with at least 6, 208 signatures of qualified voters throughout Illinois Community College District #519, Highland will be forced to put the issue of borrowing against our future incomes to vote.

Here is a partial picture of the legal notice as it appeared.

Tutty wonders if the Journal-Standard editors and reporters read the legal ads in their newspaper.  The classified section appears to contain more factual news than the front page.  So far, as the next picture will attest, this is all our almost daily newspaper has told the public about the plans of HCC.

Fair use copyright claimed for the purpose of public education
Not only does this "news" item (which is probably nothing more than a press release from Highland published verbatim) ignore the fact voters in Northwest Illinois could force a referendum on this issue, it misinforms taxpayers throughout the community college district by stating as fact: "The college will issue the bonds without increasing the district's property tax rate of 48 cents per $100 of equalized assessed property value."
The HCC Board of Trustees cannot, in good faith, guarantee that this bond issue will not cause the tax rate to increase.  First, look at the picture below, it is from a recent audit, it lists the tangibles the college can levy taxes for, note that the "Bond and Interest Fund" has no "Statutory Maximum Rate."
Furthermore, the current trustees' terms will not out last the bond.  They cannot  predict the action a future board or president may take.
Tutty did notice that the leadership of the Stephenson County Tea Party must of noticed the legal ad as they have started collecting signatures and trying to get the word out that voters can force HCC to hold a referendum on the issue.  Tutty got wind that they are holding an emergency meeting Thursday night in Lena on the issue.
It's a crying shame the local media and the area's junior college don't seem as interested in letting you know the facts about this issue as Tutty sincerely does.  If we don't expect citizens to partake in their own governance, why do we even waste the time to "educate" them?
Media always cries that people don't vote, yet they don't even notice the opportunities voters have to take part in financial decisions that directly affect them.  If you want people to be interested in voting, don't shut them out of the decision making process every time the law allows it.
What's wrong with Democracy anyway?
Yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Monday, July 21, 2014

Mayor Gitz and His Good Ole Boy Buddies

Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz has all of a sudden come up with a new plan for the future of Freeport City Hall.  By now, most people have heard that the Fifth-Third Bank building at 101 West Stephenson Street is now under consideration to be the future home of Freeport City Hall.

Fifth-Third Bank, 101 West Stephenson Street, Freeport, Illinois   July 12, 2014
Below is a view from the parking deck at the back of the building taken on the same date.
Mayor Gitz says this building will be the least expensive of the options.  Where, and from whom, Mayor Gitz received the associated estimates should not be an obscure fact.  The City Council, if it wasn't such an anorexic weakling, would demand as much.
The Freeport City Council is so lacking backbone that three aldermen (a majority of a quorum) as reported by the Journal-Standard were "not concerned" with Mayor Gitz negotiating for public property and having estimates prepared without Freeport City Council knowledge.  Freeport City Council members representing the First, Fourth and Fifth wards, Tom Klemm, Jennie DeVine and Dennis Endress respectively do not seem to realize that they and their contemporaries on the City Council are the only protection Freeport has against a cavalier mayor.  And to describe Jim Gitz as cavalier is an understatement.

All Freeport City Council members will be up for election early next year, with that said, they might want to think about the fact that Jim Gitz was elected with just 37% of the Freeport vote.  Jim Gitz should not have any type of mandate but with the sickly-weak current Freeport City Council he does whatever he wants without the simplest of question while Freeport and its taxpayers wither away to nothing.

Here is the real deal folks.  A good ole boy or two is looking at buying the Fifth-Third Bank Building but before they sign on the dotted line and actually take a risk they want to make sure they have a long time tenant on the hook, and who better than Freeport taxpayers.

Think Tutty is full of horse poop?  Get one of your City Council members, if they're coherent enough, to ask Mayor Gitz publicly if he expects the City to buy the building outright or to lease it from someone else.

Why doesn't the Freeport City Council ask the most basic of questions?  Why doesn't local media ask Jim Gitz who prepared the estimates he is trotting in front of the public...even ask for their own copy?

Status Quo, Status Quo, Status Quo.

Tutty's next article, hopefully tomorrow, will address where Tutty thinks Freeport City Hall should be located.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker,

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Bolkinwood Drive and Assessed Real Estate Values

Bolkinwood Drive is a single block (the 1400 block) of houses nestled just south of Empire School with a single entrance off La Cresta Drive near Krape Park's north entrance in the City of Freeport.  Here is an image from Google Earth if you are unfamiliar with Freeport's Bolkinwood Drive.

There are 27 single family homes on Bolkinwood Drive and exactly 27 corresponding real estate parcels according to official sources close at hand.

The average Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) for these 27 homes is $38,475, which translates into an average of $115,425 fair-cash-value as EAV, multiplied by three, equals fair-cash-value.

Of the 27 homes on Bolkinwood Drive, only one has an EAV that equates to less than $100,000 fair-cash-value and that home belongs to the Chief County Assessment Officer of Stephenson County, Ron A. Kane.

These facts pose  some troubling questions.  First question Tutty wants to know is how Mr. Kane came to get such a sweet deal on a single story brick home on Bolkinwood Drive?  According to official sources Mr. Kane took possession of this house via special warranty deed last October and paid the paltry sum of $58,000.

Did Mr. Kane use his appointed position as Chief County Assessment Officer to garner such a sweet deal?  Show Tutty where any other ranch home (let alone brick) in Freeport, south of Lincoln Boulevard and west of Burchard Avenue has traded hands for less than $75,000 and this entire deal will smell much less fishy.

And even if Mr. Kane only paid twenty-bucks for the house, Equalized Assessed Value is determined much more by the neighborhood and corresponding home sales than the purchase price.  At least that is what tax officials say when it is not their taxes in question.

Tutty thinks the people who have faithfully paid their real estate taxes on Bolkinwood drive deserve to know how the Chief County Assessment Officer can not only purchase such a cheap house in their neighborhood but continue to enjoy an EAV and the corresponding real estate taxes at 30% less than the next lowest valued property on Bolkinwood Drive.

And why is it that Tutty is only local writer that will report these issues?  Good ole boys got everyone elses' tongues or what?

What about you Stephenson County Board Chairman Bill Hadley and County Board member Dan Neal?  This is your district.  Where has anyone else in your district purchased a ranch home for such a low ball price and continued low EAV?

Gentlemen, your winks and nods are not as discreet as they once were.  Answers please.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Saturday, June 14, 2014

City of Freeport's Bond Rating Lowered

Tutty is thankful for the readers that take the time to send Tutty stuff that they think is important.  As a one ghost show,Tutty does not attempt an in depth reply to every e-mail Tutty receives but appreciates them all.

All correspondence is kept in the strictest confidence unless Tutty is told otherwise.

Just yesterday Tutty received an e-mail that included an attachment letter that was sent to City of Freeport Treasurer Linda Buss from Standard & Poor's Rating Services in the middle of last month.

The letter was to inform the City that the rating agency was lowering the City of Freeport's bond rating from an "A+" to an "A".

This will certainly cost the City more on the debt they currently have outstanding and any new debt they may try to issue.  While Tutty has read the rationale for the lowered bond rating, Tutty does not have the time to analyze it for readers right now.  Most people can probably look around Freeport and understand why the City's creditworthiness is declining.

What Tutty is wondering is why do Tutty's friends have to send him this stuff for the general public...and even the City Council for that matter, to learn about it.

Anyway, Tutty does not need to elaborate further to make this item newsworthy.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker

Thursday, June 12, 2014

John Cook's Documentation of the Official Shenanigans That are Freeport City Hall

Tutty received the following e-mail with attachments from Freeport citizen John Cook regarding the issue of Freeport's Carnegie Library.  John Cook explains it like this:

"Dear Tutty,

As most in Freeport who follow the news know, I've long held that Freeport's Carnegie library belongs to the Freeport Public Library Board and not the City of Freeport for a plethora of legal reasons that I will not bother boring your readers with here.

In reference to your post regarding the pay of Mayor Gitz and appointees, Freeport citizens have no idea of the track record of deception that has gone on at Freeport City Hall under Jim Gitz and his appointed attorney, Corporation Counsel Sarah Griffin.

And as always, the Freeport City Council is either ignorant, don't care, or are just too stupid to realize what is going on.  In any event the results speak for themselves.

Here is one of my stories which does involve our Carnegie library, one of the most historic sites in all Illinois.  In 2003, prior to the library board abandoning the building, I was adamant with some Freeport aldermen about the ownership of that parcel and building and the financial responsibility for such (taxes) as resting with the Freeport Public Library Board.

This presented a problem to Mayor Gitz who had previously simply deferred to Corporation Counsel Griffin's opinion in the past, that a former library board member Winnie Taylor, deeded the property to the City of Freeport in 1920. So the two of them, Mayor Gitz and Corporation Counsel, went out and got a title insurance policy and waved it around in front of the Freeport City in late 2003 as "proof" the City of Freeport owned the building, this title insurances also contained a title search.

Because I had someone do my own title search on the property in 1999, I knew there were only two deeds since the Bentley's owned the site.  One a Warranty Deed, accepted by the Freeport Public Library Board over the course of two meetings in 1901, from the Bentleys.  The other a 1920 Quit Claim deed executed by Winnifred Taylor's (an original library board member when the library board became state-sanctioned in 1889) power of attorney with Ms. Taylor listed as the Grantor and the City of Freeport listed as the Grantee.

Despite the fact the Taylor deed is not even in the chain of title to the site commonly known as 314 West Stephenson Street, Freeport, Illinois--as Ms. Taylor did not own the property--the City of Freeport, through Corporation Counsel Griffin, continued to insist the Taylor deed conveyed ownership interest to the City of Freeport.

Because I have a family and a more than full time job it took me a while to get around to looking at the title insurance policy Jim Gitz and Sarah Griffin had trotted in front of the Freeport City Council.  When I looked at the title search which accompanied the alleged title insurance policy.  The title search did not mention the Taylor deed at all (never was in the chain of title, even an underpaid title clerk could see that) but did include a reference to an October 7, 2003 Quit Claim deed executed by the City of Freeport.  I immediately had a friend go to the County Clerk's office and get me a copy of this Quit Claim, allegedly filed and recorded by the City of Freeport.

What I found was a Quit Claim deed Jim Gitz had an outside attorney prepare and file on behalf of the City of Freeport without Freeport City Council approval or a public recital  Here is a picture, in pertinent part of the Gitz Deed of 2003 which I will refer to again later.

Mayor Gitz filing a Quit Claim deed on public property without City Council approval did not sit well with me and I sent registered letters to my two aldermen at the time, Dean Wright and Shawn Boldt.  By now it was April 2004.

I received the following back from Shawn Boldt, then sixth-ward alderman.

Accompanying Mr. Boldt's letter was e-mail from Corporation Counsel Griffin to aldermen-at-large Dean Wright.  Here is a picture of that e-mail.  For clarification, I had not threatened legal action but it was clear that someone was obviously scared of what I knew.

While I knew there was cover up going on I had no idea the extent until years later.

Flash forward to 2008 and the City of Freeport files a Quiet Title action naming the Freeport Public Library Board as defendants, 2008 MR6,2008MR6,IL089015JL2008MR6ID1

As expected the City of Freeport, through their attorneys, attempted to claim ownership through the 1920 Taylor Deed, a deed not in the chain of title, furthermore the deed was misrepresented to the 15th Judicial Circuit Court as the "Board of Directors of the Public Library and Reading Room of the City of Freeport" as being the grantor.  Here is paragraph three of the City of Freeport's Complaint to Quiet Title:

Paragraph eight of the complaint contained mention of both the title insurance policy and the Gitz Deed.  Here is paragraph eight of the City's complaint:

Notice how the dates of the title insurance policy and the filing of the Gitz Deed coincide?  I looked a little further at the title insurance policy which the City submitted as Exhibit C and noticed that the title insurance policy became effective exactly one minute after the Gitz deed (see the picture of the Gitz deed above) was filed, here is picture of the date stamp on the title insurance policy as submitted and sworn to by City of Freeport Corporation Counsel, Sarah Griffin:

See, the problem for Jim Gitz was the City of Freeport could not get title insurance based on the 1920 Taylor deed, Jim Gitz had to file the Quit Claim deed to give the title insurance company enough to write a policy for the City of Freeport.  Mayor Gitz then used this policy to "prove" to the City Council that the building belonged to them.

What do you think Tutty?  Is this fraudulent or not?

Another interesting fact is Corporation Counsel Griffin seems to believe that Jim Gitz, without Council approval, or a public recital of any type, can attach "restrictive covenants to run with the property" yet at the same time she appears oblivious to a 1901 Warranty Deed accepted by the Freeport Public Library Board over the course of two meetings with public recitals that contains specific and unambiguous restrictive covenants that provide distinct benefits to the Freeport Public in regards to this most historic of Illinois' properties.

In my opinion, the fact the Freeport City Council has put up with this deception shows just how extremely weak this public body truly is, next maybe I can write about the time Mayor Gitz and Sarah Griffin misled the Freeport City Council on a debt issuance, telling the Council they were only spending enough to buy an "ambulance, dump truck and street sweeper" when in reality they were seeking approval to borrow up to $10 million.  Thanks to the deception, the Freeport City Council approved a debt issuance of more than $9 million without even knowing what they'd done.  Shawn Boldt was there for that one too.  I can elaborate if anyone feels the need to challenge the contents of this paragraph.

We need an entirely new City Council Tutty, I can't remember when the last time was Freeport had a City Council that would actually and collectively check balances and balance the checks.

Thanks Tutty, need an affidavit before you publish let me know, if someone wants to contact me you can publish my e-mail, .   I'll be around Tutty...I'm just getting warmed up."

Tutty is not going to attempt to add anything to this, Tutty thinks it stands alone and is worthy of public consideration.

As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker,

Friday, May 23, 2014

Freeport Mayor Jim Gitz and His Appointees Still Getting Fat While Freeport Crumbles

The Journal-Standard, Freeport's almost daily newspaper ran a legal notice yesterday regarding the upcoming public hearing for this year's Appropriation's Ordinance.  Following is a picture of the legal ad.
After seeing the ad Tutty thought he would give the Appropriation's Ordinance a quick look over.  Here is a link to the document in question:
And because Tutty can't look at this year's Appropriation's Ordinance with out having something to compare it too, Tutty also dug up the previous year's budget.  Here is a link to that document as well:  
Tutty wonders if any Freeport City Council members have even looked at the proposed ordinance and if they have, why they are not alarmed that the "Mayor's Office" (line item #s 01-21-499 through 01-21-799) budget is being increased by more than 16%.  A year over year increase of more than $26,000.
Besides the Mayor's office there is the "Office of Management and Budget" this is the budget for the Finance Director, which also happens to be a mayoral appointee.  Mayor Gitz wants this section of the Appropriation's Ordinance increased by more than $41, 500, from $132,976 last year to $174,479 this year.  An increase of a whopping 31.21%
Same goes for the City's "Legal Department" which includes another political appointee of Mayor Jim Gitz, Corporation Counsel.  Once again the mayor wants an increase of more than 16.5% year over year in the line items that comprise the "Legal Department" increasing expenses by $38, 406.
Collectively, the Mayor's Office and the Mayor's two political appointees' offices, the Finance Director and Corporation Counsel, are seeking 20% more this year than last, from $521,636 last year to $628,121 this year.
At the same time, others in elected positions at Freeport City Hall are seeing their budgets remain stagnant or decrease.  City Treasurer Linda Buss is looking at a less than 2% increase in her budget.  Freeport City Clerk, Meg Zuravel, who certainly does not have less to do, is looking at having her budget actually decreased from last year.
This is typical Jim Gitz, a control freak, he centers all the power and revenue around himself while leaving other elected City officials with barely enough to do their jobs.
Jim Gitz would have never brought such a lopsided Appropriation Ordinance forward if he did not know just how useless the Freeport City Council actually is to the public.  If a City Council member wants to argue their usefulness to the public, I would hope that at the public hearing they would ask for a line by line explanation, especially those being increased by more than 15%.   Unlike the public, City Council members have more than three minutes to address an issue. 
Tutty would not bet on that happening though for reasons already disclosed.
C'mon Freeport City Council, Freeport is crumbling before your eyes and many in town are suffering terrible economic hardships, yet you are going to allow Mayor Gitz to increase the budget of his office and those of his political appointees by more than 20% year over year without a peep?
All eight City Council members' terms are up next year.  Tutty thinks it's time to clean house and elect aldermen that at the very least, read the stuff in front of them.
That is obviously not happening at the present time.  The above proves as much.
As always, yours in honesty, Tutty Baker