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The King is Dead! Long Live Ellwood City!

From: Mac McIntyre
Category: General Discussion
Date: 21 Dec 2002
Time: 14:52:09 -0500
Remote Name:


I sat in on the kick-off meeting of the DeKalb Growth Summit organized by Mayor Greg Sparrow. Represented were the local governmental units that included the City of DeKalb, Village of Malta, Town of Cortland, County of DeKalb, DeKalb Township, Northern Illinois University, School District #428, DeKalb Park District and the DeKalb Sanitary District.

It was later suggested at the organizational meeting to address growth issues that the City of Sycamore also be invited as either a participant or an observer of the summit meetings. I assume that inviting School District #427, the Sycamore Park District, related Township officials and, as long as they’re seeking intergovernmental cooperation, they might as well invite the DeKalb and Sycamore library districts. Kishwaukee College should also be invited.

For those of you who live in DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland or Malta the governmental units above are the taxing bodies that spend the taxes collect out of your wallet.

If you think they collect a little too much taxes from you, say “No Chit.”

I think its good that the governmental units are coming together. I guess one of the positive impacts that growth has had on the community is that it has brought these taxing bodies face-to-face for public discussion. It’s nice they’re talking about growth. I wish they would also explore any possibility of reducing taxes.

I am not optimistic about what the growth summit will accomplish. Governmental cooperation only seems to go about as far as one taxing body perceives that another taxing body encroaches on its sovereignty. The communities of DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta, at times, are competitors. In the interest of each respective governmental unit’s taxpayers there is, for example, competition for coveted retail and commercial development.

So Mayor Sparrow must know that he will have to overcome the mistrust that naturally exists between competing entities. He has said that he would like to see DeKalb become 50% residential and 50% commercial/retail. He has even suggested that perhaps a ratio of 30-residential-to70-commercial would be more beneficial for the school district. I cannot envision Sycamore, Cortland and Malta helping DeKalb reach those goals – at least not until they themselves have reached similar goals.

That’s why I think the growth summit might not work out. It could be a waste of time. And more money, because any time taxing bodies get together to try to make decisions then somebody (raise your hand) must pay for the subsequent public opinion polls and/or consultant fees,

I have an idea that the growth summit participants may want to explore if they consider managing growth and reducing taxes worthy goals. In the private sector we call it Corporate Merger.

That’s right. I’m calling for the Mother-of-all-Annexation battles. The merger of DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta. Let each “super-subdivision” of the new Ellwood City keep its historical name but merge the city, school, park, police, fire, ambulance, library, streets, water, building code, sanitary, drainage and economic development departments. Such a merger would enlarge the pool for resources to provide necessary services and substantially reduce the top-level administration payroll, benefit and retirement expenditures.

One city manager. One police chief. One fire chief. One superintendent of schools. One library director. One park district director. Just keep going down the list above. I would not be surprised if the savings to taxpayers reached more than $3-million a year in payroll related expenditures. To use “reverse-referendum-psychology,” a savings of $3 million per year would save the average home owner somewhere around $40 per month. Using standard referendum bond issue financing with a debt repayment schedule of 20 years and the average tax payer might save a total of $10,000. And who knows how much efficient streamlining of the many governmental units might also save us.

More efficient organizations provide better products and services.

If I am crazy enough to advise merging DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta and, I am bodacious enough to suggest calling it Ellwood City, then I am not dumb enough to know that there would be strong opposition to the plan. Some would tar-and-feather me for wanting to “ruin the DeKalb-Sycamore Rivalry” in football, baseball, soccer, basketball and wrestling. But such a merger would actually increase the competitive nature of sports as North versus South Ellwood City.

Others would scream, “You idiot! That would be the final nail in the coffin for our Downtown Business Districts!” But realizing the reality that the Central Business District of DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta is Route 23 from about Jewel’s parking lot in DeKalb to Farm and Fleet in Sycamore means you have common sense. The old downtowns would be better served as historic and nostalgic shopping districts with neighborhood-convenient access to products and services. They would become a hotbed for creative entrepreneurs in the independent small business industry.

The loudest scream of opposition would come, I suspect, from at least half of the administrators who are on taxpayers’ payroll. Only those administrators who are supremely comfortable with their job performance will be with me on this one. And to those who are not I say, “sorry, we can’t afford you.”

The King of Bureaucracy is Dead! Long live Ellwood City!

What do you think? Am I crazy? Are my numbers wrong? What else would we gain by merging? What repercussions are there? Let me know by posting your reply, or if you might be afraid of retaliation send me an email at mmcintyre@eworldlinx.com and tell me how to use your information without saying who I got it from. :-)

Last changed: 12/21/02

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