Oak Lawn’s Village Manager Larry Deetjen set forth eight policy issues and the “administration’s” opinion on each issue in a memo distributed to the Village Board and obtained by the Oak Lawn Leaf.
In the memo, Deetjen touches on various issues including calling for no increase in property taxes but a possible increase in the village’s gas tax.
Deetjen repeats some of his more controversial policy ideas, including “outsourcing”. In November of 2013, the Village Board fired 20 union 911 dispatchers and outsourced the service to the private company, Norcomm. Deetjen, apparently still is maintaining that was a good idea because he mentions 911 dispatching and claims the service improved by firing the union employees. He also alludes to contract disputes with the firefighters union but incorrectly claims that the village is forced to maintain minimum manning safety standards because of a state law. The village has been required to maintain minimum manning due to its contractual agreement with the union and six court or labor board decisions won by the firefighters over Deetjen.
While the memo was distributed to the Village Board days before the April 14 board meeting, none of the issues were discussed at the meeting. The issues are quoted directly from the memo without any changes. Deetjen wrote:
“1. General Fund Budgeting- Do not increase property taxes, continue the delivery of core public services in a quality fashion and work to reduce overall debt and unfunded pension and post-employment benefits. The administration fully supports these initiatives that do directly conflict with each other causing us to look at alternative courses of action including (a) right sizing of workforce, (b) outsourcing, (c) shifting employee/employer cost sharing on benefits and supporting IML platform.
2. Delivering Regional Consolidated 911 Emergency Communication Services- Oak Lawn has done this since 1985 and the latest policy/service delivery improvement has been partnering with Norcomm. The State of Illinois as a policy will be supporting and encouraging further consolidation and this administration supports that direction as well.
3. Economic Development- Factually, Oak Lawn as measured by all objective indicators is doing quite well today and projected investment in the community by the private sector for the next two years is strong. We should be cheerleaders for advancement and the administration views economic development as everybody’s job. We run a low budget operation because of policy issue #1 listed above. Steve Radice does a great job “part time” but he is backed up by a “team” in order to get the job done and “value add” his effort.
4. Oak Lawn Fire-Rescue Department– Over staffed and archaically deployed due to a State Mandated Minimum Manning Statute that takes away a professional Fire Chief’s ability to do his job. Overnight with Governor Rauner’s plan (see next TIL item) the village could be safely served and cut conseratively over $1.5 million in expenses or redirect these monies to further funding our police and fire pensions. this issue is sound fiscal policy and ALL Trustees and Mayor should approve a resolution so stating this and send it to Governor Rauner. Oak Lawn could be a leader on this issue.
5. Infrastructure Investment and Storm Water Management- The Board of Trustees and Public works Committee are clearly on the right track and need to continue efforts on all fronts. We are being shorted on our gas tax monies from the State so they can plug their current budget holes. Consideration of raising the local gas tax from 3 to 5 cents should be considered this spring of 2015. Committee Chair Olejniczak with Trustees Desmond and Carberry have effectively steered this key policy issue in the right direction.
6. Intergovernmental Relations- Oak Lawn should be a voice listened to and followed both in Washington and Springfield. We deliver water by contract to 325,000 and emergency communications to 126,000. At a population of 57,000, we are one of Illinois’s top 25 municipalities. Our voice and our position is not where it needs to be or where it can be. This issue should always be a priority driven proactively by the Board.
7. Advocate Christ Medical Center and Advocate Heatlhcare- Clearly a blessing as well as a burden that the current board and Mayor addressed head on in August 2013 with historic agreements concerning a pilot payment as well as paying building permits. This agreement must be renewed by the fall of 2016 and the numbers adjusted to better reflect what other hospitals and communities do in the United States. Regarding the hospital and their investment, we should always salute them and strive to partner with them to the fullest extent to advance spin off investment and smart development. Mayor Dr. Bury and Trustee Vorderer have led the way on furthering that goal.
8. Senior Services and Senior Center--Certainly a key goal of the Board is to support our Seniors and advance both services and their facility. We have fared well on an interim basis with School District 123 utilizing McGugan School but the future direction and course of action must be reviewed and decided by the Mayor and Board.”
The senior citizen policy issue seems to contradict recently published statements by Mayor Sandra Bury, who claimed before the election that the senior citizen center was moving to a new location attached to the VFW hall. Bury and her fifth district candidate, Dan Johnson, who serves as the commander of the VFW Post signed an agreement at a board meeting. Now, Deetjen seems to be indicating that a decision has not yet been made.
Notably absent from Deetjen’s policy list were the ideas of providing greater transparency and the production of records to the public or fighting the ever increasing crime problem.
Perhaps the most controversial new issue raised by Deetjen may have been his proposal to endorse some or all of Governor Bruce Rauner’s “Turnaround Illinois” platform. Very few municipalities in the State of Illinois have signed on to Rauner’s plan.
Deetjen has been recently criticized for setting policy rather than acting as the day to day manager.