August 25, 2013
Honorable Steve Morley
Honorable City Council Members
Delivered via Email
RE: Citizen Advocacy Center Commentary on Addison Street Project Development
Dear Mayor and Aldermen:
Thank you for convening a Committee of the Whole discussion on the Redevelopment of 135-149 N. Addison (Addison LLC Redevelopment). The Citizen Advocacy Center has monitored the Addison LLC Redevelopment project since inception in 2009 and has provided extensive commentary.
It is my understanding that Alderman Gutenkauf and now-Alderman Deuter were the only public officials to attend any portion of the Zoning and Planning Commission (Commission) Public Hearings on Addison Street and therefore are the only public officials who saw first-hand the significant number of concerned citizens and business owners who attended and spoke out against the project as proposed and considered before the Commission. Indeed, by way of reference for those Aldermen who have been on the Council for less than a decade, this hearing was one of the most widely attended since the Block 300 Development.
While the Citizen Advocacy Center has a multitude of issues with the Addison Street project, we find it particularly significant that the Commission, considering only the land use components of the application as they are required to do, unanimously rejected the proposed six-story development. In doing so, they issued a comprehensive set of findings and commentary. I encourage the Mayor and all Aldermen to take the time to read or re-read the report personally, rather than rely on a staff summary. The reason is because the report is multi-tiered and multi-faceted. The Commission summarily rejected the application’s compliance with all mandatory criteria, and in addition, generally commented on the extensive need for holistic planning of the Addison Street Corridor prior to any development being proposed.
The reason for this suggestion is painfully obvious but warrants highlighting: piecemeal development is counterproductive to maximization of use. Additional concerns identified in the Commission report and during the deliberation were:
The Citizen Advocacy Center agrees with the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission that redevelopment of the Addison Street parcel is important to tax based development. However, the question of what should be built on this parcel of property remains to be answered in a suitable public process. It is unknown, despite asking, to what extent comprehensive planning has been considered for the Addison Street Corridor, who participated, and how the contract to build on the site in question furthered that planning.
Prior to moving forward with further consideration of this particular project, we ask that the City engage in a subarea comprehensive planning process that 1) discloses any previous planning for Addison Street Corridor and 2) seeks authentic public input. Although the City may be in a difficult position because of the contract already entered into for a four-story parking deck project which can be built without the need for a specific zoning process, taking a pause for subarea planning would address the holistic planning failure identified by the Commission.
The City of Elmhurst is fortunate that numerous business owners and citizens have expressed concerns about what happens on this parcel of property. Planning, done properly, provides an opportunity to bring together diverse viewpoints to work collaboratively. In referencing diverse viewpoints, I mean more than those of the City’s business development institutions. The Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce, City Centre, and the Elmhurst Economic Development Commission each serve their own purpose, which is far broader than land use development for a specific subarea of downtown. Bringing together these institutions (some of which have recently submitted general resolutions in support of proceeding promptly with a redevelopment project but none of which provided testimony at the public hearing) along with the several specific business owners (acting on their own behalf), residents, and other members of the public who testified at the Commission hearing, would be a valuable endeavor yielding a result that all members of the community could buy into.
To help facilitate the process, the Citizen Advocacy Center offers to assist City Staff in developing a meaningful public process that involves the institutions referenced above as well as business owners and residents who attended the public hearing, and others. If the City concludes that the Citizen Advocacy Center’s offer is undesirable, I would suggest that City Council direct the City Manager to contact Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy, Davenport Institute. It is a program specifically designed to inform municipal government entities in how to engage the public in policy development, far beyond public comment opportunities. While most of their hands-on work and grant making is restricted to California public bodies, I am confident that their Executive Director, Pete Peterson, can provide guidelines for facilitation.
Thank you for your consideration.
Ms. Terry Pastika
Citizen Advocacy Center
Also posted on the Elmhurst Patch at: http://elmhurst.patch.com/groups/opinions/p/cac-asks-elmhurst-mayor-aldermen-to-take-a-very-close-look-at-addison
The Citizen Advocacy Center has been a community resource in DuPage County for the past 19 years. The Elmhurst-based organization is now considering expanding its reach. Longtime executive director Terry Pastika is stepping down from her current role … to work on a strategic plan that could involve opening satellite Citizen Advocacy Centers. Attorney Maryam Judar will be the non-profit’s new executive director. She wants continue to advocate for policy changes and engage young residents. WDCB News Reporter Gary Zidek spoke with Pastika about where Citizen Advocacy Center has been … and where it’s going.
Listen to WDCB Interview here.
Elmhurst – The Citizen Advocacy Center (Center) is proud to announce that its current community lawyer, Maryam Judar (left), has been promoted to executive director. Maryam Judar has been a Center community lawyer for four years and has empowered dozens of individuals and community groups to use various laws and civic skills to advocate for greater accountability of government entities. Most recently, Ms. Judar investigated and reported on how the decentralized nature of local electoral boards causes systemic barriers to voter access to the ballot and suppresses voter choice.
Ms. Judar will take the Center’s helm as the current director/community lawyer Ms. Terry Pastika steps down to move to the west coast. “The Citizen Advocacy Center is the most dynamic community based legal organization in the state. I am tremendously proud of the Center’s growth, of the privilege to have worked with hundreds of dynamic individuals who are notable community advocates; and to welcome Maryam as the new Executive Director.”
“Maryam has a deep commitment to the Center’s mission and has done impressive work with our constituent base. She has excelled on recent projects including civic education, census/redistricting, accountability of non-profit economic development corporations, and election reform. She is going to be a fantastic leader for the Center,” said Ms. Terry Pastika.
“Next year the Center will celebrate its 20th Anniversary,” said Center founder and current board president, Theresa Amato. The organization has thrived with vibrant local support and has become a valued community legal institution. We have achieved that success because of the dedicated community lawyers, staff, supporters, volunteers, and student interns who believe in the Center’s mission. The Board of Directors is proud of Maryam’s service as a community lawyer and looks forward to her carrying on the tradition of strong leadership and advocacy.”
“The Board also thanks Terry Pastika for her incredible dedication and service first as a community lawyer since 1999 and also as an indefatigable executive director since 2001. Her forceful commitment to advancing justice and her award-winning advocacy on behalf of the citizenry has been integral to the Center’s work and growth. We look forward to her joining the Board of Directors to serve the Center in a new capacity,” Amato said.
The Center is a community lawyering organization founded in 1994, with the mission of building democracy for the 21st century by strengthening the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. The focus of the Center is on educating, training, and providing resources to the public, public officials, journalists, and educators in the various laws and civic skills that address systemic deficiencies in government affairs; monitoring government entities for abuse of power; taking action to deter anti-democratic activity; and seeking access to justice through education, advocacy, and litigation.
The Center will welcome Maryam Judar and celebrate the service of Terry Pastika at our annual “Summer Intern and Democracy Night” to be held late in July. For details, please contact the Center at 630-833-4080 or visit www.citizenadvocacycenter.org
Elmhurst City Council members went into executive session on November 19, 2012 to discuss “Selection of a Person to Fill a Public Office,” which in this case was related to selecting an interim mayor. The Illinois Open Meetings Act allows public bodies to meet in closed session for a limited number of issues. Specific segments of the law are weak in that it allows public bodies to go into closed session on this particular topic and for generally allowing public officials to take a consensus vote in any closed session as long as a ceremonial “final vote” is taken in open session.
That being said, public bodies are not required to go into executive session for any issue and the purpose of the Open Meetings Act is explicit: it declares the necessity for public bodies to conduct their business openly to the fullest extent possible. The purpose is not to cherry-pick exemptions to justify closed door discussions on topics that are, without question, issues of public concern.
The mere appearance of the item on the agenda for closed door discussion is unacceptable. This is especially true given the hyper-politicized environment that will have more than half the council members on the ballot this April for either mayor or alderman. The public deserves to observe, in its entirety, the process of selecting an interim mayor. This includes the discussion about the procedure for how the Council will act as well as the political maneuvering for majority support and the ceremonial speeches prior to the vote.
Just because a government entity can legally do something, should it and is legal compliance with a weak statute good enough to earn the ranking of an open and transparent government? City Council meetings should aspire to more than pro forma activities and our expectations of government should be higher.
Ms. Terry Pastika
Executive Director/ Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center
A panel of Government Reform Advocates discuss the role of corruption in Illinois politics, why corruption is so prevalent, and what can be done to decrease corruption in Illinois government. Listen to our Executive Director, Terry Pastika's assessment of the situation from 30:46 - 40:04.
Did you miss the "Suburban Corruption" discussion with Dr. Dick Simpson sponsored by CAC and Elmhurst College? Listen at http://www.wbez.org/amplified/green-grass-and-graft-corruption-suburbs-102884
CAC in Chicago Tribune on Wednesday regarding changes to Chicago's whistle-blower ordinance.
Real reform? Expanded coverage beyond City employee’s good but severe 30 day limit to file a complaint makes ordinance essentially meaningless.
Read the whole story here:
Beyond the Chicago Border:
Ms. Dee Longfellow asked in her 9/27/12 editorial, “Is anyone else offended?” by the Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC) and Elmhurst College hosting Dr. Dick Simpson of UIC to discuss his latest academic paper on political corruption. The tone was sarcastic musing of why a Chicagoan should come to suburbia to talk about corruption. This is why: Corruption does not stop at the Chicago border. Dr. Simpson is nationally recognized for his vast experience in addressing government issues, both as an insider and a watchdog. He has spent a career documenting the “corruption tax” paid when public officials serve for personal interest rather than the public interest. His sixth report, "Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs" documents convictions beyond Chicago’s borders and offers tangible reform solutions.
CAC was also identified as “the local hot bed of political dirt digging” and an organization that protests indiscriminately. We are an award-winning community legal organization that for 20 years has worked to build democracy by strengthening the citizenry’s capacities, resources, and institutions for self-governance. CAC’s work starts in Elmhurst and extends statewide. Our resources are free, our doors are open to the public, and information about CAC is available at www.citizenadvocacycenter.org. The following are a few highlights of CAC’s work in Elmhurst:
1) Protecting First Amendment Free Speech rights via a federal lawsuit and bringing statewide and national media exposure to anti-democratic activity in City Hall. We also worked with District 205 to protect Free Speech rights during public comment (twice);
2) Reforming Illinois’ Tax Increment Financing law based on issues identified in the Elmhurst TIF 3 creation process and helping a community group organize to reduce TIF incentives approved on a TIF 1 project from the initial $5 million plus request to $1.2 million;
3) Questioning finance issues at City Hall. One inquiry led to monies being repaid; and
4) Helping individuals successfully organize. Examples include, placing referenda on the ballot, addressing a gas station leak, helping a local journalist protest the selling of a local paper, and helping organize a march to promote a historic preservation ordinance.
People worldwide are fighting for the freedoms Americans have, yet very few Americans actually engage in the democratic process. If a qualifier for “political dirt digging” and indiscriminate protesting includes teaching people interested in government issues how to successfully use First Amendment freedoms, along with community lawyers enforcing democratic rights, I regard that as a compliment.
Ms. Terry Pastika
Executive Director/ Community Lawyer
Citizen Advocacy Center
Suburban Corruption Forum: What Corruption Tax Are You Paying? CAC and Elmhurst College partner to bring author, professor, and former Chicago Alderman Dr. Dick Simpson from UIC who has written another study on the cost of corruption, this time focusing on the suburbs.
Green Grass and Graft: Corruption in the Suburbs will be held on Monday, October 1, at 7:00 p.m. in the Founders Lounge of the Frick Center. The event is free and open to the public.
After the forum, Simpson and Mixon will sign copies of their book Twenty-First Century Chicago (2011). The book takes a fresh look at metropolitan Chicago today, during a pivotal point in the region’s economic, social, political, and governmental history. Copies of the book will be available for purchase.
For more information about the forum, contact Constance Mixon at (630) 617-3569, firstname.lastname@example.org; or Terry Pastika at (630) 833-4080, email@example.com.
Read complete information here.
City officials site success of previous Tax Districts
By Dan McLeister for The Independent
In speaking against approval of the N. York Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District, several citizens stated that market conditions are worse than the first three TIF Districts which City officials used as examples of what could happen with a fourth one.
Stephen Hipskind (4th Ward), chairman of the Finance Committee of City Council, said that property values had tripled or almost tripled in the first three TIF Districts.
Terry Pastika, executive director of the Citizen Advocacy Center (CAC), went beyond market conditions and accused City officials of “turning a good process into a corrupt process and creating a problematic situation. This process looks like gerrymandering properties so Hahn St. properties south of North Ave. can be brought into the N. York TIF Districts of properties along York St. north of North Ave. to Grand Ave. The City is privatizing profit and socializing costs,” the lawyer said in her contention that all property owners in Elmhurst will end up paying for the N. York TIF District.
At the August 6th public hearing, the CAC director also noted that the decision in July by the Joint Review Board of various local taxing bodies “was not an overwhelming endorsement” since representatives from School District 205 and the Elmhurst Park District did not vote for approval. “The Park District and the School District feel like their backs are against the wall and they felt cut out of earlier discussions about the N. York TIF. Now there have been closed door meetings to determine what the payout might be”
(Incremental property tax increases from improvements in a TIF District are kept in a special City fund for up to twenty three years before being released to other local taxing bodies like the School District, which get more than half of the property taxes, and the Park District. Some property tax money was released early in the first TIF District along York St. south of North Ave.)
(District 205 School Board President Jim Collins was in the audience at the August 6th public hearing, but he did not speak during the public comment period.)
In addition to saying that market conditions are different now than during the time the first three TIF Districts were started, resident Tamara Brenner contended that the City “was moving fast” with the N. York TIF District. After City officials mentioned the possibility of a final action vote in two weeks, she noted that the TIF District Act from the state allows up to ninety days for local governments to make a decision.
Also, Brenner said she would like to know about the information behind the assumptions by the consultant to the City that property taxes could grow to $105 million to $150 million in twenty three years. Neither a representative from Kane McKenna nor any City officials gave details about the assumptions.
Finally, Brenner wanted to know how much discussion there had been in City meetings about alternative methods of financing such as a special sales tax district to finance improvements, instead of a TIF District.
Another resident, Craig Nelson, also urged the City to “slow down” and pay off bonds for the first three TIF Districts. “Currently the commercial real estate market is in disarray.”
Mentioning a specific situation, an attorney for the owners of Hamburger Heaven on the southeast corner of North Ave. and York St. noted that his client was concerned about the possible elimination of his business. John Skoubis noted “Hamburger Heaven has been an icon for decades in Elmhurst.”
(It is not clear what would happen to Hamburger Heaven if properties on York St., south of North Ave. including nearby Hahn St. land parcels were voted by the City Council to be included in the N. York TIF District.
The owner of Wendy’s restaurant on the north side of the proposed District, stated that he was against the project because taxes are already too high.
An overall statement was made by resident Claude Pagash. “If the District does not work out, then the public will be stuck paying any City obligations. I don’t’ like the idea of residents being on the hook.”