The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Kirkwood/Icebox Granted Liquor License

with 11 comments

The Carbondale city council, acting in its capacity as the liquor control commission, granted Kevin Kirkwood a class A-2 liquor license for his Icebox Bar and Grill at last night’s meeting. The license was controversial because a party held last year at the former Spotlight Grill, which operated at the same address, ended in a fight in which a Carbondale resident was murdered

I expected the council to deny the liquor license, and at the beginning of the meeting I thought they should deny it. This is pure speculation, but I’d bet that the council members themselves began the meeting thinking they should and would deny the license.

After Kirkwood responded to numerous questions from council members, especially newcomers Don Monty and Jane Adams, and after a parade of character witnesses on Kirkwood’s behalf, I changed my mind. It seems like Kirkwood has been a good neighbor since he’s been running the Icebox, and I think the city is keeping a lid on the after hours parties.

As usual, I watched Tuesday’s city council meeting from home on channel 16. Aside from the Kirkwood/Icebox issue, a few other things stood out as significant: Fritzler’s decision to move citizen’s comments to the end of the meetings, the tension between Fritzler and Lance Jack, the results of the rezoning and site plan approval requests, and the unusually large number of points of order called at the meeting. I’ll talk briefly about each.

Citizens’ Comments: At the beginning of the meeting, Fritzler announced his intention to move citizens’ comments to the end of city council meetings. Citizens’ comments were formerly taken at the end of meetings. First, I think this was an unexpected use of power by Fritzler. I think everyone who voted for him expected him to be a weak mayor, although not all of us liked that. He had carved out a niche as the anti-Cole on the city council.

That’s why it was such a surprise to see him use power this way. When Lance Jack questioned his reasoning on the decision, Fritzler twice said something like: people can stay for the whole meeting and participate and then make their comments (paraphrased). It seemed to me that it irks Fritzler that people show up for citizen’s comments, make their comment (which is usually a complaint), and then leave. He’s going to force them to sit through the entire meeting before they complain.

I’m impressed with the use of power, but I oppose his decision. Joel Fritzler’s role as mayor does not extend to dictating the terms of people’s participation. Some people have other commitments. They either can’t devote an entire evening to city business, most of which they don’t know or care about, or they choose not to. That’s why we have representative democracy instead of direct democracy.

A representative democracy provides diverse opportunities to participate. Citizens can vote, they can volunteer on campaigns, they can communicate with their representatives in public or in private, or they can run for office themselves. The point of citizens’ comments is to allow an opportunity for citizens to communicate in public with their elected representatives. We should not create unnecessary obstacles.

Fritzler said he’s trying this for a few weeks. Let’s hope he voluntarily discontinues the practice. If he chooses to continue it, the rest of the council should overrule him and move citizens’ comments back to the beginning of the meeting.

Fritzler/Jack Tension: This erupted twice. At the beginning of the meeting Fritzler became defensive when Jack questioned the wisdom of moving citizens’ comments to the end of meetings. Jack stuck to his guns and there was a bit of tension. The more serious tension arose on the subject of nominations.

The mayor and council appoint members and representatives to a number of boards and committees. Since his election in 2003, Jack has served as the city’s ex officio member of the Carbondale Main Street board. Fritzler, who helped drive Jack off the council last year (see here and here), decided to appoint Jane Adams instead of Jack.

Jack asked that the nominations be removed from the consent agenda and held for discussion. Jack said that he has informed Mayor Fritzler of his desire to continue as the city’s Main Street representative and that he’s repeatedly asked Fritzler why he isn’t being reappointed. Jack claimed that Fritzler hasn’t given a clear answer.

Fritzler, visibly annoyed, confirmed that Jack had asked him about the appointment and said that he had explained to Jack that  he had the right to make the choice. A tense exchange followed in which the two were very nearly shouting at one another.

I sympathize with Jack, but I think Fritzler is right. Elections have consequences. Fritzler won the last election, and to the victor go the spoils. Fritzler can appoint whoever he wants to serve on the Main Street board. Jack was entitled to ask for a reason, but Fritzler wasn’t required to give one.

I have repeatedly expressed disapproval of attempts to harass Jack off the council. If the new council decides to hold his Fat Patties liquor license hostage to try to again force Jack to resign, I’ll oppose that. But I don’t think declining to reappoint Jack to the Main Street board qualifies as harassment.

Rezoning/Site Plan Approval Requests: There were three of these, and I think the council took the right action on all of them. None were extremely important in themselves (the Goodwill site plan was the most important of the three), but they had important symbolic value. We have a new council and Tuesday’s votes signaled that council will approach these things pragmatically. That’s good for Carbondale.

Points of Order: I lost count, but there were at least a dozen, and probably closer to two dozen, points of order called during the meeting. The main job of Carbondale’s mayor is running city council meetings, and Fritzler had a tough time accomplishing it.

I don’t want to beat up on Fritzler, and I don’t think this is too big a deal. It was his first “real” meeting as mayor – the first meeting was mainly ceremonial. Fritzler probably just had first day jitters.

Still, Fritzler is going to have to learn to run a meeting. One of former mayor Brad Cole’s most valuable contributions was his efficient administration of council meetings. The early jitters are fine, but Fritzler’s going to have to get up to speed pretty quickly.

Comments are welcome.

UPDATED: After I wrote this, but before I posted it, I saw on the Carbondaze Gazette blog that Lee Fronabarger has been appointed to fill Joel Fritzler’s old seat. I’ll have more to say on this sometime this week.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

May 18, 2011 at 7:45 am

11 Responses

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  1. The Observer’s previous analysis of state law regarding Lance Jack’s denial of a liquor license was impressive as it contained many provisions of the state law. However, it stopped a bit short of the full answer. Mr. Jack should have a license because he is NOT a liquor commissioner (but is a council member which may hold a license). The State Liquor Control Act makes the mayor the sole liquor commissioner. In 1976, in the Illinois Supreme Court case of Pechous v. Slawko, 64 Ill. 2d 576 (S. Ct. 1976), the court ruled that a town council could not usurp the authority given to the mayor by state law and take his power to be the sole liquor commissioner and give it to the council. In 1997, Jim Ryan’s office of Attorney General delivered the same opinion regarding another town that sought to do the same thing. Attorney General Opinion #97-028. It violates the separation of powers doctrine and statute for the legislative branch to assume the authority given specifically to the executive branch. So why does the state liquor code even mention members of local control commissions? Because in towns that have adopted the commission form of local government (pursuant to the Illinois Muncipal Code), the council DOES serve as the local commission and those members may not hold a liquor license. Carbondale does not have a commission form of government, it has a managerial form of government (and is home rule) just like the towns in the Pechous case and in the AG’s opinion. Carbondale ordinance making the council the local liquor control commission is not valid and never has been. But it’s just been done that way for so long, nobody has questioned it. After all, they’re Carbondale.

    concerned observer

    May 18, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    • Wow, thanks for the excellent comment! I never got into the case law on this issue.

      I remember a few years ago there was an attempt to move back to having the mayor act as the sole liquor commissioner. Some people interpreted it as a power grab by then-mayor Cole. I never saw it that way. I saw it as an attempt to streamline a fairly cumbersome process.

      Anyway, we’ll see what happens in June. Two of the three council members who opposed the Fat Patties license have been replaced. The legal objections to supporting the license have been effectively countered. The electorate has ratified Jack’s service on the council while holding a liquor license. It’s time to move on.

      Thanks again for the comment! I hope you’ll be back with more comments in the future.

  2. The Main Street decision to appoint Adams instead of Jack is an interesting one. Adams seems to be your typical retired university professor, aka clueless about business. Jack actually has a business on in the Main Street area.

    We know that Joel doesn’t like Jack, but you have to wonder how the Main Street people sit on this issue?

    Joel is a low level paper pusher, in a low level organization, of a failing university. We are surprised he can’t run a meeting? Hopefully, he has a friend pulling him aside and giving him pointers?

    In the end, Brad is much, much smarter than Joel. In a few years, we will see how much that matters. If you lived through the Dillard years, get ready… because it is coming.

    Invisible Person

    May 18, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    • Thanks for the comment! I would be interested to know where Main St. stands on the appointment. Of course they’d never say publicly. But I wouldn’t be too sure about Adams’ business sense. She does own some rental property and, as a comment on a previous post pointed out, real estate is the frequently overlooked fourth industry in Carbondale (the other three being education, medicine, and retail).

      When you mention the Dillard years, I think “drift.” I think of a city government that reacts to outside events rather than acting on its own to mold events. Is a Fritzler council going to revert to that state? I don’t know. I hope not.

      One thing that may help: the council has expanded to seven members from the five that served during the Dillard years. I think Adams and Monty are both capable of taking the lead. They can’t chair the meetings, which is a shame, but they can initiate action.

      I still think that Fritzler would have lost a two person race against a credible challenger who campaigned hard for the job. I think Fritzler won because he worked hardest for it, because the four person race lowered the threshold for victory, and because his most credible opponent didn’t run a modern campaign.

      I do think the current council will use home rule authority to narrow the field of candidates who survive a primary. If Fritzler doesn’t perform, a credible challenger will emerge and Fritzler will be a one-termer.

      Of course, Fritzler could get things together and be a good mayor. If that happens, he’ll be tough to beat. I’m keeping my mind open for now. Maybe he did just have jitters. We’ll know soon enough – if he doesn’t grow into the position by August or so, we’ll know we got a dud.

  3. IP — why do you assume that Main Street wanted Jack? And it was the Mayor’s first meeting with a significantly different group of people (some of whom are talkers)…I don’t think its terribly fair to judge him from that one performance. (And if you ever saw Stephen in action and or sat in a Sam meeting…you’d know they don’t have a great history of efficient meetings themselves.)

    Regarding Brad…if he’s so great, why did he leave the city in worse financial shape than when he took office? He raised taxes twice (after claiming Shelia would do it, implying he wouldn’t) and left the city with a smaller financial reserve than when he started. I guess he helped “business”, but didn’t do much more local business.


    May 21, 2011 at 8:30 am

    • Amen to that!!!!! Brad Cole sucks!!!


      May 21, 2011 at 11:48 pm

    • I agree about Joel’s first meeting. Hopefully, he is boning up.

      Good thing to know that Carbondale is the only city in Illinois that is in trouble. Good grief. 🙂

      Invisible Person

      May 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm

  4. Joel will be ok, the first meeting should always be the hardest..


    May 21, 2011 at 11:49 pm

  5. “In the end, Brad is much, much smarter than Joel. In a few years, we will see how much that matters. If you lived through the Dillard years, get ready… because it is coming.”

    Hi, Peter Gregory. Glad to hear from you again.


    May 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    • Those terrible Dillard years of lower taxes, balanced budgets, and a professional city staff running things…HOW AWFUL.


      May 25, 2011 at 8:42 am

  6. […] are without merit, as I’ve written here and here. A reader commenting as Concerned Observer argued back in May that our entire liquor ordinance is at odds with state law. I couldn’t figure out exactly […]

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