Council Meeting June 7, 2011
Tuesday’s city council meeting began with the swearing in of newly appointed council member Lee Fronabarger, then turned to issues ranging from regulation of liquor and bath salts to disputes about the order of the agenda and proper parliamentary procedure. Fronabarger’s swearing in went smoothly but the rest of the meeting was a little rocky.
For the second meeting in a row, the city council became mired in procedural issues. At the beginning of the meeting Jane Adams made a motion to restore the citizen’s comments to the beginning of the meeting for a single meeting. Newly elected Mayor Fritzler immediately tried to shut Adams down, but she held her ground. Councilman Jack seconded the motion, which ignited a fifteen minute discussion of the proper placement of citizen’s comments, interspersed with questions and debate about proper parliamentary procedure. The motion ultimately passed with Adams, Jack, Monty, and Fronabarger voting in favor.
Councilman Wissmann said he believes citizen’s comments should be taken at the beginning of the meeting but voted against moving them because he said setting the agenda is within the mayor’s discretion. That seems inconsistent to me, but so do most of Wissmann’s positions so I’m not surprised.
Next came citizen’s comments. Recent mayoral candidate Brent Ritzel spoke in opposition to the Fronabarger appointment and asked for clarification of the process. Mayor Fritzler cut Ritzel off and defended the process as lawful. Priscilla Pimentel gave a spirited speech in opposition to the Fronabarger appointment. Fritzler cut her off just as he did with Ritzel. When Pimentel said she wasn’t done, Fritzler said something like “Yes you are.” Pimentel left the podium.
I have to say I was troubled by Fritzler’s reaction. I thought our previous mayor was overly sensitive to criticism, but Fritzler seems to be taking it to a new level. Say what you will about Cole, but he had the courage and character to face his opponents and to allow them to speak. The jury is still out on whether Fritzler has that courage.
After citizen’s comments came the consent agenda. Councilwoman Adams asked that the item dealing with appointments to boards and commissions be pulled, citing concerns about transparency and process. More dispute over parliamentary procedure followed, and the item ultimately passed.
Next came a vote on moving back to the old system for liquor violation hearings. Under the old system, the city manager acted as the hearing officer. Any sanction issued by the city manager had to be approved by the council acting in its capacity as the liquor control commission. The system was changed in 2005 to make the mayor the hearing officer. There was an extended debate about the city’s liquor code.
I agreed most with Councilman Lance Jack, who argued that Carbondale’s entire system of liquor regulation is fatally flawed and should be overhauled. I watched from home on channel 16 and I got a phone call during this part of the meeting. I missed the vote, so I’m not sure if this passed. Next the council turned to the bath salts ban. This also involved a long discussion, and the council ultimately approved the ban on a 4-3 vote with Adams, Jack, and Wissmann voting against. I’ll have a post dedicated to this topic on Thursday.
The meeting ended with council comments. Councilman Jack had the most to say. He began with a tongue in cheek request that the city pursue a Twizzler ban, since so many people (the councilman included) abuse the candy. He then suggested that the city revise its sidewalk sign ordinance, and requested public input on how to deal with vagrants on the strip.
Jack’s best suggestion was that we place benches and shelters at bus stops and finance the construction with sales of advertisements on the benches, shelters, and on public trash cans. This is a great idea and I don’t know why we haven’t done it before. We should make it easier and more convenient to use public transportation. Benches and shelters are a good start, although we also need to revise some of the routes.
Councilman Wissmann asked staff if the city is still looking at ways to revise our system of electing council members after the messy election of 2011, which featured four candidates for mayor and eleven for council. City Manager Alan Gill said staff is still looking at options.
I want to offer a bit more editorial comment. Although there were fewer questions about parliamentary procedure this time than at the last meeting, it was hard to avoid the perception that Fritzler does not know how to run a meeting. At times there was a sense of confusion, and at other times a sense of chaos. The ability to run a meeting is the main qualification for mayor. Fritzler simply must get his act together and learn parliamentary procedure.
I’ll close by wishing newly appointed council member Lee Fronabarger luck. I am among those who thought the appointment should have gone to Tom Grant, but I hold no ill will toward Fronabarger. I’m sure he’ll make a good council member and I wish him the best. I’ll urge my fellow citizens, many of whom were also pulling for Grant, to be good sports about the appointment. If people feel that they must do something, I urge them to focus on changing Carbondale policy for future appointments.
Comments are welcome.
I write short paragraphs because they’re easier to read. I wrote short paragraphs for this post but for some reason WordPress deleted all the spaces between them and formatted the post as one long paragraph. Strange. I just noticed the mistake today (June 14). I’ve corrected the post and apologize for the error.