Liquor Controversy: Additional Comments And Coverage Roundup
*** This post has been corrected. Please see the bottom of the post for more details. ***
I wrote a post earlier this week about the liquor controversy at the June 21 city council meeting, and I wanted to follow up today by revising and extending my remarks. I’ll also include a coverage roundup with some links.
To start, I want to quote from my comments on the proposed liquor law changes from the earlier post:
During council comments, the council members explained their vote. It’s basically a process issue. The Liquor Advisory Board hadn’t seen the ordinance, and there were several changes being considered. It wasn’t clear that all the consequences of the changes had been considered, so the council refused to act. The issue will be back in a future meeting – maybe as soon as July.
This has to be seen as a rebuke to Fritzler, who supported the ordinance. People in Carbondale are sticklers for process. Early in former mayor Brad Cole’s first term, the council refused to approve his road resurfacing ordinance because the planning commission hadn’t considered it. The ordinance went back to the planning commission, and the council subsequently approved it.
The council taught Fritzler the same lesson Cole learned – in Carbondale it’s often quicker to take things slowly. People who support the substance of your proposal will vote against it if there is a board or commission that should have considered it but wasn’t granted the opportunity.
First, a revision. Fritzler didn’t just support the ordinance. He was its chief sponsor. With that correction made, I’ll extend my earlier remarks.
Our liquor laws are fairly complex and cover a lot of issues. I’ll offer just a few examples. We regulate the hours during which liquor can be sold and during which liquor stores can be open. We regulate the age of employees at establishments that sell liquor. We regulate the types of establishments and the parts of town in which liquor can be sold. There are caps on certain types of liquor licenses. These parts of the law are interrelated, but they’re separate.
For example, we might want to allow sales of beer and wine in grocery stores, but not allow sales of hard liquor. We might want to allow grocery stores to sell any alcohol, but not allow gas stations to sell any. We might want to allow all retail establishments to sell all alcohol, but still keep the area south of Pleasant Hill Road dry. We might want to eliminate caps, or we might prefer to simply raise the caps to allow additional establishments to sell alcohol.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s not a simple matter to change our liquor code. Our council members are citizen-legislators, not full time politicians. Many, perhaps all of them, lack detailed knowledge of every aspect of our liquor code. That’s why we have a liquor advisory board (LAB). The LAB is a group of citizens who work exclusively with liquor issues, and they hadn’t seen the proposed ordinance.
Council members rely on the advice of boards and commissions. To an outside observer, it may seem like the council has been talking about the liquor issues for a long time. That’s true, but it was a different council. The current council has three new members (I don’t count Lance Jack as a new member because he served seven and a half years before being forced off council last year). The discussions held by the last council didn’t concern this specific ordinance, and even if they had, the three new members weren’t party to those discussions.
Council member Don Monty probably has better knowledge of city code than any other member of the council. He should have that knowledge – he spent decades working on the city staff. Monty raised substantive objections to the proposed ordinance. He raised them before the meeting.
Mayor Fritzler had the opportunity to revise his proposed ordinance to address Monty’s objections, and he chose not to take that opportunity. He had the opportunity to allow changes to the ordinance at the meeting. Again, he chose not to take the opportunity. If someone has to bear the blame for the council’s inaction, it is Joel Fritzler.
How do I know? Because, fortunately, council member Jane Adams also writes a blog. She wrote a post called What Happened Last Night explaining the context behind the council’s inaction at Tuesday’s meeting. I encourage everyone to read her entire post (link), but I’m going to quote from and comment on it:
In a brief consultation before the Council meeting, I told Mayor Fritzler that, after discussing the ordinance, there would be a motion to postpone our vote until all the relevant issues — including age and hours — could be included in the ordinance. I pointed out that, under existing code, the intended beneficiaries of the ordinance — grocery and convenience stores — would not qualify for a license.
But Mayor Fritzler was adamant, as he had been in previous communications — We would consider, and vote on, the ordinance he put forward. I observed that Robert’s Rules of Order, under which we operate, requires that a motion for postponment (if seconded) must be acted on before taking up a vote on the main motion. He replied that he would not allow such a motion, stating that Robert’s Rules for government and for ladies’ clubs are different.
First I want to draw attention to Fritzler’s shameful, condescending remark that Robert’s Rules are different for government than for ladies’ clubs. This is absolutely inappropriate. Period. Besides the sexist dimension, which is reprehensible in itself, the remark displays disrespect for a fellow council member. The council member in question, Adams, received nearly 1200 votes in the April election. Compared to the roughly 900 votes Fritzler received, I’d say Adams has the support of the public and deserves the mayor’s respect.
I want to be clear on one point. This is not a defense of the women on the council. They are fully capable of defending themselves. My comments are a defense of a basic level of respect and decency that ought to be extended to every council member and, indeed, to every citizen. Fritzler’s comment doesn’t meet the standard of comity that I expect from every single public servant.
But let’s forgive Fritzler’s sexist remark for just a second. We can go back to being offended soon, but for now, let’s just look at the rest of the quote. The thing that jumps out at me is Fritzler’s stubbornness and rigidity. If he hadn’t been so inflexible, his ordinance would have received a second. Council would have discussed it, then it would have been tabled. The LAB would have gotten a chance to review it, and council could have voted on a revised ordinance at the next meeting. Fritzler thought he could bully the council and get his way. He found out he couldn’t.
Now I want to turn back to my own comments that I quoted above. I’ll draw your attention to the second boldface sentence – the one where I say council taught Fritzler the same lesson former mayor Cole learned. Teaching and learning are two different things. Council can teach the lesson, but it’s up to Fritzler to learn it. No one can force him to learn. He has to do it on his own, because he wants to.
Did Fritzler learn the correct lesson from the meeting? I’ll quote two messages from his Facebook page and let you be the judge.
The majority of the Carbondale City Council once again showed why many people consider Carbondale to be business-unfriendly while, at the same time, showing their support for a handful of individuals over the wishes and expectations of the majority and to the financial detriment of Carbondale. A difference between the existing and the previous council is only two members of the existing council (Fronabarger & I) were willing to allow a discussion of the agenda item. However, since the mayor is not able to make a motion or second a motion, Councilman Fronabarger’s motion, to even allow council discussion of the alcohol issues, died for lack of a second. This didn’t stop a few council members to then speak for about half an hour during Council Comments about why they didn’t want to discuss the agenda item.
[This quote is from Tuesday at 11:42 p.m.] Correction: This quote has been corrected to include Fritzler’s post in its entirety. Please see the bottom of this post for more details.
Changing our liquor code to make Carbondale as progressive as Murphysboro, IL or Salt Lake City, Utah seems to be a dead issue. Councilman Monty wants a liquor code that is just slightly less restrictive than our current protectionist code. And, last weekend, Councilwoman Adams told me that, although she was good friends with the Karayiannis’, she would vote for the changes. After Tuesday’s meeting was cut short for lack of a second to Fronabarger’s motion, Ms. Adams was seen standing out in the parking lot with her good friends.
Both of these councilmembers [sic] have asked for discussion on the issue but, when the time came for discussion during the council meeting, neither of them would allow the issue to come to a discussion. I had hoped for some discussion, anticipated some amendments, and thought that some form of change would take place. From the actions, or inactions, of the council, it seems clear where we all stand on this issue and perhaps it is time to move onto [sic] another issue.
[This post is from Thursday around 6:00 p.m (Facebook didn’t give me the exact time.)] Correction: This quote has been corrected to include Fritzler’s post in its entirety. Please see the bottom of this post for more details.
Do these two posts sound like the words of a man who’s learned his lesson? They don’t sound that way to me. First, it’s kind of hypocritical to say that the lack of action is evidence of business-unfriendliness when Fritzler voted against renewing the Fat Patties license. Fat Patties is, after all, a business.
Fritzler also builds a straw man in the first post, then proceeds to attack him. As far as I know, no council member wants to keep our current liquor code. Nor were the objections raised by council members in pursuit of protecting the interests of “a handful of individuals.” Council wanted to take the time to get the changes right, rather than rushing a sloppy ordinance into the city code.
The second post is amusing in that Fritzler confuses ready access to alcohol with progressive politics. It’s true that progressives are generally civil libertarians. Most progressives would probably support allowing more establishments to sell alcohol. Most progressives would probably vote against an ordinance to, say, ban bath salts. Fritzler, on the other hand, voted for that ordinance. I’ll add that progressives generally try to avoid making sexist comments. Fritzler is clearly confused on what it means to be a progressive.
Fritzler’s confusion over progressive politics can be forgiven. His confusion over the role of mayor is not forgivable. I think he reads this blog, so I’ll spell it out. The members of the Carbondale city council work for the resident of Carbondale, not for the mayor. The mayor doesn’t get to dictate policy to the council. The mayor has to lobby, cajole, and convince at least three council members to support his or her positions. That’s politics. If you can’t play the game, then get off the field.
I’ve been tough on Fritzler in this post, but I always try to be fair, so I’m going to close on a positive note. I’m sure there is a learning curve when you step into the job of mayor. We’re only a few months into Fritzler’s term and it’s natural for him to make some mistakes. I voted for Fritzler because I thought he was the best choice available. I thought then and I think now that he has the potential to be a good mayor. But it’s up to Fritzler to reach that potential.
I’m being tough on Fritzler because I think he needs it if he’s going to be the good mayor I think and hope he can be. And I’ll point out that, although I sometimes get tough, I never get nasty. I’m criticizing Fritzler’s behavior as mayor, not his character. And, although I took his remark as sexist, I don’t think he is a misogynist. We’ve all made hasty remarks that we’ve later regretted. I want to be forgiven when I say something stupid, and I’m willing to extend the same courtesy to Fritzler.
Fritzler has stumbled, but he hasn’t fallen yet. If he wants to recover, he’ll reevaluate his strategy for dealing with council. He’ll allow amendments and motions to table. He won’t show disrespect for his colleagues. He’ll follow the proper procedures. He’ll be a leader, not a bully. I think he can do it, and I think he should do it. Whether he will do it is up to him.
The coverage roundup follows the asterisks. I’ll start with “straight news” and proceed through the blogs. I realize I haven’t addressed the Fat Patties issue, but this post is long enough so I’ll have to write about Fat Patties next week after Tuesday’s special liquor commission meeting.
Comments are welcome.
Southern Illinoisan: City Council’s Alcohol Stance Baffles Some
Carbondale Times: A Chilly Reception (still no website for the Carbondale Times – you’ll have to pick up a paper copy.)
Jane Adams Blog: What Happened Last Night
Carbondaze Gazette: Liquor License Caps Remain
Beer Philosopher: Carbondale Council Cluelessness Continues
Prima.Vera Valentine: City of Carbondale…Government?
[I’ll add that Prima.Vera Valentine is a brand new blog. The author was moved to blog by his or her annoyance with the result of Tuesday’s meeting. The author was kind enough to link this blog in his or her first post. I hope the author will keep blogging.]
Again, comments are welcome.
*** Correction Details ***
When I wrote this post, I quoted what I thought were Fritzler’s complete Facebook comments. It turns out that the comments continued – I just didn’t know how to view them in their entirety. I have corrected the quotes and they now include Fritzler’s complete comments. The mistake was unintentional, and I apologize for it.
Fortunately, the full comments don’t change the meaning. If anything, they cast Fritzler in a worse light than the original, abbreviated quotes. In the second quote, Fritzler casts aspersions on another council member. In the process, he names private citizens whose reputations he should not have impugned. That portion of his post was not included in the original quotes, and it displays behavior that is way out of bounds for a public official.
Also in the second post, Fritzler claims that one council member promised to vote for his proposed ordinance. He fails to mention that the council member in question repeatedly insisted that the LAB get the opportunity to review the proposed ordinance before any council vote.
I added Fritzler’s extended comments, but I did not change any of my own commentary (other than removing the reference to elipses which followed the original, abbreviated quotes).
It’s a little embarrassing that I couldn’t figure out how to view Fritzler’s full comments. I’ll have to live with the embarrassment. But it was an honest mistake and, seeing the full comments, it should be obvious that I would have included them if I had seen them earlier, as they only strengthen my case that Fritzler has acted inappropriately.
*** End of Correction ***
One final reminder – comments are welcome.