The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

City Council Meeting 05/01/2012

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As usual, I watched the May 1, 2012 Carbondale city council meeting from home on Mediacom channel 16. The agenda is available on the city’s website. A summary and brief commentary follow.

The consent agenda passed unanimously and no one pulled any of the individual items for discussion. Council then moved on to general business.

Item 5.1, establishing a Health Insurance Reimbursement Fund, passed unanimously. This was an internal accounting change, and it isn’t expected to change the city’s total budget.

Item 5.2 , a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a contract for the purchase of property from the Canadian National railway, also passed unanimously. The land runs along the railroad tracks and contains two parcels between the tracks and Washington St. (east side of the tracks) and a third parcel between the tracks and Illinois Ave. (west side of the tracks).

The property will be used to construct a pedestrian and bicycle path from the SIUC campus to the town square, with funds coming from the Saluki Way tax. It’s a feel good project (green space, trails, etc.) but I’m not wild about it. It will be nice to have an area dedicated to biking, since there are no bike lanes on the street, but I don’t think it will be a very hospitable place for pedestrians. Of course, we already have a pedestrian path from campus to the town square: the public sidewalks. But that’s another post.

Item 5.3, declaring fair days for the Sunset Concert series, passed 6-1, with council member Corene McDaniel opposed. McDaniel does not believe the city should allow public consumption of alcohol in the public parks and votes against the fair days declaration every year.

Item 5.4, providing funding for community organizations, was the controversial item. Specifically, item 5.4.7, which would have authorized the city manager to execute a contract with the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau (CCTB), has been an ongoing source of controversy.

Item 5.4.1, providing funds to nine organizations, passed with six affirmative votes. Council member Corene McDaniel voted “present” after raising the objection that the constraints in the city’s proposed contract with CCTB were not included in the contracts for the nine organizations funded by item 5.4.1.

Items 5.4.2 through 5.4.6 reallocated the $50,000 the council cut from the CCTB budget earlier in the year to five separate organizations. All five items passed 6-1, with council member Corene McDaniel casting the dissenting vote on each item.

Item 5.4.7 would have authorized the city manager to execute a contract with CCTB for tourism services. Council member Wissmann moved that council not approve the item, which meant declining to fund CCTB, and instead direct city staff to prepare requests for proposals to provide tourism services to the city. A discussion followed.

Council members Monty and Fronabarger both said they had received more calls and emails about this item than about any since they joined council. In Monty’s case, all the contacts expressed a negative view of CCTB, and Fronabarger said 99% of the comments he received were negative. McDaniel argued that people who are displeased take the time to call or write, while people who are satisfied don’t bother.

The resolution authorizing the city manager to execute a contract with CCTB was defeated 6-1, again with McDaniel casting the dissenting vote. City Manager Kevin Baity then pointed out that CCTB would have been required to fund the Lights Fantastic parade and the Lion’s Club Fourth of July fireworks show and asked for direction. Council directed him to fund those activities directly.

I’m going to keep my comments brief. I think the council did the right thing by declining to fund CCTB. Other organizations are available to provide the services the city has previously paid CCTB to provide. Since the city provided such a large portion of CCTB’s funds, it seems unlikely that the organization can survive.

I will say one other thing. I thought tonight’s meeting went really well and the entire council, Mayor Fritzler, and City Manager Baity deserve credit. The meeting did not get out of control or out of order, as was common last year. Mayor Fritzler has gotten better at running meetings since he took office.

And the council was able to have a substantive discussion and then take action without letting the meeting go all night. Every member of the council was informed and engaged. I was impressed with the way council conducted its business.

City Manager Kevin Baity also deserves credit. When council declined to fund CCTB, Baity immediately reminded council of the Lights Fantastic parade and Fourth of July fireworks funding included in the CCTB package. He was able to explain the item establishing the health insurance fund in language a lay person could understand.

Comments are welcome.


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