A blog focusing on politics in Central Illinois.

Friday, January 28, 2005

City Council Controversy

Well as you all know a certain controversy has erupted around the Decatur City Council in the last two days. I'll start with the Herald & Review Editorial and move my way forward.
The editorial
Decatur City Council member Michael Carrigan has vowed to vote no to any proposed Starbucks outlet at the Target retail center.

His reason?

He and other council members found out the city was in "serious negotiations" with the retail coffee giant by reading it in the Herald & Review.

According to a transcript of a closed meeting held by the council, Carrigan believes the council should have been told first that the city's talks with Starbucks were "serious."

At the end of a contentious - and clearly illegal - closed meeting Dec. 20, there's this exchange:

A good question at this point would be, why was an illegal closed meeting allowed to proceed? It should be the duty of the mayor to make sure that the laws of the state are not violated. In this case, a violation was made, the mayor should be responsible, but the Herald and Review wouldn't want to criticize Mayor Garman......er I mean Mayor Osborne now would they?

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to understand what the council really wants is to conduct this business in the dark, outside of the public eye. They want advance notice of which retail outlets are considering locating at the Target center, and they want to decide if these options are appropriate for Decatur before the public knows about them.

Forget the fact that there are millions of taxpayer dollars wrapped up in this project. Forget the fact that what the council is proposing is clearly against the state's Open Meetings Act. Forget the fact that the council itself leaks public and private information like a sieve, usually when it serves a particular political purpose.

Those facts don't matter. What apparently does matter is council members weren't given inside information, but instead had to read it in - gasp!! - the newspaper like the rest of us ordinary folks.

The Herald and Review is at this point being absurd. To state that the City Council members shouldn't have advance notice on things related to the massive amount of tax dollars they have sunk into a development is ridiculous. Have you ever asked someone a question that they clearly didn't already know about, such as So how is your daughter having a boy or a girl? Yeah that look on there face, City Council members shouldn't have to have that same look. They are elected by the citizens of our fair city to be given the responsibility of managing the city for the greater good. They should have knowledge about upcoming situations.

At one point in the meeting, Carrigan tells City Manager Steve Garman, "I'm the employer. I'm not the employee. I'm the owner. You're the subordinate."

Well, Mr. Carrigan, the taxpayers are your employer. You are their subordinate. Taxpayers are the owners, and they deserve information every bit as much as you do. You were elected to serve the best interests of those taxpayers, not act childish because you didn't receive special treatment.
The tax payers are indeed Mr. Carrigan's employer, and Mr Carrigan is indeed Mr. Garman's employer. I will admit to not knowing how the corporate structure of the Herald & Review is set up, but generally the way it works is that informatoin is passed up the line, Steve Garman is the man on the bottom, he passes information onto the middle manager, the council, who then report the facts to the CEO's all 80 some thousand of us. The Herald & Review is outlandish in trying to portray this reformer good government image, it's not, and it hasn't been. You can't change your stripes Linda and Gary. This editorial would have been better titled, Help Keep Steve's Job.