Plenty Of ‘Lowlights’ During Monday Night’s City Council Meeting
I think anyone familiar with the Decatur City Council knew that Monday night’s meeting was going to be a tough one. It was the first meeting since the death of Mayor Mike McElroy and it started with a tone of reverence with a moment of silence in his memory and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Moore-Wolfe read letters of condolences from the mayors of our sister cities. There was also a presentation of medals to visiting students from a sister city and the reading of a few proclamations which were signed by Moore-Wolfe. So far, so good. Then, about the time the council was ready to go into closed session for a discussion on the selection of the next mayor, the meeting took an ugly turn! To her credit, I thought Moore-Wolfe did an admirable job in keeping the meeting from being even worse -- which should add to her credentials in being the most qualified to be selected for the mayor’s position. I felt it was a good move for the council to change the order of the agenda and put the closed session to discuss/select the new mayor as the last item. I was a little uncomfortable in placing it at the front of the meeting agenda and then, if someone was selected, coming out and voting on the selection. I was also relieved to hear that both City Manager Tim Gleason and Councilman Jerry Dawson, had talked with family members, and said the family felt the late mayor would have wanted the council to move ahead and select his successor. I also believed that Moore-Wolfe had the votes to be selected when it was thought the next mayor had to come from the council. When it was settled that the council could consider council members and anyone in the community, it became a more difficult process. There has been a push for the council to choose as mayor, Bishop G. E. Livingston, who was defeated by McElroy in the last mayoral election and several spoke in support of him during the meeting. Others spoke in support of Moore-Wolfe. The basis of the argument of those who support Livingston is that, since he was the runner-up to McElroy, he should be the obvious choice. Nowhere in the municipal code or state law that I know of, does it state that losers of elections have a right to expect appointment when the winner resigns or dies in office.
I THINK Bishop Livingston should certainly be given consideration based on his experience in the community, connection to the city through serving on commissions and, of course, being a candidate for mayor -- but there is no law that says he should be the successor. I do think that, because of the push by Livingston supporters, a few of the council members were reluctant to make a decision Monday night. The council will meet in closed session this coming Monday night for further discussion. There’s not much doubt in my mind, that, since Councilwoman Dana Ray endorsed Livingston during his mayoral run, that Moore-Wolfe’s effort to get four of the six votes will not be easy and Ray’s vote will be very important -- but I believe she will be selected.
OVER THE LINE -- There were a lot of “lowlights” to pick from Monday night’s meeting but I thought one comment made by someone in support of Livingston really went over the line. He told Moore-Wolfe that, if she wanted to be mayor she should run for the office like Livingston and Pat McDaniel did. I’ve known Moore-Wolfe for many years and she has never expressed a desire to run for mayor until thrust into circumstances that no one could foresee. The two most-experienced city council members are Moore-Wolfe and Jerry Dawson. To my knowledge, Dawson doesn’t want to be mayor. Following the death of the mayor, when a lot of things are in the works, is not the time to reach outside and bring in someone new to continue projects that are moving the city ahead. That’s why, in my mind, Moore-Wolfe is the obvious choice to serve until 2017 when the office is up for election. That’s not that far off and, if Moore-Wolfe wants to continue in office, she can run for election, as can Bishop Livingston.
• LIBRARY -- In other business, Moore-Wolfe, in connection with the views of most of the council members provided city manager Tim Gleason with informal direction to pursue negotiations with Macon County, the Decatur Public Building Commission and the Decatur Public Library board regarding the future disposition of the library building. While he said he would not give a specific recommendation, City Manager Tim Gleason laid out the pros and cons of several potential options on Monday including the potential purchase of the building by the City. Gleason said, that the City’s goal in going forward is to negotiate with all involved parties to determine the best option for local taxpayers.
• CONGRATULATIONS to the EDC and all parties involved for bringing 300 new jobs to our community with the Convey Health Solutions announcement Monday. (See story elsewhere on this website .) Great work!
July 29 Post...
Mayor Pro Tem Position Has Become More Than ‘Temporary’ For City
Over the years, the mayor pro tem position on the city council has usually been held by the council member with the most seniority who is willing to shoulder a little extra responsibility. That person will step in for the mayor, preside over the council meetings, and assume other mayoral responsibilities when the mayor is ill, out of town, on vacation or unable to take care of his/her duties -- usually for a very short time. For that reason, the position has a little extra responsibility for the council member holding it. However, twice-in-a-row, the mayor pro tem has been called upon to assume the mayor’s responsibilities: in 2008, when I left office with health problems, and this month following the stunning death of Mayor Mike McElroy. Following Mayor McElroy’s death, Mayor Pro Tem Julie Moore-Wolfe assumed the mayor’s responsibilities until a new mayor is selected by the city council members. The council has 60 days to make that selection and that person will serve until 2017 when the mayor’s office will be up for election for a two year term to fill out the remainder of McElroy’s four year term which he won earlier this year.
JULIE Moore-Wolfe was elected to the city council in 2009 and re-elected in 2013. She was selected as mayor pro tem only a few months ago as part of the reorganization of the council following the election of Bill Faber and Lisa Gregory to the council seats formerly held by Larry Foster and Pat Laegeler. If Moore-Wolfe wants the council to approve her to be mayor until 2017 when the seat will be up for election, it would seem to me she would have the votes needed from the council. I know she did not become mayor pro tem with the intention of replacing the mayor because he would resign or die in office. But, tragically, it happened. MOORE-WOLFE has been a part of the council during some very productive years for the city and has six-plus years of experience in dealing with the issues. Last week, in this column, I wrote that the council could chose someone from council, or from the community, to serve as mayor between now and 2017. That statement was based on what I remembered when a former councilman, Erik Brechnitz, was chosen by council to be mayor, following the resignation of Mayor Gary Anderson due to illness from which he later passed away. That appointment meant someone other than a serving council member was chosen to replace the mayor who couldn’t complete his term. After my column appeared last week, I was told that the city council could only select someone who is presently serving on the council. Maybe so, but, according to section 65 ILCS 5/5-2-12(g) of the state law governing such appointments, it is not designated if the person selected needs to come from the city council or the general public. Item “g” reads: “If a vacancy occurs in the office of mayor or councilman, the remaining members of the council, within 60 days after the vacancy occurs, shall fill the vacancy by appointment of some person to the office for the balance of the unexpired term or until the vacancy is filled by interim election under Section 3.1-10-50, and until the successor is elected and has qualified.” I only point this out because there’s been some rumblings on the street about how state law does not indicate that someone presently on the council must be selected.
OBVIOUSLY, if it has not been given by the time you read this column, a definitive opinion on where the person selected to fill the mayor’s term until 2017 must come from, needs to be delivered and I’m sure it will. Of course, if it is opened up for anyone to apply for the position, that doesn’t mean the council couldn’t go ahead and select Moore-Wolfe if she is interested in becoming mayor. I’ve known Julie for many years and she has always been very community-minded and her background shows she has also been interested in moving the city in a positive direction.
THE OTHER aspect of the selection process is that, should Moore-Wolfe, or any other council member be selected as mayor, a council seat would be left open and the council members must then select someone to fill that seat until 2017. Obviously, that choice has to be a person not presently on the city council and that person would serve until the election of 2017, when, like the mayor’s position, the seat will be up for election.
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