Some People Pay No
Attention To Rules On
‘Appearance Of Citizens’
At Council Meetings
Among the last items on the agenda for a regular city council meeting is the “Appearance of Citizens”. This is the opportunity for citizens to stand before the council and express their feelings on a subject connected to the city. Before that part of the meeting is opened for citizens’ comments, the mayor reads the following statement of policy regarding the Appearance of Citizens: “A 15 minute time period is provided for citizens to appear and express their views before the city council. Each citizen who appears will be limited to 3 minutes. No immediate response will be given by city council or city staff members. Citizens are to give their documents to the police officer for distribution to the council.” It is important to remember that, during the Appearance of Citzens, the only communication between the person addressing the council, and the council, comes from the mayor, who asks the person’s identity at the beginning of the session and thanks the person for addressing the council when that person is finished. Members of the council, along with staff members are to listen and not let the person engage them in conversation or debate. It is up to the mayor to allow a little more time than 3 minutes for someone addressing the council, or, if there are a lot of people who want to address council that night, to extend the 15 minute time period for all comments. All the mayors over the years have shown sensitivity in allowing people to finish their comments unless the time greatly exceeds 3 minutes. Sometimes, the Appearance of Citizens can become a platform for someone to grill city staff or council, and demand answers to questions they ask during their 3 minutes of comments. Obviously, those people pay no attention to the rules that were read to them at the beginning of that part of the meeting. “Appearance of Citizens” is the time for the council and staff to listen to the concerns of private citizens. DURING the years that I served as mayor I can only remember one time when I stopped someone from continuing to speak for something other than seriously abusing the 3-minute rule or profanity. That was when the City of Decatur was negotiating a contract with a cable provider and when the city’s negotiating team asked for what was extremely reasonable, the company balked and sent one of its attorneys to negotiate directly with the city council and bypass those representing the council’s legal interests. In my opinion, that was not legal, since it is illegal for the city council to directly negotiate such contracts. After he got started and it was apparent what he was trying to do, I told him why he couldn’t keep talking and he stepped back and sat down. You don’t negotiate a contract under the “Appearance of Citizens” at a council meeting. You can’t use “freedom of speech” to do what is highly inappropriate and sometimes illegal when it comes to public meetings. The next day, the daily newspaper frowned upon my action, indicating I had no right to cut the person off. Of course, I had every right and that was the only time during all the years I served that I called the daily about anything that was written about me. I explained the mayor, as chairman, runs the meeting (and has the gavel) and has the right and responsibility to conduct the meeting with decorum. To its credit, the newspaper corrected what had been written. FACE THE COUNCIL -- Something else I insisted on when someone appeared under the “Appearance of Citizens” was that the person speaking face the council and speak directly to us. A few people would turn their back on council and speak to the audience in the chamber. Some would try to engage the city manager or a member of staff and get upset when they didn’t get a response -- even though “no response” was explained at the beginning of the session. A person addressing the city council should show respect by facing the council, which is the only group in the room, that can do something about his or her concern and -- don’t expect an answer at that time. I was watching the council meeting not that long ago when someone addressed council three different times, including under the “Appearance of Citizens” during the meeting on a variety of subjects and tried to engage the mayor and council through questioning. The more someone ignores the protocol for addressing the council, the less credible they sound.
IF YOU ARE going to address the city council remember to tailor your comments to three minutes and, if necessary, write or type them and time them out before showing up for the meeting. You should be treated with respect and you should also treat the mayor and council members with respect when you are addressing them with your concerns. Except for bringing the meeting to order to start the agenda, I never used the gavel to shut anyone up, either fellow councilmembers or anyone from the public, but as I told someone the other day, there were a few times I was ready to reach for it. Usually, a verbal admonition was enough to keep order. Citizens have the right to express their feelings at a city council meeting but it should be in the structure provided for such comments -- and it’s the mayor’s job to make sure those participating don’t get carried away. Overall, the rules for the Appearance of Citizens before the Decatur City Council are less stringent than those of many other public bodies.
Financial Technology Company Ranks Decatur #7 With Highest Real Minimum Wage
This is going to surprise some people who have been hearing and reading about Decatur’s low minimum wage -- and the attempt to raise the minimum wage for local citizens. Financial technology company SmartAsset has sought out the U.S. cities with the highest and lowest minimum wage – that is, adjusted for cost of living – and Decatur ranks #7 with the highest real minimum wage. “The Illinois state minimum wage is $8.25 per hour, 14th highest in the country,” said Jeremy Bennett of SmartAsset. “Earlier this year, the Illinois state Senate passed a bill that would increase that wage to $11 but that bill has yet to pass the state house. If that bill does pass, Decatur may well one day have the highest real minimum wage in the country. Even without that increase, minimum wage workers in Decatur, where the cost of living is 11.3% lower than the national, are earning a cost-of-living-adjusted wage of about $9.30 per hour.” Complete details on the study including full methodology and rankings can be found here: https://smartasset.com/mortgage/the-cities-with-the-highest-and-lowest-real-minimum-wage.
After Choosing Mayor, City Council Turns Attention Towards Vacant Seat
As expected, the city council made it official Monday evening by choosing, through unanimous vote, Julie Moore-Wolfe to be mayor until the next election in 2017, when, if she wants to continue as mayor, she must get the approval of Decatur voters. Included in the audience of family and friends to witness Moore-Wolfe’s swearing into office were U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and Lynn McElroy, wife of the late Mayor Mike McElroy. Since Mayor McElroy served only a few months of his four-year term which ends in 2019, the person elected in 2017 will serve out the remaining two years of his term. For those who believe a special election should have been held to determine who should finish out McElroy’s term, they will have their chance in 2017. Besides, the process used by the city council to select Moore-Wolfe as McElroy’s replacement is dictated by state law. Also, Monday night, Councilman Jerry Dawson was chosen by unanimous vote of the council as mayor pro tem. Now, the search is underway for the person the council will appoint to the open council seat left vacant by Moore-Wolfe’s selection as mayor.
DO YOU WANT TO BE CONSIDERED? Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus released the following information Tuesday: "Decatur City Council members are now seeking information from residents interested in filling the vacant council position resulting from the appointment of new Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe. "Interested Decatur residents should submit a resume and cover letter 5 p.m. Monday, August 31 to Kim Althoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail or in person to the following address: Julie Moore-Wolfe, Mayor City of Decatur,
1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza Decatur, IL 62523 "The cover letter should detail a resident’s experience, reasoning as to why the person feels that they would be a good fit to represent the residents of Decatur and describe the person’s vision for the community. To be considered, interested residents must be 18 years old, a Decatur resident for at least one year and cannot be a convicted felon or have any outstanding debts to the City of Decatur. "Plans are for Council members to review submitted materials in an executive session as part of an upcoming City Council meeting. There will likely be a special meeting set to conduct finalist interviews with a goal to have selected a qualified resident to serve by Monday, September 21. "Mayor Moore-Wolfe was unanimously appointed Mayor for the City of Decatur on Monday following the passing of Mayor Mike McElroy in July. The appointment resulted in the council vacancy which will now need to be filled within 60 days of the vacancy being realized."
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