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HEADLINES

Illinois to Heart of Dallas Bowl

Decatur Memorial Hospital Women’s Breast Health Education Benefits From Golf Tournament Proceeds

Abbott, Sweeney Promoted to Lead Fire, Police Departments

State’s Attorney’s Office Receives Grant to Enhance Elderly Victims Crime Unit
City Council Approves Budget, Appoints Interim City Manager

Decatur Police Investigate
Two Additional Shootings

City Encouraging Residents To Call For Water Meter Replacement Appointment
Police Investigate Shooting Of Decatur Resident
Beckman To Return
As Illini Coach
Check Out The Illinois Weather Service Forecast

Karen Wooden Resigns as

Dawgs Volleyball Coach


The People Speak In
'Letters To The Editor'



'Meals On Wheels' Expansion To Reach
Homebound Seniors
Every Weekday


Fuyao Glass Group 
Announces Construction
Plans

Macon County Sheriff’s Office Has Launched Facebook, Twitter Pages
Scheduling Change
Could Be Coming

Narcotics Search Warrant
Results In Arrest

Osborne Online -- Decatur:
The City With A Big Heart

Hockaday Now State
Record Holder

Hobby Lobby To Open
At Hickory Point Mall
Millikin Big Blue Coach
Makes Staff Changes

City Council Amends Noise Ordinance, Approves Land Sale For Medical Facility
Thirteen Attorneys Submit Applications For Appointment As Associate Judge In Sixth Judicial Circuit
Transportation, Law Enforcement Agencies Announce Preparations, Driving Reminders for Upcoming Winter






Paul Osborne's
CITY BEAT
Three Decatur School Board Incumbents File For Re-Election

Three Decatur Board of Education members filed for re-election at 8:00 Monday morning -- the earliest their petitions could be filed.
Dan Oakes, Sherrie Perkins and Brian Hodges were listed as filing at the same time so a lottery will be held in the Macon County Clerk’s Office to determine the order their names will be printed on the ballot.
All Macon County School Boards candidates file their nominating petitions this week.  The filing period started at 8:00 a.m. Monday, Dec 15, and will continue until 5:00 p.m. Monday, Dec. 22.
According to Macon County Clerk Steve Bean, a lottery is necessary if two or more petitions are received simultaneously for the same office for a given school district’s board of education offices as of the opening hour of the filing period.
Additionally, if two or more petitions are filed for the same office from a given school district’s board of education within the last hour of the filing deadline on Dec. 22, from 4:00 until 5:00 p.m. they shall be considered as filed simultaneously and are included in a lottery drawing to determine the final ballot position.  The lottery for the last hour filers will be held on Dec. 30th at 3:00 p.m. in the Macon County Clerk’s Office.

DAVIS RUNNING:  John Davis announced his candidacy for Decatur Park Board Commissioner Monday.  (Story elsewhere on this site.) Davis said that his campaign will focus on bringing efficiency, transparency, and accountability to the Decatur Park Board.
In the coming weeks Davis will announce his positions on the various topics that are being discussed by the Decatur Park Board. 
Incumbents Bob Brilley II and Stacey Young have also filed petitions for election to the board.
Brilley is seeking re-election to a second six-year term.  Young, who was appointed to fill the seat of Cindy Deadrick-Wolfer, is seeking her first elected term.

MEMORIAL: A public Memorial Service honoring longtime state leader Judy Baar Topinka is being held today (Wednesday, Dec. 17) at the Local 150, in Countryside.
  Fellow state leaders, colleagues and family are sharing stories and celebrating the life of Illinois Comptroller Topinka, who was the first woman in Illinois history to be elected to two Constitutional Offices and the first state Treasurer to be elected to three consecutive terms. Between her time in the General Assembly and in statewide office, Topinka served Illinois for more than three decades.
I interviewed Topinka several times over the years, especially in her early years in politics, when I hosted the daily “Newsline” television program.
I also had some contact with her when I served as mayor and she came to Decatur for some of the “good news” events such as a company expansion.  Although she had no hesitation to let me know how she felt on the issues, it always seemed to me she had a very caring, sensitive heart for the people.
The people apparently felt the same way about her - electing and re-electing her to state offices.
The only political race that I know of which she lost, was when she ran for governor.  The winner of that race is currently serving time in prison.

RETIREMENT: Hickory Point Township Clerk Richard Rotz is retiring after serving 53 years in township government on Monday.
Just to give the length of service some perspective, President John F. Kennedy was serving his first year in office when Richard Rotz started serving in township government.
Best wishes and thank you to Richard Rotz for his service.
Macon County Clerk Steve Bean sent me an email stating “Maybe Rotz is getting ready to watch the Cubs in the World Series?”
If you don’t understand what Steve meant by that comment, I’m sure that Rotz understands. (smile)

JOB LOSS:  Last week we learned that America’s growing trade deficit with China has cost us more than 3.2 million U.S. jobs.
Illinois ranks fourth in the nation in jobs lost to China, with 132,500 jobs eliminated. The overwhelming majority of jobs lost are manufacturing, according to a study released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

MONEY?  Now that the election is over and Gov.-Elect Bruce Rauner will soon take over the governor’s mansion, some local folks are wondering if Decatur and Macon County will still get the funds promised to our community from our state government.
Obviously, Gov. Pat Quinn passed out a lot of promises of money during the last few months of the campaign, but how high a priority will funding for those projects be -- especially since Quinn was defeated?
I certainly hope I’m wrong, but many, not only in Decatur, but around the state, who were happy about the prospect of receiving state money for needed projects, may be in for a major disappointment.



Our City Leadership Has Gone Through A Lot Of Changes
Since 2008


A citizen who stopped me on the street one morning last week was complaining about some things he didn’t like in Decatur.
He talked about several issues he had a problem with.
Then, he told me he was probably wasting his breath complaining about them, because “it’s always the same people running things at city hall and that’s never going to change.”
Actually, our city government has been going through a lot of changes in recent years so his “same old leadership” argument doesn’t hold water.
Since I write about what’s going on in city hall every week, and was elected to two terms as mayor, I’ve seen our city government from both the inside and outside.
That’s why I know there’s been a lot of “people movement” in a fairly short amount of time.
I left the mayor’s office in 2008 -- a little over six years ago.
Most of the city government leaders I worked with during the years I served are gone -- replaced through elections, resignations or retirement.

THE LIST: Here’s a list of those serving in 2008, who no longer are in city government.
Only two council members who were there when I left are still there.  Councilman Mike McElroy ran for election as mayor in 2009 and won a two-year term, was re-elected to a four-year term in 2011, and is again running for re-election to a four year term in 2015.
Pat Laegeler is the other councilman who was there in 2008.  He is still a councilman but he is not seeking re-election and will leave that position next May. 
That means, following next spring’s municipal election, the six council seats will be occupied by six members who were not in those seats in 2008.
Since 2008, we’ve seen three member of the community appointed by the council to fill vacated city council seats, which is an unusually high number in a short span of time.
In fact, I’m not sure this form of government has ever had that many people appointed by the city council to fill vacated city council seats during its 50-plus years history as the three appointed in 2008-2010.
Those appointed were Larry Foster, Dr. Dana Ray and Jamie Duies.  Foster and Ray were stayed on the council in municipal elections and Duies lost his election bid when Pat McDaniel won in the race for a two year term.
Foster, Ray and McDaniel are still on the city council, but Foster is not running for re-election in the spring.  Ray is running for re-election and McDaniel is running for mayor.
Thrown into all of this mix was the election of Adam Brown to the council, who served a short time before he ran against State Rep. Bob Flider and won -- so he left short of even completing a two-year term.
The other two members on the city council are: Julie Moore-Wolfe and former Macon County Sheriff Jerry Dawson, who were elected in 2009 and re-elected in 2013.

MORE CHANGES:  Four of the seven city council seats (including the mayor) are up for election in the spring.
Mayor McElroy is facing three challengers in that election.  With Laegeler and Foster not running for re-election, two of the council seats will not have incumbents, meaning there will be at least two new members on the next council.  Incumbent Dana Ray is seeking re-election to the third seat that’s up for election, but she is expected to do well and be re-elected -- which probably leaves the remaining five candidates to fight for the two open seats.

CITY MANAGERS:  I was mayor when City Manager Steve Garman (who served nearly nine years) retired from his position in 2008.  We chose Assistant City Manager John Smith to serve as interim city manager  and the council later hired Ryan McCrady in 2008 to be the permanent city manager.  McCrady is leaving his position to become President of the Economic Development Corporation and, last week, the city council appointed Gregg Zientara to be the interim city manager until the city council hires another permanent city manager.
When the new city manager is hired, that will bring the number of (interim and permanent) city managers to five since 2008.  McCrady served a little over six years, which, obviously,  filled most of the time between 2008 and now.

OTHERS: We’ve also had three police chiefs (not counting interims) since 2008: James Anderson, Todd Walker and newly-appointed Brad Sweeney.
We’ve also had three fire chiefs (not counting interims) appointed in recent years: Les Albert, Matt Sekosky and newly appointed Jeff Abbott.
Since 2008, long time City Clerk Celeste Harris retired and Linda Swartz was named to take her place.
Gregg Zientara replaced Ron Neufeld as Director of Financial Management for the city two years ago, when Ron retired.

NO CHANGE?  The names listed above are not meant to identify every person who has moved on from leadership positions in our city government since 2008, but they do show that, contrary to how some perceive our government, “change in leadership” has been constant the past several years -- probably more so than at any other time under our council/manager form of government.




Some Thoughts On Interim City Manager Gregg Zientara And Process Of Appointment


The Decatur City Council voted to approve the appointment of Gregg Zientara for the position of Interim City Manager during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday night.
Zientara is a 30-plus years veteran of the finance industry and has served for the last two years as the city’s Director of Financial Management. 
Although he hasn’t received a lot of publicity during the time he has been here, Zientara played a “key role” in guiding the city through one of the worst recessionary periods in recent history, “identifying means to fund city services and critical community improvements without tax increases even as local government revenues declined significantly.”
According to information about Zientara released by the City, “under the direction of City Manager Ryan McCrady, Zientara has served as one of the principal architects for the last two budgets for the City of Decatur, with spending plans created based on goals set by the Decatur City Council. He also led the creation of financing plans to fund the city’s $90 million Lake Decatur dredging project, ongoing water system infrastructure improvements, the new Police Department Facility and ongoing sewer work among other items.
“Zientara was instrumental in leading the city’ transition to a calendar year budget and his financial background could be critical to helping the city to navigate a number of continuing financial pressures as the city begins its search for a permanent city manager. Even as the local financial picture improves, remaining challenges include identifying funding sources for property demolitions and neighborhood restoration, road and street repair and capital equipment replacement.”
Mayor Mike McElroy said: “The last few years have been tough economicallyfor cities across the country but we’ve been able to maintain and have started to turn the corner. During this time Gregg has worked hard to find innovative ways to address some of the financial and organizational issues we’ve faced and I am excited about his coming on board as Interim City Manager to continue the city on its current path of positive growth and development.”
Zientara fills the post on an interim basis that is being vacated by McCrady, who announced last month that he would be leaving to become President of the Economic Development Corporation for Decatur & Macon County.
Zientara joined the City of Decatur in 2012 after having previously served as Controller and Chief Financial Officer for the City of South Bend, Indiana where he managed a $275 million city government financial operation and an investment portfolio of more than $150 million. He has worked as a Chief Financial Officer in both the public and private sector with organizations specializing in governmental services, healthcare, manufacturing and various other service industries in the United States, Europe, and the Far East.
 
ZIENTARA started to work for the City of Decatur after I left the office of mayor.  I was introduced to him when I was part of a discussion on a city project at the civic center, but I don’t know him that well.
However, now that he has been appointed interim city manager, the appointment makes a lot of sense.
He is familiar with, and a critical part of the budgetary process and his experience in finance has certainly been a help to McCrady and city government.
Since McCrady is going to be President of the Economic Development Corporation for Decatur & Macon County, the ability to work with McCrady provides an important link between the EDC and the City of Decatur for future development plans.
It’s well to remember that the city manager’s position is not an elected position.  His (or her) boss is the city council (including the mayor).
Apparently, Zientara has worked well with the council in helping them achieve their goals and, if they did not have confidence in him, they would not have selected him to be the interim city manager.

APPOINTING an interim city manager is something I experienced as mayor after former City Manager Steve Garman retired from the position in 2008.
I, along with the members of the city council, felt we needed to look within our own city government for an interim city manager.
We had four assistant city managers at the time and I met privately with each one of them to determine if any had interest in the appointment.
Since those conversations were private, I won’t reveal what was said, but I did report back to the council members about who was interested and who was not.
We met in executive session and offered Assistant City Manager John Smith the position on an interim basis -- and he accepted.
Smith served as interim city manager until the council, after interviewing several candidates, selected Ryan McCrady in October of 2008, to be the permanent city manager.

APPROVED: Council members also voted 6-0 to approve both the city’s 2015 budget and 2014 property tax levy during the council’s regular meeting. (See related story elsewhere on this website.)
The approved budget includes funding for the Decatur Fire Department to provide some level of public emergency medical transport, a topic that remains in the “very early stages of discussion. Council members were clear that they wanted a study session on the issue before any decision being made on the topic.” 
We’ll hear more on the subject, but it is usually not a good idea, regardless of the honorable motivation, for government to enfringe on private enterprise (Decatur Ambulance Service) jobs unless the service is not properly being provided to the community.
There is no evidence that I know of, that Decatur Ambulance Service is not doing a good job.





Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY.  

 
 
 
 

 
 
 










 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Paul Osborne
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