This week’s edition of the Decatur Tribune is being published in the midst of a busy week, The city council met in executive session Monday night with one of the items discussed being who should be appointed to fill Mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe’s city council seat, created when she was appointed mayor, The announcement of the person selected to fill that position should come fairly soon. The deadline for submitting an application to be appointed to the position ended last Monday -- just before the council went into the closed session meeting, so they have the names of everyone who has expressed an interest to serve in the seat.
Also, the 2015 Farm Progress Show (pictured above) is underway at Progress City north of Richland Community College and will end tomorrow (Sept. 3). The Decatur Trades & Labor Assembly, a central labor council of the AFL-CIO, is hosting the annual Labor Day parade on Monday Sept. 7 at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Decatur. Congratulations to Rep. Sue Scherer (96th District) for being named Grand Marshal of the parade. Area high school football got underway last weekend and Decatur Tribune Sports Editor J. Thomas McNamara will have review/preview reports on the game each week in the print edition of our newspaper. I’ve only named a few events and activities from many to choose from. Anyone who says there’s nothing to do in Decatur -- must not be talking about the Decatur, Illinois, where I live.
Julian Bond Made Appearances In Decatur
The recent death (Aug. 15) of Julian Bond, a lifelong civil rights leader and former board chairman of the NAACP, at the age of 75, reminded me of a couple of times he spoke in Decatur in 2003 and 2007, during the years I served as mayor. Whether he was greeting people before a speech at Richland Community College (photo above) or meeting with local NAACP President Dr. Jeanelle Norman before a speech at the Decatur Conference Center and Hotel, or getting better acquainted with Decatur area people, he drew a crowd wherever he appeared. I was on the program with him (as mayor) representing the City of Decatur during both of his appearances and, in my conversations and contact with him, found him to be extremely interesting and likeable. Talking with him was like taking a trip through history with someone who was there and made a lot of it during a difficult time in our nation’s battle over civil rights. I was sorry to learn of his passing and there’s no doubt that he will be missed.
Macon County Treasurer:
Property Tax Bills Are
Due Sept. 4
I'm sure you know it by now, but Macon County Treasurer Edward D. Yoder has announced the Second Installment of Real Estate Tax Bills will be due on September 4, 2015. Taxpayers have several options in paying their tax bills. Taxpayers can mail their payment postmarked by the due date. Payments are accepted in person in the Treasurer’s office in the Macon County Office Building, 141 S. Main Street, Room 302, Decatur during the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. On September 3th and 4th the Macon County Treasurer’s office will remain open until 5:30 p.m. In addition, there is a secure drop box located outside on the north side of the County Office Building available 24 hours. Most Macon County banks and credit unions accept real estate tax payments for their customers. Finally, payments can be made through the Illinois E-Pay system at www.illinoisepay.com. Taxpayers who normally receive their tax bill at their home and have not received a tax bill should call the Macon County Treasurer’s office at 424-1426. If your tax bill is paid by escrow, your bank or mortgage company is required by Illinois state law to send a copy of your tax bill to the homeowner within 15 days.
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.
Listen to the “City Hall Insider” hour with Paul Osborne on Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning over NEWS/TALK 1340 WSOY. Also like us on Facebook and continue to check in for news on this website at decaturtribune.net