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.
Progress Report On Replacing Faded Storyboards, Monument Identification
A few weeks ago I used this column to call attention to the faded “Looking For Lincoln” storyboards in the downtown area and the African-American Civil War Monument that is still without identification six years after it was dedicated. I also contacted Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus about the storyboards and talked with City Manager Tim Gleason about the need for identification of the monument. Tyus checked into the storyboard item and told me “We do have the new ‘Looking For Lincoln’ signs. Some of them have been installed over the last year or so as the streetscape project progressed. “The others are being stored and the plan had been for crews to install them as time allowed. “Last week we met with a contractor to get pricing for having the signs installed and are expecting that information shortly. I’ll let you know when I learn more.”
As far as the African American Civil War Monument, Tyus said; “I will take complete ownership of that one. You are right – six years is too long for naming of the monument. Having participated in the event to unveil the monument and seeing the pride on the faces of people that attended, I know the importance of the monument to the community as does the City. “As an African American member of this community, every time I visit or see the monument I personally take pride in the fact that this community realized the importance of publicly honoring the work that African-American soldiers did to build this country. Tyus explained what had happened in the monument identification process. “After the monument was unveiled, my understanding was that we didn’t have a ‘formal name’ and over time we discussed having a public naming contest in conjunction with the Decatur Area Convention And Visitors Bureau in 2010 and, I believe established a community based-committee to lead the process.
LARGER SIGN: “There were also plans done for a larger sign with images of some of the soldiers and descriptive wording to be included. “As time went on and people/leadership changed, that work did not occur. “Most recently as the streetscape work started we were moving towards wanting to have some consistency with downtown design and signage and to establish downtown design standards so there was another delay. “Most recently (this year) we contacted a designer about what was needed (if anything) for clearance on the sign images to be used and when that could not be established we once again changed direction. “None of this matters now and we will get the signage installed, even if for now it is a memorial plaque as you describe in your most recent Tribune story. “The issue was never about cost and I believe that insult and disrespect are driven by intent. I can truly say that the intent was never to disrespect anyone including the public, Mr. Jackson or this monument. As time passed we just did not get it done. “I’ll get you a timeline for the work in the coming days.” Billy Tyus is a good person, who works hard to get things done, and I’ve always enjoyed working with him -- during the years when I was mayor and now, as a private citizen. I appreciate the effort he made in informing us of the status of the storyboards and monument. In a conversation I was having with City Manager Tim Gleason recently, I mentioned my concern about the monument and he agreed something should be done soon. “This will be taken care,” he told me firmly. • THANKS: Not only do I want to thank Gleason and Tyus for the information and commitment to move forward on these items, but to many of you, and a couple of organizations, who called or sent me emails and indicated that if money was a factor in getting this work done, they would be willing to donate. Thanks also, for Brian Byers talking about this effort during our regular Thursday morning “City Hall Insider” segment on WSOY. I’ve always found the people of this community willing to step forward and help out any way they can on any worthwhile project -- and that’s what I have always loved about Decatur.
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