I had an interesting one-on-one discussion with City Manager Scot Wrighton in my office one afternoon last week. We meet once a month to discuss and expand on what’s going on in the city and some of the ideas he and his staff are presenting to the mayor and city council for their input and consideration.
One of the efforts of Wrighton that he has talked about publicly, and discussed with council, is in examining ways to enhance the ability of Decatur Police Officers to do their jobs through freeing up their time to concentrate on what they are trained to do — protect the citizens. The idea is that some of the jobs that police officers are now doing are taking some of their time that could be used to directly enforce the law and protect the citizens.
According to the idea, the work that takes officers away from what they are trained to do, could be done by others instead of the officers. Wrighton also feels very strongly that police officers should live within the city limits of Decatur.
Even though negotiations between the city and the police union have not officially started, there is already a great deal of blow back regarding those two concepts in particular, and after Wrighton’s appearance on WSOY’s Byers & Co. last week, Byers, along with others, expressed their dismay at the proposals.
Byers and I discussed the proposals on last Thursday’s “City Hall Insider” hour and Byers made it clear that he wasn’t a fan of the proposals. Byers told me that Wrighton accused him of being influenced by the police union — which Byers flatly denied to me, saying that he hadn’t even talked to the police union about the proposals.
• THE ROLE of the city manager of Decatur, or any other city that has the council/manager form of government, is to research and present options to the city council on how the city can operate most efficiently so taxpayers can get the “biggest bang for their buck”, while protecting the public. The city manager also runs the day-to-day operation of the city. During the years that I served as mayor, council direction to the city manager on union negotiations, took place in an executive session, where the mayor and council members let the city manager know what the council would be willing to approve in a new contract with the various unions. That has to be in a private session, or the city negotiating team would be at a disadvantage if the union already knew how much of a wage or benefit increase, if any, the council would approve before the negotiations even started.
• I BELIEVE we have a great police department in Decatur, but I also believe that any city manager should look at every department that answers to him and give council some options and recommendations. I also believe, now that these ideas are out in the public domain, there will be a tremendous amount of pressure on the mayor and council members to not agree with either proposal. Ultimately, it will be their decision, not the city manager’s decision. The city manager can recommend such options but he does not have the power to make them part of any contract negotiation, unless he is given the green light by the city council. That’s how the council/manager form of government works. I believe that getting council agreement on the two proposals will be a very tough job.
• STATE CHECK: A couple of months ago, I wrote that the Illinois Department of Revenue questioned my property tax deduction on our home and indicated there was no proof I had paid the real estate taxes. It was claimed I was only owed $1.00 in a tax refund and it was promptly deposited in my bank account. I immediately gathered the documents proving I had paid the real estate taxes and submitted the material to the Department of Revenue. Honestly, I figured, with everything going on in Springfield, I shouldn’t expect to get my true refund but I was pleasantly surprised a few days ago, to receive in the mail a check for the full refund! While I am critical of a lot going on in Illinois government these days, I will have to give credit that, after I filed the appropriate documentation supporting my position on the paid property taxes, the state answered in a positive way with the refund check.
• A BIG Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Earl “Burly” Bollhorst of Decatur who will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on July 7 from 2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. (Details on page 7 of Decatur Tribune newspaper) They were married on July 10, 1949, in Decatur. In today’s era where so many marriages come and go like the wind, a 70-year marriage is inspiring. Best wishes to them.