CITY BEAT: PANDEMIC CLAIMS ANOTHER FAMILIAR DOWNTOWN BUSINESS
I received a surprise when I stopped to pick up my usual turkey on whole wheat sandwich at the Subway location on North Park Street last week. The manager told me that it was the last day the business would be open. Apparently, a lot of the customers of the business started working from home when the COVID-19 Pandemic hit nearly two years ago — and many of them are still working from home. As a result, the normal customer flow has been greatly impacted and the customers needed to justify keeping the doors open have not been there.
I contacted longtime business acquaintance Gary Haines, who owns the building and has the Subway franchise, not only on North Park St. but at several locations in the Decatur area, about the closing. Gary stated: “Paul you are/were my favorite customer. Closing it was a very difficult decision but downtown has never recovered from COVID, plus, with ADM downsizing at their office it wasn’t ever going to recover.
“Another factor has always been the perception that Subway wasn’t a local business that downtown people favor Even though Subway has always been a local business it was perceived as a big corporate company running it. My hope for it is a local person to open a coffee/bagel/sandwich type place which would do much better, not having to pay high franchise fees and having a local perception. Again much thanks for your patronage and hope you will continue to support Subway at our other stores.”
• WHEN Gary Haines was deciding if he wanted to open a Subway on North Park, this newspaper was located in the adjoining brick facade building next door to the west. (See photos on page 14 of print and online editions,) Gary dropped by the Tribune and talked about his plans and I thought it was a great idea — especially since it was going to be located next door to this newspaper.
When it opened, I was extremely impressed with what he had done with the building, inside and out, and it was very handy to grab something for lunch by those of us working next door at the Tribune. I moved the Tribune to the Millikin Court Building at 132 South Water Street over eleven years ago, but I’ve remained a customer of the Subway location which was often part of my walk to the post office.
Hopefully, as Gary mentioned to me, some kind of coffee/bagel/sandwich shop locally-owned can open at that location. Gary has invested a lot of time and money in Subway and other businesses and property in our city. I appreciate his faith in Decatur and Central Illinois.
• ON THE coldest morning so far in this winter, our garage door springs broke and we couldn’t park our cars inside which resulted in a lot of heavy scrapping on the windows on two very cold mornngs. (Why couldn’t that have happened in July?) Fortunately, the garage door company was able to replace the springs on the door on the third day and they work fine but it caused me to think of all of the people who scrape the frost, or snow, off of their car windows because they don’t have a garage. I also thought of those who don’t have a car and who wouldn’t mind scrapping the frost off of the windows if they had one.
Everytime I push the button on the garage door opener I think about the blessing of having my own car and a garage in which to park it — and I will always give that a thought because of not having it for a couple days. We can learn a lot of lessons from what we have and then don’t have for awhile. It teaches us never to take anything for granted and gives us a new appreciation for what we do have to make life better — even a garage door with a remote opener. Besides, my infamous possessed car, Christine, has given me the “cold shoulder” since she had to sit out in the driveway in the cold overnight for two nights. I expect her to cause my car heater to malfunction any really cold day now as revenge!
• I NEVER met Betty White, but when she passed away at the age of 99 last week, I felt the loss. She was on television for eight decades, in one show or another and, if you’re like me, she was on television when we were kids. Apparently, she was an extremely nice person when the cameras were off and boy, we need more Betty Whites in our world today.
• CITY COUNCILMAN Bill Faber has an interesting column on page 7 of this week’s print and online editions of the Tribune in which he asks “City Council: How About Some Democracy?” When it comes to public comment Councilman Faber states in his column: “Remove the newly imposed sign-up requirements for citizen comment on agenda items. Mayor Osborne and Mayor McElroy never imposed sign-up requirements. So, what’s Mayor Moore Wolfe’s problem?”
I’ve known Bill for decades and I also know that the democratic process has always been important to him. During the years that I chaired the council meetings I was aware that the mayor was charged with conducting the meetings with “decorum”, meaning with “propriety and in good taste in behavior, speech, etc.” The mayor is the only one with a gavel in the council meeting and he or she must balance the citizens’ right to express their opinions to the council while making sure that it is done in “good taste in behavior, speech, etc.”
I can only speak as to how I conducted the council meetings under the system we had in place at the time I served and there was no time limit on individual public comments. When I felt someone addressing the council was acting in poor taste in behavior and speech, that person was told that his or her time was up. I can’t remember anyone wanting to argue over the decision I made, except Gary Sawyer, the editor of the Herald & Review at the time, who wrote in his column that I had no right to stop a union leader who had come to the podium to try and go around the city’s negotiating team on employees’ contract negotiations. The city council is not to be involved in directly negotiating a contract with any of the city’s unions and when it was apparent that was what was happening during the public comment part of the meeting, I stopped it.
The only time I ever called the daily newspaper to complain about what was written was when I called Gary and explained my role in conducting the city council meetings and, as mayor, I had every right to do what I did in stopping those public negotiations. To his credit, Gary did agree and wrote a clarification about the mayor’s role, authority and responsibility in conducting the meetings as he or she felt was appropriate.
• HOW the present mayor, Julie Moore Wolfe, wants to conduct the meetings in balancing the people’s right to speak with what is acceptable behavior is mostly her choice. From what I have observed I think there is much more public aggression than there once was and often a lack of respect for those in authority — not only at council level but about everywhere else. When I was mayor, blogs existed on the web, but Facebook had not reached the widespread use that it has today and I think it, and other social media, have created a different mindset and disrespect towards public officials. For that reason, I think balancing public comment with decorum is much more difficult today than it was 15-20 years ago, but citizen concerns and points of view are important for public officials to hear in making decisions.
By the way, when I left the mayor’s office, the union negotiator that I stopped from speaking sent me a nice note expressing appreciation for the times I let him talk without interruption.
• I JOIN Brian Byers on WSOY’s Byers & Co. at 7:00 every Thursday morning for the “City Hall Insider”.
I agree with not having to “sign up” prior to a city council or any other local government meeting in order to express an opinion in a public forum. I do however believe that a time restriction is necessary for public forum comments for the simple reason that unfortunately some people will ignore other citizens’ right to speak by taking up more time than what’s needed to express their views.