Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The greatest show in Peoria continues....

I'm talking about the City Council meeting, of course. Tonight was no exception, and there are always high points and low points to consider, so I'll try to cover the ones I can.

The High points were the Proclamations and Presentations by Mayor Ardis to the Great American Clean Up/ Keep Peoria Beautiful event (April 16th), the Hult Health Education Center 20th Year Celebration, the beginning of Child Abuse Prevention Month (Opening event will be the Hands Around the Courthouse event at noon on April 15th, wear blue to support that day...there are currently 1022 pending child abuse cases in Peoria), and the recognition of National Undergraduate Research Week (April 11-15th). All worthy causes and notable proclamations.

Down to business. Pat Landis, Ross Black, and a gentleman whose name escaped me, all spoke to the adoption of the new Comprehensive Plan for the City of Peoria. One of their main talking points was how inclusive their approach to this plan was. They came up with statistics that included 104 meetings, and over 7000 comments on the website, equaling more than 117 hours of public testimony from a Global community. (Global? I thought this was a local issue.) They included all sorts of people, including High School Students (5 Meetings), the African-American Community, various Public Partners (School board, Park district, etc.), and of course, Developers.

According to several people who spoke, they seem to have missed a few people: Bob Sparks spoke first from his wheelchair stating that the physically disabled were not included, and their needs are being neglected. Savino Sierra (normally an outspoken advocate for the Ardis council), complained that the Hispanic community had not been included. Peggy Kendall spoke on behalf of persons with mental and developmental disabilities. Seems they forgot to check with at least a few people in their "all inclusive plan"

Mayor Ardis asked how this inclusiveness was achieved, and Pat Landis answered that they had, indeed, met with the Americans with Disabilities, or at  least contacted them, and had held meetings at Friendship House, and had advertised the plan on Billboards, via direct mail, and even with television ads. Now you would think with all that effort we would all know about those meetings, but I can seem to recall any of that going on. But that could be me. After all, I don't watch a lot of television, don't open the mail, and billboards are not my style. Ross Black added that it is difficult to define the African American community, since they are not a definitive group, but made up of several groups (ever hear of the NAACP or the Urban League, Ross?) and there was no way to identify them as a group to be consulted. Yada Yada Yada. The long and short of it? It passed with Sandberg as the only Nay vote. Big Surprise.

Business as usual until a rather rousing discussion between Ardis and several other members concerning Item L on the consent agenda, the passing of an request from the new City Manager to have the members of the council attend a Leadership and Strategic Planning Workshop planned by a firm from Palm Coast, Florida at a cost of $11,000 to $19,000. Sandberg pointed out that this same firm had conducted a similar session with the council before the Vision 2020 program with negative results, and objected to the contract being awarded to an out of state firm when there are similar firms locally. Riggenbach claimed that this would be a very necessary step in the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan. Spears agreed with the training, but also joined with Sandberg in his objection to hiring an out of state consultant, as did Gulley. After hearing all these objections, Spain had to chime in that, in a meeting with the incoming City Manager, he was concerned that they board's commitment to changing the culture of the board was in jeopardy. Poor kid thinks everyone is supposed to play nice on the board and "go along to get along". Someone hand the kid a towel to dry behind his ears. The motion passed with Sandberg, Spears, and Gully voting NO!

And now we come to the implementation of the now infamous reinstatement of a "BLUE LAW". I'm talking about the ordinance specifically designed to shut down "Club 307". Gary Sandberg once again stood as the only voice of reason, trying to get the council to understand that the wording of the ordinance was much too broad in its scope and could be used to regulate individual consensual behavior. I should say "try", since that is never going to happen, but now that the law will revoke the license of Club 307, the activities will no longer be regulated by the cost of a membership card behind closed doors. Let's face it folks, the people who are members of Club 307 are adults who want to participate in a swinging lifestyle. That is a consensual act, not rape, not enticement, not some form of public debauchery. Sandberg and City Counsel Randall Ray went back and forth on the subject, and Ardis had to interject that it was the most "interesting" conversation he had heard in some time. The motion passed, Sandberg voting no, and we now have a law that prevents consenting adults from having a membership only club for the purpose of having sex. And I am betting a law that will be overturned at the State Supreme Court level, if anyone cares to fight it.

Not much more after that, some old business that had to be concluded before the new council persons are sworn in, apparently. Incidentally, kudos to Beth Akeson and Chuck Weaver, both in attendance and taking notes throughout the entire proceedings. Nice to see they are taking their new appointments seriously.

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