Last night’s meeting of Springfield’s committee of the whole might have been a quiet affair. Problems with the audio system downed the city’s livestream, and the mics were still being reset minutes before the meeting started. Combined with a short and uncontroversial set of ordinances, it might have been a quick meeting. Two issues, however, brought sharp comments from concerned citizens.
Alderman Redpath brought up the issue of the homeless around the public library and other areas downtown. Described as a “gauntlet” around the library, there are concerns that during the hight of tourism season this might have a damaging effect on the city’s image. Worse, the accumulation of both trash and feces poses both an image and public health risks.
Homelessness is a perennial issue. The council members discusses the various initiatives that have been deployed in the past, including the HOT (homeless outreach team) officers and providing storage lockers. Proctor noted that the winter warming station was one of the most effective tools the city had used. Not only did it save lives, it made it much easier to put the homeless in contact with support providers. However, despite the many efforts that are started, they have a lack of coordination and endurance, limiting their effectiveness.
Community activist Reginald Weatherspoon put much of the blame on a lack of will by the city. He shared his experiences developing programs to deal with these issues. Plans to add lockers and ports potties were almost accomplished, but the city never followed up with his organization. According to Weatherspoon, the real reason for the lack of progress is a desire for the city to sweep the issue under the rug.
Leaf pickup and lot maintenance
Alderman Theilen brought up the issue of leaf pickup, or the lack thereof. He was quickly joined by other aldermen echoing their constituents’ complaints about branches and leaves not being picked up on time or at all. This problem is even more annoying for residents and council members due to the recent rate increases. An exasperated Turner said, “[the haulers] played us,” in getting that rate increase. Public Works director Mark Mahoney agreed that this was an issue he was trying to address. He suggested that if the council put more teeth into some of the enforcement ordinances, he could hold the haulers accountable more easily.
Public Works was also sharply criticized for failing to deal with the weeds around the railroad tracks. Former Ward 5 Alderman Bob Vose asked why the city allowed the railroad to “run over them.” Vose said the City Council had told him there was a contract with the railroad to get the weeds under control, but doesn’t actually have it. Director Mahoney again agreed that there are issues with the railroad. Because the rail yard is private property, there will be challenges in enforcing mowing ordinances. Vose suggested that Mahoney should resign if he was unwilling to stand up to the railroads. Another woman then spoke, agreeing with Vose about the poor mowing in her part of town.
You can watch most of the meeting in the player above and below. Due to the city’s issues, the sound is quite low.
Springfield approves YMCA TIF, tavern rezoning
The Springfield YMCA’s upgrade took a step forward at tonight’s city council meeting. $5.9 million in TIF funding was approved for the new facility planned for Enos Park. TIF money will be drawn from both the Enos Park and Downtown TIF funds. This money is only a small portion of the nearly $35 million project. Representatives from the YMCA said that the project could not go forward without the TIF support from the city.
Although the aldermen stated their support for the upgrade, the use of TIF money raised some issues. Because the YMCA is a nonprofit, it will not directly provide any “increment” to the tax base. Even those who otherwise support nonprofits often consider it inappropriate to use TIF money in this way. However, aldermen pointed out that in addition to the $35 million construction project the YMCA is providing, the project should do other things to generate new growth. Hopefully, the new structure will foster development to itself, and better connect the medical districts with downtown.
The real benefit of TIF projects was also touched on in the discussion. Both Alderwoman Dicenso and Alderman McMenamin mentioned the Hy-Vee TIF project. While they both said that Hy-Vee itself was a boon to McArthur Boulevard, Dicenso had a less favorable characterization of how much additional activity that TIF generated.
The TIF funding for the YMCA was approved unanimously.
Rezoning Melrose St.
An old bar location may be getting a second life in Ward 2. 1510 Melrose St. was approved for rezoning to potentially allow a tavern to be opened in the old Sandtrap Bar location. Although the new owners are seeking a tavern license, their stated goal is to be more of a convince store with video gambling. Aldermen Senor supported the new endeavor. He said that if the council continued to vote down rezoning for businesses, it would be increasingly difficult to say Springfield is business friendly.
But several neighbors of the property were opposed to the project. Citing a lack of parking and increased noise, they felt the store would not be a good addition to their neighborhood. Opponents pointed out how close the location is to residential areas, and how many children live in the area. The location also has a bad reputation. Even the new owners admitted that there had been serious problem in the past. However, they said that the hyper focus they would be under would ensure they were a good neighbor.
The rezoning was approved 8-1-1, with McMenamin voting against and Fulgenzi voting present. This only changed the zoning of the location. They will still need to get a liquor and gaming license to actually operate the proposed business.
You can watch the full meeting in the player. The zoning hearing starts around the 15 minute mark, the YMCA TIF starts around the 70 minute mark.
What to expect from President Trump’s nominee
Two federal judges from Illinois’ northern district are on President Donald Trump’s shortlist to replace retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Trump told reporters that he would announce his pick to replace the Kennedy on Monday evening. Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan.
Kennedy was often the swing vote that sided with the liberal end of the court on matters including “in particular, gay rights, and sometimes abortion and even more occasionally race,” said Carolyn Shapiro, associate law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Law.
Two judges from the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court in Chicago are reportedly being considered: Appellate Judges Amy Coney Barrett and Diane Sykes. Neither live in Illinois.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pointed to Judges Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman as two that “presented the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed,” according to a report from the New York Times.
The likely topic of questions that would come from the Senate for any nominee, Shapiro said, would be about their views on abortion due to a potential challenge to Roe v. Wade. Since Illinois passed House Bill 40, which contained a trigger that would make a national ruling on abortion less of a factor locally, it wouldn’t have near the effect that a ruling changing the legal status of abortion in the U.S. would elsewhere.
“[HB 40] has a lot of guarantees where, regardless of what happens to Roe v. Wade, women will still have access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare in the state,” she said.
Gov. Bruce Rauner shocked Republicans by signing the bill into law. The backlash against the bill was a factor in the freshman governor facing a hard-fought primary challenge in March.
As for the changing dynamic of the court, Shapiro said she expects more cases regarding free speech and its relation to regulation, akin to Janus v. AFSCME, to come before the court in the future.
Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org
Project Mack hosts second “Take Back the City” weekend July 20-21
PRESS RELEASE | Project Mack will be hosting our 2nd Annual Take Back the City weekend to wrap up the summer, to be held July 20-21, 2018. In response to the recent violence in Springfield, Project Mack aims to inspire youth to make a positive difference in their lives. The events will bring together current and past students of the city throughout the weekend and allow them to showcase their talents.
The weekend will consist of benefit concert Friday night and our All-star Alumni basketball game on Saturday. All the artists performing at the concert are graduates from our area high schools and now are pursing musical careers. The alumni game will bring back all the best basketball players who’ve come from the Springfield area. Additionally, there will be vendor & organization information tables available on both days.
All proceeds from the event will go toward 3 scholarships created at SHS, LHS, and SSHS in memory of the innocent gun violence victims.