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Jacksonville City Council discusses major investments and ordinances

Thomas Clatterbuck

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The Jacksonville City Council had a full slate of issues to discuss at its last meeting, many of which dealt with potential investments for the city. The smallest was a proposal to add vending machines to the Community Park soccer fields. For the proposal to work, the city would need to invest $500 to run electricity to the machines, in exchange for six percent (6%) of the gross revenues.

Jacksonville Main Street also asked the city for sponsorship of the Downtown concert series. The request was for $5,000. Jacksonville Main Street created a new sponsorship tier to accommodate the level of sponsorship the city has provided in the past. The series will be held on Fridays in June and July later this year.

These proposals were small change compared with the Revolving Loans Fund application. The request was for $250,000 to assist with the purchase and renovation of the Northridge Golf Course. This request caused a great deal of discussion, and was not resolved during the meeting. The main justification for considering the proposal was to protect the property values (and property tax revenue) from the neighborhoods around the course. If the course was allowed to become overgrown, or was turned into farmland, residents fear their property values would take a serious blow.

However, the proposal had a number of risks as well. The sheer size of the proposal was an issue, as the Revolving Loans Fund does not have $250,000 to give. Although the fund is loaned out on a largely “first come, first served” basis, there were concerns about totally depleting the fund for one project. Secondly, the loan request was for 30 years at 0.5% interest. Such a long term and low interest rate was also worrisome from an investment perspective. Most of all, the project would make the city a part owner in yet another golf course. As we have previously reported, the city’s existing golf courses already lose a considerable amount of money. Some wondered about the logic of adding more competition to those courses.

The council was not fully decided on what course of action should be taken regarding this proposal, but the prevailing opinion was to invest $125,000 and go from there.

Other city business

Last meeting, the council discussed the city’s firework ordinance for shows at the speedway. After some investigation, it was discovered that current ordinance is much more restrictive regarding firework sales within the city than had previously been realized or enforced. The merchants who were selling commercial fireworks were not properly licensed and had been selling higher grade fireworks to unlicensed individuals than they ought. Resolving this issue required amending the city’s pyrotechnics ordinance. Given the near impossibility of enforcement, it is likely the change will be to simply ban the sale of certain kinds of fireworks within city limits.

Mayor Ezard also notified the council that Lynn Craig had been let go by CMS. Craig had been responsible for maintaining the facilities at the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC), including keeping the buildings free of water. Now there will be no one maintaining those buildings. Ezard warned that these buildings do no have “a year or two” for the state to hire a new vendor if the JDC is going to be salvaged for future use. He and the city are pushing to get the position restored as quickly as possible.

Alderman Warmowski presented plans make driving a golf cart while intoxicated a punishable offense for the Lake Jacksonville trails. It may seem obvious, but there are no rules specifically prohibiting DUIs on golf carts in that area. The rules will take effect when those trails are completed.

You can watch the full meetings below.

Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.

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Springfield approves YMCA TIF, tavern rezoning

Thomas Clatterbuck

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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.

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What to expect from President Trump’s nominee

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The Hon. Amy C. Barrett and the Hon. Diane S. Sykes of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Courtesy of the University of Notre Dame and the Wisconsin Court System

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 

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Project Mack hosts second “Take Back the City” weekend July 20-21

Staff Contributor

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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.

 

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