Where is the line between raising awareness about community issues and campaigning on those issues? That was the question for the city council Tuesday night when Ward 3 write-in candidate Nadine Wright addressed the council during the public comment section of the meeting. Wright touched on some of the pressing issues in Ward 3, and asked the council to develop plans to address them.
Incumbent Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner immediately cried foul. Turner said that this was the second time Wright had used the public comment portion of a city council meeting to make a campaign speech. At a pervious meeting, Wright announced she was running write-in campaign against Turner. Turner’s objections raised several issues for the council on what was appropriate for public comment, as well as what constituted illegal campaigning.
What can you say during public comment?
Generally, citizens can talk about almost any issue they want during the public comment portion of a city council meeting. In just the last year, citizens have used this opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues, from weeds along the railroad tracks, to proposals to deal with the homeless situation downtown. And although the council might prefer that speakers stick to local topics that the council could actually address, the council has generally given speakers wide latitude to talk on whatever they wish.
While the council reaffirmed the public’s right to comment, Alderman Donelan pointed out that there are still rules restricting electioneering. Some things, like handing out campaign literature during the meeting, are clearly not allowed. But the line between bringing up city issues and campaigning on city issues is often a gray area. The same points can be brought in ways that are within the rule or that would constitute campaigning. Even some aldermen have accused each other of campaigning rather than debating when discussing council matters.
Some members of the council thought allowing candidates to speak during the public comment was not a good idea. Setting a precedent of what is allowed is hard to roll back. Alderman DiCenso blamed Mayor Langfelder, rather than Wright, saying, “The offense is that it was allowed.” Langfelder knew before the meeting that Wright was planning to speak.
The Inspector General will review the speeches given by Wright to see if they violate any policies, and hopefully will give guidance to the council about what is and is not against the rules. You can watch Wright’s speech and the ensuing discussion in the player. Her remarks start at 1:25:00.
Recount planned for Ward 2
Voters in Ward 2 proved the old adage that every vote matters. On election night, it looked like Shawn Gregory had clinched the Ward 2 aldermanic race by one vote. But after all of the votes were tallied, his opponent Gail Simpson was certified as the winner; also by just one vote. With such a narrow margin, a challenge was almost inevitable.
At a special meeting of the city council, a formal recount was approved. Recounts are required from time to time, and so Springfield does have some experience with them. But setting up all of the specifics for the recount will take some time. At the June 4th meeting, the City Council will approve the recount plan and set a date for when it will happen.
While conceptually simple, a recount is a serious undertaking. It is more than just the County Clerk going back to the ballot boxes and tallying the votes again. Careful steps have to be taken to ensure the integrity of the vote. Lawyers for both candidates will be present to go through each ballot to determine how they should be counted. There will also be impartial observers, but these have yet to be selected.
In the mean time, Gail Simpson will be seated as Ward 2 alderman. The inauguration is Wednesday, May 22nd, and will take place at UIS’ Sangamon Auditorium. She will be the acting alderman for the ward at least until the recount is completed.
You can watch the council’s full discussion in the player.
New faces joining Jacksonville city council tonight
The Jacksonville City Council will be welcoming its two new members at tonight’s meeting. Brandon Adams defeated incumbent Karen Day-Mudd 167 to 139 in Ward 3. Mudd had recently been appointed for the remaining two years of the term. Adams will be joined by fellow newcomer Eren Williams. Williams was running unopposed in Ward 1.
Michael Bartlett, the other Ward 3 incumbent, fended off challenger Nicole Riley by a margin of just four votes. Incumbents Tony Williams (Ward 2) and Donald Cook (Ward 5) also won their reelection bids. Incumbent Aaron Scott (Ward 4) ran unopposed.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held tonight in the City Council room. The workshop session starts at 6:00 PM, with the chamber session following after.
You can see all the results for Jacksonville here.
Springfield reelects Langfelder, most incumbents
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in, it appears Jim Langfelder has won another term as Springfield’s mayor. Langfelder received 58 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Frank Edwards, received 42 percent. He took 14,573 of the 25,092 votes cast.
Mayor Langfelder will have a familiar group with him at the council. City Treasurer Misty Buscher and City Clerk Frank Lesko both defeated their challengers. Lesko held on against Rianne Hawkins 54-46. Buscher won with 74 percent over Jennifer Notariano. Aldermanic races were mostly in favor of incumbents as well. Chuck Redpath (Ward 1), John Fulgenzi (Ward 4), Andrew Proctor (Ward 5), Kristin DiCenso (Ward 6), Joe McMenamin (Ward 7), and Ralph Hanauer (Ward 10) all retired their seats. Dorris Turner (Ward 3) and James Donelan (Ward 9) had no registered opponents.
Ward 8 was an open race. Longtime Alderman Kris Theilen term-limited out, and three candidates ran for the seat. Erin Conley won, taking 58 percent over Dean Graven’s 36 percent.
It currently looks as if Willie “Shawn” Gregory will be the next Ward 2 alderman. Gregory won over Gail Simpson by a single vote, 464 to 463. Alderman Herman Senor came in third, with 392 votes, or 28 percent.
For the full results of the Springfield election, as well as other races in Sangamon County, check of the County Clerk’s election page.