Marc on Representation and Transparency
Representation in Town leadership has been terribly been one-sided. It's gone on far too long. We need to include more diversity of thought. For several years now, the Town council has been encouraged to move forward in lockstep on projects, rather than allow any other perspectives in their meetings. In the last two years, we have watched many of the council members—including Mayor Koos—attempt to stifle any questioning or differing perspectives. This is wrong.
In addition, extended council deliberations in the regular public meetings hasn't been welcome. But I feel it benefits the public to hear such deliberations, rather than keeping them behind closed doors. It helps the public see the thought and effort council members put into considering an issue.
Under Chris Koos, public comment policy has been problematic. Right now, there are three cases pending against the town for violations of the Open Meetings Act.* The mayor took action on changing the public comment only after these violations came to light and he was under pressure to make changes, but he is on record defending restrictions such as not allowing a single resident to speak more than once during a 45-day period and insisting that residents can comment only on items on the agenda. This, too, is wrong.
When people feel they are not being heard, frustration follows. We've seen multiple examples in just the last few years: consider how residents felt when there was public outcry about the handling of the Trail East project, the wall mural, and the proposed fire station at Blackstone Trails. More recently, the Town has pitted itself against dozens of residents with plans for changes to One Normal Plaza (the old Soldiers' and Sailors' Home).
I want to change these dynamics. The Town can and should do better for our residents.
*When I initially wrote this piece, three cases were pending. The Attorney General then returned a decision on two of those cases and stated that Chris Koos and the Town of Normal did indeed violate the Open Meetings Act. Here are the news stories:
I recently had a great conversation with Normal resident Connor Small. Connor and I talked about my stance on many issues. One of them was about representation. As I told Connor, I don’t care who you voted for in the national election. You are a member of this community and are entitled to good representation from your elected officials. The mayor’s attacks on residents based on their political persuasions is highly divisive. I offer a better set of priorities for all citizens. This video shows that clip. Note: You can see the full conversation at Marc's Conversation with Connor Small.