Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Close Encounters of the Vagrant Kind

Whomever was in the alley behind Sound Core Sunday night must really have disturbed someone as 4 Carbondale Police cars pulled in from either end of the alley about 9:30 Sunday evening.

I walked down the alley shortly before the police showed up and saw the outline of someone crouching by one of the dumpsters there.  They d call "Hey, come over here," as I walked by, but, needless to say, I didn't.  However, there wasn't anything particularly threatening about them either, so no idea what caused the intense police interest.  No indication on the Carbondale Police website currently , either.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dump Fronabarger Movement

There's a group on Facebook formed to try to persuade Lee Fronabarger to resign his spot on city council and for the council to elect Tom Grant to the position.  From the page:

Tom Grant had the most votes for the fourth city council seat (he was only 8 votes away from winning the third city council seat), but instead of appointing a man with a huge amount of knowledge about how the city is run who had the obvious support of the citizens, they appointed Lee Fronabarger. Who is Lee Fronabarger? The guy the citizen's DIDN'T vote in.

1) Tell the city council that you are disappointed with their decision.
2) Ask Lee Fronabarger to represent his fellow citizens and respectfully resign and/or decline the appointment.
3) Tell the council to appoint the person the residents of Carbondale voted for, Tom Grant.
4). Help develop a referendum to change the law so that representatives will be ELECTED in the future, and NOT appointed.

It is rather hard, however, to make an argument that the will of the people was overruled when less than 3000 people turned out to vote, the will of the majority of the people apparently being to stay at home and watch TV.  Also notable is that the people making noise about this didn't bother to show up at the city council meeting at which Fronabarger was elected by the council to finish out Fritzler's unexpired term.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Downtown Landscaping

I was at a meeting of Carbondale Main Street this afternoon, and the topic of the landscaping of the assorted parks in downtown (Town Square, Veterans Park, Friendship Park and the American Tap green space) came up.  In 1989, Carbondale Main Street and the city came to an agreement that CMS would assume responsibility for twice yearly landscaping of the downtown parks, not maintenance as that remains the city's responsibility.  In return, the city would pay CMS $25,000 per year.  Seem like a lot?  Not when you consider that, at the time, the city paid $68,000 per year just to landscape the Town Square and the decorative barrels along the Strip.  CMS had a professional landscaper provide the plants and direct the landscaping but provided volunteer labor, which helped reduce the cost significantly.

Now, 20+ years later, CMS landscaping responsibilities have expanded beyond the Town Square to include Veterans Park, Friendship Park, the empty American Tap space and the planters recently installed down the Strip, none of which existed in 1989.  Yet, the city only reimburses CMS $18,000, almost a 30% cut from 20 years ago.  Imagine how much it would cost the city if it had to resume responsibility for landscaping again, only with about twice as much area as needing planing and cleaning as it did 20 years ago

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mayoral Results Analysis

After the mayoral election, Jane Adams laid out the results on a map of Carbondale, indicating who won which precincts and if they won by an absolute majority.  The results are interesting.

Joel Fritzler was the clear winner, winning 11 districts, 3 of them with absolute majorities. Most of his wins were  closer to the center of town and bordering the university as he won all the districts between Emerald Lane and Illinois as well as district 25 south of Chautauqua and district 8 north of West Highway 13.   The exceptions to his wins in this area were the only 3 districts won by Sam Goldman,district 25 which included SIUC, district 22 which is adjacent to the university and 11 which includes Memorial Hospital and is also adjacent to the university..  Even in those areas, Goldman did not win absolute majorities.

Though George Maroney came in second, he only won 6 districts, none by more than 50% of the vote and all, except for district 29 which lies east of Wall Street, lie on the outer rim of the city, indicating his strength lay in Carbondale's extended suburbs.

Finally, Stephen Haynes strength was in the northeast part of Carbondale.  He won the five precincts in that area, four of them by over 50%.  Unfortunately, of the approximately 1600 registered voters in those precincts, only 313 turned out to vote, of which he won about 195.  He did win a sixth precinct, #17 located between old and new Highway 51, but only 33 people turned out to vote there.

Districts 6 thorough 16 wound up key to the mayoral election, accounting for 1891 of the 2791 votes cast. Six of Fritzler's wins fell in those districts, while Maroney had two and Goldman one, indicating that voter density was key to Fritzler's win.

Preservation Ordinance Meeting

Sat in for a short while on last night's Preservation Ordinance sub-committee meeting. The city has hired a consultant to examine the ordinances related to preservation and planning and make recommendations as to changes in them.  The purpose of the meeting was to look over the current ordinance related to the Preservation Committee and identify redundancies currently existing.  For example, the bylaws for the Preservation Committee is included as part of the current ordinance and the committee questioned the need for their inclusion.  Also, the committee noted there does not appear any sections in the current ordinance dealing with the demolition of properties that fall under its prevue.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts on Fronabarger

Been musing on the choice of Lee Fronabarger to fill out Joel Fritzler's term on the city council.  I've asked several of the city council members for their reasoning and will comment on them later.  What follows is solely my reasoning.

According to the city's website, a total of seven people turned in letters of interest in the position:

Jessica Bradshaw, Priciliano Fabian, Carl R. Flowers, Lee M. Fronabarger, Thomas Grant, Navreet Kang, and Mike Riley..

 Of the seven, four--Bradshaw, Grant, Riley and Fronabarger--ran in the election.  Of the others, Fabian is a sophomore at SIUC and apparently active on campus but with no indication of city civic activity.  Kang chairs the city planning commission while Flowers serves on the Carbondale Park District board.  If I was on city council, I'd eliminate these three from selection simply because they did not run.  Bypassing the four people who did  run in favor of one of the three who did not would send a negative message so shortly after the election. (I have the same problem with Sheila Simon getting the nod for lt. governor in the last statewide election).

Looking at the four that ran, though both Riley and Bradshaw have been involved in Carbondale as buisnesspeople, neither has a track record of civic activity that I can find.  Grant worked for the city as building and services neighborhood services manager for 15 years and would bring a wealth of experience in those areas to the council while Fronabarger has served on a number of city committees including the aquatic center and planning commission.  Betwix the two of them, I would have picked Grant because of the experience with city operations he brought to the table, plus his razor thin finish behind Lance Jack in the election.  However, he has not been particularity active in city affairs since his termination in 2009, while Fronabarger has, which may have caused the council to choose him, that and the diverse views he can bring to city government a a result of his service upon various committees.. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Gift Shop

In case you missed this story, a new gift shop, Brighten Your Days, opened up shortly before Mother's Day in Murdale Shopping Center.  Looks as if it will give west side stalwart, The Apple Tree, some competition.  In fact, the Apple Tree has put up a streetside banner to draw attention to the store, something the business has never done in the past.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sustainabily Commission

The Sustainability Commission met last night with newly appointed city council representative Don Monty attending.  Asst. city manager Kevin Baity reported that the Koppers' wood treatment plant clean up continued.  For those of you who think government typically slows things up, the EPAs activities regarding Koppers would certainly reinforce that opinion as Baity indicates that the EPA has changed its mind on a number of actions it wants taken regarding Koppers, issues new directives and changed regulations, slowing the cleanup significantly.

The possibility of a bike trail west of town looks pretty good, if the money becomes available.  The trail would start at N. Oakland and follow the abandoned railroad bed, joining old Rt 13 approximately where the Jackson County Humane Society stands.  The city and the Carbondale Park District hold the right of way for much of that section of the trail.  Unfortunately,  further west of the Humane Society, much subdividing of the old rail bed has taken place and about fourteen property owners, at least, would have to agree to allow the trail to extend to Murphysboro.

The chicken ordinance has been handed off to Mayor Fritzler so it's up to him now to decide if he wants to bring it before the council.

Finally, the city recycling program, strangely, does not pick up at either the Civic Center or Amtrak Station.  City employees have been gathering recyclables and hauling them to Southern Recycling on their own. Baity indicated that public recycling bins have been ordered for the Civic Center and, once they arrive, the city recycling program will start picking up at both locations.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Bookstores Closing

Not only is Book World closing at the end of the month but I see the Gospel Land Outlet Store in Eastgate Shopping Center is having a liquidation sale with the store closing in the near future.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Friday Night Festival

In case you are looking for something to do this Friday evening, Carbondale Main Street has its Friday Night Festival with 21 vendors and four food vendors, plus the Carbondale Garden Club and musical stylings by the Giant City Slickers.

City Council Meeting

Hopefully, the length of last night's meeting was indicative of the new members and mayor getting their footing and not of meetings to come.  Meeting started with the Liquor Control Commission at 7 p.m. which quickly approved, 6-0, a liquor license for the soon to open Premier Lounge on West Jackson. Don Monty probably set the tone for his councilship with several  questions indicating he had looked over the application quite thoroughly, including questioning the capital reserves the business had and the reasoning behind the shift from a business model relying on 100% liquor sales to one deriving 20% of its revenues from food sales.  Newly re-elected councilman Lance Jack was noticeably absent.

Next up was the approval of the Icebox Bar and Grille's application for a A2 license, with requires 51% of sales to come from food.  Both Monty and Jane Adams questioned the applicant, Kevin Kirkwood, closely regarding the application especially about such concerns as parking, funding, the track record of other restaurants at the location and the murders that took place after an event there last fall.  Several people spoke in favor of the application, most from a "give the man a chance" view, while Sandy Litecky of the Arbor District raised concerns about the effect of the business on the nearby neighborhood.  The application passed 3-2, with Chris Wissmann and Corene McDaniels voting against.

Moving onto the regular meeting, Lance Jack arrived and Mayor Fritzler quickly proclaimed this Mental Health Month and Public Works Week and presented a pair of Historic Preservation Awards to two properties on properties on West Walnut.

The consent agenda, which came up next, was the high point of the meeting as Lance Jack asked for individual votes on appointments to boards and commissions and an ordinance approving a right of way license agreement with Delta Communications.  The right of way vote was just to emphasize that fiber optic commissions were coming to Carbondale.  Jack then proceeded to get very hot under the collar about Mayor Fritzler's appointment of Jane Adams to the Carbondale Main Street board, since Jack has been the council representative to Main Street for several years and wanted to know why he had not been re-appointed.  The two men argued for a few minutes with Mayor Fritzler finally summing up his reasoning for Adams' appointment as (and I'm paraphrasing here), "because I wanted to".

The change in the business development plan for the new Goodwill location (moving to the old Rex Video store next to Applebee's) and a couple of rezoning ordinances passed with out any controversy or question, though Don Monty was in his element here, making comments and questioning the applicants about specifications relating to the requests.  He likely added 15 minutes to the length of the meeting with his comments on each property. The man knows his stuff, though it's doubtful he changed the outcome as all three passed 6-0.

Up next were resolutions declaring Fair Days for the Sunset Concerts, Southern Illinois Irish Festival and Neghborhood Co-op Local Harvest Picnic (which, in the interest of disclosure, almost all of the council said they were members of).  Fair Days designation allows the consumption but not sale of alcohol on city property.  These all passed 5-1, with Lance Jack abstaining and Corene McDaniel, as is her wont, voting no.  She made a point of saying her vote wasn't against the events but rather the consumption of alcohol on park property and requested the sponsors of the Sunset Concerts look into making one of the concerts at Turley Park alcohol free.

The other high point of the meeting was the attempt to pas an ordinance authorizing the sale of city property at 709 West Pecan to the owner of adjoining property so she could build a garage.  When making her statement to council, the purchaser rambled on about people speeding down the alley, the cost of removing trees from her property and flooding before getting to her point that she thought the city was asking too much for its property and she did not want to purchase it at that price.  The council, a bit flummoxed, since it thought a deal had been completed, withdrew the ordinance and directed asst. city manager Kevin Baity (who looked really thrilled at the idea) to meet with her and work out a deal.

After citizen and council comments, the council went into closed session for about 2 hours to choose someone to complete Joel Fritzler's unexpired council term.  Tom Grant and Mike Riley, both candidates for council in the last election, along with a reporter from the local TV station, hung around for the two hours to find out the council had not selected either of them, choosing Lee Fronabarger, who also ran in the last election, instead.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lee Fronabarger Appointed

City council went into closed session for two hours tonight and emerged to vote, 6-0, to appoint Lee Fronabarger to serve the remaining two years of Joel Fritzler's term.  According to Mayor Fritzler, 7 hopefuls had turned in letters of application/resumes for the seat.  Only two of them that I saw, Tom Grant and Mike Riley, showed for the council meeting and waited around until council emerged from closed session to announce Fronabarger's appointment.  After council dismissed, Grant and Riley were last seen heading for The Office (local bar for you non-Carbondale types) in search of cold beer.

Update: Here's some more info from the Southern on the appointment..

Icebox Bar and Grille

The Icebox Bar and Grille's application for a class A2 liquor license at city council tonight.  On the plus side for approving the license:  1)  there have been no problems with parking or crowding around the facility since Kevin Kirkwood assumed ownership of the restaurant, 2)  the police have reported no citations during the same period.

On the other hand, the police have also reported the advertising on Twitter and Facebook of several late evening events at the restaurant  in violation of city ordinances. The events were canceled when police contacted the restaurant about them.  This willingness to brush against the law is not a good sign, given that the Icebox is applying for a license that requires 51% of its receipts to come from food sales, a line that restaurants with similar licenses have had problems with in the past.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Preservation Commission

Preservation Commission meets tonight at 7 p.m. in room 103 at the Civic Center.  Not much on the agenda, save for election of officers and presentation of the 2011 Historic Preservation awards.

Friday, May 13, 2011

City Council Meeting

City Council meets next Tuesday at 7:30.  On the agenda, several rezoning requests and Fair Days resolutions, as well as a meeting regarding the appointment of a council member to take Joel Fritzler's seat.

Liquor Control Commission

The Liquor Control Commission meets next Tuesday at 7 p.m.  On the docket, a Fair Days request for the Southern Illinois Irish Festival next October and two liquor license applications, one for the Premier Lounge, going in eventually at 104 West Jackson, where Big Boy's Q'in used to operate, and one for the Icebox Bar and Grill.  The Premier Lounge is applying for a B2 license, which allows all of its revenue to come from the sales of alcohol, including wine, while the Icebox seeks an A2 license, which says 51% of the revenue must come from food sales and allows the sale of all alcohol.  The other difference between the two is that an A2 license allows patrons under the age of 19 in the establishment as long as a full menu is offered.  If the restaurant offers less than its full menu , i.e. only appetizers,  at any time, that waiver vanishes.

According to Kevin Kirkwood, owner of the Icebox, he submitted his application for an A2 license early this spring, only to be told by Mayor Cole that Cole would sit on the application until after the election, leaving it up to the next council to act upon it, which I guess they will, next week.


Blogger shut down for a few days to update software, so no posts for the past week.  Meanwhile, SIUC is moving towards a much more civil campus.  At least, that is how the directors of the Saluki First Year and University Core Curriculum see things.  "Choosing Civility:  Individual Rights and Communal Responsibility" is the SIUC common theme for 2011 (Barton Lorimor has kindly posted the PDF here.)  Some of the topics include:  Civility and Sportsmanship, Civility and Political Discourse, Expressing Intense Emotions with Civility and my favorite, Civility vs. Satire.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Campus Habitat

Don't know if you've seen this letter in the DE yet but it paints a pretty negative picture about Campus Habitat, one of Carbondale's many absentee landlords.  Here are comments about the indivudual complexs on S. University, 820 West Freeman, and South Graham.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Unclaimed Property Auction

If you want to take a break from yard sales or Makanda Springfest, the C'dale Police Department is having an unclaimed property auction this Saturday at 9 a.m.

New Finance Director

From a press release sent out by the city:
City Manager Allen Gill has announced the appointment of Mr. Donald Ursini as Finance Director for the City of Carbondale.  Mr. Ursini will assume the position on May 16, 2011, replacing Ernest Tessone who is retiring as Finance Director after serving the City for over 11 years. 

Mr. Ursini has Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees from Northern Illinois University, with a finance emphasis in both degrees.  He has held corporate financial management positions for over 30 years.  For 17 years, he held financial management positions with the Marmon Corporation, including most recently as Vice President of Finance of the Penn Aluminum Company in Murphysboro, Illinois.  City Manager Gill stated that Mr. Ursini’s strong background in corporate finance will transfer directly to managing the financial affairs of the City of Carbondale.  Governmental accounting has different rules than private sector accounting, which will take some time to learn, but accounting for City utility operations is much like private enterprises.

This appointment is the culmination of a lengthy search process, which included advertising in publications as well as professional association web sites.  An interview committee assisted in the process, including the City Manager, Director of Development Services Kevin Baity, Director of Administrative Services Deborah McCoy, and a representative of the City’s auditing Firm of Kerber Eck and Braeckel.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

More on Ponce

Still not clear as to what actually happened but the best I have gleaned so far is that Mayor Cole put Beth Ponce on administrative leave last week with Maintenance and Environmental Services Manager Sean Henry temporarily assuming her duties.  Ponce then came in this week, cleaned out her desk and resigned.  I've tried contacting her but no luck so far.  If anyone has further information, please post it in comments or email me privately.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Public Safety Station

According to city manager Alan Gill, it wasn't just high winds that damaged the roof of the new public safety center but a microburst.  Gill says that the first floor of the building is undamaged and most of the second floor is usable as well.  Only the section of offices used by Chief O'Guinn suffered too much damage for occupancy currently.  No idea as to when repairs commence, how much they will cost or which insurance company will pay for them.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Beth Ponce Terminated?

Just found out that Director of Public Works Beth Ponce was either quietly terminated or put on administrative leave (accounts vary) about the 26 of April. Another employee apparently is currently performing her job duties.  Her job vacancy has not been posted by the city and she is still listed on the city staff directory, so my guess is administrative leave.

Birds Point Video

In case you haven't seen it, the St. Louis Post Dispatch has some pretty spectacular video of the Birds Point levee explosion.

Monday, May 2, 2011

City Council Meeting

If the agenda for tomorrow night's council meeting is correct, this should be one of the shorter meetings in recent memory, since it largely consists of swearing in the new mayor and council members, as well as the city clerk

Editorial Lauding Cole

Yesterday's Southern Illinoisan has a editorial lauding Brad Cole's service as mayor of Carbondale.  As a reader pointed out in an email, most of the facts in this paragraph about the tax increase passed for Saluki Way are, well,  wrong:

Among the accomplishments in Cole's career have been the building of a new public safety center, giving Carbondale Police Department a sorely needed new building. And no mention of Cole's tenure is likely to go without a comment on the Saluki Way project, for which Carbondale implemented a 1 percent sales tax increase for 10 years to help pay $10 million toward construction of new facilities, most notably a new Saluki Stadium and revamped SIU Arena.

The sales tax increase was 1/2% not 1%, it lasts for 20 years not 10, and pays $20 million towards construction, not $10 million.  You'd think the editorial writers at the Southern would read their own paper.