Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Water Bill at Cornerstone

Heard about the water bill problems at Cornerstone yesterday.  Not quite sure how the management at the park thought they city would not notice it had not received payments for water, nor how it was not able to pay water bills since it received payments for them from its tenants.  On the other hand, it is amazing to see the city allowing unpaid bills to accumulate to the tune of some $90,000.

Cornerstone has had a dicey reputation in the past, especially back when it was known as The Crossings and the city assigned officers to patrol it regularly.  Ownership changed about 2 years ago and the police department's crime map does indicate a drop off in calls to the area.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Liquor Sales Hearing

It appears we will have a public hearing at the LAB Meeting August 1 regarding sales of alcoholic liquors at convenience and grocery stores.  I guess this is the next step after allowing them to sell beer and wine last year.:

NOTICE OF PUBLIC HEARING Before the Liquor Advisory Board Of the City of Carbondale, Illinois Notice is hereby given to the public that on August 1, 2013 at 5:30 p.m. in Carbondale City Hall, 200 South Illinois Avenue, Carbondale, Illinois, a public hearing will be held to take comments from the public regarding sales of all alcoholic liquors at convenience stores and grocery stores. Any person interested may attend the public hearing and be heard in regard thereto. Persons unable to attend the public hearing may submit written comments to the City Manager's Office by no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. KEVIN BAITY CITY MANAGER CITY OF CARBONDALE 20502730; Jul 27, 30

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pastor Charged with Theft

Joshua Swain, former pastor at The View, has been charged with embezzling over $100,000 from the church, as well as using the name of a member of the church to obtain another $10,000 from a local bank.  I guess that is what you call "identity theft".

The church website has removed all reference to Joshua Swain from its website, at least I cannot find any.  However Jacob Swain is listed as associate pastor.  No idea if he is a relation or not.

According to this, Josh Swain was also president of Good Samaritan Ministries, as of early this month.  Hopefully, they will take a look at their accounts as well.

Statewide BIke Plan Meeting

Following up from last week's post about the proposed alcohol tax, Councilwoman Jane Adams pointed out the state will host a forum at the C'dale Civic Center this week on a statewide Bicycle Transportation Plan

The Illinois Department of Transportation is developing its first ever statewide Illinois Bicycle Transportation Plan and will hold a public meeting at the Carbondale Civic Center on August 1, 2013 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. to receive input from the public.  When complete, this long-range plan will guide future policy decisions and infrastructure improvements to make cycling a safer, more convenient and more accessible transportation option for Illinoisans.  
Topics covered will include bicycle planning and policy, funding, bicycle safety, a regional biking network, guidelines for bike paths and lanes, implementation and prioritization guidelines, education and outreach.  Whether you are a strong and fearless cyclist or someone who avoids cycling at all costs, your voice is needed to help make Illinois the top state for cycling in the country! This meeting in Carbondale is just one of the numerous outreach workshops that have been scheduled across the state this summer to gain public input on how to improve bicycling in Illinois. 
Join us at the Carbondale Civic Center located at 200 S. Illinois Avenue in Carbondale on August 1st.  Contact Gary Williams, Economic Development Coordinator for the City of Carbondale with questions about this meeting  at (618) 457-3286.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Alcohol Tax?

Councilwoman Jane Adams has proposed a 2% tax on packaged beer and spirits, the proceeds of which would go to fund the construction and maintenance of outdoor recreation facilities within the city.

I don't drink alcohol so the tax is a moot point with me. Still, I am rather leary of adding on another tax to fund outdoor spaces until we see some sort of progress with the portion of the Saluki Way tax designated for green spaces and bike paths within the city. As of the last Sustainability Commission meeting, none of the money generated by the tax has gone for any of these projects.  I would be much happier if a specific project were announced, then taxes proposed to pay for it. Asking for the tax first, then proposing projects to spend it on is  putting the proverbial cart before the proverbial horse.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Instead of a upscale food and kitchen supply store, it appears that D'elish on East Main, which is now upen mornings and early afternoons, is a coffee and sandwich shop.  Hopefully the store plans on some major promotions to get the word out because currently, save for the convenience of stopping then while heading west on Main,  they don't seem to offer much that Panera Bread has, and Panera has longer hours to boot.

The tricky thing when opening a new business is the competitive advantage.  Why will people come by form you rather than someone else?  If you offer the same as everyone else, there is no reason for customers to patronize you.  Currently the competitive advantage I see for D'elish is the location on East Main, which may help it pick up morning customers coming in from Carterville and the east, heading for SIUC.  Since those people are often pressed for time, detouring to Panera is not always feasible so D'elish hopefully can capitalize on them.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tax Fraud

Really do not think I would want Ronald Manis preparing my taxes, given that he served time for failing to file his own income taxes.  Rather like being leery of using H & R Block after a glitch in their form caused the delay of over 660,000 tax refunds.  Of course,  Block's problem resulted from a software problem, while Manis willfully broke the law.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Police Quotas

I have not seen the work standards refereed to in this article but if they do set baseline numbers for how many traffic stops or interviews with suspicious characters per month,  It is important, though, to remember that no-one, aside from the Carbondale Police administration, presumably, the officers, and hopefully the city council, has seen these standards, so anyone other than those stakeholders commenting on them is not speaking from knowledge but supposition.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Consumer Loan Businesses

Take a look at this satellite photo of Eastgate Shopping Center.  If it gets approved, the new TitleMax will go into the second building on the north side west of the intersection of Walnut and Wall, the old Wendy's building.  In the building at the far east end of Eastgate Shopping Center, by my count, there are 4, that's four, consumer loan offices, one right next to the other.  It's like fast food.  You know you want a loan but don't decide which one to go to until you stand in front of them.

Or maybe, you go into one, get turned down as too risky and move down the row, looking for the one that will accept your risk and charge you a commensurately high interest rate.

Comments are welcome.

Friday, July 19, 2013

City Council Meeting Thoughts

After thinking about them a few days, some musings on Tuesday's city council meeting:

1.  Council could save about 30-45 minutes each meeting if assorted council members would quit pulling items out of the consent agenda for individual votes.  I counted six items pulled from this week's agenda, only one of which did not pass unanimously.  Yes, I know you want to thank people who worked on projects or feel residents of the city should know why the city does certain things, but isn't that what council comments are for?

2.  Having Panda Express next to Great Wall, assuming the renovations preclude its reopening, should not hurt Great Wall's business much.  The two businesses cater to two different market segments, with Great Wall going after the "I want a variety of Chinese food and plenty of it for dinner" segment, while Panda Express, with its stated focus on takeout and drive through (it will be one of the first stand alone franchises in the chain) will target those who want to pick up something quickly and eat it at home.  Those Chinese restaurants in town that focus on delivery and takeout, China Express and New Kahala Fast Foods, have more to fear from Panda Express.

3. The change in the ordinance to allow restaurants selling alcohol to remain open past 2 a.m., as long as they only sell food, passed unanimously.  A good move, though in the past restaurants have gone after this license as a means of skirting the cap on liquor licenses in the city, then would up deriving more of their revenues from liquor sales than the 49% allowed by the license.

4.  Halloween returns to the city (not that it every really left, it just went underground) with a whimper, not a bang.  As councilwoman Adams noted during the meeting, given the amount of controversy that has surrounded the issue, no-one from the community came to speak in favor of or opposed to the issue, though council members said they had received a number of emails on the topic.  As Chief O'Guinn noted, fully 70% of of the force had never experienced a "Carbondale Halloween" and SIUC has cycled through 3 full classes since the last one. Only those who lived here during the 90s remember the event and the vast majority of them weren't concerned enough about its return to come speak to council, though they may very well have sent letters.  Unoffical Halloween has been a fairly quiet event since its inception and, if the city and bars treat Official Halloween as  another big sales day, it should remain quiet as well.  I hope.

Comments are welcome.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Planning Commission Meeting

Sat in on tonight's Planning Commission meeting.  The request for rezoning by Lindsay Fisher for 413 N. Oakland was postponed to August 16, due to none of the principals being able to attend.

Randy Throgmorton requested a Special Uses permit for a heating and air conditioning business he is operating at 1500 Neal Lane.  The business has operated in violations of city codes and has been issued a citation in the past.  Several residents on Neal Lane spoke in opposition to the permit, citing the residential and agricultural nature of the area and increased traffic along Neal Lane as a result of the business.  As part of his application, Trogmorton indicated he would build a residence on the property within 5 years, to complain with the permit he has been issued in the past.  City staff recommended approving the request, primarily because the business was already established.   However, the commission voted not to approve it, indicating they made the decision based as if the business did not currently exist, since it was in violation of its prior permit.  City council will make the final decision.

The commission recessed for five minutes at 7:30, then took up TitleMax's request for a Special Uses permit to open a consumer credit business in the old Wendy's building at 500  East Walnut.  City staff recommended denial of the request, due to the existence of 11 other consumer credit business in Carbondale, 4 of which are located within 200 yards of the proposed location and the negative impact another consumer credit business with high interest rates could have upon the community.Jeff Cermak, who spoke for TitleMax, pointed out that the city was relying on reports on the industry that dated back to 2005, that consumer credit rates in Illinois are now capped.  The Planning Commission voted to approve the permit request and will pass that recommendation along for city council consideration at the next council meeting.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Liveblogging City Council

Watching the livestream of the city council tonight. Turned it on about 7:25 p.m. during citizen comments.

7:25  Gentleman is asking the average salary of a Carbondale police officer. Told it is between $40,000 to $50,000.

7:27  Council now discussing the request to vacate the alley behind 805 West Sycamore Street.  The alley provides access to the building that last served as Oakland Avenue Auto Service.  The southern part of the alley was vacated in 1996.  No comments from the audience, which is rather small giving that rescinding the Halloween closure audience is on the agenda.

7:30  Moving on to consent agenda. Don Monty and Lee Fronabarger both requested several items removed from the consent agenda for individual votes: Mayor Fritzler  indicated he planned to appoint Carolyn Haney and Rebecca Whittington  to the Carbondale Convention and Tourism Board.

7:35  5.6 on sidewalk improvements,   Apparently Monty pulled this from the consent agenda so he could point out the city was doing work on sidewalks as it appsed unanimously after some discussion about sidewalk conditions by Monty and the Mayor.

7:39  Item 5:11  Resolution for the city manager to submit an application for funds from the Home-ownership Trust Fund of the  Emergency Loan Assistance program.  Again,  Councilman Monty appears to just want to clarify the purpose of the resolution as there is no discussion, aside from himself, before the vote.

7:42  Item 5:12 Transferring funds into Building and Neighborhood Services for the purchase of a new vehicle.  A few questions about the type of vehicle BNS will purchase.  Approved unanimously,  not a big surprise.

7:49  Item 5:14  Item making some technical changes to the revised code.  Some references and formatting errors corrected.  Apparently pulled to acknowledge the amount of effort put into the revisions.

7:52  Item5:15  Item approving the BPL for the proposed Panda Express which apparently will go into the one-time proposed University Village strip mall location, which never came to fruition.  Fronabarger wanting to know about the status of a proposed road that was to extend from the front of Bed, Bath and Beyond to Highway 13.  City Manager Baity says the road idea has been abandoned.  Fronabarger also concerned about a proposed pedestrian walkway in the area.  Councilwoman Bradshaw wants to know if Panda Express has looked at locating in the mall, but apparently Panda Express is moving towards free-standing drive through restaurants.  Councilwoman Adams asked about the proposed strip mall and was told the idea has been abandoned.  Bradshaw further concerned about additional competition to Carbondale's existing Chinese restaurants.  Lance Jack points out that, as long as Panda Express follows zoning and health regulations, there is little the city could or should do to prevent it locating here.  Passed unanimously.

8:05  item 5:16  Appointments to Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau and Sustainability Commissions. Fronabarger wants to know what the criteria are for appointments to the commissions.  Fritzler says he is trying to broaden the diversity of viewpoints on the boards, hence the appointments of Carolyn Harvey and Rebecca Whittington to the CCTB and Adam Loos to Sustainability.  During the vote, Fronabarger abstains and Lance Jack votes no.  Others vote in favor.

8:10  Request for TIF increment financing for the building at 116 N. Illinois.  Plan is to redo the facade including making some stained glass now hidden visible.  Request passes.

8:17  Now discussing vacating the alley behind 805 West Sycamore.  City recommends not vacating it, due to the sanitary sewer system under the alley. Should the council vote to vacate the alley, it would still retain an easement to access the sewer system.  Lots of discussion regarding access to the sewer system.  Sent back to staff for more research on where the sewer line is.

8:34  Ordinance to allow restaurants that sell liquor but generate 51% of their sales from food and non-alcoholic drinks to stay open past 2 a.m.  Currently, these establishments must close at 2 a.m.  Missed the outcome to this as nature called.

8:45  City Council in recess.

8:50  Ordinance repealing the "Halloween closure " ordinance under discussion now.  Not a large turnout for the discussion.  You cannot see this on camera but the seating space is half that it was for the last meeting.  City staff, unlike other ordinances, has not taken a position on this one, instead offering four alternatives.  Monty proposes ending the closures for one year as a trial.  Mayor Fritzler wonders why the media don't show film of Street Machine Nationals from fifteen years ago but keep showing video of Halloween riots past.

9:02  Monty pointing out that rescinding the ordinance would only  eliminate the closure part of the current ordinance, all other restrictions would remain in place.  Bradshaw wants to see some of the Liquor Advisory Board recommendations included in an amended ordinance, specifically restrictions on keg sales.  Adams also likes rescinding the closures for one year in order to see what happens.  Mayor Fritzler and Fronabarger both point out that the people coming in for Halloween will always be 19-25, no matter when it happens, and need to consider the risks to the perception of downtown.

9:08  Fritzler points out the correlation between the ending of the Halloween celebration and the high point of SIUC attendance.  Since the closures went into effect, SIUC attendance has slowly declined.  Probably not causal but both symptoms of something else.  City attorney points out that, should Halloween activities get out of hand, the mayor has the authority to declare an emergency curfew.  He also points out that bars do not have to open should the ordinance be repealed and would then get refunded their liquor license fee.

9;25  Mayor Frizler indicates that SIUC is not really happy with the discussion taking place about changing the ordinance.   If they were more concerned about it (editorializing here), the university should have kept Fall Break on Halloween weekend, rather than moving it back to earlier in the month.  He also indicates surprise that not more people show up for the meeting.

9:26  Adams moves to suspend the existing ordinance for one year, seconded by Bradshaw.  Frizler and Fronabarger vote no, Jack abstains so motion passes 4 to 2.

9:29  In council comments, Lance Jack recommends the city sends a letter to local media and bar owners, asking them to treat this as a highly busy weekend but not out of the ordinary, otherwise.  He also asks the police about how much protective equipment the department has .  Not much, apparently and almost all of that was purchased during the 1980s.  Chief O'Guinn also noted that at lest 65% of police staff has been hired after the last Halloween so have not experienced it as an officer.

9:35  Fronabarger citing an article on how Chattanooga TN turned itself around.  the mayor of Chattanooga is quoted as saying "By making it the best place to live for people who live there."  Adams uses this as a segue into a discussion of fundraising for the Carbondale Splash Park.

9:37  Council meeting ends, or at least goes off tv.  Thanks for reading.

Protest March

You can barely see the tail end of this evening's march protesting the outcome of the Zimmerman trial.  Protestors gathered in front of city hall and marched south down the Strip, probably heading to Friendship Park, chanting "No Justice, No Peace" and "What do we want?"  Could not make out what it was they wanted but I assume it was justice, according to their lights.

As noted in the comments, here are more (and better) photos of the march:

Bistro 51?

Lots of remodeling going on at the former Icebox Bar and Grille, nee Jays.  Workmen have gutted the interior for the past couple of weeks and a Bistro 51 logo has gone up on the awning facing West Main Street.  I assume the plan is to capitalize on positive reviews of the original Bistro 51, considered one of Carbondale's top restaurants before it closed several years ago.

The original Bistro 51 did prove it possible to run a successful restaurant in the Icebox's location.  It required a reputation for good food in an upscale atmosphere, as well as parking facilities to deal with the little parking available to the building.  The original Bistro 51 dealt with this by offering valet parking so that patrons did not have to deal with it themselves.  It will prove interesting to see how the new Bistro 51 approaches the situation.

Friday, July 12, 2013

TitleMax Coming

The agenda is not posted on the city's website yet, but the Planning Commission will meet on July 17 to consider, among other issues, a couple of zoning requests.  One, from Lindsey Fisher, requests a rezoning of 413 N. Oakland Ave from Low Density Residential to Neighborhood Business, as well as a Special Use Permit to operate an automobile repair service at the site.  Incidentally, just before this meeting, the Zoning Board of Appeals will meet to consider Fisher's appeal of the cease and desist letter from the city that caused the closure of Oakland Ave. Auto Service.  Fisher, or her representatives, looks to have a busy evening.

New on the agenda is a request from Jeff Cerma of TitleMax Illinois for a Special Use Permit for a credit service to open in the old Wendy's location on East Walnut, bringing in another short term loan company right across the street from the one already there and a block and a half away from the relocated State Finance.  I thought we were saturated but I guess TitleMax sees a growing market here for short term loans

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Pinch Penny Moving?

Though the agenda has not been posted as of Monday night., one of the items scheduled for the Liquor Advisory Board this Thursday night is a request to transfer of the liquor license for Pinch Penny Liquors to a new location, 701 East Grand, the location of the closed Saluki Bookstore.  It would appear that, instead of 710 Bookstore taking over the space during the redevelopment of their current location, Pinch Penny has decided to abandon its long time location and move across the street, making it a bit more difficult for those drinking at Pinch Penny Pub to pick up a 12 pack or a craft brew before hitting the road home.

The new location certainly given them a lot more space to expand their selection, which, according to the reviews I have read, tops other stores in the area in terms of regional beers and wines. Parking should improve as well as the store won't have to share parking spaces with the other businesses in the current complex.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lawsuit Against SIU BOT

Press release I just received from Dunham:

Nolan Sharkey filed a suit today naming Jesse Cler and the entire Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees as Defendants.  The suit alleges that Cler, a student at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, is seeking to be certified as the student trustee representing the Carbondale campus on the Board of Trustee.  Sharkey’s suit alleges that Cler failed to comply with the student trustee election procedures, and therefore his name should not have been placed on the ballot.  The suit further contends that the election was flawed because SIU administration and faculty improperly influenced the election.   In addition, Sharkey alleges that SIU-C Graduate and Professional Student Council refused to certify Cler’s election because the elections procedures had been violated.  The suit seeks to have the election declared void, further declaring that any votes that Cler would cast while serving on the Board should be deemed to be void.   Sharkey is seeking a preliminary injunction, enjoining the Defendants from seating Cler until while the suit is pending.   At the time the suit was filed, a date had not been set on Sharkey’s request for a preliminary injunction.  Sharkey, a law student at SIU, was Cler’s opponent in the April, 2013, election.   Sharkey is represented by Darrell Dunham, Attorney at Law, Carbondale, Illinois.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Declaration of Independence

Always worth a read.  Or, if you are the sort who prefer getting their information audibly, you can listen to people on the National Mall read it here and read what some say it means to them here.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


Seeing construction and landscaping for a new business called D'lish on East Main, across from Hunan.  From the name, I would hazard a food related business no information beyond that.  Anyone have any further information?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Amazon and You

Use Amazon?  Most likely you do, at least at some point.  According to a recent not I saw in Business Week, roughly 36% of all consumer purchases in America intersect with Amazon at some point.  Either you start out looking at a product on Amazon, do some research on it on Amazon or buy it on Amazon, but at some point, if you buy a product in the US, your path moves through Amazon just over a third of the time.  That's a pretty amazing figure

Not so much so, though, when you consider that Amazon's total sales equal that of the next 4 largest online retailers combined. (Amazon's total sales only reach about 10% of Wal-mart's total, so the online retailer has quite a distance to go to catch Wal-mart).  In order to increase its sales and have a chance of eventually overtaking Wal-mart, Amazon had decided to start same day delivery on products other than digital ones.  You would order a product in the morning, and, by the afternoon, it would arrive at your door. In fact, it has introduced this in a few large cities.  

 In order to put the process in place, Amazon will have to drastically expand its distribution network and expose itself to collecting more sales taxes, a major reason why the retailer has thrown  its weight behind the Marketplace Fairness Act.  The company figures that, since expanding its physical presence into more markets will obligate it to collect sales tax in them, requiring all online retailers to collect sales taxes takes away another competitive advantage those retailers would retain over Amazon.