Thursday, December 27, 2012

City Council Meeting

Special meeting of the city council tonight to approve the two new TIF Districts that the city has treated as already approved.  Technically, the already existing downtown district will expand significantly while the other will encourage development in the Oakland/Sycamore area. Of course, for any development to take place on Oakland or Sycamore, the city will have to rezone the area, either allowing businesses or apartments, as it really wouldn't make sense for a developer to put in single family residences.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Street Clearing

The city has done a fine job so far of cleaning the main streets.  Walnut and Main are both clear so far as I can see and most of the major side streets such as Oakland, Poplar, Oak and Mill are readily passable, but there are some of the lesser traveled side streets that still need work, which makes me wonder why one of the blow trucks just headed down the right side of Main again.  It plowed the very edge of the street, which didn't appreciably remove more snow that was impeding traffic.  All it seemed to do was throw up a foot high pile of snow blocking what had been ready access to parking lots on that side of the street.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bald Knob Cross

In case you are looking for something to do on the 22nd that doesn't involve running around doing last minute shopping and don't mind driving out into the southern Illinois hinterlands, the Bald Knob Cross relighting ceremony starts at 5 p.m. with the actual turning on of the lights at 5:30

Thursday, December 20, 2012

SIUC Debate Team

In case you were not aware of this, SIUC has a nationally ranked debate squad, with botth the #1 and #7 teams in the country on the squad.  The squad's performance at the national level dates back to the late 1980s, with about a 10 year absence from the national stage from the late 1990s through 2008.  One would think, with this sort of performance, the debae program would get a lot more attention from the university and the community.  After all, it's competitive, which people like, and it lets the univeristy perform at the national level.  Maybe have the Dawg Pound put in aan appearnace ins support of the debate squad or have Director of Debate Dr. Todd Graham come speak to the Chamber of Commerce.  After all, if Coach Lennon gets an invite to speak, shouldn't Coach Graham?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Special City Council Meeting

Tuesday Night at 7 p.m.  On the agenda, mainly taxes. There's an ordinance abating the scheduled levy of property taxes on a series of 2003 General Obligation Bonds, one raising property taxes by 4.99%  in accordance with state law requiring city council to adopt the levy approved by the library's board of directors.  From what I understand, council plans to pull money out of the city's general funds to cover needed expenditures and avoid raising property taxes over 5%, which would trigger state required truth in taxation hearings.

The last item on the agenda finalizes the already  approved continuation of the downtown SSA for Carbondale Main Street.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Southern Illinois Aids Holiday Project

 Passing along an email

Southern IL AIDS Holiday Project Still Needs Support

The AIDS Holiday Project is working to meet the needs of over 150 low-income households impacted by HIV / AIDS in the 19 southern-most counties of Illinois.

There are still households in Carbondale, Murphysboro and Benton that still need support.  We have wish lists from households that includes clothing sizes.  To sponsor a family, contact Wally Paynter at or 812-480-0204

Donation can be made on-line at either or or sent by mail to Holiday Project c/o Wally Paynter, 908 B Oak Street, Carmi, IL 62821.

Friday, December 14, 2012

El Baijo Closed

The second Mexican related closing I have noticed recently, El Baijo on East Main has "Closed Down" on its sign.  I am assuming permanently, since there is no indication they just closed for vacation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Navreet Kang on Attendance

Since Navreet Kang's comment was posted in response to a post of a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to make sure more people read it:

I saw that a mention was made of my attendance at the Planning Commission meetings during the past year. Yes, it was 33% but it was due to some extenuating circumstances, and yes, I do care to elaborate. If anyone cares to go back longer, you're welcome to look it up at the city hall. My attendance record was even better, but here is my past five years' attendance record:

Year Attendance

2007 100%
2008 100%
2009 78%
2010 75%
2011 33%

In 2010, I had a baby boy, and my wife was working mostly evenings while I had to take care of my son during those times, thus missing the meetings. I had always offered to attend in case there was a lack of quorum to the Planning Division. I wanted to seek a seat on the City Council 3 years ago, but due to these commitments, I stayed back. Now my son will be 3 years old, and my wife having better employment hours, I will be able to devote all the time necessary to carry out my duties as a Councilman.

Navreet Kang

City Council Meeting

Last night's City Council meeting got rolling fairly late last night.  I didn't turn on the television to watch until after 8 and the public hearings regarding establishment of the two new TIF districts were still going on.

Given that I had been told during earlier in the day that there was no opposition to establishing either TIF district (incidentally, it rather surprised me to hear both Mayor Fritzler and City Manager Kevin Baity refer to the two TIF districts as established rather than proposed in their State of the City speeches.  Neither has been approved by council yet, hence tonight's hearings), the number of people who rose to speak against TIF district #3, encompassing the old school complex, the National Guard Armory and the stretch of Oakland between the two, surprised me. Almost all were concerned with business encroaching into what is currently an area zoned for residential use.  Baity pointed out the area would have to be rezoned in order for a purchaser to make any business use of the properties.

This, of course, leads to two quetsions:

1. Why is Oakland Avenue Auto Repair still operating in an area zoned for residential use?
2.  What use could any purchaser make of either the Armory or high school buildings unless they are rezoned or granted a special use exemption?  Neither is suitable for residential use as they stand.

The proposal to move appointment of the city clerk back under the city manager passed with only one vote against it.  The major concern appeared that the clerk's position was important enough that the holder of the position should come directly under council control.  However, the rest of the council did not share the same concerns.

The request for more funds for the Convention and Tourism Bureau passed without any controversy. Since I sit on the CCTB board, I will pass on making any further comments.

Next up was a revision to Carbondale's panhandling ordinance banning unlawful panhandling on an business zoned property or any public property.  Two groups spoke regarding the ordinance.   One, business owners and organizations representing them argued that aggressive panhandlers affected business, disturbed customers and made employees feel unsafe. The other, community organizers and activists, argued that the ordinance would made it harder for the homeless and others living in poverty to get money for food and shelter.  Councilman Don Monty pointed out that the ordinance had no effect upon those who stood on a corner with a sign asking for donations, it was aimed at those who asked for money multiple times after being rebuffed originally.  If memory serves, I believe this passed, after lots of discussion, six to one.

During the discussion, it gradually became apparent that there are only about a dozen or so panhandlers in Carbondale that engage in the aggressive panhandling that disturbs businesses.  A reading of the relevant ordinance indicates that aggressive panhandling of the type described during the discussion is already illegal throughout the city, so it's not apparent what effect specifying more places where one cannot unlawfully panhandle will have, since according to the current ordinance, they can't do it already.  Seems to me it would be better to enforce the current ordinance against the dozen or so abusers rather than add on to the code.

If electrical aggregation takes place as I understand it from the discussion over the ordinance and we see the savings alluded to by councilmen Chris Wissmann and Don Monty, this should prove a winning proposition for the city and its residents.  From what I understand, Carbondale, along with Marion, West Frankfort and other communities, selected Select Energy Partners  to negotiate an price for electricity with a supplier.  Once a contract is negotiated, Carbondale will have to purchase from that supplier but could choose a different plan than other communities, i.e. Marion could select a plan that draws 10% of its electricity from green sources while Carbondale could choose one that drew 25%.  Carbondale residents will have the option to opt out, on an individual basis, of the negotiated contract and remain with their current (or another) provider.  This passed unaimously.

Finally, council voted to join the Southern Illinois Municipal Planning Organization, which includes all communities from Carbondale eastward to Marion.  The organization will focus on analyzing transportation needs for the area and federal law, dating back to the 1960s, mandates that municipalities must form one once the region's population exceeds 50,000 or forgo federal transportation dollars. Since we don't want to forgo federal transportation dollars, we join, unanimously.

Since it was now 11:30, I decide to skip citizen and council comments, though I did notice council candidates Jessica Bradshaw and Carolin Harvey still in the audience with Pepper Holder approaching the microphone as I left.

Liaison Technologies

As Mayor Fritzler mentioned in his State of the City address yesterday, Liaison Technologies is hosting a job fair today, looking to fill about 35 job openings.  More information here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

State of the City Address

Caught Mayor Fritzler's State of the City Address this afternoon. Apparently we have a McAllister's Deli coming to town and can expect to see (hopefully) Bandana's BBQ opening by the end of December.  2013 should see a new fire station open on the west side of town (and apparently, by some measure, Carbondale's fire department ranks in the top 10% of fire departments nationwide), work started on a bike path along the railroad tracks from campus to Town Square and long needed repairs and upgrades to the city's sewer and water systems.

Sales tax receipts have increased slightly but pension requirements still require substantial funding from the city and are of major concern.

The thing that really caught my attention was the mayor's reference to developing downtown as an "entertainment district". Others have proposed such a focus before, with talk veering betwix looking at downtown as the heart of Carbondale, as a shopping area or an entertainment district.  The entertainment district concept always seemed highly viable, especially given the concentration of bars and restaurants in the area, along with the Varsity Center for the Arts. What really struck me though was the mayor's reference to proposing some funding to actually develop the proposal in the form of an entertainment or food and drink tax or fee.  It will be interesting to see if anything actually comes of this, especially in conjunction with Carbondale Main Street's storefront rehabilitation projects.

Monday, December 10, 2012

City Council Meeting

The city council meets tomorrow night with quite a bit on the agenda. First up are public hearings on a pair of proposed TIF Districts, one expanding the current downtown area and the other setting up one encompassing the old high school complex and National Guard Armory on N. Oakland.  According to the minutes, council will not vote on these tonight, just hold the hearings.  I would expect the Northwest Carbondale Community Organization to have a representative at the meeting, as the proposed N. Oakland TIF brackets Oakland Avenue Auto Repair and would encourage more development in the area.  Avery Home Furnishings already uses the National Guard Armory for storage of overstock and I have heard rumors of a RC track coming to the property as well.

Council will have to approve this warrant as well, the largest of payments going to fire and police pensions and the Carbondale Public Library.

The annual report of the Planning Commission makes for some interesting reading.  Requests for rezoning and special uses have dropped by half from earlier in the decade.  Also, Commission member Navreet Kang, who is seeking a seat on the city council next year, attended only a third of the meetings, while member  Carolin Harvey attended all of them.

Also on the agenda is a proposal allowing the City Manager to appoint the City Clerk.  For most of the city's history, the mayor appointed the city clerk, with approval by the council in later years.  In 2003, council voted to allow the city manger to appoint the city clerk, only to change back in 2008.  Now, council wants to again put the clerk under direction of the City Manager, with authority to remove them from the office with approval of the mayor and council.

The Carbondale Convention and Tourism Bureau is requesting additional money from the funds held by the city from the hotel/motel tax  Total amount requested is about $188,000.

The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce has asked the city to strengthen its ordinances regarding aggressive panhandling. The ordinance would ban panhandling on a property zoned for business or on public property.  Not certain how this would stand up to a freedom of speech challenge. I have had discussions about panhandling with businesses in downtown and the freedom of speech concern has always come up.    A couple of months ago, Cape Girardeau's anti-flyering ordinance was overturned on a challenge from the  Ku Klux Klan as an infringement on the organization's freedom to communicate its message on unoccupied cars.  While not the same as someone walking up and asking you for money on public property, I could certainly see someone making a similar legal argument that the ordinance infringed on their right of free speech.

Finally, we have an ordinance authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with with other governing bodies in the region for the purpose of electrical aggregation through Select Energy Partners.  This just starts the negotiations so no idea when we might see any results.

Update:  Did want to point out, as was noted in an email, that Kang  has a new child, which accounts for many of his absences.  Prior to this year, his attendance ranged from 75 to 100%

Mexican Grocery

A & B Mexican Grocery on the west side of town, just off New Era Road, has closed.  I hadn't seen any signs of business there  for a couple of weeks.  The store is empty of products and there is a "For Rent" sign in the front window.  Guess using the traffic generated by El Vaquero restaurant to sell Mexican groceries to traffic didn't work out as well as hoped.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Winter Market

In case you would like to catch the grand opening of the Carbondale Winter Farmer's Market, it is tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Thomas School.  Not sure where at Thomas School but expect there will be signs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Fight on Campus

The DE has a story on a fight on campus this weekend involving at least 10 people.  It appears most of them have been banned from campus pending further investigation

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pita Alley

Pita Alley, specializing in Mediterranean cuisine/food, recently opened at 1711 West Main St.  So far the reviews have been good.