Saturday, September 30, 2017

City Council Meeting

City council meeting taking place next Tuesday. Here's the agenda:

2.1 Approval of the City Council Meeting Minutes of September 19, 2017 2.2 Approval of Warrant for the Period Ending: 09/11/2017 FY 2018 Warrant 1312 in the Amount of $1,386,970.69 2.3 Approval of the Purchase of Lights and Poles for the Drainways/Greenways Path from Springfield Electric of Carbondale Illinois in the amount of $30,004.35 2.4 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute an Engineering Agreement with Thouvenot, Wade & Moerchen, Inc. (TWM) of Swansea, IL in the Amount of $125,300 for the Design of the Northwest Pedestrian and Bicycle Path (OS1704) 2.5 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Execute an Engineering Agreement with RJN Group in the Amount of $160,400 for Continued Work on the City's Sanitary Sewer Inflow and Infiltration Study (SA1301) 2.6 Approve an Obligation Retirement Resolution for the 2006 Street Improvement Program Bonds Payment of $450,000 from State Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) Funds 2.7 Resolution to Approve the Name of City-Owned Property as Founders Park and to Place a Sign on Said Property 2.8 Approval of Consent Agenda Items 3. General Business of the City Council 3.1 Resolution Authorizing the City Manager to Submit an Application for TIGER Funding for a Multi-Modal Station 3.2 Discussion of Community Investment Project (CIP) priorities for the Local Improvement Fund Budget 4. Council Comments for the City Council 4.1 An opportunity for City Council members to offer general comments 5. Executive Session 5.1 Vote to Enter into Executive Session 5.2 Approval of Closed Meeting Minutes; Declaring if the Need for Confidentiality Still Exists in Whole or in Part for Closing Meeting Minutes; and Authorizing the Destruction of Audio Recordings for Closed Meetings Conducted More Than 18 Months Ago

Thursday, September 28, 2017


Looks as if Curbside in the 200 block of West Main may be re-opening soon. The restaurant shuttered after losing its liquor license temporarily a few years back, planning to reopen when the license was re-instated. It never did and the place has remained dark for a couple of years.

However there have been signs of life and people inside for the past month and a new sign appeared on the door this week. No indication as to when the restaurant might open its doors though.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Chancellor's Speech

In case you missed the Chancellor's speech yesterday on his vision for SIUC, you can read it here. Given how important the University is to Carbondale and southern Illinois, if you are a resident of the region, you really should 

Monday, September 25, 2017

Job Multiplier Effect

According to research by Enrico Moretti of UC-Berkley, Carbondale would do better to pursue high tech jobs rather than traditional manufacturing job. Each high tech job added to a community raises local employment by 5 jobs, whereas added a straight manufacturing job adds 1.6 jobs to the community. That is not to say don't go after manufacturing operations but it would appear developing Carbondale's high tech infrastructure would prove a better investment in generating jobs in the city, as well as giving graduating students a reason to remain here, rather than decamping for Houston or San Francisco or Atlanta.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Email Regarding Fire House Sale

The following email was sent out to people on the Arbor District email list. Posted with permission:

Here's a update on Tuesday night's rather infuriating Carbondale City Council meeting from Board VP Dave Johnson. 

Despite many objections from residents of the Arbor District and other citizens, the City Council voted 6-1 to sell the old Fire Station to John Deas and Allison Smith, who plan to turn it into a mixed use property with an Art Gallery, artists' workshops, and a beer tasting room. This means that the proposal by Josh Klarer and his father to build a restaurant with brew pub is off. 

The fundamental objection we raised to this was the failure by the City Council to elicit any input from any citizens of Carbondale, including immediate neighbors and the Arbor District. We in the Arbor District had long made it clear that we hoped to play a role in the decision about what to do about the property--but we weren't the only ones to speak up tonight. Some of the most eloquent testimony came, in fact, from a neighbor who doesn't belong to the district, but lives next door to the affected property. She made it very clear that no one from the council had contacted her about the decision--and she herself did far more to survey her neighbors than anyone from the city did, and discovered that none of them had heard anything about the proposal from the city until after the proposal to sell to Deas and Smith had been put on the council agenda. She, like many other speakers, both from within the Arbor District and without (including former council members Don Monty and Lee Fronaberger), called for the council to step back, let both sides make their case, and take input from all interested citizens. 

Some at the meeting spoke in favor of the Deas/Smith proposal—more, in fact, than explicitly spoke in favor of the Klarer proposal. Most I know in the neighborhood favor the Klarer proposal, but no one I know in the Arbor District thinks the art gallery project is a bad proposal in itself, or that Deas and Smith did anything wrong. Our fundamental point was about process. The city shouldn't make decisions about what to do about public property without consulting with the public.

Perhaps the most striking thing at the meeting is that no one on the city council, to my recollection, defended their failure to consult with neighbors about this proposal. The position of those on the council who voted against us, inasmuch as I understand it, was this. The process the city used was legal (which is debatable, but I don't claim to understand the nuances of Illinois' open meeting law); it may not be a good process, but it is our usual way of doing business (this may be true, but there are other precedents for more open processes); we authorized the city manager to make a deal; he made a deal, and we shouldn't walk away from it. And it would somehow be unfair to Deas and Smith to back out now. 

But Illinois open meetings law explicitly forbids the council from making decisions in closed session. So the council was completely free to step back and reconsider the process. The city could not legally make any binding promises to Deas and Smith before tonight's meeting, so the only harm Deas and Smith would have suffered would have been a week of thinking they had a tentative deal in place. And for all we know the final decision may have been in favor of Deas and Smith even had the process been restarted. 

Some on the city council clearly resented their decision being questioned in the press and social media. To my mind the council lost any right to complain about arguments in social media and the press when it failed to seek public discussion in other forms. This whole thing would not have been argued out on TV and the newspaper--or at least wouldn't have been argued there with the same vehemence--if the city had bothered to ask citizens what they thought in the first place. 

Mayor Henry at one point blew up and asked why the Arbor District felt it had the right to oppose something outside its borders. We lay claim to both sides of the streets around our perimeter, as a matter of fact, and have had dues paying members on the "outside" sides of the border streets. But the larger point is that the city did zero consultation with any citizens of Carbondale about this. This isn't just about the Arbor District. Henry's quick anger obviously reflected longtime enmity between him and some in the district. He later tried to apologize, but continued to mischaracterize the Arbor District's position: we were not insisting on having our way by getting Klarer's proposal approved, as we made very clear. We did strongly argue for citizen involvement in city decision making--as did many other citizens from outside our neighborhood.

Henry also said at one point that he would allow no discussion of any proposal other than the one under consideration (the Deas/Smith proposal), He later relented, and allowed both Klarers to speak about their proposal. Deas and Smith also spoke about their proposal. So the merits of the two plans were briefly discussed--but the debate was utterly irrelevant, as it turns out, as the Council had already made up its mind. It was a "Public Hearing" where the decision had already been made in private and nothing the council heard would change anything. 

My own snap analysis was that six members of the council chose to stick together--not to backtrack on the decision they'd implicitly made in closed session—rather than to admit they erred and retreat in the face of outcry from a pretty large number of Carbondalians. That is, they chose loyalty to the city council over loyalty to the people they are supposed to represent. 

The sole member of the city council to vote in opposition to the sale was Navreet Kang. He made the process argument, and also argued that the sale was financially irresponsible given that the Klarers offered more money and would bring in more tax revenue. To my mind he is to be commended for his vote. 

Members who voted to go forward with the decision made in closed session without any public input were Mayor Mike Henry, and council members Jessica Bradshaw, Brad Doherty, Tom Grant, Carolin Harvey, and Adam Loos. 

Dave Johnson, for the Arbor District

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New Car Wash

New car wash going in just south of the intersection of Giant City Road and Hwy 13. Given that the Dirtbuster Carwashes just sold and the old car wash at the intersection of 13 and Sycamore has been demolished, I wonder if there is enough demand for another one in town. I can think of 4 in Carbondale offhand, the two Dirtbusters, on on East Walnut and one on the southside at the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Hwy 51. Given that this new wash will only be about 4 blocks north of the eastside Dirtbusters, I cannot see demand for both washes in that area.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Carbondale Crime Rate

Despite its reputation as a high crime community, the crime rate in Carbondale has actually declined abut 25% over the last decade. The number of auto thefts held steady in the low 30s but every other crime tracked has seen slight to significant declines

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fire Station

The old fire station at the corner of Oakland and Walnut was due to get approved for sale at tonight's city council meeting. The city wanted $82,000 for it and that amount was offered by Joshua Klarer who wanted to open a restaurant and microbrewery in the location. However, unless something changes, the city has opted to accept a bid of $50000 from John Deas and Allison Smith who plan to open studio space and a tasting room at the location.

The city cited the residential nature of the neighborhood, which has hosted a fire station there for decades, and the difficulty of access to parking, only available from off Walnut Street, which doesn't seem to bother any of the restaurants located on South Illinois, also a one way street.

I have no problem with the "secrecy" with which the discussions were held, though more input from the community might have been helpful. As the mayor points out, such decisions should be made without undue influence and council members should vote in private. My major concern is that, in a time when sales tax revenues in the city are down, the city has opted to take a facility that, if the restaurant opened, would generate sales tax revenues, while artist studios will not. Given that, due to budget needs,  the city voted to extend a sales tax due to sunset this year, an extra $32,000 in city coffers might be helpful. Additionally, if the city might have to suit Klarer's needs, as stated in the article, why are those spaces not equally suitable for Deas and Smith's studio?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Thai Taste Reopens

Thai Taste reopened for business last Saturday at lunch time after closing for 2 days while repairs were made from an accident wherein a car, doing a 180 after getting clipped on the rear end, smashed into the restaurant's north wall. Repairs to a smashed drainpipe were completed Friday and, while Tyvik still covers the hole in the wall, the restaurant reopeend with a clean bill of health Saturday.

Friday, September 15, 2017

True Value Hardware Sold

To Cotton Hardware out of Columbia IL

An anchor of the Carbondale retail sector will soon be changing hands. George Sheffer, who, along with his wife Diane, has owned Murdale True Value for more than 35 years, has announced plans to sell the store to Cotton Hardware effective Dec. 1.

“We appreciate so much all of our customers and friends from Carbondale and throughout Southern Illinois, and especially all of our team members,” Sheffer said. “We have so much to be thankful for.”

Under his leadership, Murdale True Value has grown to one of the flagship stores in the True Value organization and is often used as an example for other stores to follow. The store has won numerous honors both nationally and locally, including being named the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce’s Business of the Year for 2016. Murdale True Value has been an active supporter of community and charitable causes including Southern Illinois Athletics, the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, St. Francis Animal Care and many others. Sheffer said that new ownership has expressed a desire for the store to continue community involvement.

“Cotton Hardware cares about their communities. They are very locally-focused,” he said.

Sheffer, who has owned Murdale True Value since 1985, added that current employees will continue with the store following the sale.

“Utmost in our thought process was our team members here – to make sure they continued to have good jobs and are able to support their families. Everything will be the same here,” he explained.

The Sheffers will continue through the ownership transition – a process expected to last two months. He added that he will remain in Carbondale.

“This is our home,” he said. “We will still be living in Carbondale and will remain active in the community.”

Columbia Illinois -based Cotton Hardware owns ten other retail locations. The Carbondale store will be the first to include a locksmith service, appliance department and rental.

The Cotton family stated, “We are looking forward to working with the great residents and businesses in the Southern Illinois Region. Giving back and supporting the local community has always been a cornerstone of our business model. It is our intention to continue the great service and support that you have come to expect for Murdale. We are truly blessed to be a part of your community.”

Sheffer said the coming months for him will be a time of reflection and appreciation to the community. 

“All of our great customers have made everything possible,” Sheffer said. “We will be forever grateful to all of them.”

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Trick or Treat Hours

Mayor announced hours for Trick or Treating in Carbondale this year. Happily, we are continuing to do trick or treating on actual Halloween rather than pushing it to the last Saturday in October as some places have done. Halloween belongs on October 31, not on a weekend night:

 Carbondale Mayor John “Mike” Henry is excited to announce trick-or-treat hours for Halloween.
Kids can trick-or-treat throughout Carbondale on Tuesday, October 31 from 5-8 p.m.
Residents wishing to hand out candy to “trick-or-treaters” should light up their porches and driveways.
“Trick-or-treaters” are encouraged to wear reflective tape or clothing and have their parents check their candy for potentially harmful objects.
Mayor Henry and members of the City Council ask for the cooperation of all residents in making this a happy and safe occasion for our community.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Accident at the corner of Main and Illinois tonight about 7 p.m. From the video, it appears the car in the photo got clipped by another car heading north on Illinois, spun around and went through the wall of Thai Taste. At least one person in the hospital and Thai Taste has closed for the rest of the evening. Very hard to serve customers with a 15' hole in the wall.

We're Number 86, We're Number 86 compiled a ranking of the top 100 safest colleges and universities in the US and SIUC came in at #86. The ranking is based upon statistics gathered from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting and the National Center for Education Statistics. Colleges that made the list reported both low levels of crime both off and on campus. Take that, reputation of Carbondale as an unsafe city.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Turning The Corner

One of the terms I kept hearing people use during the after-eclipse forum was "turning the corner", as in the eclipse traffic helped downtown turn the corner towards revitalization. We shall see but SIUC's administration has used the same phrase to describe university enrollment and strategy for almost two decades now and the only result I have seen is the continuing decline in enrollment. While I was happy to see the traffic and emphasis on downtown prior to the eclipse, it looks still to early to say if downtown has "turned the corner" yet or not.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Drones in Carbondale

Attended a presentation on drones today and apparently it is illegal to fly a drone within 5 miles of an airport without authorization from the FCC, which means that almost all of Carbondale is off limits. Most of Carbondale, except for a small swath along the southeast edge by the Dunn Richmond Center, is within 5 miles of Southern Illinois Airport and therefore covered by the ban.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

SIUC Down Again

Attendance for the fall semester dropped below 15000 students , although the administration, working to put a positive spin on it, pointed out that this class has a higher average GPA than last year's class and that SIUC was attracting more transfer students. That is all well and good, but the institution still has fewer students than last year and no amount of spin will change that. I hope, with the new chancellor, Carbondale will see some long term strategies put into place to turn around this decline. Maybe, instead of going after students from the collar states, the university should work harder to make it the first choice of seniors in the southern Illinois region?

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Eclipse Session

The city will host another listening session for feedback about eclipse events and handling at the Civic Center on Sept. 13 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Some things I hope they incorporate sooner than 7 years from now:
1.  Annual welcome back concert for students the Saturday before SIUC open
2. More open container weekends, with significant police presence
3. Planning for the next eclipse starting NOW.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Eclipse Followup

Attended yesterday's forum/discussion/reflection on how Carbondale dealt with the eclipse and traffic generated by it. Overall people were pretty happy with it. Dairy Queen, Town Square Market, McDonalds, Longbranch, and P. K.'s all reported the best sales days in their history and other restaurants reported doing triple what they would over a typical weekend.

City staff and the police department received kudos for the smoothness of operations and the amount of personnel out on the street. Attendees attributed that presence to the ease with which the relaxed alcohol was enacted (only three arrests to my knowledge) and the little litter left on the ground, "less trash than after the Lights Fantastic parade" one person commented.

One regret commonly expressed was that there was not more outreach to students and co-operation with the university. It appeared to a number of people that student involvement with eclipse events stopped at Mill Street.

Some things people indicated they would like to see carry forward from eclipse weekend:

1.  More police on foot patrolling the downtown area. They are there, but often sitting in vehicles watching passerby.
2. More opportunities to relax liquor regulations, allowing people to leave a restaurant or bar with a cup of beer or glass of wine.
3. Some sort of "Welcome back" festival the weekend before classes start at SIUC, to encourage both students and locals to go downtown.

New Ice Cream Store

Looks as if Carbondale is getting a new shop for ice cream on Giant City road, likely in the retail complex that houses Moe's