At the conclusion of yesterday, September 12th’s City Council Meeting, we posted on the openNauvoo facebook page that the meeting was “unbelievable.” We have searched for a more descriptive term to describe it, and have come up empty. The meeting was at times very thoughtful, at other times it was difficult, and then there were the moments when it was outright unbelievable. Unbelievable in the sense that you would never expect these words to come out of an elected official’s mouth, and that they would be so weakly side-stepped. And also unbelievable that the City Attorney continues to participate in Nauvoo City meetings and disregard the law. This is absolutely a meeting our readers should review after reading this article.
On to the specifics, and we’ll try to cover them in the order they occurred in the meeting.
There was a minor error in the Agenda posted by the City Clerk (probably the City Collector in reality). It identified the Hotel Motel Tax Board under its old name, the Hotel Motel Tax Governing Board. When the Mayor suggested to the City Clerk that this needed to be corrected, she was dismissive, making a remark about how it had been the other way for so long. Unbelievable, considering it was in her role as the Nauvoo City FOIA Officer that the Attorney General of the State of Illinois notified her that her contention (as a representative of the City of Nauvoo) that the Hotel Motel Board was independent of the City was incorrect, and required correction.
The discussion of City Ordinance 2017-8 was one of the most unbelievable moments of the entire evening. The City Attorney herself made a change to the ordinance, but still represented it as the second reading of the Ordinance. This “Second Reading” was approved, and another vote was taken to authorize the waiver of the 3rd Reading. If the ordinance has changed, then the new version of the ordinance has never had a vote by the council to approve it. It then requires a 1st reading, which is actually what happened last night, a first reading of a new ordinance. Since it was voted on as a second reading, this was a violation, and should invalidate City Ordinance 2017-8 until it can be approved by the City Council properly. (65 ILCS 5/3.1-40-40)
Next up was the New Business portion of the meeting. The first excitement came when discussion occurred on the Center Stage Music request to use the former school for a Haunted House during the pumpkin walk. This is a popular attraction, and worthy of some indulgence by the City Council, but the fact that the token payment for use of the School one year ago ($50) was not paid to the City until recently, requiring several requests by the Economic Development Committee, would warrant some justifiable criticism. The Mayor and City Council members related concerns about damage to floors, doors and lack of a timely exit and cleaning of the building last year, as well as a fee of $100 this year. This was met by the representative of Center Stage Music defensively, with little willingness to take responsibility for previous issues. The new representative from the 4H organizations taking on the Haunted House this year seemed much more responsive, and had timelines, and supporting documents. With the recognizable charitable status of 4H, this should also alleviate the concerns about the Haunted House claiming donations to Center Stage Music the last two years, unbelievably, a for-profit business (not incorporated, or registered with the State as a Not-For-Profit).
In rapid succession came the Hotel Motel Board portion of the meeting, followed by Alderman Reynolds. The Hotel Motel Board, in their last meeting, rather than follow the City Ordinance, voted to request a revision of the City Ordinance that was just passed, that created their Board, related to the review of the Tourism Director (2017-8) . The President of the Board, Alderman Anozie, stated that they felt it was adequate to review every quarter, like a school teacher, rather than monthly as the City Council already requested when it passed the ordinance. (A side note: after five years in the position, the Tourism Director has still not had a single written review). The Mayor correctly notified them that this would require a revision to the City Ordinance, and also informed them that until a new ordinance is passed (if it is passed), they are legally required to operate under the existing ordinance, and that the Board President (Alderman Anozie) should get her Board to prepare a review of the Tourism Director before the next City Council meeting. The Board is already in violation of the new ordinance. In addition, and not discussed, will be the necessity to fashion a new contract for the Tourism Director if a new ordinance is in fact approved, since the existing contract also states that monthly reviews will occur. We were happy to hear questions by Alderman Reynolds (also a member of the Hotel Motel Board) regarding what the Board will need to do if the deficit (already identified in the last Hotel Motel Board meeting) continued. There was agreement that the decrease could require changes to the Hotel Motel budget, and expenses.
Alderman Reynolds question about the reduction in Hotel Motel taxes this year only made her next comments more unbelievable. One minute, she was pointing out the reduction in revenues the City is suffering, and the next minute she was suggesting that perhaps something should be done to limit nightly vacation rentals. In particular identifying one local company as a target. She claimed to have had numerous requests from citizens, but when pressed for specifics, simply replied that they think it “doesn’t look good” when visitors drive into town. The Mayor stood for liberty and educated Alderman Reynolds on the reality of property rights, telling her that the area she is concerned about is zoned for business (she lives in this business district), and that to limit their use would not be proper. One citizen attending the meeting questioned Alderman Reynold’s “targeting” of one particular business. She could only say “that’s not what I meant,” a comment we have heard before. Unfortunately, rather than dismissing this as unnecessary and unwarranted, the Council simply chose to say that this needed “more review.”
On a high note, a retired Police Chief badge was presented to Tom Hopp in appreciation of all his work in service to the citizens of Nauvoo.
The City as a whole has made progress in conducting meetings within the law. There were a couple of issues that should be addressed, but overall it was the attitudes of some individual members of City Government, outside of the procedural issues, that created the questions. This is a process, but unfortunately some individuals, and some attitudes keep raising their heads.