Koos, Media – you can quit pretending now

By:  Diane Benjamin

For months Normal Mayor Chris Koos has been pretending with the help of media that changing the Town’s Public Comment Policy is his idea.

It wasn’t!

Today the Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion that slaps him around on numerous counts.

(Did the AG suddenly start doing their job?  Maybe!)

Craig Stimpert filed a Request for Review on December 6, 2016.  He received the ruling today.

The 45 day rule before citizens can speak again was ruled a violation of the Open Meetings Act and the citizens right to address their government.

The Town attorney, Robert Day, claimed the 2 hour sign-up rule had been ruled okay by the AG back in 2013.  Quote from the letter:  “This statement is inaccurate”.  See the bottom of page 5.

The Town was also slapped around for demanding citizens only speak to items on the agenda.  In 2014 the AG ruled in another case that citizens should be able to talk about other items since the Council is allowed to talk about anything – as long as they don’t vote on items not on the agenda.

See the entire 7 page ruling H E R E   I highlighted the fun parts for you.

This is a great victory for citizens rights.  Bloomington and McLean County need to take notice since Bloomington wants to limit Public Comment and the County has never complied with the Open Meetings Act.

But the citizens of Normal aren’t done.

At the meeting Monday night, somebody needs to walk in 5 minutes before the meeting and ask to speak.  The Attorney General states they can’t rule until somebody’s rights are violated.  The AG will strike the 2 hour rule quickly if anybody is told they can’t speak.

Citizens are also not required to give any information except their name!  No address or who you are affiliated with.

I don’t know what fire has been lit under the AG’s office, other than a lot of bad publicity.  It’s nice to see a rather quick ruling – or maybe this one was just easy.

Monday night Normal should have a new ordinance for Public Comment on their agenda.  Let’s see how well they can read.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. blairwsmith says:

    This is awesome to hear Diane!!! Great work staying on top of this story and thanks for all you do.

    Fyi, I sent multiple emails to the AG with a similar response stating, “we can’t rule until somebody’s rights are violated”.

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  2. FIRST AMENDMENT!! And the “Power of the pen” IF ya don’t like them, THROW the bums out in APRIL!
    Thanks to ALL who so diligently work on these folks to keep them “legal”

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  3. Egg on Koos’ face!

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  4. Can’t wait to see if how the “local” media (doesn’t) report this story. RC???

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  5. I am an ardent supporter of open meetings, I have experienced the frustration of “closed” meetings myself. Diane it cost me nearly $20K to obtain legal determination of an issue I had with the Town of Normal, to this I am in complete agreement with you. Open meetings are essential to our right to pursue happiness as citizens. That being said, I do question continued criticism of the Uptown District in Normal. As a very minor developer, I have experienced working with Normal and the many departments that administrate our town. I have also worked with the City of Bloomington.

    When I look around the community landscape of central Illinois I realize one thing more than everything else. Quality of Life.

    We all complain about the use of our taxes. As a guy who has spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, in nearly every form, I learned something a long time ago.
    You get what you pay for, maybe not as much as we might want; however, when I walk down the streets of Normal I have noticed something incredible. The current environment has brought local families, students from ISU and IWU and visitors together.

    Walking and lounging around Uptown reminds me of a place I have not seen since 1969 when I attended ISU myself. Music, community, developing great links between the community and our future, the students. This is a great place to live, and while I have relocated myself to Nevada to shelter from oppressive Illinois Taxes, I have retained several properties in Uptown Normal and Bloomington. I did relocate a residential place in Uptown because I visit often to visit friends and family.
    This town is my home, even though my permanent residence is Las Vegas and I spend the majority of my time there, I support this community because of the commitment to improve this place. You, sometimes even I, criticize the machine that made these changes. That being said, please take a minute and look at the results found in surrounding communities. The Normal Environment stands tall. When I have questioned the actions of our town, I have never questioned the integrity of our city manager, (most) elected officials and the overall goal here, it is quality of life.

    Sorry I have rambled on here, but at a certain point a man has to do and say what needs to be done. I hope you will take a look at the end result here in Normal, if you have time I would like to enjoy a cup of coffee with you and show you what I’m talking about.

    That said Diane, I hope you continue to fight your fight, our fight and all that you consider good. I do agree with many of your thoughts, most specifically of The City of Bloomington
    and some of their questionable leadership. You have already summed up that the way to voice your opinion is to vote, enjoy freedom of speech and be a participant in this thing called life. By the way this is not an anonymous letter and if you want to use this correspondence, in-tact please, feel free to use my name it is Harry Fuller.

    While I have also questioned some of the methods used to make this place what is today, I have learned that often we must accept the autocratic direction of our government, this time I think the overall leadership is doing what needs to be done. Good luck with your ardent fight to protect this thing called freedom of speech, try to be care to not put so much sand in the vaseline that makes this thing work. I have paid the cost, taxes, to earn an opinion or two myself. Good luck Diane.

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    • Thanks for posting a dissenting comment that is both respectful and thought provoking.
      .

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      • There are very few I don’t print – mostly comments with ZERO value to anybody but the writer who thinks being stupid is cool. The vulgar or personal attacks on me I do save for future reference though!

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    • Craig Stimpert says:

      Harry,
      Thanks for your post. It helps clarify what this fight is about and why I filed my case with the AG. The fight is about the right to express your opinions in open and transparent government in whatever direction they may fall. Perhaps you and I have differing ideas about the direction of our town, but I certainly respect your opinions and will fight for your right to express them. I want to hear them, even if they differ from my own. When citizens feel as if their rights are being infringed, they will seek alternative forms of expression that are often inappropriate. That’s why I think the new public comment policy that is being drafted is still restrictive and will create more harm than good.

      Unfortunately Mayor Koos still does not get it. His comments about this ruling in this morning’s Pantagraph are unacceptable. He will proceed full speed ahead regardless of what the AG has to recommend. It’s clear it’s his way or the highway and free speech is still going to be restricted in the town of Normal even with the removal of the 45 day rule.

      Mayor Koos told Sound Ideas on GLT that he really resented Rep. Anderrson’s legislation, with all the issues facing Illinois he resents that this representative would focus on the town of Normal’s public comment policy. Yet, he fails to realize that his restrictive public comment policies affect not just us in Normal, but the entire state if not the nation and in that respect this is one of the most important issues facing Illinois. When citizens loose their right to speak and are restricted in being participants with their government we no longer have an open exchange of ideas and we will all suffer for this loss of freedom.
      Thanks,
      Craig Stimpert

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      • Harry Fuller says:

        Diane I ask if you have only posted this small part of my response? Thanks for letting me know. I think part of my response shown does not really express my opinion. Please let me know and please post my entire statement. I do support some of you feelings; however, I already mentioned that I did not want a partial recap as I would not have replied with my name with a statement that was “altered” via editing. As another human being, I herein request that you please only print my entire statement as I think that is the only way I would have ever sent a signed response.
        We both have opinions and I hope you will respect my entire statement as I have with your statements.
        Sometime we need to consider another persons ideas in whole to truly understand their reasoning on an issue? (Hopefully your email was merely a partial recap and the entire statement is reflected within your blog?)
        Fight the Diane, do it right and as you know the truth does set us free. Thanks Diane, you can call to discuss if you would prefer, 309-287-4804. Harry

        Sent from my iPhone

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      • I posted your entire comment!

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      • Harry Fuller says:

        I knew I liked you thanks, on my way driving to Las Vegas. Thanks Diane

        Sent from my iPhone

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  6. sticky bean says:

    “When I look around the community landscape of central Illinois I realize one thing more than everything else. Quality of Life.” Harry, I gotta ask you how something visual relates to this quality of life pc thing. Is it that just seeing the uppity town buildings you feel invigorated and such? I hate to pick but then again I hate that term quality of life because it is a term that is thrown around like some God-like intervention of peace for the world, yet this pc term when used is never qualified. Then there is that pesky question of wondering why you moved to Vegas (sin city, no state taxes) where your beloved home provides such a quality of life.

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    • Harry Fuller says:

      I grew up in central Illinois, my family is here. I sold my biz and wanted to retire. Illinois is driving more business out of Illinois than most other states. State Farm, Mitsubishi , Cat are just the beginning…I still maintain a residence in Normal; however, real estate taxes in Hawthorne $10k nearly, better digs in Vegas
      2K. Political corruption governors retire to federal pensions. That said, I love this place been around since 1969. Grab a cup of coffee sit down with your family or friends. Students, energy, music
      Uptown is more than new buildings, it has a personality, I’m not a politician, but Normal is focused. Agree quality of life is often overused, but when I look at my property in Normal and compare it with Bloomington. Hey thanks for your thoughts, I’m in town at least once a month. Hit me up for a cup of coffee Have a great weekend

      Like

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