Report from Normal’s Planning Session:

By: Diane Benjamin

Karl Sila attended this meeting:

Karl is circulating petitions to run for Trustee on the Normal Council.

He sent this report to me, staff has scrapped all previous planning for projects that haven’t been started yet. That includes subleasing the ridiculous rent for the second floor of 1 Uptown Circle.

Normal Strategic Planning by Karl Sila

I attended Normal’s strategic planning retreat.  Given that it is Normal government, suspicion was warranted but in this case unfounded.  This was mostly brainstorming for ideas and prioritization rather than a secretive nefarious plot. Department heads also participated, so total attendance was around 25.

Among other things,  facilitators presented already-completed focus group findings.  Mostly good points, but there were some fingerprints of The Town”s thumb on the scale since the focus  groups were set up through the town.

In one exercise where they broke up into ‘teams’, I was impressed with one breakout group.  While most focused on items from a governmental perspective, their responses recognized our political polarization problem and the need for better collaboration between different viewpoints.  (And it wasn’t even the Stan’s group!)

At one point there was a strengths / weaknesses / opportunities / challenges discussion.  Kathleen Lorenz listed a challenge something like “some people completely distrust government or anyone associated with it.”  Chemberly brought up diversity- there was a hint of ‘playing the race card’ but I was pleasantly surprised mostly her comments were actually valid points.  She started her input with something like “Most of these comments come from one perspective – I mean, look around the room.” (All but 2 present were white.) then later noted that historically Normal’s diversity wasn’t always inclusive – “You’re welcome here so long as you fit into what I want Normal to be.” (or something like that)

I bring up these comments in particular because I was never called on to provide input, even when the conversation lagged.  I would have added something to the effect of “Most of the comments here come from one perspective.  I mean, look around the room – I’m the only on here not being paid by the town.

Normal still has an anti-diversity, anti-inclusion attitude if you don’t fit in with ‘what Normal is supposed to be’.  A petition of 2 thousand  wanting voter rights is actively attacked, 4 thousand for the mural are ignored, dozens for each of several other issues in recent years all disregarded.  Normal has a major weakness of zero credibility when it comes to caring about resident concerns outside of what they Want to address.”  …but that apparently wasn’t a concern the town wanted to address.

Despite some notable shortcomings, overall I think this was a productive meeting for town planning.  The items that were overlooked were going to be purposely overlooked regardless, and it did well at bringing forth and prioritizing other efforts and concerns the town wants to address.





6 thoughts on “Report from Normal’s Planning Session:

  1. Correction…Not all prior plans that were not mentioned during that meeting were canceled. All staff-created and approved master plans continue. The only things canceled are past priorities, which the council majority set, that Pam Reece does not want to follow, like moving out or subletting the exorbitant 1 Uptown lease. (She had been working on this priority and for the past year has said she was in negotiations with a possible tenant.) Switching consultants and starting from scratch was a calculated tactic to give carte blanche authority for Pam to stop any momentum or continuity she believes is undesirable.

    I made the above concerns known when Pam announced she planned to fire Lyle Sumak. Interestingly, the decision to fire Lyle came after the citizen summit led by Lyle showed most attendees did not agree 100% with the Town agenda and Uptown 1st policy. I also reiterated my concerns at Monday’s meeting, which was immediately ridiculed.

    The 49% of the voters who did not vote for Koos need to know that in Normal it is winner takes all. I am repeatedly told they don’t need to listen to the perspective I represent because they have a super-majority without me. Under the Koos and Reece administration, there is no such thing as compromise. This is a sad consequence of elections.

    Stan Nord

  2. They have not demonstrated that they can be trusted, so I will continue to not trust them. (Not including Stan.) They only implement what benefits themselves and their friends. They completely disregard the residents/taxpayers/citizens. In fact, they loathe us. They have no respect for us. Their decisions lead to MORE debt, higher taxes. They do not deserve our support.

    1. Agree completely, which is why I went to keep an eye on them. But just because bad people do a thing doesn’t always mean it’s a bad thing.

  3. “Most of the comments here come from one perspective. I mean, look around the room – I’m the only one here not being paid by the town.” The most important statement of the day.

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