By: Diane Benjamin
Karl Sila attended this meeting: https://blnnews.com/2022/09/26/of-course-normal-is-planning-without-live-stream/
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.