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City Council Tonight - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Jan. 21st, 2004

01:53 am - City Council Tonight

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City Council was intense tonight.

The mayor's sister and father came out opposed to the mayor's and the council's stance. Council members had close friends and supporters coming out against their stance. Council members believed that their hands were tied by the law, that even if they opposed Walmart that they had to approve this preliminary plat because everything was up to code. My favorite council member left the chamber yelling at the folks who worked on her campaign but now opposed her stance (including me) and in tears. The meeting ran from 7:30pm until nearly midnight. Of the 40 people that expressed an opinion, 2 were in favor of Walmart.

One thing became clear. This is what the one council member was yelling at us about, and she was right. We need to make this into a movement. We can't come to one council meeting and demand change and then go home and do nothing. We have to organize picketting. We have to organize behind specific laws that we want council to pass and advocate for those. We have to educate the public about places they can shop other than Walmart. We have to educate the council on ways they can creatively oppose the Walmart.

I still think tonight's vote didn't have to be a done deal. I still think the council could have been (and can still be) more proactive in preventing Walmart from coming to town. But I do feel bad for the council members that are taking the brunt of the criticism. I remember when I was the Chair of a committee that was dealing with a very divisive issue and people accused me of being unjust and lacking social consciousness about the issue and it brought me to tears because I was doing my level best to be a fair mediator. I can imagine that same pressure but magnified by thousands and thousands of people telling you you are a bad person for doing the thing that you think is the best thing among a nest of bad options.

In other news the same council passed a Domestic Partner benefit tonight that extends the right to take bereavement and sick and family emergency medical leave to same-sex couples with a declared domestic partnership. That was cool.

Current Mood: overwhelmed

Comments:

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From:aethyric
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:58 am (UTC)
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i rescind my remark. it's good to read your words. ;)
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 08:03 am (UTC)
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Thank you.

I'm a little intimidated and honored that anyone would use me as a first source of information on anything. :)
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From:aethyric
Date:January 21st, 2004 01:34 pm (UTC)
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*chuckle* it's not that serious, i promise. information can, and should, be found through a variety of sources. i merely appreciate your opinions on that information.
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From:aethyric
Date:January 21st, 2004 08:03 am (UTC)
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oh, and, it's actually better that you were out in town doing something, anything, like this tonight. imho.
*hang head*
*rewind tombstone*
*go to bed*
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From:folkyboy
Date:January 21st, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC)
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everytime Wal*Mart moves into a neighborhood, the land value goes down considerably. i understand why ANYONE would oppose Wal*Mart
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From:sarpo
Date:January 21st, 2004 05:50 pm (UTC)
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Can a City Council do things like give rights to same-sex couples? Sick and medical leave seem like something companies grant - does a city council have authority into that? It's cool, if they can.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 06:03 pm (UTC)
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This was for city employees only. So the city, as an employer, can grant it to it's own employees. They can't force the terms of a benefits package on other employers, as far as I know.

The city does have a human rights ordinance that says that employers can not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. There is some legal question as to whether that ordinance is trumped by Illinois' Human Rights Act which does not currently mention sexual orientation. But theoretically workers could sue employers if they felt they were discriminated against on this basis in Urbana.
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From:sarpo
Date:January 21st, 2004 06:09 pm (UTC)
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Ah, I see.

Here, SF helps pay for its transgender employees who want to to undergo sex-change operations.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 06:27 pm (UTC)
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I'd heard about that.

Urbana still hasn't even extended health care benefits to same-sex partners of city employees. That's next on the agenda. This was a sort of first step.

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From:arun251
Date:January 22nd, 2004 01:06 am (UTC)
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It was somewhat shocking that people were objecting to this first step. Not too much, because the conservatives can see which way the ball will roll, but even when they were complaining about expenses and taxes and such.... 1) The cost should be negligible. 2) If we want to scrimp, should we also rescind the same benefits from married employees? No, that would be unthinkable... too scrooge-like and un-Christian.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 22nd, 2004 05:12 am (UTC)
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Yah, in fact there was a guy there who kept going on and on about "this is great in theory but who is going to pay for it, are you going to raise our taxes?" and D. said to him "well if you are worried about expense of benefits we could save a LOT of money if we just limitted the number of children that straight couples could have, would you like us to do that?"

The cost really will be completely negligible, it's such a trivial thing and there was really no opposition to it.

The insurance fight will be harder but ultimately I think it will also be won without TOO much resistance. I guess one of the stumbling blocks was getting their insurance company to even give them a quote of the cost of a policy that would cover domestic partners. Previously the city's insurance providers both refused to provide that kind of coverage.

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From:eee1313
Date:January 21st, 2004 06:18 pm (UTC)
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If there's any way I can add my voice to the list of those opposing a Wal-Mart in Urbana, let me know. I know I don't live there anymore, but that still pisses me off like nobody's business.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:36 pm (UTC)
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i woke up to d. on WILL this morning and she sounded incredibly upset. she mentioned you. i am really glad we went to bed before she got home, because i don't think that hearing what i think, and what sascha thinks on the subject would have cheered her up at all.

did maiko's petition get out?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:42 pm (UTC)
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Yah the petition was delivered with 300 signatures.

What'd she say about me on the radio? Did she mention me by name? That's pretty intense. What show was it?
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:45 pm (UTC)
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i don't know what show it was specifically. whatever is on WILL between 8 and 8:30 or so in the morning.

she said that she hates her job on issues like this because it pits her against people who she agrees with. she said that you had approached her and urged her not to "vote for walmart" and she was like "vote for walmart? i would NEVER vote for walmart. i would never vote for a company that..." and then listed off a few of their finer (teehee) business practices involving child labor and sexism and heterosexism. then she mentioned that they couldn't do anything because walmart was following the code so it wasn't their fault.

which is pretty much what i expected them to say. they have switched their main approach from "it's good for the economy of the city, it brings in tax revenue" to "we can't do anything about it because they're doing everything right, paperwork-wise, even if they're evil."

and yes, she mentioned you by name. she said, "my good friend zach miller."
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:59 pm (UTC)
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That's how she refered to me in her comments during council. I don't mind that. I do need to sit down one on one with her and hash out some of this interpersonal grief that my appearance seems to have caused. I want to be able to still work with her on IMC radio and whatsuch and she was really pissed last night.

I asked council members to go on record saying they opposed Walmart. She did that. I was happy. I don't know why she was so upset that I dared ask it, I wasn't just asking her. The other council members did NOT go on record with a stance regarding Walmart.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 09:24 pm (UTC)
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i'm curious as to what exactly was said before she started crying. i have seen her having heated debates about things she feels very strongly about with STRONG opposition but i have never seen her cry about it. i was kind of expecting that would happen though, given that this is the most RIDICULOUS time that's occurred.

what was otto's conflict of interest?

i would have really liked to see the councilpeople who i know are actually morally opposed to walmart (and its ilk -- because it is certainly not the only store of that size and demeanor) abstain from voting on grounds of MORAL CONFLICT, but i don't know if that's possible or not.

is it?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 09:56 pm (UTC)
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I have no idea if such moral abstentions are allowed. If they really wanted to abstain I guess they could have just "been sick" like Huth and Whelan. That seems kinda lame though.

The tears were after the meeting to a small group of us gathered outside. I asked her if she was too mad to at least give me a hug. At first she said she was and started walking away and I said "we'll just talk later then." Then she said that actually she'd give me a hug because she loves me and love is absolute but she was really pissed. Then she launched into an extended version of her speech from the council floor about how people can't just whine to council, they need to make a movement. And like I said, I think she's right, and I'm totally sympathetic to the incredible stress and trauma of having your friends be pissed at you because of your actions as an elected official.

I think she took a lot of stuff that was said by a lot of the speakers very personally. Someone made a reference to the city "whoring itself out" and she took that to be a person calling her specifically a whore. Similar with every other random overly-dramatic insult that the less mature citizens hurled at the city.

The tears came while we were in stunned silence while she gave us what for. I think all the stress was just getting released and she couldn't hold it in anymore.


Otto's conflict as best as I can gather is that his brother is a real estate agent who is involved in the deal in some capacity. I'd like to learn more about that. It seems Really fishy to me.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 08:01 pm (UTC)
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Actually I kind of wonder if what you heard was a recording of her speech from the council floor because it sounds IDENTICAL now that I think about it.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 09:25 pm (UTC)
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it was a recording, i'm pretty sure. but then again, i was half asleep and i wasn't there last night so i can't tell absolutely.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC)
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scuse me. by "their fault" i mean that she says it's not HER fault and she can't be held responsible for it.
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 07:58 pm (UTC)
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Which is partially true. But only partially.

I do think people are expecting more out of council than council can do. The fucked up thing about this country is that corporations are afforded Equal Protection Under Law as if they were persons. So, I think, if Walmart could make a case that the city was targetting them specifically rather than targetting a general kind of development that Walmart could sue the city.

Then again, such a lawsuit would be interesting.
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From:juvenilia
Date:January 21st, 2004 09:31 pm (UTC)
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there should be something that allows for oversaturation of the market. i mean, it's not like the OTHER TWO WALMARTS and MEIJER and every super grocery store is running out of all their stock. if that was the case, then sure, i would have to concede that we have to have supplies for the population, but there aren't that many people here.

also, i would think that the environmental aspects (drainage, traffic to a certain extent) would have pissed off those people who weren't already pissed about the lowering of their property value. i would NEVER buy a house in that particular subdivision but a lot of people i was friends with in high school lived out there specifically because their parents wanted to live in suburbia -- some place where their kids could play in the street safely.

maybe that's why laura huth didn't show at all? conflict of interest?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 21st, 2004 10:03 pm (UTC)
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Well I think there's plenty of room to alter the city code to prevent bad box stores from coming to town. But I don't think they can alter the code once walmart has a plat in progress because that'd be ex post facto or whatever.

Of course they could have refused the zoning change. But that's done with now.

They do have leverage over the environmental aspects but according to all the city engineers Walmart is meeting the environmental requirements of the city code. They're building a big retention pond, their street lights will point down, they're putting in trees, etc. The thing is that most of the neighboring property owners say that they were told the post office construction that is already out there wouldn't increase their flooding because studies had been done and it did anyway.

As far as over saturation of the market goes, I suppose the standard response from government officials would be that that is something for the market to deal with not for government. And to some extent they're right: government can't possibly make itself expert on market conditions for every business in the municipality.

The sad thing is that in the end, 10 years from now, we'll end up with another hulkingly empty building in a newly invented business district. I just wish that if we did have to bring in box stores we could put them where we already have box stores like by Farm and Fleet or Sunnycrest.
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From:lost_not_forgot
Date:January 22nd, 2004 02:42 am (UTC)
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so...organizing and picketting then?
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From:zarfmouse
Date:January 22nd, 2004 06:21 am (UTC)
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That's certainly what I'm thinking. I need to wait until next week before I make a call to action. If someone beats me to it more power to them!
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