Quincy News

Aldermen 'shocked' by public response to proposed council reforms

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 11, 2020 12:01 am

QUINCY -- City Council members said Monday they have been surprised by the public's response to two proposed changes to the Quincy City Council, which will be up for a final vote at next week's meeting.

If approved by the Quincy City Council, the two proposed changes -- reducing the number of seats on the Quincy City Council and eliminating partisan elections for city offices -- will go before voters in November. If the measures are tabled or rejected by the City Council then the proposed changes will not be on the ballot in November.

"I have received a lot of input from citizens across all wards, and I have not had one positive comment about reducing the size of the council or going to nonpartisan government," said Alderman Mike Farha, R-4, who added that to have this level of engagement with the public surprised him.

"I would say that this is different, that maybe 10 years go, people were more involved. Now, they dislike politics and they don't like politicians, so to get 15 or 20 emails or calls that say a few of us are right, to ask why are we messing with this, then that means something to me," Farha said.

Several of Farha's colleagues, including Aldermen Eric Entrup, R-1, Alderman Jeff Bergman, R-2, Alderman Dave Bauer, D-2, Alderman Mike Rein, R-5, say they too have heard exclusively from residents who are vocalizing their displeasure with the proposed changes.

"Not a single person was for the idea of going with less than two alderman per ward," said Bergman.

Rein said of the handful of calls he has received and conversations he has had with constituents that "no one thinks this is a good idea."

Alderman Benjamin Uzelac, D-7, who has proposed the two ordinances said he is not surprised by the feedback.

"In my experience being on the City Council, people rarely reach out to you when they are in favor of something and they only tend to be vocal when they are opposed to something. I am not really shocked that most of my colleagues are hearing not necessarily positive feedback from their constituents," Uzelac said.

He and Alderman Jason Finney, R-3, were the only members of the to say they have heard from people who support the proposed changes.

Finney said that the majority of people who have spoken to him support reducing the size of the council. The current proposal calls for reducing the council from 14 seats to eight seats with the mayor remaining a tie breaking vote.

Uzelac said he too has received similar feedback, which is why he says he will be introducing two amendments to the proposed ordinance at next week's council meeting. The first amendment would move the city from seven wards to 10 wards with one alderman per ward. The second amendment would move the city from seven wards to five wards with two aldermen per ward.

"From talking to most of my constituents, they have been in favor of this and from talking to several of my colleagues it seems that 10 is a more comfortable number for everyone," Uzelac said.

Alderman Bergman has already said he won't be supportive of the proposed amendments next Monday, though he is open to forming a committee to discuss the amendments further.

"I can't support an amendment with less wards without going through the pros and cons, without taking a look at what that means for the work load for the aldermen," Bergman said.

Uzelac said he hopes to convince aldermen who are skeptical to still give voters the chance to weigh in on the proposed changes through the ballot box.

"I am certainly open to all input from my colleagues, including delaying this so we can all discuss it further," said Uzelac, who encouraged voters of all viewpoints to share their perspective with their aldermen in the coming days.

"I would ask that anyone who has any input on this, whether they are for this or against it, to call their alderman," Uzelac said. "I would remind everyone, my colleagues and the public, that if this is approved by us next week that it will go onto the ballot. For voters, who will vote against it in November, I would ask them especially if they are in favor of having the choice to vote no on Election Day. If they are in favor of that, then they should be saying to their representative on the council to give us the chance to vote on it."

A majority of voters would need to vote in favor of the referendums for them to take effect in 2023.

If approved by voters in November, those council members who are elected in 2021 would serve a two-year term in lieu of the traditional four-year term. All council positions would be up for a nonpartisan election in 2023 with the 2nd, 4th, 6th, and potentially new 8th and 10th ward aldermanic candidates running for two-year terms. Candidates in 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th and potentially new 9th wards would run for four-year terms in order to achieve a staggered election cycle.

In other business, the City Council approved spending $34,007 for the construction of a lime pumping station and rehabilitation of a lime building at the city's water treatment plant. The work will be completed by Williams Brothers Construction, of Peoria.

The council also approved paying $12,161 to Rees Construction, of Quincy, for their work on a collapsed sewer line on Seminary Road and paying $14,000 to Hoerr Construction, of St. Louis, Mo., for their work on sewer line repair project near 10th and Jackson Street.