Update -------------- May 5, 2009
Quincy, IL - Supporters are calling it 'the great speech *never* given' in Quincy. We've heard from some people today who are fuming after Monday night's Quincy City Council meeting.
Seven Democratic aldermen voted to deny a Quincy resident listed on the council agenda the opportunity to address the council.
Two former Quincy mayors, both a Democrat and a Republican, tell us it's a move they've never seen before. We wanted to know more, and to get answers to some of the questions we've heard.
Quincy resident Steve McQueen says he was shocked the council voted against letting him speak.
McQueen said, "I was utterly in shock. Never did it cross my mind that they wouldn't allow me to speak."
As one of the organizers of the Quincy Tea or Taxed Enough Already party, he filed a request and was placed on the city council agenda to speak against the city's recently approved $31.2 million budget. That budget, approved last week, includes water and sewer fee increases along with pay raises for city employees.
But when it was time to suspend the rules and let McQueen speak, aldermen voted along party lines...seven Democratic aldermen against hearing McQueen's speech versus the six Republicans in attendance voting for it. 2nd Ward Alderman Steve Duesterhaus told us the denial has nothing to do with First Amendment rights..it has everything to do with operating by the rules.
Duesterhaus said, "Typically, we grant that but there's an expectation of the council that the topic addressed is a timely topic. In this case it's not a timely topic, it's two weeks past and there was plenty of opportunity to address this."
In fact, 2nd Ward Alderman Steve Duesterhaus says the process to approve the budget and fee increases has gone on for more than a month...with 3 readings of the ordinances as well as a public hearing to listen to residents' concerns four weeks ago. Mayor John Spring confirmed to me that no one from the public, including McQueen, showed up at that public hearing.
Why did you wait until after the issue was passed to do something about it?
McQueen said, "I have a job. I have a career so I can't always make it to every city council meeting. But one thing I know there is no closed book on any issue in democratic government. I fully expect my city council, my congress, my president for that matter is ready to engage in dialogue in any issue at any time regardless of whether its passed or not."
We also heard questions about why the mayor voted on the budget last week, but didn't vote on this issue. Mayor Spring told us the mayor does *not* vote except in the case of a tie, or in matters of spending.
And the mayor says he hopes this council, which is politically divided in half, can work together on a bipartisan basis.
59:42 My hope is simply because we do have seven Democrats and seven Republicans that we don't see every issue decided along party lines. I've not seen that the last few years. However, it has been in the last two meetings. I hope we can work together.
McQueen says his fight to be heard isn't over.
McQueen said, "I'm a little troubled this even occurred. I'm going to continue to follow this I'm going to continue to do what's right and I'm going to do it peacefully and professionally."
McQueen says all he wanted to do was talk to the Quincy city council...now he is getting calls from Chicago news organizations.
As a side note, KHQA also talked with Ward 5 Alderwoman Jennifer Lepper.
She told us she's working on an ordinance to amend the 2009-2010 budget as it is published, to freeze salaries on non-union city employees and all elected officials. We'll let you know what happens.
Posted Monday, May 4, 2009------------------------------------------
The Quincy city council held its second meeting of the day Monday evening, the first session of the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Four returning aldermen and two new aldermen--Kyle Moore in the 3rd ward and Dan Brink in the 6th--were sworn in before the meeting.
Aldermen voted 7 to 6 to refuse a request to speak. The vote was strictly on party lines, with democrats saying no to the request from Quincy Tea Party organizer Steve Mcqueen. He had asked to address the council on the subject of last week's budget approval and the increase in water and sewer fees.
After the motion was rejected, 4th ward republican Mike Farha began to say he was disappointed, but was cut off by a point of order from 2nd ward alderman Steve Duesterhaus. He pointed out that the particular form of motion that calls for letting someone address the council does not allow debate from the aldermen.
After the meeting Duesterhaus said the budget had three public hearings and three readings at council meetings where any member of the public could have spoken on the subject.
The council's seven democrats were able to reject the request partly because 5th ward republican alderman Mike Rein was not able to attend the session. had he been present the vote would have been tied 7 to 7 and the mayor would have cast the deciding vote.
Also tonight aldermen granted authority to police chief Rob Copley to enter into a two-year agreement with Motorola to receive 34 starcom-21 radios. Those radios are now in use by the state of Illinois and allow easy communications throughout the state. Adams County Sheriff Brent Fischer obtained a grant to pay for the radios and two years of fees to cover both the county and the city, so the project requires no city tax dollars.
And the 3rd ward's new alderman Kyle Moore lost no time in fulfilling his campaign promise to set the wheels in motion for posting of the city budget online, with frequent updates. That motion was approved and will go to the proper authorities for development and possible implementation.