Welcome to the new year, and with it, a desire to continue to better ourselves that is carried out through the setting of new goals and creating a plan to work toward fulfilling them.
For some, those goals will be personal betterment — to lose weight, stop smoking or get more education.
For others it will go beyond ourselves — maybe a plan to get more involved in an organization to help others.
With the ringing in of the new year, the Clinton Herald Editorial Board has been discussing what its members believe is needed to make Clinton a better place.
If you’ve read any of our coverage over the past year, you have probably noticed much of Clinton’s problems fall into the category of financial woes.
More specifically, emergency-based financial woes. The Emergency Medical Services billing settlement that is causing Clinton to pay $450,000 a year for 10 years, an ongoing cash flow crunch, depletion of cash reserves... the list has gone on and on over the past year as the Clinton City Council has been faced with critically important issues that have quickly surfaced and demanded swift action.
It has led us on the board to create our own list of new year’s resolutions that should be tackled by the City Council. And now is the perfect time to do so, what with two new councilmen, John Rowland and Julie Allesee, and new mayor Mark Vulich sworn in over the past week.
So here they are, the items that we believe the council must resolve in 2012.
First off, the EMS settlement. We would ask that the council step forward with a plan letting residents know if they intend to fight the settlement or will continue to plan budgets with the expense. And then part 2, that the council would open closed session minutes and records of council discussions concerning the settlement. At the very least, its members must give the community a reason why they can’t — an additional lawsuit, for example. If a fight against it is planned, then they should state a timeline detailing additional legal procedures so the community is assured that an answer is coming.
Next, we’d like to know more about the revenue plan for charging for garbage collection. We understand that with the mess up with the garbage cans that the city doesn’t feel it has an equitable way of charging customers. However, that doesn’t mean revenue collection should just stop. Remember the computer problems that halted sewer billing a few years ago? That didn’t work out so well. We need to be assured city staff doesn’t put us in that mess again.
Department head accountability is next on our list. We know that in our home rule charter system of government, we have created a weak mayoral position that calls for the city administrator to be the overseer of department heads. We also know there have been a lot of changes over the past few years in who those department heads are and there has been direct correlation between problems unearthed within city hall and the work done (or not done) by former department heads. We would ask that the city administrator continue working to make those department heads accountable. If not, replace them.
We’d also like to see improved communication among our city council members. One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard from residents is the lack of communication between our council members. It doesn’t mean we advocate private sessions, obviously. It means that the council must get the information it needs from department heads or the city administrator and if members feel that they don’t have enough, then they can’t sit back and be wary of asking for it. We’ve heard at least one councilwoman, who served council terms interrupted by a break from the council, say that she was curious as to why she wasn’t receiving complete information the second time around, but dismissed it as being just the way things must be done now. Also the council must work toward understanding each other’s points of view; in the past year at least, it feels as though everything is extremely polarized and that issues can’t move forward as a result.
The next issue is all about planning. We’d like to see a plan for bonding in the future and another for the possible sale of city property.
Along with that comes the plans for development. Clinton has many sectors and, therefore, many projects under way. We know there is a comprehensive plan under review for release in late 2012; we hope it clearly addresses who we are and where we need to be, as well as outlines plans on how to get there. We need that information for the benefit of the entire city and areas that include the downtown, Lyons, the west end and the riverfront.
We know this list is a tall order and not for the faint of heart and that much like attaining personal success when it comes to a new year’s resolution, asks for study, decision-making and implementation.
Let’s hope the council and city staff can work together to make these happen in the new year and that these resolutions, like so many proposed in a flip of the calendar, don’t fall by the wayside.
This is Charlene Bielema’s weekly take on issues in the Clinton area. She is a Fulton, Ill., native and has been employed with the Clinton Herald since June 1995. She has been the Herald’s editor since 2002.