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COMMENTARY: Decatur limiting public comments is the bastardization of transparency. You should be concerned.

(Heartland Newsfeed) — If you live in Decatur, Ill., you should be concerned. Concerned about your First Amendment rights to redress, petition and criticize your government for the ever-increasing pile of wrongdoings they have done to you.

During Monday night’s meeting of the Decatur City Council, mayor Julie Moore-Wolfe and three aldermen — Lisa Gregory, Chuck Kuhle and Pat McDaniel — voted to limit public comments to only the beginning of the meeting, meaning no public time to address meeting agenda items.

Previously, residents could comment on agenda items as well as at the beginning of each meeting, but with an “alleged” increase of critical public remarks in the past several months — as the Decatur Herald & Review claims — you can’t believe everything they say. It was also claimed that some of these remarks were “personal attacks.”

Boo frickin’ hoo.

It was a move that was widely criticized, with dozens of people speaking to the proposal. A motion on legitimate grounds to table the measure until the next meeting was quashed and will not allow absent alderman Rodney Walker a voice in the matter.

City manager Scot Wrighton, Moore-Wolfe, Gregory, Kuhle and McDaniel all present cockamamie excuses as to why the policy needs to change — and are even limiting how long they can speak (no longer than three members) or how they can communicate with members of the council.

Three members of the community — Jim Spaniol, Marc Girdler and John Phillips — were present to criticize this attempt to stifle their rights to speak up before their local government.

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Spaniol stated that the change is premature, isn’t ready for adoption and should be tabled, not impulsively implemented to suit the whims of Wrighton.

Girdler has been heavily critical of the council for months and stated that the vote will not limit the feedback of residents and even stood outside the Decatur Civic Center holding a sign, saying “Bring back the guillotine.”

Girdler has already expressed intent to run for city council in the next cycle in 2021, citing the hunger of its residents and “we will not eat cake” while stating that the current sitting members will be voted out not only in 2021, but also in 2023.

Phillips, business owner, former mayoral candidate and long-time meeting attendee, stated he felt the changes were directed at him when he offers input on items he deems important.

What Phillips stated — as reported in the same article — should be a damning testimony of the continued downfall of Decatur:

I’m not here to debate other peoples’ rules, I don’t care about all that. What I care about is this body and what we have done in the past. Let us be unique, let us be the only one that lets people talk.

I wonder if you really recognize that you are taking the next step in a war in this city. You have gotten it to the point now where people are yelling at each other and not being polite and doing all kinds of things and lack of respect, because there’s a belief that there’s no ability to affect things, no ability to be heard, and you’re going to make it worse.

I don’t want to see that war in this town. We’ve already gone through enough. We’ve shrunk enough.

Another regular attendee, John’s son John Jr., was critical of the proposal as well and submitted his objections in writing, but was unable to attend as a result of a meeting out of town.
There you have it. Decatur caves into the whims of an already corrupt city manager to limit your voice at council meetings. And the war that’s been warned? It’ll probably start in the court with litigation against the city. God forbid, I do not want to be in town for anything if an all-out war starts. It’ll won’t be people cannibalizing people in this war, because it would be a war against the people of Decatur against their corrupt municipal government.
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Jake Leonard, a broadcast media and journalism veteran, is the editor-in-chief of Heartland Newsfeed. Leonard is also GM and program director of Heartland Newsfeed Radio Network and a contributing writer for My Sports Vote, Ambush Sports and Midwest Sports Network. He resides at home in Nokomis, Ill. with his dogs Sparky and Buster.

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