One Old School Opinionated and Biased Nitpicking Session Over the Village Midlothian Regular Board Meeting held March 14, 2018 by Midwestern Valerie
***Note to new readers: When I used to publish to the Advanced Midlothian Politics group on a regular and sometimes exclusive basis, the group and I fell into an “after meeting habit” so to speak. I was the only person video taping board meetings and would typically hurry home to not only upload the video as quickly as possible, but to produce a series of apolitical and neutral posts about items talked about at the meeting. Initially, I would publish the notes as one post but it seemed to make it awkward for people to talk about any singular issue without possibly being dragged into another issue in the post. I thought about posting each of the items listed below as singular posts, but there are some bigger points to be discussed besides any one topic brought up at the meeting and it was important for me to show just how many different thoughts can cross one’s mind when watching a Village of Midlothian board meeting. I tried to come up with headlines for all of the points of interest I noted, but ran out of originality.***
Hot mics can create hot messes: From zero to 1 minute and 26 seconds, one can catch quite a few pieces of conversations flowing from those with a microphone in front of them, namely our core government officials. I can only hope no one on the Board has ever cared if any recording device picked up any of their conversation prior to the start of a meeting.
It’s Here, It’s Gone, It’s Back Again…and Hmmm…Nothing Really New: Until former Mayor Sharon Rybak stopped the practice, previous Mayors would recognize those in attendance with a municipal or local organization or group. When Rybak stopped the practice a few years ago, she ended up deciding it wasn’t important to ask if anyone wanted the public to know they were in attendance at the meeting…but that was just a small part of her communications consolidation power play.
Current Mayor Gary L’Heureux reinstated the practice near the beginning of his administration last year. So why does it seem there are no new attendees at these meetings now being hosted by L’Heureux wanting to go on record as being in physical attendance? I would like to think at least the President of the Chamber of Commerce and maybe a school board member or even township member would want to show up every now and again as a Civic Duty Shoutout on how to lead by example on ways people can become civically involved.
Another Here, Gone, Back Again Notation: I can’t remember every detail to the history of the use of the Consent Agenda, but especially under Rybak, the proper adoption procedures were never truly followed on a significant number of them. For example, the entire document is supposed to be offered up as an exhibit for public record purposes as to what the Board is specifically voting on and too often, the Consent Agenda was never read out loud into the record at a meeting, thus creating an artificial need for the document to be located to learn of what was on the list for approval. Now there are parliamentary procedures that allow for a suspension of this rule about reading the document out loud and accept it in only its written form, but that’s part of what was not always followed. Just like with ordinances that technically are supposed to either be read out loud or a vote must be taken to skip over that particular part. At least L’Heureux read the list out loud into the record…for this meeting. Haven’t had time to check other meetings from the past few months.
Onward Into A Cloud of Due Diligence Doubt: On the agenda, line item #11 states that 3 “radar signs” will be purchased from Elan City. According to a website claiming to be for Elan City, they are “experts at radar speed signs.” Gotta love how an actual product name would help someone review the Village’s judgment about the purchase without someone having to ask for answers first on what exactly is being referenced here. This is a traditional reflection of a blatant lack of basic record-keeping standards being presented from the Clerk’s Office…even when Rybak was doing Kohlstedt’s job back during her tenure.
A Generic Gab Session Results In No Assurances: The Village council chambers went under major scrutiny for a minor period of time when it came to whether or not the room was in compliance with Village code. It was determined that it was not and certain steps were taken to address a few issues left behind by one of Schavone’s more notable Political Sins, namely that of the overspending on the project as reported by the major media and the actual results that remain left behind due to his overseeing the project.
The way agenda item #3 reads, it is very confusing, so imagine my relief when Trustee Donald Killelea asked Trustee Carl Ivan for clarity on what the Village was being billed on an itemized level and whether or not it would fix the “problem.” He seemed curious about not being able to review an itemized bill for himself. Ivan responded with a comment that both Fire Chief Stephen Hotwagner and Building Superintendent William “Billy” DeSimone had seen the list and everything was “okay.”
This seemed to satisfy Killelea’s curiosity, but everyone else is still left with questions about silly little things…like are we talking about replacing the missing door to the right of the conference room stairs that leads to the bathrooms or is there a different door needing to be purchased? And just because these two department heads thought the invoices looked okay, why did Killelea quit on wanting to see a simple document that should have been presented to the Board in the Board packet…unless the invoice itself was written quite generically…the key to the whole confusion is Killelea’s question “This will solve all our problems” and Ivan confidently responding with a “Yes.” What problems…
Good For Gillis To Make Note Of Where the Bucks Are Coming From To Pay A Bill: The money for the LED lighting upgrades for the two fire stations in Midlothian was mostly courtesy of a grant from ComEd and that the Village was paying for what wasn’t covered by the grant. They deserve economic credit when such is due. Grants to the Village matter a great deal and are a critical component of its future survival and revival. There should be a list of grants that have been given to the Village maintained on the website at all times…whoops! There’s that spoiled brat in me expecting too much behavioral changes out of Government.
P.S. Still would love to see what ComEd could design to light up flood-prone areas of the Village and possibly contributing to the upgrade via some mechanism that elevates the Village’s position as a RainReady community, among other numerous benefits of better lighting in public areas, including side streets. We’d make a great prototype place for them to imagine up some creative solutions…
“Move Aside, Attorney That I Called Upon! I Am Asking A Question” Moment: L’Heureux has extensive exposure to parliamentary law and Open Meetings Act points of violation, much gathered while in the role of Trustee, but some possibly as far back as the late 1990’s and then growing through the curves specific to Midlothian. L’Heureux asks the Attorney if he can discuss something about a point made by Gillis and before Village Attorney Nick Valadez can get more than an “ummm…” out, L’Heureux dismisses him with a statement, “Whatever. I’ll ask anyways.”
It’s not like L’Heureux suddenly remembered the rules, he made it clear he didn’t care to wait even 5 seconds to find out if what he was doing was appropriate based on the opinion of Valadez, the person he turned to for the answer. Why bother asking him a question and then so boldly dismiss it’s relevance and importance? While he did open the floor to discussion about items on the Consent Agenda and while Gillis did present his own questions about a specific line item, I’ve always been quite confused as to when and where a Mayor can just jump right in and say what is on their minds. I’ve seen many different kinds of displays over the years. Plus, I am curious as to how Valadez would have answered the question.
Interesting Question Caused By the Mayor: What Are the Formal Procedures For Securing Contract Work With the Village?: The question L’Heureux wanted an answer to whether or not a vendor was brought to the Village’s attention via ComEd and Gillis mentioned the Village had used them before. With calibration issues still residing with why Robinson Engineering still seems to receive so much contract work as a corporation, when they are merely representative of acting as the Village Engineer. Things that probably should be shared with a wider audience are not necessarily seeping its way fair and square into the broader marketplaces involving government contracts.
L’Heureux then went on to state that he received 2 calls from people who wanted a “piece of the pie” when they saw it listed on the agenda. Gillis mentioned he reached out to another vendor about their possibly doing the work, but its L’Heureux who hasn’t been able to inspire anyone to initiate a section on the Village website immediately listing any and all opportunities for 3rd party individuals to offer up promotional materials and possible solutions…let alone not one newsletter, electronic or paper, coming from the L’Heuruex administration since he took office. He needs to call those two companies back and tell them because of their interest, he became inspired to initiate an initiative to ensure all economic opportunities are listed in its most usable and accessible format possible…but the calls will never happen, nor the initiative, so I’m not going to hold my breath with this particular matter being improved upon any time soon.
Couzin’s Midlothian Offered Expansion Opportunity For Its Brand of Fun and Entertainment: Trustee Karen Kreis asked the board for approval of a Redevelopment Agreement (RDA) between the Village and Couzin’s Midlothian that has been worked on since October 2017. The property next to the existing Couzin’s (formerly MidVilla’s Pizza) on 147th is owned by the Southland Land Bank and Development Authority and assuming the owner of Couzin’s follows through on closing on the property, a building sitting vacant for at least 7 years will be able to provide an even broader audience the food and fun that comes with the Couzin’s name. Plus, it would also make Couzin’s even more ADA friendly…and their live acoustic music performances on a Sunday summers Eve can be a tremendous respite and oasis from the regular stresses of life as everyone is always welcome to join in the jams…and they do! So if everything works out according to the RDA, the Village will soon be benefitting from both property tax income and sales tax income. Kreis made the motion and Killelea seconded the motion.
We Interrupt the Meeting for A Technical Discussion: With only minor hesitation, micro management watchdog Trustee Kathleen Caveney called for a moment of clarity as to whether or not the document they were voting on was The Redlined Version, or something to that effect. Insider humor aside, Caveney asked Kreis why she didn’t distribute The Redlined Version to the Board and Kreis made point that if she wanted a copy of that version, she could have asked for it.
This is the kind of stuff my administrative assistant ears tend to perk up on when being discussed in detail.
Caveney went on to sternly make a point of the difficulties for a group of people to know not only what version of a document they are looking at, but yes, knowing exactly what was changed from the prior documents and what was left alone. Caveney’s point was that by standardizing the use of a Microsoft Word tracking feature that draws literal red lines through deletions and also provides red text for anything newly added (color scheme flexible), it allows for a reviewer to quickly check on what was altered rather than demanding a full review of the entire content in search of what may or may not have changed since the last time it was read.
This feature does allow for a new version to be created from a redlined one and Caveney’s call for a redlined version of documents to be distributed does allow for a reviewer to eliminate the markings at any point once they’ve received it. Then Attorney Valadez mentions The Final Redline Version is separate from The Final Version, which is a no-duh and had nothing to do with her call for protocols to be put in place, which Caveney calls him out on.
Caveney then informally polled the Board as to whether or not they compared the document in front of them to the last document they reviewed prior to the meeting and after a few seconds of silence, she claims that she’ll take their silence as a no. L’Heureux calls out to two-time Deputy Clerk Maria Kolacki and then looks at Caveney while restating her request to be a matter of including a redline version with emails and a final version with the Board packet to be absent of redlining.
Once again Attorney Valadez jumps in with statement that what the Board is voting on is not the redlined version. After Caveney tried to reiterate her point, L’Heureux suggests that all voting members get the redlined version and the Clerk will get the clean version and Kolacki quickly jumps in with a “fine,” which its not…so let’s see if I can frame it better.
Two files get sent in the board packet. The last redline version leading up to the clean version being voted on by the board and the clean version being voted on. You can even tag the files with “Final Redline Version” and “Final Board Approval Version” or something to that effect.
So I think I can understand why Caveney decided to quit trying to explain both versions needed to be sent to the board members at the same time AND while the versions were being worked on, the redline version would be the standard default file format that a reader can then opt to change. And why would the Mayor recommend giving the Board a false document as the only document to the voting members of the Board, let alone the Deputy Clerk having authority to okay the procedure?
And where was Clerk Allen Moskal in all of this? Sitting right next to the Mayor, mouth closed. No public statement on how the records of the Village should be kept and distributed on his watch. Watch for Caveney to cry foul again and under what circumstances. It would be a new habit for everyone to acquire and while it’s a quality control point worth fighting for, it looks like Upper Front Office Management just doesn’t understand its value to the voting members of the Board. Perhaps they think the whole process is crazy to begin with…you know…the idea of Board members actually knowing what is being put before them to sign with their votes…especially anything that might have been changed?
And Now the Couzin’s Vote: With a booming “No,” Trustee Carl Ivan became the only Trustee to vote against the Couzin’s RDA, thus approving its ratification. That deserves a phone call as to why, but it’s Sunday.
And Then a Non-Velvet Hammer Dropped: After the vote was finalized, Attorney Valadez decided to request that the Mayor not sign the document until after the developer does, assigning his reasoning to the issue Caveney had just brought up as well as some other generic citation of past issues as part of an apparently new policy to prevent the Village from having documents with empty signature slots.
That’s extra hysterical considering Valadez still has the problem of empty signature slots sitting on hundreds of building inspection reports.
I wonder if he’s been reading too much Stormy-related materials and is trying to protect only the Mayor with his policy request, rather than truly having the Village’s best interests at heart. Kreis went along with it, and it has limited merit, but excuse my cherry-picking at this particular scab of mine.
Why is it such the challenge to have the Mayor and the signers in the same room together when most of these RDA’s have relatively local ownership, or at least formal representation…? That was also a Rybak habit as well, although Rybak once showed up to pick up a check so she could flash it at a Board meeting that she got it. Ahhh…the lack of consistent pageantry, presentation and protocol when signing an agreement with the Village…but boy will the President of the Village take credit for the accomplishment beyond it happening on his watch.
Communications Sent To Kreis Update: One habit of Trustee Kreis continues to be her habit of reading some letter or email into the public record from some government unit or company involved with the Village, thus sparing everyone the FOIA request to become aware of the information. This time around it was from the South Suburban Land Bank updating her about a recent legal outcome regarding an abandoned property here in Midlothian. The status of various properties around the Village can be a hot topic online, especially in social media circles and Kreis is someone who has been known to volunteer this type of information at a meeting from time to time.
Speaking of documents needing signatures: According to Trustee Kreis, The Invest in Cook Application for the Phase I Engineering of Natalie Creek was due Friday, March 16, 2018 and that the Mayor and the Clerk had documents that needed to be signed and scanned. I wonder if they made the deadline…
Active RainReady supporter and owner of Grill’s Hardware, Dale Terhaar, 53, passed away. Terhaar and the Village worked hard to improve the property over the past few years, including Terhaar agreeing to host the first large-scale rain garden in Midlothian. His relationship with his staff and the community was evident through more than just investing money into his business prospects, he invested in people and legacy as I got to discover through the RainReady side of Midlothian. He will be missed.
Calling All Techies: According to Trustee Carl Ivan, the Technology Committee is actively seeking new members and asked people to contact him. Was that via phone, email, YouTube or Facebook?
A “Nothing To Report” Entry Into the Records: Killelea had nothing to report.
New Rule, Old Funding Approach?: Trustee Sandy Crowley brought up information sent to board regarding a proposed Capital Fund ordinance and a Traffic Enforcement ordinance. Police Chief Daniel “Dan” Delaney and Attorney Nick Valadez are putting together a fee schedule for the Board’s review at the next Committee meeting and she hope’s it can be voted on at the next Board meeting.
Old Building, Partial Structure Audit: Initial audit of structural/building problems with the police department side of the Village Hall building. Both written documentation and pictures were to be forwarded to the board for review.
Map overlay of Village owned property and Park District property delivered to Village by South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA).
Old Building, Still New Problems: Fire Department wall came crumbling down this week. There is also an issue with wall in the Public Works building.
Zing-A-Ling, No Gavel Needed: While only the Mayor can give permission for an audience member to speak once public comments are closed, Gillis Sr. questioned who is in the Building Department if DeSimone was on vacation. He started by asking how much vacation time does he get, which then segwayed into a pitch for getting the burned out property cleaned up quickly because it is “deplorable.” He then claimed that the Building Department has been dragging its feet. L’Heureux then interrupted with a comment about how he thought Gillis Sr.’s comment would be a brief comment. He then invited Sr. to talk during the President’s portion of the meeting to move the meeting along.
Raising Midlothian’s State of RainReadiness To Another Stage: Public Works Superintendent Joe Sparry announced that financing has been approved for the Phase II MWRD RainReady/Natalie Creek project. The current estimated timeline is as follows: publish project on May 9, 2018, pre-bid walk-through May 22, 2018, bid opening June 26, 2018, contractor award September 6, 2018, completion of construction September 18, 2020.
Uncommonly Shared Litigation Information Released: According to Attorney Nick Valadez, there is a Release and Settlement agreement for Mayor’s signature to end litigation. My memory isn’t perfect, but I can’t remember former Village Attorney William “Bill” Gleason ever doing that. Hmmmm…
We Interrupt This Ending With a Highly Questionable Political Campaign Ad Insertion During President’s Business: So while the content is a little muddled, apparently 2 judges running for the Circuit Court were in attendance at the meeting and the spokesperson(?) wanted L’Heureux to know they were grateful that he had the regularly scheduled board meeting…? Cancelling meetings is not a L’Heureux habit…a Rybak or an Eric Kellogg habit maybe, but not a L’Heureux. But he certainly asked for everyone to say “Hi” to them. Why they spoke at the end of the meeting rather than at the beginning is beyond me as they are off camera and didn’t notice anyone walk into the meeting while watching the video.
Need To Think Through Further Topics
Class 8 testimony
Partial Annexation of Unincorporated property via Emergency Response Contract
Status of Burned-Out Building Still Left Standing on 147th.
Alleged illegal dumping by contractors/insurance company
CRS rating: Approved at a 7 by May?
Reviewed appellate brief for South Suburban Joint Action Water Agency (SSJAWA) and Valadez is “confident” the appellate court will affirm the lower court’s decision in favor of the Village of Midlothian.
Donna Mazalin given notice of cancellation of contract, which gives 30 days to finish everything up and turn everything over to Treasurer Mary “Maggie” Britton.
Happy 91st Birthday Midlothian!