Thursday, March 22, 2007

Old-Fashioned Debate, New Fangled Blog

Yesterday I paid a visit to a former neighbor who has a Simon sign stuck in her yard. I asked her if she'd like a Cole sign too. "No," she said directly. She didn't know that I supported the Mayor's re-election, and doesn't read this blog, but she was looking forward to the OLD FASHIONED TOWN HALL DEBATE between the two candidates at First Christian Church, at 201 Monroe Street.

My friend helped formulate the questions. She said the candidates will receive them in advance, but she didn't know exactly when. After the pre-written questions have been asked, then audience members will have a turn. Perhaps some minds will be persuaded one way or the other by the candidates' responses.

My friend is a homeowner. She said a question would be asked about the city's portion of the property tax, which Sheila has indicated needs "revisiting" (although she hasn't outright said she would, as Scott Thorne points out in a comment).

Another subject we discussed was her claim that Cole "tore down all those buildings." I pointed out to her that the man who authored the ultimatum to "repair or demolish" the old Bank of Carbondale building is Sheila Simon's campaign manager, not Brad Cole.

Along those lines, the American Tap property acquisition will undoubtedly come up. I am already on record as opposing it, because the price was too high, imo, but it wasn't Cole's idea to tear it down, nor did he set the price; he was carrying out the wishes of Carbondale Main Street to do something about downtown Illinois Avenue's "#1 problem" and the entire City Council (except Sheila approved the deal -- even Maggie Flanagan who changed her mind "at this midnight hour" when put to a public vote).

Well the debate should be interesting and informative.

To a Certain Anonymous

As a university instructor, I would encourage students to contribute their ideas and thoughts about a given topic, which I would would chalk up on the board and group according to theme, to help to keep the discussion more focused.

One Simonite believes I won't persuade others to vote Cole our mayor. S/he cites the likability factor (my term). According to this Simonite, we Cole supporters "rage" against Sheila's supporters, which made me laugh -- I think that I've bent over blogward giving Sheila credit where it's due -- and taking Cole to task where warranted. Perhaps my writing should include more happy faces. ;-)

I have nothing against the Simonites or their standard-bearer. I would vote for Sheila in a heartbeat (from the current crop of City Council members) to be mayor -- if the man they love to hate, Brad Cole, had not done such an outstanding job. I believe in rewarding good work performance. Yet the Simonites want Brad Cole out of office. According to this one, Cole has the benefit of incumbency: the credit for the positive changes in Carbondale should be spread around because everyone in the community is on the same page. S/he gives Sheila credit too, although in some cases she voted against the things Cole tried to do. (Having a one-time expansion of the City's Enterprise Zone capability, for example.) According to this Simonite, as effective as he Cole may be, "his negatives are too high" (which is just a fancy way of saying that s/he's a "Cole-hating Simon lover")

No. Far from "raging" against the Simonites or Sheila's sterling qualities (no irony intended) I have included all the pro-Simon comments I've received, and taken some shots at Cole myself. But some commenters do not think as clearly as others, and they can waste everyone's time -- especially mine. The best way to engage me in dialogue is to be real person, not an anonymous opinion slinger. Peter the Great knows what I mean. I also like his idea for the Anonymouses to take a moment to create a name for yourself.

Nevertheless, I wanted to respond to one particular Anonymous, who writes:
There will be an end to the campaign, and someone will win. After the election, though, will you have helped Cole govern if you have caused so many to take offense? And what do you do if Simon wins?
It is absurd to think this blog could will help or hurt Cole govern in any way. To govern he must work with City Council and staff, and understand the city code and how things work. I think I provide him comic relief more than anything else. I'm not sure why a Simonite would be offended by anything I write, unless it is the term Simonite..... I did consider other alternatives to my original phrase "Cole-hating Simon lovers": Simonians, Sheila-lites, but chose Simonites, because it rhymes with "simonize" and their campaign to unseat Cole was waxing at that time.

As to what I'll do if Sheila is elected mayor. . . . Bike 2 Work Day is rolling 'round in May. I hope the Mayor of Carbondale will support it once again. I better get to work on that.

I should ask Sheila if she will hand out the trophies at the annual lunch in the event that Mayor Cole is unable to perform that duty on that day.


Anonymous said...

Correct yourself. Carbondale Main Street did not say to tear the Tap Down and it did not set the price.
All Carbondale Main Street did was identify the Tap as the # 1 complaint about downtown. The City ask for imput from CMS and the Chamber and other things were identified as well. Get your fact right.
The Mayor could make this go away if he would say that he is so enthusiastic about improving Carbondale that sometimes he is going to be much to aggressive. The Tap is one of those times.

The other point is this is a done issue the building is gone and the money is paid. If there is another complaint related to the transaction it should be stated.

Why isn't anyone complaining about the purchase of the Attucks building? They paid to much for it too.

Parentheticus said...

Before I correct myself. I'd like to ask Anonymous #-whatever some questions.

1) why didn't you respect my request to give your comment an identity?
2) Since you want me to get my 'fact' right, can you answer me this: In what manner was the problem of the American Tap building "identified"? How was the information transmitted to the mayor? By email? Conversation? Formal presentation at a meeting? What players counseled him in this matter? And what was he told? Do you have these fact(s)?
3) I agree with you the mayor's a guy who tackles problems aggressively, if by that you mean "extremely efficiently"... He's like a laser beam.

Can you provide other examples of where, iyo, he was so enthusiastic about improving Carbondale that he went too far? I'm not sure what you mean by "too aggressive" since nothing is finally done until the City Council votes for it. Is the City Council "too agressive" too?

As for the Tap, you know Cole didn't set the price for the building. He negotiated with man who owned the building Henry Fisher, who had the city over a barrel, so to speak. Everyone knows he's thumbed his nose at the City for decades! It's not surprising that he didn't cut them a deal. But all Cole did was negotiate. Maybe not as effectively as some of us would like. But he got it done. And the downtown business community approves it, so I agree with you that if Sheila or her supporters should not be trying to make an issue out of it at this point. Cole was just doing his job, in respect to downtown business.

4. How much was paid for Attucks? From whom? Maybe he could somehow partner up with the African-American Museum (which was deeded the building by the city, in some deal, the facts of which, I don't have right now. A buck a year or something like that. I wonder what it will cost to convert it to a useful structure once again? Isn't that next door to one of Peter Gregory's buildings? I wonder what the great one has to say about it? My take on it is that it was essentially a show gift. The organization that received it (as it is currently constituted) will never raise enough money to do much with it. Should Attucks be an issue in the election?

Anonymous said...

As for the Tap, you know Cole didn't set the price for the building. He negotiated with man who owned the building Henry Fisher, who had the city over a barrel, so to speak.

Cole didn't "set" the price, but he sure as heck agreed to it after "extensive" negotiation. Honestly, there we other options to be explored and he took the "easy" way out by over-paying. Some elements of the Carbondale electorate would say that this doesn't go far enough and that there is more to this relationship than meets the eye. Maybe, maybe not. But paying 5 times the assessed valuation for the property was not the only option available to the city. Cole pushed it through and should be held responsible for that (as well as having a vote on a controversial issue without the full council present; really, it couldn't wait another two weeks?).

I don't know if Attucks should be an issue so much as all of these buildings should be an issue. Why do we let so many buildings get into this state of disrepair (especially rental properties)? Why isn't Cole more aggressive in doing something about this problem, which affects university enrollment, neighborhood safety, and property values? He should have to answer that question and to do by talking about something other than housing starts. That's a separate issue, but he always uses it to cover inaction on the older housing stock in Carbondale. Its embarassing what we've done to our history here.

Bob said...


You wrote "It is absurd to think this blog could will help or hurt Cole govern in any way."

You surely don't believe that or are you just being humble? Some people read your blogs and may be influenced and they in turn may influence others, including eleceted officials such as the mayor. Why bother with commentary on civic issues if you have zero expectations that what you say may be beneficial or harmful to someone?

Parentheticus said...

Bob - You're right. I was being rhetorically modest, but you go too far! I don't have 'zero' expectations. Quite the opposite: my hope is infinite. Instead of using the word 'absurd' I should have said I 'seriously doubt' that Cole's ability to govern after he is re-elected would be affected by something I wrote in this blog before the election. I'm merely trying to provide open-minded readers with information and insight into the candidates and the issues, from the vantage point of a 30-year resident, with empathy for both candidates.

Gadfly - I agree with you about the city's historic neglect and disregard for the City's old buildings.

Did you know Bank of Carbondale receive a "repair or demolish" letter from Sheila's campaign manager while he was in charge of City Planning (before he early retirement about a year ago. Do think he will come out of retirement if she is elected?)

Do you know who owns the property on the four corners at Walnut and Washington? I do. Do you think those buildings should have been preserved?

How long do you think the old Jeremiah's restaurant will last?

PeterG said...

The reason that so many buildings are in such bad shape is Carbondale is mostly about the lack of economic development in town. There isn't a need for the buildings, so the owners let them sit empty. If we were in San Jose or Boston, every empty lot would have a building on it, because there is a need.

It is interesting how before Brad was mayor, there are all of these bad buildings in town. Brad is one by one fixing the problem. The city doesn't own those buildings, but there is clearly a priority list down at city hall and they will eventually get to everything.

A better question is why none of you was upset before Brad became mayor? These problems are the city's problems that Brad inherited when he became mayor. Does anyone want to argue that the buildings in questions were built in the last 4 years, or fell into disrepair in the last 4 years? I think not, these problems are all from the pre-Brad era.

It is interesting that since Brad because mayor, everyone now has hope that the city will do the right thing. Clearly, this wasn't an issue before when the city government was broken. Why anyone would want to go back to a part time mayor and city manager government is beyond me.

This is all about the management of the city improving.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you get my point, Dave. My problem is that the city has -- for years now, Peter -- let our historic treasures become dilapidated and decrepit. It should never get the point where the city gives the option of demolition. There is an excellent book floating around on the architectural history of Carbondale; everyone should pick it up and see how little of our heritage is left (not much).

As to Brad Cole "fixing" the problem...precisely what has he done? I have asked the man point blank about his ideas for rejuvenating the historic districts and protecting the properities of long term residents. The answer was essentially, "nothing." And he was a jerk about it to boot; the look of visceral disgust that I could question new housing starts programs vis a vis encouraging protection of old homes was stunning. (In the interest of full disclosure, he didn't actually utter the word "nothing." It was a lot of double speak with now actual answer.)

Parentheticus said...

Gadfly--the City (in the person of Sheila's campaign manager Tom Redmond) ordered the demolition of the old bank building that housed the Stage Company -- unless it was repaired immediately. The City really gave the Bank no choice but to demolish. (I don't think the bank is doing too well these days, since First Southern got that commanding presence in the TIF District (which is a whole 'nother story)).

How long do you think Jeremiah's will last? Why isn't a demolition order given for that building? Or something done with it? Why? What should or can be done with it?

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, and correct me if I am wrong, Mayor Cole announced the purchase of the Tap building at a Chamber of Commerce meeting before fisher had agreed to the deal. Once Mayor Cole announced the deal, he gave up most of his flexibility in negotiations as it would have been hard to terminate the deal without the rest of the community asking "Why." Mayor Cole put himself in the position of having to close the deal or create negative publicity for himself while Fisher did not.

The Attucks School and Tuscan Lodge are a different kettle of fish.

Parentheticus said...

The way I heard it, he said he was working on it; not that the deal was completed.