By Steve Robinson | April 1, 2018 - 10:42 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Let me start this column by saying I know nothing about NASCAR. I have almost never followed it, and could only name one driver off the top of my head (and by the time I came up with the fellow’s name, he could have retired by now). And yet, about 15 years ago, the editor I reported to back then, Bryan Bloodworth, asked me to cover a news conference being given by a well-known driver at the time, Ward Burton, in conjunction with a Peoria Rivermen hockey game where Burton was signing autographs and showing off his speedy mode of transportation.

At the time, I was stringing for the local daily newspaper’s sports section, of which Bryan was the editor, and the Rivermen were, at the time, the only team in the circulation area, although we knew Bloomington would soon get a team once the then-U. S. Cellular Coliseum’s construction was completed.

In high school up until I started writing sports in 1992, I was just a casual spectator and fan, cheering the local high school teams. When I went to work for Bryan in 1999, he gave me an assignment I would have thought reserved for the salaried writers: Cover Rivermen hockey and, at the time, Peoria Pirates indoor football.

Another writer on staff pulled me aside and explained they were busy with all the local sports and that, as a result, they couldn’t spare a staffer. I beamed at the thought. Bloodworth, known to his friends as “Lefty” having been born without a right arm, had handed me the ball, or passed me the puck, if you will, and let me get at it. I’m not 100 percent sure he knew what he’d get for his money. But as a result of his judgment, I’d like to think I learned a great deal from the experience.

Nowadays, I go into each new high school sports season with the same thought process I did covering those minor league teams. I try to treat the experience knowing games and standings are on the line from the first kickoff, or jump ball, or pitch, as far as those teams are concerned. And instead of team owners, it’s athletic directors who watch every team’s move, scrutinize every game result, and look toward getting teams to State Finals. That was something else that earlier experience handed me.

It’s thinking and actions like that which get you considered for any hall of fame. Keen skill at your position, decisive leadership, and an ability to know when to step back and give someone an opportunity to try something new in hopes that person will learn a new talent or skill.

I’d read Bryan’s columns regularly, mostly on Sundays when he worked for the Pantagraph, and in the back of my mind, I would think to myself about writing one, “Maybe someday….” “Someday” arrived thanks to the ol’ editor, Mr. Pyne, eight years ago. Being recognized by my professional peers for that talent came for the first time last year. But I must credit Bryan for giving me the chance to experience what covering minor league sports is really like.

I also need to congratulate Bryan on his induction into the Hall Of Fame of Illinois State University’s student newspaper, The Vidette. He told me that, even then, in the mid-1970s as a student editor, he gave fellow students an opportunity to try their skills a something they hadn’t before, especially when it came to writing.

Bryan said when he started his college career at ISU, he was looking at taking classes which would show him how to become a sports coach. As it turned out, he’s been coaching all this time, and sports has been a part of that. He has to be commended for that – and congratulated for his years of bringing central Illinois residents the countless stories – both in print and on the radio.

NORMAL – He served the Town of Normal as an assistant city manager for 10 years before being promoted to the City Manager’s post 20 years ago when the then-City Manager retired. And when it came time to recall Mark R. Peterson’s accomplishments over those three decades, Peterson was humbled by the celebration thrown in his honor at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott on March 29. His last day on the job was March 30.

“That wasn’t me,” he said humbly of everything he had done in the last 20 years overseeing Town Staff. He told the gathering of roughly 300 people the long list of accomplishments attributed to his work for the Town, “That’s not me. That’s the employees.” He asked Normal Town Staff to raise their hands so they could be acknowledged.

“It takes a team to accomplish what needs to be done by the Town,” Peterson told the gathering. “And I play a small part in that. The Mayor and Council are a team and they deserve credit,” Peterson said, for what gets accomplished by the Town. “I appreciate the accolades, but it’s a lot of people who make things happen in this community.”

Of his successor, Pamela Reece, who has served as first assistant city manager and currently deputy city manager, Peterson said, “She is going to be fantastic.”

Peterson told Mayor Chris Koos and Town Council members past and present who turned out for the celebration, “You’ve made my job easier, and you’ve made the jobs of the staff easier because of your support and your progressive approach to things, and the fact that we work as a team.”

The job of City Manager is not known for being a long-term gig. The person in that position is in it provided they are taking care of Town business to the satisfaction of a mayor and council. But Peterson told the gathering the elected officials he served and the staff he oversaw were two reasons why he stayed here. “It’s been a very rewarding career.”

Recognized By Leaders: State leaders and organizations paid tribute to Peterson during the ceremony. The first of the honors bestowed on Peterson came from Normal Town Council members who presented Peterson with a proclamation celebrating his career and recognizing March 30 as “Mark R. Peterson Day” in the Town of Normal . In addition, Mayor Chris Koos informed Peterson the plaza surrounding the roundabout in Uptown was being christened “Mark R. Peterson Plaza.” Upon seeing the artist’s rendering of that, Peterson could be seen brushing away tears.

In addition, Dorothy David, City Manager for the City of Champaign , representing Illinois City/County Management Association, called Peterson “a mentor and a role model. It has been a pleasure to work with Mark all these years,” David said, and presented him with a plaque from ICCMA recognizing him for his years of service. David said she met Peterson as he was finishing his tenure as City Manager in Liberty , Mo. , the community he worked in before being hired to start working in Normal 30 years ago. At that time, Peterson was coming to Normal to become assistant city manager under then-City Manager David Anderson .

Jane Chamberlain, a staff member representing State Rep. Dan Brady (R-105th) presented Peterson with a framed copy of a resolution which was passed by the Illinois General Assembly declaring March 30 “Mark Peterson Day” in Illinois. In addition, U. S. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth honored Peterson with a proclamation, Durbin including a framed U. S. flag which had flown over the U. S. Capitol, each of them presenting a letter of congratulations, as well.

Normal Fire Chief Mick Humer and NFD Union Representatives from Local 2442, President Matt Hill and Vice President Matt Steinkoenig, presented Peterson with an NFD fireman’s hat. “We’d like to thank Mark for his years of service and everything he’s done for the fire department,” Humer told the gathering. He added that was especially true regarding getting the new fire station along Main St. near the Illinois State University campus open. NFD’s new Station #1 opened in November. Humer and his men presented Peterson with a badge and a fireman’s helmet.

Normal Town Council members gave Peterson the gift of a print of the Normal Theater created by Ken Cashman. He also received video congratulations from U. S. Rep. Rodney Davis and U. S. Rep. Darin LaHood.

Peterson also participated in a comedic video depicting what Peterson’s time in retirement might be like, something enjoyed by the audience.

Various family were in attendance for this event including: Peterson’s wife, Rebecca; His son, Tanner; Son Adam and daughter-in-law Holly Ann, and their daughter, Elise; and Peterson’s brother, Kent.

By Steve Robinson | March 25, 2018 - 10:15 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

When compared to concern over gun violence in our schools, an early spring snowstorm couldn’t deter people wanting the violence to stop from turning out Saturday in Downtown Bloomington. “March For Our Lives,” the brainchild of students who were victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Valentine’s Day, took place nationwide Saturday, March 24.

Here, the march began with a rally and speeches by students from all of Bloomington-Normal’s high schools. Then, the group marched to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. There were teens, pre-teens, grade school kids with parents, grandparents, and others interested who stood outside in the snowy and wind-swirled conditions holding signs opposing the violence. Some 600 people total were present.

Normal Community High School student Faith Ringer was one of the students who addressed the gathering, saying, “I stand here today to make a change. I stand here with hope of saving others’ lives. I stand here with the hope of walking in school without fear. I stand here to represent the future of my generation.” Many of the speeches in front of and which followed hers in the nearly 90 minutes before the students and crowd marched were in the same vein and struck a tone with the crowd and were met by applause and cheers.

In the crowd, you found young people with signs in support of what they desired. Among those in the crowd were a group of girls mixed together from Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School. Sisters Kennedy and Piper Coe, students at NCHS, Normal West student Lena Flitz, and NCHS student Kate Suter were holding signs such as “No More Silence – End Gun Violence.” Kennedy Coe, a freshman, said her reason for attending included, “We need more gun reform and to make sure students feel safe when they go to school.”

“Standing for what you believe in is really important and I don’t want to be scared anymore to go to school,” Piper Coe said. “There have been too many lives lost and there needs to be a change.”

I asked Flitz about President Donald Trump’s recommendation that there be teachers who could be qualified to carry and use guns if that would help the situation. She said there was always the possibility the gun could be taken from the teacher which would cause more problems. She labeled the suggestion “ludicrous.”

There are some people who think it isn’t the guns causing the problem, but that it’s more of a mental health issue, Flitz said, adding she doesn’t agree with that notion.

But across the street from the former Courthouse stairs where the rally was going on, there were a handful of 2nd Amendment supporters, one who periodically walked through the crowd holding up high his copy of the document, but the small band in opposition to what they were seeing stayed across the street and observed for the most part. Calvin Snelling and a group of about a dozen 2nd Amendment supporters observed the rally from across the street.

Snelling described himself and the others around him as “his fellow 2nd Amendment supporters.” He said the student protesters and those supporting them “don’t understand the Constitution and 2nd Amendment. They want to take away our rights.

“They don’t understand the gun violence is not the National Rifle Association, and it’s not the fault of legal gun owners,” Snelling said. He tacks the blame for school shootings on kids on drugs and kids already facing mental issues who get their hands on weapons but get them illegally.

He said he needs a FOID Card to be able to have a weapon, which requires a background check, and that process takes roughly 90 days to complete. Snelling said the shooter in the incident in Parkland had “been flagged by the school and police” in advance of the shooting and that nothing had been done.

Florida authorities “didn’t do nothing and the Parkland shooter should have had his guns taken away,” Snelling said. He added none of the shooters in the instances of school violence experienced in this country over the years are NRA members. ”NRA promotes gun safety and gun education,” he said.

A month to the day after the Parkland shooting, March 14, there was a national walkout by students, including those in Unit 5 high schools. Another such walkout is planned for Friday, April 20 – the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where 13 people — 12 students and one teacher – were shot dead by two fellow students.

There isn’t an easy answer here, folks. To each side of this debate, there is a solution. But the truth is, the solution which satisfies both sides hasn’t been found. Both sides are to be commended for standing their ground publicly. And I’m willing to bet that, for some of us, a refresher on the 2nd Amendment is in order to better understand the matter. That would help all of us.

NORMAL – Planning a party for a retiring colleague you’ve worked with for years can be fun and gets done, usually, by a group of four or five coworkers who each take on a specific aspect of the planning to make the party a success. But when the people planning the party are elected officials, doing that to a successful conclusion has some unique characteristics.

For openers, the planners of the party, being city officials, can’t all meet together at the same time because under State law, such a meeting being held by the officials without public notice given about the meeting would violate the State’s Open Meetings Act. The Open Meetings Act requires all meetings of public officials be posted as to date, time, and subject matter.

So when the Town went about planning the retirement party of City Manager Mark Peterson to celebrate his 30 years with the Town, 20 of those at his current position, certain steps needed to be taken.

For Deputy City Manager Pamela Reece, that has meant having email exchanges with Mayor Chris Koos and Normal Town Council members and asking them to only email her back. This was done because for three Council members to meet together, even to coordinate party plans, would constitute a quorum for a meeting.

Reece said the goal of planning the party “was to avoid getting into any group dialogue, and the Mayor has, really, been directing Town Staff on how Mark’s party should be.”

Reece said Normal Town Council members have, on occasion, “emailed me one-on-one if they have ideas. But then, the Mayor has been giving Town Staff direction.” She said that under Koos’ direction, Town Staff has been handling the planning. “We would never want to put an elected official in a situation that would potentially risk violating the Open Meetings Act,” Reece said, reminding that to violate the law could potentially be a felony.

“This was a unique event because it’s a fun event,” Reece said. “Mark has had a stellar career in Normal , and you want to make sure you’re getting all of the Council’s input on what the recognition should be like.”

Reece said Dan Irvin, director of communications for the Town, and Sandy Fedden, executive assistant to Peterson, have also played roles to make the retirement event, slated for Thursday, March 29 from 4p.m.-7p.m., a success. The retirement reception will be held at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott.

The event is open to folks who have worked with Peterson during all facets of his tenure with the Town, but Reece said, to make sure everybody “gets the word,” the Town issued invites to “people who have done business with the Town over the years. That included current and past Town Council members, members of certain boards which help the community or members of Illinois City and County Managers Association, of which Peterson belongs to.

Council Member R. C. McBride admits if he or any other Council member had an idea for the party, they would need to pitch it individually to other Council members for feedback to avoid being in violation of the law. “It’s an unintended consequence of the Open Meetings Act,” he explained.

NORMAL – Normal Town Council members honored retiring City Manager Mark Peterson during what was his last Council meeting before his retirement after 30 years with the Town, the first 10 as Assistant City Manager under then City Manager David S. Anderson, and the last 20 as City Manager. His last day on the job is March 30. A reception for Peterson will be held at the Carol A. Reitan Conference Center of the Bloomington-Normal Marriott on Thursday, March 29.

Mayor Chris Koos led off the Council’s tributes telling Peterson, “Pam Reece will do a fantastic job as City Manager, but this is still a tough transition for me.” He said before he became a Council member, I worked with Mark on a number of projects as a volunteer, and then as an elected official and Mayor for 17 years, which in retrospect, has gone by in a snap.

“It has been easier for me to be mayor because of the quality of management that you displayed,” Koos told Peterson. “The professionalism and integrity that you’ve shown in your tenure as City Manager is exemplary.”

“It’s been a short time for me, but it’s been a pleasure,” said Council Member Chemberly Cummings, who was elected to her first term last April. “Mark has been willing to answer all my crazy questions. No matter the time of day, or whether they were down to the wire, you’re always there. It’s made my first year one of learning and fall right in place so that I can do what I need to do for the community.”

Having been on commissions and boards before running for a Council seat, Council Member Kathleen Lorenz told Peterson, “What I think I will always remember is how approachable you are.” Lorenz added she appreciated “how available you made yourself” to her when she had a concern. She added Peterson had “created such a positive culture through the talent you have hired.”

Council Member R. C. McBride said the word integrity had been used frequently when describing Peterson, “and there’s not a more appropriate word for you,” McBride told Peterson. McBride, a former radio reporter, said he appreciated the times Peterson made himself available to the media when a situation called for it.

Council Member Scott Preston gave Peterson credit for visionary skills, looking down the road at a project’s development. He said that skill involves being able to get the support and bring different parties together to work on the project, which Preston said he has seen Peterson do successfully.

“Mostly, I want to say thank you,” Council Member Kevin McCarthy told Peterson. He said Peterson was “masterful” in trying to help the Council develop of vision for the community.

“We’ve had something special,” Council Member Jeff Fritzen told Peterson about his tenure. He said those who developed and carried through the Uptown concept shared the risk involved. He also credited Peterson’s efforts at team building among Council and Town Staff. “Normal first is how I feel you’ve approached your job.” Fritzen explained to do that sometimes comes “at a personal cost” because of meetings and functions Peterson attended outside his normal working hours.

Peterson credited Town Staff for their work in how they go about their work which helps him to help the Council to have the information needed make their decisions. He was emotional when he said Town Staff “deserve credit for the success of the organization, not me. I’ve been blessed with such a supportive, competent, and dedicated work force.” He, at points, could not get the words out. “I want them to know how much I have appreciated their support and commitment to public service during my entire career.”

He credited his successor, Deputy City Manager Pam Reece, with being his “right arm,” and his executive assistant Sandy Fedden with being his “left arm” who has been with Peterson since he became City Manager.

“You all have my eternal gratitude, respect, and admiration,” he told his senior management team members. “I will miss you all more than I can put into words,” a statement that came from him with some emotion as he choked back tears.

Peterson not only had former Council members and former Mayor Paul Harmon in the audience for his last meeting, but his wife, Rebecca, and one of his two grown children.

Council Approves Site Plan For 2012 W. College: Council members unanimously approved both a site plan and resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of the first addition using expedited process to the MP-ONE Subdivision at 2012 W. College. It was done but not before Stan Nord, the current developer, in making his plea to Council members to approve the measures, accused Town Staff of not wanting to follow Town Code to get the job accomplished. He said Town Staff wanted to “add undevelopable acres” on the property to what he wanted to develop.

The property had been a mobile home park five decades ago and said Town Staff wouldn’t allow him to plant trees.

Nord said the land has had three owners in the past 10 years. He said he didn’t believe Normal was following Town Code to help him get the job accomplished. That visibly angered Peterson, who told Nord he was offended by his comments. “Our staff doesn’t pad fees,” Peterson said. “Our staff stands by the code. Peterson said he could have Town Corporation Counsel Brian Day and a municipal lawyer look at the code. But, Peterson said, “We’ve bent over backwards for this applicant. Lorenz said she wants the situation ironed out by legal counsel.

Land Town Exchanged With ISU Rezoned: Council members unanimously approved an ordinance rezoning property the Town swapped with Illinois State University related to the construction of the new Normal Fire Station #1 on University St. Therefore, the fire station, which opened in November, sits on what is now Town property as a result. As a result of the ordinance, which passed without discussion, land at 602-604 N. Adelaide St., Sudduth Rd. right of way between Kingsley and Main Streets, and 404 W. Locust St. are now zoned S-1 University. 505-507 Osage are now owned by the Town and have been rezoned S-2 Public Lands and Institutions.

In addition, the ordinance adds an S-3 Historic and Cultural District overlay zoning classification to 305 E. Pine.

Zoning Map To Be Published: Council members also unanimously passed an ordinance authorizing the publication of a zoning map.

Public Hearing Held: A public hearing was held prior to the start of the regular Council session pertaining to the proposed Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) 2018-2019 annual action plan. Federal regulations require the Town publish an annual action plan for public comment and hold at least one public hearing concerning the plans content. No members of the public offered to speak at the hearing.

Annual Liquor License Renewals Approved: Council members, meeting in their capacity as Normal Local Liquor Commission unanimously approved liquor licenses for all establishments in the Town, an annual responsibility at a brief meeting held prior to the regular Council session. An omnibus vote was used to approve the establishments’ licenses.

The Town has 77 establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages, with 31 selling packaged liquor – Class A; 3 selling it by the drink – Class B; 10 selling beer and wine by the drink – Class C; 17 selling all liquor by the drink – Class D; 4 Hotels – Class E; 2 Brewpubs – Class M; 1 Stadium – Class N; 4 Limited hours licenses – Class O; 1 taproom – Class P; and 4 public college/university – Class Q. In addition, Commissioners renewed licenses of 25 establishments with secondary licenses which included 6 for annual catering – Class F; 9 for Outdoor Garden/Patio — Class H; and 10 for Annual tasting – Class I. The Town also issued permits for 12 entertainment licenses and 11 video gaming licenses. Commissioners also approved minutes from the Commission’s regular meeting of Jan. 16.

Appointments, Reappointments To Various Boards Approved: Hearing no objection, Council members made appointments and reappointments to various Boards and Commissions. Reappointed to the Building Board of Appeals each for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 were: Russ Arbuckle; Jeff Feid; Terry Sims; and Chris Turner. Reappointed to the Historic Preservation Commission each for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 were: Christopher Niebur and Bruce Warloe. Reappointed to the Uptown Design Review Commission each for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 were: David Burnison and Dennis French. Reappointed to the Zoning Board of Appeals each for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 were: Gary Blakney, Keith Palmgren, and Tony Penn. Reappointed to the Historic Preservation Commission each for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 were: Reappointed to the Town Planning Commission for a term that will expire March 31, 2022 was Rick Bosner. Reappointed to the Police Pension Board for a term that will exire March 31, 2022 was Robert Weldon.

Benjamin Ryburn was newly appointed to the Town’s Human Relations Commission, replacing Sandra Harmon. Ryburn’s term will expire March 31, 2022.

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the regular meeting of March 5, 2018.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of March 14, 2018

• A resolution to award the bid for the Grant Street and Normal Ave. water main replacement projects to Bloomington-based Stark Excavating, Inc. at a total cost of $897,602 plus up to a potential $15,000 bonus for early completion.

• A resolution to accept bids and award a contract to Morton-based Otto Baum Company, Inc. in the amount of $207,816.14 for the Irving Street improvement project from Fell Ave. to the Hester Street alley.

• A resolution accepting a quote in the amount of $34,291.92 from Eagan, MN-based Factory Motor Parts for purchase of golf cart batteries for Ironwood Golf Course.

• A resolution designating Pamela S. Reece as the Town of Normal authorized representative with respect to the Community Block Development Grant (CDBG) Program.

• A resolution authorizing execution of a conditional right of entry – Dan Kelley.