Roundtable: Are split votes on Galesburg City Council healthy?

Galesburg City Hall
Galesburg City Hall

Split votes are more common on this Galesburg City Council than with previous councils. Do you think the division on this council is healthy?

Stephen Podwojski
Stephen Podwojski

Prefer split votes; two on council were appointed by mayor

I would rather see 4-3 voting all the time versus 7-0.  Let’s face it, the city council shifted last election from a more conservative slant to a more progressive slant. This shift is a bit odd considering that the local area appears to be more red than blue. There are four wards up in 2023 which may further tip the balance either way. Right now some of the council members must think they are sitting on a huge bucket of gold. We just got the bill on the Hawthorne pool. So now, some of the city council are gleefully skipping down the Galesburg pot-holed road with this imaginary full bucket of precious metal to spend more money on projects that the city doesn’t have.

Two of the current council members were appointed by the mayor and eventually the sitting council so no residents actually voted for them in the last city council election. That assisted in creating the shift in the city government political leanings. I contend that really huge financial decisions that impact the city should be VOTED on by the town folk. Based on all my financial focus — I prefer the council makeup that is more socially conscious but dread big ideas that hover over an empty bucket. Show us this stash of “gold” first. — Stephen Podwojski

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Harry Bulkeley
Harry Bulkeley

Differences of opinion healthy in policy making

“All politics is local” is an old canard that I don’t buy into. But, local politics is very important and people who take those thankless jobs on city councils and school boards deserve our thanks. That doesn’t mean they should agree on everything.

You can call it “division,” I call it difference of opinions. The recent vote on approving the new city manager is a good example. The “yes” votes felt Mr. Smith’s credentials justified the salary offered.  The “no” votes had legitimate reasons for questioning the terms of the offer.

The fundamental purpose of democracy is to resolve disagreements peacefully. If we trust our neighbors when we elect then we must respect their decisions — whatever they are. It should be comforting that not everyone agrees on every issue. Differences of opinion are healthy in policy making. — Harry Bulkeley

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Council is stronger when healthy disagreement exists

While I wish that there had been more consensus on the newly hired city manager, I feel that a city council (or any governing body) where there is some healthy disagreement and debate is far stronger than one where everyone always votes the same way as the leader. There is no way to have productive discussions in any group where everyone is in agreement. When this happens, people don’t bother to address the “other side” of an issue.

Dissension in the ranks can become negative in situations where order must be maintained and the leader must be obeyed. The city council is a democratic governing body where votes decide the eventual outcome. I think it is a good thing for members of the public to be able to see how their alderperson is voting so they know who to re-elect or vote out in the next elections. — Jeannette Chernin

William Urban
William Urban

Give council, new city manager, benefit of the doubt

This sounds like one of those “inside baseball” issues which only the most die-hard fans understand. What I do know is that the mayor ran on a platform of equity and inclusion, and while it seems that the council’s disagreement on the salary reflects the fact that many cities are willing to pay a lot to hire a qualified minority candidate, muttered accusations of racism are likely.

We do not live in a quiet time. Wherever you look — at our national government, at nations near and far — societies are divided. The mayor and some council members want to make sweeping changes, fast.

That said, I think we should now wait and see. While a community with many Bears and Cubs fans should be accustomed to constant disappointment, we should give the city council the benefit of a doubt and extend to the new city manager the opportunity to prove himself. — William Urban

The Community Roundtable runs each Sunday and is made up of local writers. Community writers answer one question each week in 150 words or fewer. 

This article originally appeared on Galesburg Register-Mail: Roundtable: Are split votes on Galesburg IL city council healthy?