Readers weigh in on Chestnut Street referendum

Readers weigh in on Chestnut Street referendum Vote against Chestnut plan

To the editor:

On Tuesday, April 8, the citizens of Vermillion have the privilege and opportunity to participate in our local government. That is a basic civil right that all too many of us take for granted. Our mayor and city council tried desperately to keep you from having that input, but fortunately a court of law established that as taxpayers you have a right to have a voice as to how your tax dollars are spent.

What is the issue that pitted the mayor and city council against the taxpayers? A four-block stretch of city street. Why is it so important? Because no matter whether you believe that the city should spend $300,000 widening and improving that four blocks, or whether you think they should spend the $1.3 million that they want to spend to fix it ? it is a symptom ? a symptom of reckless and excessive spending at city hall. It is a symptom of an arrogance at city hall ? that they know best and we know nothing. It is a symptom of disregard for public opinion ? for the people who are actually earning the money and paying the bills.

If you have followed the course of your city government in recent years, you have seen a not-so-well-veiled attempt to cut the public out of the equation of fair and open government. You have seen Mayor Kozak begin holding his meeting-before-the-council-meeting at noon in city hall. For years, this city and its previous mayors and city councils managed to operate without holding meetings upstairs in city hall to talk about what they would talk about at the meeting that night.

These were sold to the public as "work sessions" because "often times city staff doesn't have all the necessary information to answer council members' questions at the council meetings." Perhaps a better solution would be to hire city staff that could be well prepared for meetings. Then the mayor and council wouldn't have to discuss everything before hand out of the public eye.

If you have watched city council meetings, you have repeatedly watched the mayor attempt to quell open discussion. I have talked with people who are too intimidated to speak at council meetings for fear of how they will be treated. Also, if discussion is not going the direction the mayor would like to see it take, his sidekick "calls the question" ? which means that discussion is over. And executive session, after executive session, after executive session? Another way to keep discussion behind closed doors.

The $1.3 million expenditure of your money on these four blocks of street defies logic. It is a 20-year-old plan that has outlived its usefulness. According to the city's outside engineers, this street can be concrete paved, widened and have curb and gutter for approximately $300,000. But apparently that's not good enough for those who hold the purse strings on your tax dollars ? they want to make this little street wider even than Burbank road.

Trucks have been passing each other on Burbank road at 55 mph for eternity, yet our city leaders think that we need to have our little street even wider ? and it will have a speed limit of 25 mph. The city has spent a lot of money to draw kids to this area, yet they want to build a dangerous retaining wall. And now city hall has the audacity to tell us that only if we vote AGAINST the $1.3 million plan will they look at alternatives ? something that should have been done long ago.

For the mayor and city council, this plan is no longer about common sense. It isn't about what's needed. With the economy suffering in both our community and the nation, with incomes and retirement savings shrinking, with jobs becoming scarcer, this is no longer about doing what is fiscally responsible and sound for the taxpayers. It is about winning. It is about a mayor and city council who don't think they should be told what to do by the taxpayers. They want to show you who's boss.

We ask that you vote AGAINST Res. 414-00 on Tuesday, against spending $1.3 million, but no matter how you feel about this street ? whether you want to spent $300,000 to improve it or $1.3 million ? please vote. Either vote will mean that the street will be fixed, but city hall needs to know that we care how our tax dollars are spent. We worked hard for those dollars; all we ask is that they be spent as carefully, wisely and judiciously as possible. And if it's not too much to ask, with more openness, honesty and integrity.

Lynette Melby

Vermillion

Vote for Chestnut Street

To the editor:

I am writing this letter in support of the Chestnut Street project that will be coming to vote next Tuesday. I feel that Chestnut needs to be improved due to safety issues that have been ongoing for several years. I remember several times as a child riding on the school bus and meeting an oncoming semi-truck or some kind of farm machinery on Chestnut Street. I would look out the window of the bus at the steep slope on the south side of the street and hope that we would not go off the side when we would move over to get out of the way of the oncoming obstacle.

I guess it was luck that the bus never ever went off the side of the hill. I know one thing, it was not safe then for buses and it is still not safe today. As a young adult I had a problem one time when I was driving a pay loader down Chestnut Street and met a combine at the narrow section of the street. The combine was several feet wider than my vehicle so I ended up backing up a long way to a spot that we could both pass safely, luckily nobody was coming behind me.

Some people are trying to make the case that the road will be unsafe for kids and pedestrians that use Chestnut Street. First of all, if kids and pedestrians are walking on Chestnut Street why did we build a bike and walking path a few yards to the south? The bottom line is the road is a truck route and a "farm to market" road so it should be designed to accommodate those needs and the needs of the future.

The last time I checked, farm machinery was not getting any smaller. By building the new road it is going to keep less truck and farm equipment from traveling through our town and especially through the heavily traveled pedestrian areas such as Jolley School, the university and downtown.

I feel very strongly about this because of the experiences I've had and I hope you vote yes

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for the plan for Chestnut Street to go ahead. It is the safe thing to do and it is what our local elected officials have already tried to do.

Jon Callahan

Vermillion

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