aldermania: What's cooking
City Council met Tuesday night to share a bowl of pudding. Nothing that required chewing, nothing tough to digest, nothing that might trigger a food allergy -- just soft, yummy pudding.
The stinky Brussels sprouts that was a zoning request to build a Harper's Oil station near a historic neighborhood was put back into the fridge until June 15, much to the chagrin of dozens of residents who turned out en masse for the big showdown.
But hey, at least it was on the agenda. Two other leafy green topics didn't even make the menu: A long-overdue set of ordinances finalizing contracts with St. John's Hospital and other health care providers wasn't listed. The new contracts, negotiated in December, represent substantial savings. One alderman says the delay may have cost the city as much as $300,000.
"I think somebody dropped the ball," says Ward 1 Alderman Frank Edwards, who worked on the committee. "We should've been getting the discounts all along. We haven't been and I intend to find out why."
Mayor Tim Davlin promised the contracts will be on the agenda at the June 1 meeting, and said St. John's has agreed to make the lower rates retroactive to March 1, 2004.
The other vegetable left simmering on the back burner was the police review board. Ward 10 Alderman Bruce Strom's suggestion that the council consult the panel of experts who advised the previous council in March 2003 was met with grumblings that consultation would be too costly. However, a quick (and free) phone call to one of those three experts -- Richard Jerome, the Harvard-educated attorney who worked on the local voting rights case of 1986 -- revealed that the issues our council is struggling with are just the usual. Subpoena power, he says, is almost universally controversial, and the majority of review panels do not have it. The question of how many members has no magic answer. And as for the notion of whether the board can be established as a work in progress, Jerome is optimistic.
"While you always want to try to get best ordinance first time, you don't want to make the perfect the enemy of the good," he says.
One dish being served strictly behind the scenes was Korn Dogs. As the most fortunate Springfieldians know, Bob Vose, former alderman of Ward 5 and legendary State Fair vendor, invites his friends (Davlin among them) over for Korn Dogs in his garage-cum-cafe about once a month during the fall.
One day, someone mentioned the name Irv Smith, and Vose responded that the Ward 8 Alderman is not invited. In fact, Vose decided, Smith isn't even welcome in his garage. And in case there's any doubt, Vose commissioned a large, professionally-made sign stating "Irv Smith is not allowed on this property."
A couple of weeks ago, Vose sent a letter to the Northend Republican Club, removing himself from the local party.
"To me, continued loyalty to the Republican party with this leadership is just like flushing my money down the stool," Vose says. "I've been loyal to the party, but the party hasn't been loyal to me."
He has a lengthy list of complaints -- general criticisms about Smith's leadership, his absenteeism, and instances where Smith promised to reimburse him for campaign debt and didn't.
Smith says Vose didn't send him any campaign bills, and wouldn't comment on the absenteeism. "It's tough being chair when the chips are down," Smith says.
However, Vose's denunciation of the local Republican party doesn't mean he's turned Democrat. "I'm still a Republican," he says. "But I'm an independent Republican."