The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

January 20, 2013

Some struggle to attend meetings

BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Commercial-News

DANVILLE — One alderman who hasn’t been seen in the city council chambers since Aug. 7 is considering resigning due to his job taking him away from city business and meetings.

Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Davis has missed 10 regular or special city council meetings and six committee meetings since July. During the first half of 2012, Davis also missed the most meetings of any alderman at eight meetings.

Davis said he has a chance to change his 1:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. hours in March, working at a residence hall for the University of Illinois food service. But if he can’t change his hours, Davis said he will resign from the council.

Davis’ term on the council expires in 2015.

Another alderwoman in Ward 2, Lois Cooper, has had unfortunate, serious health issues keep her away from meetings since late September. But she still regularly talks with Mayor Scott Eisenhauer and other city officials and addresses constituents’ phone calls.

Other aldermen missed a few meetings due to family, work or other obligations and reasons.

Ward 7 Alderman Bill Black is one who calls city officials and the Commercial-News when he will miss a meeting.

Ward 5 Alderman Tom Stone saw perfect attendance at council, committee and special meetings during the second half of the year.

This is a second review of attendance of city council members from 2012 by the Commercial-News.

The second half of the year saw only one city council meeting of Aug. 7 have perfect attendance.

Aldermen are not required to attend council and committee meetings, but generally each of the 14 aldermen have two city council meetings a month in addition to one committee meeting a month. They are expected to attend the sessions to act on agenda items.

The Danville City Council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Robert E. Jones Municipal Building, 17 W. Main St., at Walnut and Main streets.

The council votes on resolutions and ordinances reviewed during the previous Tuesday Public Works or Public Services committee meetings.

Seven aldermen serve on the Public Services and Public Works committees, respectively.

Aldermen receive a stipend of $225 a month no matter how many meetings they attend. There is no per diem for aldermen, where they would be paid for the meetings they attend.

Davis said his work schedule of being a teaching assistant in the Urbana school district and also an assistant track coach caused him to miss meetings during the first half of 2012.

He also rides the city bus and must abide by its schedule, causing him to be late to some meetings.

In July 2012, Davis said he might be getting a different job that would allow him to attend meetings more regularly. That’s been the opposite case, however.

Davis, who sometimes doesn’t come back to Danville for days because he stays with a friend closer to work, says he’s continued to “try to maneuver” his work hours at the university. But he said he is “low on the totem pole,” in choosing hours before other co-workers.

Davis started missing all meetings when his job started in August. He said he tried to switch hours with another person who transferred, but that also didn’t work out. Davis works Saturday through Wednesday, with some other special training sessions.

He works in the housing division with food service at a dining facility in one of the residence halls. Until he’s off his probationary period in March, he can’t bid for other work hours.

“Once I get off probation, if I can’t bid out I will have to resign,” Davis said about being alderman.

Davis said his job has to come first. He said he has personal responsibilities to fulfill as far as his bills, loans and child support for his son.

When he first landed the job, he was seeing if he could move his hours around, he said.

“I needed a job. That’s more important,” Davis said. “I can’t live on the streets.”

He said he needs to sustain a living.

He was on call with the Urbana School District with his previous job. This is a 40-hour-week job that was more permanent.

Davis said he’s been keeping up with what’s been going on with city business.

“I know they are working on the new budget,” he said, adding that layoffs likely will be needed but he wants the city to keep services.

Davis previously tried to stay in contact with his constituents through ward meetings, which took a break for the summer, and church and other gatherings.

Lois Cooper, who will be 80 in June, said she feels “pretty good for an old lady,” but she’s suffered from a stroke and falls. Her doctor has advised her to not attend city council meetings.

“I still am having to use a walker in my house. It’s too heavy to fold up and get in my car,” she said.

Cooper continues to receive constituent phone calls and people come to her house about city issues.

“I pass them on immediately,” she said about the issues.

Cooper said she is doing her work as an alderwoman, but more at home.

Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said he and City Comptroller Gayle Lewis regularly receive phone calls each week from Cooper.

“She still maintains a constant contact,” Eisenhauer said, adding that the city council agenda packets are delivered to Cooper’s home.

“The doctor has not released her to come back to meetings,” Eisenhauer said.

Cooper’s term as alderwoman ends after the April 9 election.

She said both candidates, Darrell Heath and Frank Hoskins, are “good candidates” to take her place.

There were other aldermen who missed one or two meetings for the year, including Stone, Ward 4 Alderman Mike O’Kane and Ward 6 Alderman Jon Cooper.

The aldermen also had special budget study sessions last year.