An Effective City Council?

Tuesday night the Batavia City Council did something amazing: they listened to the people, they asked questions, they thought for themselves, they pushed back against Staff (and the Mayor), and they did good. They did their jobs representing the citizens of Batavia.

Now, it shouldn’t be amazing that an elected council does its job, and really it isn’t for this current council. They make good decisions the vast majority of the time, but most of their decisions are mundane, ordinary, nuts-and-bolts decisions. Tuesday was different.

The first topic of interest they shined on was the school and park districts’ requests for increased impact fees on developers. The districts gave no justification for the large increases. Mr. John Pitz, longtime resident of Batavia, developer, and former school board member (first elected 37 yrs ago), submitted a list of 11 questions that should be answered before any increases are made, along with a letter (starts p. 20) explaining the history and purpose of Batavia’s impact fees. Says Mr. Pitz:

It would be prudent for the City to request that the School District and Park District provide:

  1. an audit as to how the Ordinance dollars, collected from year 2000 to present, were spent by the School District and the Park District
  2. how future Ordinance dollars will be spent by the Districts
  3. the anticipated residential construction over the next 5 years
  4. enrollment figures, for elementary, middle, and high schools, for the last 6 years
  5. the school population number that would trigger the construction of a new grade school, a new middle school, or a new high school
  6. the location of where the school(s) would be constructed
  7. the time line for deciding a new school is required
  8. time to develop plans for a new school
  9. time to construct a new school
  10. how the construction would be financed
  11. why the Ordinance is required

This information would assist in evaluating the effectiveness of the Ordinance and in determining whether the Ordinance is required.

John Pitz was there to give his comments at the start of the discussion. He said those fees were meant to buy land to build schools, but now with Batavia land-locked, there is little room left for the number of houses that would require new school buildings, especially at the acreage increases the schools requested (80 acres for a high school!).

Mayor Schielke vehemently disagreed, more upset than I’d ever seen him.

Aldermen asked what happens to the money they collect. Staff reported it goes into a separate fund in City accounts and checks are written from there to the appropriate districts. They used to ask for receipts for work done, but not any more. Aldermen didn’t like that. The request by Pitz was enacted by the Council and the matter was sent back to the Boards for answers.

THEN they got to Houston St. City Administrator Bill McGrath and Staff gave a history of the different proposals for the Houston St. Streetscape Project. They said a plan had never been agreed upon. Alderman Susan Stark questioned that assertion. They insisted there was no decision. Alderman Marty Callahan then proceeded to read from the Oct. 8 City Council minutes, including the roll call vote to accept Houston St. Option 1. *slam*

Calm, reasoned discussion followed. In the end, they stuck with the approved plan, Option 1, a sensible plan with separate bike and walking paths, with a strip of concrete between them, but with the addition of some islands for greenery/trees in the strip, between the lampposts. No funky swooshes or obstacles or mixing of bikes and pedestrians.

–A good, and long, evening

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