By Jorge Casuso
June 28 -- It was one of the most dramatic failures
to make a motion in recent City Council history. With only
five members initially present, the council failed to act
on an appeal to a Landmarks Commission decision to designate
the beach cottage at 2219 Ocean Avenue a City landmark.
Following is an edited transcript of the strange
hearing that saw one council member walk out in protest
amidst allegations that moving ahead with a hearing
Mayor Pro tem Herb Katz, who was chairing
the meeting: We are not a full council tonight. Any
action is going to take four votes.
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie: The rules require four votes
Council member Bob Holbrook: The appellant has requested
this should be continued.
||Council member Ken Genser: We’re here
tonight because the appellant couldn’t make it last
time. . . . This has already been continued. Do you (the
appellant) keep asking for a continuance until you get
the combination of council members that you want?
Holbrook: I hope it comes down to fair play. When you have
five people, two people can control the outcome, and I don’t
think that should be the intent.
||Council member Kevin McKeown: I think we
should be extra careful to listen. . . but we shouldn’t
continue (the item).
Katz: We should have at least six.
Pam O’Connor: I’ll see you later. (She gets
up and leaves.)
Katz: You’re down to four. Now we have a problem. .
. . We have four council members for the rest of the evening.
At the moment do we have a motion?
Holbrook: It just isn’t fair to the process.
The council votes on a motion to continue, but the motions
fail on a 2 to 2 vote, with Katz and Holbrook favoring the
motion and Genser and McKeown opposing it.
||Chris Harding, the attorney for the appellant, the University
of Illinois Foundation: The council has never denied a
continuance with four council members present, never in
my 30 years of experience here. I want that on the record.
I think it’s fundamentally unfair at 5, and it’s
especially unfair at 4.
Genser: I would agree that when we normally have four we
would continue, but this is a different situation. I can’t
speak exactly to why she (O’Connor) wanted to leave.
She disagreed with this and wanted to force a continuance
of the matter and walked out. I don’t know for certain,
but that’s what it certainly looked like. I think it’s
worse that we have gotten into the position that one council
member, by deciding to walk out, change the outcome of the
meeting. I think we are forced to hear this.
After testimony from Hardimg, consultants and neighbors
backing the landmark designation, the council deliberated
on the matter.
Katz: The matter is before the council. You all want to go
Holbrook: I’m not one to walk out on a meeting because
I disagree with the vote and our procedures. . . .
Katz: Neither is Pam. She’s back. (O’Connor
takes her seat on the dais.)
||Holbrook: . . . but I also don’t believe
in winning at any cost, and I don’t believe we offered
the appellant a fair hearing, because there are so few
here tonight. . . . Earlier today, I was disposed to save
the cottage, but I don’t want to cast a vote on
this at all. Maybe it’s my ethics. . . . I just
don’t want to be a part of it.
Katz: Anybody want to make a motion? (He waits. No one
does.) Folks, we can sit here all night.
Genser: I disagree about the fairness issue. I think on balance
we proceeded in the correct way.
||O’Connor: I listened to the public
hearing, by the way. Frankly, I think if six of us would
have been here. . . . it would have remained a landmark.
I think the council acted unfairly. Having a fair process
Katz: For a moment, I thought of leaving the dais myself,
which would have broken a quorum, and I just couldn’t
do that. I think we as a council did not act fairly. We needed
six members here, and we didn’t get that. I think it’s
a shame. As for the building itself, I think it could have
gone either way.
No motion is made.
Katz: For the public, they’re looking at us like, what
did you just do?
Moutrie: A failure to take any action means the landmarks
decision stands. The appellant has made it clear they intend
to pursue litigation.
Katz: What we have done is take no action. The landmarks
decision holds. It is a landmark.
The audience applauds.