Champaign council to discuss changing public notice of meetings

CHAMPAIGN – The city council this week will discuss new guidelines for public notices of open meetings and decide whether to spend $30,000 on a multi-agency mosquito control program.

The council will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St., for its regular meeting, followed by the study session on open meetings.

Since 1993, the mosquito program was managed by a researcher at the University of Illinois' Natural History Survey.

Champaign public works operations manager Tom Schuh said the program this year would be managed by the C-U Public Health District.

"The program didn't really fit his research any longer," Schuh said.

The city's share of the $50,000 program would be $30,000. Urbana and Savoy would also contribute.

The four essentials of the program would remain, Schuh said. Those are public education about mosquitoes, scouting of potential breeding areas, testing to see if larvae in those areas carry one or more of several viruses harmful to humans, and treating those areas, which involves applying a larvicide.

Schuh said the means by which the public health district tests for viruses carried by mosquitoes – like West Nile Virus and St. Louis Encephalitis – is a "little less sophisticated."

Testing at the public health district is a simple strip test, Schuh said, while UI testing included RNA analysis on a spectrometer.

The council is also schedules to discuss whether certain gatherings of council members should go by a different name or be publicized under the state's Open Meetings Act.

The discussion does not concern state rules – rather, council members will decide whether to make revisions to city guidelines that determine when a meeting should be publicized and minutes be recorded, according to city documents.

Often, the city issues public notices for informal gatherings of council members on occasions like dinners and parades. Under the proposal, these events would be called a "council attended social function" rather than a meeting. Other events, like neighborhood meetings, would be renamed to "community civic event."

State law dictates that whenever three or more Champaign City Council members meet to discuss city business, it is considered an open meeting. City officials have said that, at the informal gatherings, council members do not discuss city business.

According to city documents, "the proposal would clarify that a 'council attended social function' is not a meeting as defined in the open meetings act, hence no notice or minutes are required for council attended social functions."

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peabody wrote on July 06, 2010 at 1:07 am

Funny. During their election campaigns these people promised to listen to our problems, but now that they're in office they want to make themselves harder to find. And how much money will the city save by selling this latest principle down the river?

sahuoy wrote on July 06, 2010 at 4:07 am

When three or more members are present and choose to discuss business amongst themselves who is to say this meeting is no longer a council attended social function? These members appear to be trying to circumvent the very laws set to protect the people from such an act. Such a decision should not be controlled by council members. This is the problem with the system. Creating laws which are then controlled by the politicians they affect and no longer controlled by the people they serve. Isn't this process of the people fighting/winning better transparency only then to be closed by politicians who are not acting on behalf of the people gone on long enough? The one absolute standard that must always remain is the best interest of the people and not the interest of those elected in this particular matter. That would save a great deal of money spent for the correct reasons for the people rather than having elected officials undo this service only to service themselves.at a greater expense to the public trust. Rules are made to be broken but not by those serving but rather those served and that does not include politicians.