Urbana mayor will look into ballot questions that passed

URBANA — Mayor Laurel Prussing says she will look in to how to address two ballot questions that city voters this week overwhelmingly approved.

Nearly 72 percent of voters said they would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that money should not be regarded as political speech and private campaign spending should be regulated.

And more than 74 percent of voters said they would support a city ordinance requiring the private owners of public spaces — like a mall or parking lot — to allow non-disruptive political activity on their premises.

Prussing said she was not surprised by the large amount of support. She said there was not much campaigning on either side, and for many voters, the first time they saw the question may have been in the polling booth.

"There wasn't really any campaigning," Prussing said. "I think people just read it and thought, 'Oh yeah, I like that.'"

Both questions were advisory and really only symbolic in nature. Nevertheless, they could spark some movement at the city level.

City officials cannot do much more than write a resolution expressing support to state and federal legislators for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But in the other referendum, voters asked for a city ordinance, over which Prussing and the city council have direct control.

"We'll have a hearing on that," Prussing said. "We'll look into the legalities of it."

The ballot question specifically asked if the city should "establish by ordinance that such privately owned public spaces respect the right of polite, non-disruptive free political speech."

The questions were approved for the ballot by residents who attended a Cunningham Township town hall meeting in April. They almost did not make Tuesday's ballot because they did not conform to state rules for the wording of ballot questions, but city officials sent them along and County Clerk Gordy Hulten eventually printed them anyway.

Voters in Champaign only saw one of those questions on their ballots. More than 72 percent of Champaign voters said that they would support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to regulate political spending.

There's no guarantee that the support for either question will gain any momentum with the Urbana City Council.

In the case of political speech on private property, Prussing did not discount proposing an ordinance, but she said there are plenty of other venues for political activity — public sidewalks and the Internet, for example.

"I don't think that there's any lack of ability for people to get political ideas across," she said.

But city officials will look into it anyway, and it is possible that an advisory resolution on campaign spending could be forthcoming.

"There's just too much money," Prussing said. "It's just insane."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 08, 2012 at 8:11 am
Profile Picture

People sure are generous with other people's property.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 08, 2012 at 1:11 pm

My thoughts also.  If you own a business with a parking lot; you could end up with any individual or group gathering, and disrupting your business.  Any group opposed to anything could use your parking lot.  I foresee problems for the Silver Bullet. :)

Does this apply to public parking lots like the police, and municipal parking lots also? 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 08, 2012 at 11:11 pm
Profile Picture

I've known a number of women who worked at the Silver Bullet, including two who paid their way through grad school working there. They don't have enough craft beer & interesting liquor for my tastes, but I suppose that's not the point.

 

In all seriousness though, I've learned that some of the dancers have regular patrons who tip well, are always respectful, and don't have a whole lot of other emotional connections, or outlets.

 

It's really sweet in a way, and it's also sad.  I wish government would get out of people's private lives. Marriage equality is a first step. 

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 08, 2012 at 11:11 pm
Profile Picture

BTW, this story disappeared from the front page almost immediately (bumped off by on onslaught of new material).  

 

It took me a while to find it again. Sid, we've gotta bump this into the most popular comments section. I think it's important.

 

The people of Urbana were duped. The proposal sounded nice. The language appealed to a sense of fairness. Voters saw  "free speech"  rather than "forced speech."

 

The other referendum was also a crock. But at least it suggested a constitutional amendment, which is always legal (if it passes), rather than a blatantly unconstitutional ordinance.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on November 09, 2012 at 1:11 am
Profile Picture

To bump ...

 

This is not about civil rights  & civil liberties.

 

It's a silly ordinance which might irritate some hapless small business owners from time to time. But the real effect would be similar to Urbana's overbroad human rights ordinance (which prohibits discrimination against criminals -- really, I'm not kidding).

 

It would steer prospective businesses toward Champaign and Savoy, where they don't have to contemplate these headaches.