Council Response to Public Comments at Decatur, IL City Council | August 2, 2021

Interim Police Chief Brandel discusses policing with council and points to societal issues like mental health. Mayor shirked her covid responsibilities, pointing at the state & fed. Drama ensued between two council members.

Last updated August 3, 2021 by Reed Sutman

Intro

View the public comments portion of last night's city council meeting (Aug 2, 2021).

There are folks talking about COVID, "back the blue", the resignation of Rodney Walker, climate change, a community project, and possibly more. I left shortly after I gave public comment, due to concerns about covid, being in a very small room, and a lack of masking. I missed about the middle 20 minutes of comments. I watched the portion with Brandel online today (Aug 3).

The council meeting was held on the third floor, rather than the larger theatre which it has been in for most of the pandemic. Many people were unmasked. Several of them cheered anti-vaccine, anti-mask comments. Most of them appeared to be there to "back the blue" (judging by clothing & the comments I did see & associated cheering and clapping).

Covid was not even on the agenda, even though we had 93 new cases last week & five new delta cases between last Tuesday and last Friday (Jul 27th - Jul 30th)

Council Hears from Police Chief Brandel

At 40 minutes, Mayor invites Interim Police Chief Shane G. Brandel to share his thoughts of what coucil should do.

Interim Chief Brandel does talk about the need for social services to resolve problems like poverty, and states this is not the role of police.

Faber and Brandel

Faber asked Brandel if an increase in officers correlates with a reduction in crime rates. Brandel discussed the phrasing of the question, mentions more officers affecting how crime is done, and points to socio-economic conditions as a root issue.

Faber asks Brandel specifically how many more patrol officers DPD needs. Brandel says this is a question better answered at a later time.

Brandel on the difficulties of policing and societal problems

Amongst discussion with Faber, Shange G. Brandel monologues at about 48:00: "Policing is about as difficult as anything that I've ever experienced". He says a little about community relations and answering policing calls. And continues "And then you're also dealing with all the ramifications of societal issues, many of which you have zero control over. ... Some of that is decisions made by elected officials. And you know, prime example of that is we're constantly dealing with mental health issues. And those are issues that have been underfunded for decades within the state and federal level and we're left to deal with that. And unfortunately we're not trained or educated to deal with that and therefore you have negative consequences from that."

David Horn on police and gun violence

Horn proposes $3 million funding in 2021 (from the American Rescue Plan, I believe) to reduce gun violence by:

  • Fund the 6 police officer positions that were eliminated in 2020
  • 120 (one-hundred-twenty) additional cameras in high crime areas.
  • 9 full time mental health crisis counselors to assist police officers
  • Launch community violence intervention programs
  • Youth employment initiatives
  • Re-entry programs for previously incarcerated individuals

Horn on Covid:

I'm paraphrasing a lot, but Horn says that we have the worst covid metrics in Central IL:

  • highest per capita case rate
  • highest per capita death rate
  • lowest vaccination rate.

He says (still paraphrasing some):

  • The city already has multiple laws including mask requirements & requirements for Licensees. The City of Decatur needs to be prepared for how we are going to enforce our local laws, particularly as covid 19 cases increase.
  • With less than a 40% vaccination rate, the city of Decatur and macon county is susceptible to a resurgence in Covid 19.
  • With the delta variant, you can get people who are vaccinated who can spread this virus. So let us talk about how we are going to be enforcing our laws when we have an increase in COVID 19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths

Further Covid discussion

Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe states: (I'm paraphrasing) The city will follow the recommendations of the CDC and IDPH and be consistent with what is either an executive order or mandate. And there are currently not mandates, but only recommendations in place. It is the guidance of CDC that macon county is at a substantial risk and masking indoors is recommended, but we are "in compliance with state guidelines, correct?" she asks City Manager Scot Wrighton

Wrighton Responds: (Notice my highlights) "Mayor, I believe that your summary is correct. And I would like to make a clarification [regarding a quote from local media which David Horn spoke of]. [I said] that our position is, as you have rightly said, to follow the recommendations of the CDC, which is also the governor's recommendation. It is your perogative as a City Council to vary from that, but as it stands now, with the ordinances you have adopted, that is your posture, and we will not go beyond that, unless the city council directs that."

Mayor:
"And that is consistent with what we have done for the past year and a half."

Kuhle talks

I'm paraphrasing Kuhle's remarks: He's wearing his mask & wears one when he's asked to. He says if you don't wanna wear a mask, then don't. But if you're asked to wear a mask, then don't fight it. Wear the mask in the business, or do business elsewhere. He opposed implementing a mask mandate and "fighting with businesses".

In regard to requests from black folks that Rodney Walker's seat be filled by a black candidate. Kuhle encourages "that community" to encourage as african american candidates to apply (before close of business on Wednesday).

Lisa Gregory bringing personal attacks

She chastises David Horn for talking about COVID during a council meeting which did not have COVID on the agenda. She accuses him of manipulating situations when talking about the $3 million dollars to prevent gun violence. She mentions Faber's questions to Chief Brandel. She says that Chief Brandel is working on it and he will tell us what he needs. "And we will do our best to give him and his command what he needs," says Gregory.

Side Note: Brandel said in regard to mental health issues "we're not trained or educated to deal with that and therefore you have negative consequences from that.". Horn proposed nine full time mental health counselors.

She accuses Horn of being uncollaborative. Claims that he never picks up the phone to call other city council members. Says that after his ride-alongs he does not discuss it with the City Manager.

"I don't save it for the last minute and box my colleagues into a corner." Gregory finishes.

David Horn Responds: "The notion that I don't inform council members about my views is simply ridiculous. Every time that the spouses of the police officers have come, I have made my support known. And I have been discussing ways we can fund and support our police officers. The notion that I'm not communicating is simply ridiculous."

My Conclusion

It was a shit show. Covid should have been on the agenda.

Horn was accused of not caring about police. But his support for police is one of the few things I find frustrating about him. However, he, in addition to promoting funding for police & filling of officer positions, does propose real solutions. He talks about other things than just needing people with guns on the street (my words). So I appreciate that. And "back the blue" folks should, too. Horn talks about addressing root issues, which would reduce crime & violence, which would make it safer to be a police officer.

I find this all so frustrating.

And I'm furious about their responses to COVID. Our cases are spiking locally, and most officials are pointing at the state and CDC to say that they don't need to do anything. The City Manager made clear that the city CAN take action. Kuhle doesn't want to mandate masks or fight with businesses. Sure. Okay, i guess? I don't want people to die. I don't want children to get severely ill. I don't want my grandma to die because someone chose not to vaccinate or social distance or wear their goddamn mask. I want the fucking liberty to go in public safely, without risking the lives of people I love.

I'm biased. Watch the comments yourself if you're concerned about that. I tried to be mostly unbiased outside my conclusion & intro.

I also spoke at the council meeting about COVID (probably about 15 mins into the video).