“Incredible turnout” of Normal summit goers speak out on taxes, government spending

Summit
Florida-based strategist Lyle Sumek, who was facilitator for the Citizen Summit, speaks with discussion team members. (Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)

 

By Howard Packowitz

NORMAL – Normal Mayor Chris Koos said there was an “incredible turnout” for Thursday night’s Citizen Summit, but some of the feedback from the three-hour session isn’t all positive, particularly about spending taxpayer dollars.

About 65 people showed up at the Community Activity Center at One Normal Plaza to help the town government formulate a five-year strategic plan.

Many participants received invitations from current town council members. Others showed up on their own, including Mary Carlisle. She’s among a group of property owners who say their taxes are too high.

“I’m glad that they gave the citizens of Normal this opportunity to have their voices heard, and I really hope they hear us,” said Carlisle.

“I think they need to stop turning to the taxpayer every time they want to do something,” she said.

Summit goers broke into 11 discussion teams, which the event’s facilitator believes is the best way to receive a lot of input in a short amount of time.

Shirley Craig, sitting next to Carlisle, claimed taxpayers are reaching a breaking point before the council makes key spending decisions.

“We’ve got a lot of these big ticket things, and I’m concerned that part of the council doesn’t realize how many of us are against any more property tax increases,” Craig said.

At another table sat Lou Mucciolo, invited by Council member Kathleen Lorenz. He said discussion team members at his table didn’t agree on everything, but they got along.

“I found myself agreeing and disagreeing with each one of them on different issues, but it was a good exchange of ideas, and very civil as well, which is important nowadays because our discourse has gotten so segmented and rancorous,” he said.

Mucciolo said he loves Uptown Normal, favors construction of an underpass at Uptown Station, but believes the council has to strike a balance not to build up too much debt.

The vast majority of summit participants have been in the community 25 years or longer. Very few were younger than 25, who might have had a lot to say about the town’s longer range plans.

“There were some differences of opinion, but everybody remained respectful and courteous. We came together as strangers, and we left as friends,” said Carlisle.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com

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