City Council Candidates answer questions

The Arbor District Neighborhood Association asked the four City Council candidates to respond to 16 questions. I compiled their responses here. 

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Help create a dog park in Carbondale

Dog Park Planning Meeting

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Carbondale Civic Center Room 108

For the past several months a small group of Carbondale dog lovers has been meeting to create a dog park in Carbondale. We need your help!

This Tuesday, Feb. 21, 7:00-9:00 we’re hosting a public meeting at the Carbondale Civic Center. We’re looking for ideas, energy, and commitment.

We have met with the City of Carbondale and with the Park District and found both support this project. But this has to be a citizen effort.  Neither the City nor the Park District has the staff or financial resources to make a dog park happen.

Visit our Facebook page. Share the invitation on social media. And come to Tuesday’s meeting and help make Carbondale a better place for dogs and their people.


The kindness of strangers – The caring of neighbors

At the community forum generated by Tim Beaty’s killing and the recent rash of violent crimes, two points were made by a number of participants:

  1. Many people don’t feel welcome here. One young man recounted his friend’s experience at Polar Bear when he was shot and no one would help him until his third or fourth attempt. Others said they experienced callous indifference from people they encountered, especially landlords, business people, the police, and others in positions of authority. They thought this contributed to a pervasive feeling that Carbondale isn’t safe.
  1. Combatting crime requires far more than official action. It requires that people feel – and act on – a sense of responsibility for one another. Tim’s spontaneous effort to protect partiers who fled the shooting was exemplary. He did not consider age, race, and other qualities, such as whether or not someone is a student or long-term resident, when he acted. They were neighbors; they needed help.

The weekend of April 22 to 25 we went to a truck camper rally in Gatlinburg, Virginia. That trip brought home, in a very personal way, the deep importance of the kindness of strangers and the caring of neighbors to my personal sense of security.

The kindness of strangers

Six a.m. Friday we packed the camper, hooked up our Suzuki Samurai, and took off in intermittent rain. Somewhere in Kentucky we breakfasted at a Waffle House.

Avon towing Suzuki

The catch: there was only one entrance/exit from the parking lot and while we were eating, cars parked where we needed to turn around. But, not to worry. A man came over to help us back our over-long rig around. He was a retired over-the-road trucker and knew exactly how to turn the wheels to give us clearance. Two points and we were on our way.


South of Fort Campbell traffic came to a screeching halt. D. jammed on his breaks and, as we stopped, we heard a loud crunch in our rear. D. inched the truck onto the shoulder. The tow bar had crumpled, pitching the Suzuki into our rear bumper. What to do? I said call our insurance company’s road service. Nope, D. fished out a hammer and screwdriver, disconnected the towbar, heaved it in the back of the camper, and we drove to the next exit. The fellows at the truck stop directed us to a Goodyear shop behind them. There, two helpful – and strong and smart – workmen made short work of banging our towbar back into shape and reattaching a cross brace. And they refused any payment. “They pay us good here,” they said, waving us on.

But wait, there’s more. We got to the rally and discovered that the headlights on the Suzuki were on. Permanently. As we set up our camper a couple of the other TC-ers came over to chat. They looked over the machine and figured out that a wire was caught where the front end pinched the wire into the radiator. They disconnected the wire and voila! lights out. The next morning the older man came back with a strap and come-along. Carefully placing it on the crumpled front of the Samurai and hooking it to our truck, he straightened out the bend, then made sure the hood closed, reconnected the wires, and it was like nothing had ever happened.

comealong2 comealong1

We had no other mishaps, in fact, had a delightful rally followed by a tour of Great Smoky Mountain National Park at the height of wildflower season, on an absolutely gorgeous day.

The caring of neighbors

As we headed out from home, D. realized he hadn’t arranged for his flower seedlings to be watered. I called a neighbor who said of course she’d water them.

Then, on Monday, we got a note from another neighbor saying he had picked up our weekend New York Times since he figured we wouldn’t want them lying around letting the world know we were gone.

He had, himself, been the recipient of observant neighbors who saw someone trying to break into his house while he was gone for winter break. They called the police and secured his door, leaving his home intact with nothing stolen.

I could recount many other ways that our neighbors have helped one another – when requested and through their vigilance, protecting neighbors from harm. “Neighbors,” in our neighborhood, include highly transient students and other renters as well as long-term residents.

Most of us long-term residents go out of our way to speak to everyone as we walk our dogs, work in our gardens, and walk about the neighborhood. We have mobilized when crime became prevalent; we have formal and informal picnics, parties, and meetings that we try to invite everyone to; and every fall we welcome the students who are moving in.

Strong neighborhoods won’t stop all crime, by any means. But strong neighborhoods can make strangers feel welcome and increase everyone’s sense of security.

To learn more about our neighborhood, visit the Arbor District website and the Arbor District Neighborhood Association Facebook page.

A neighborly community is an empowered community.

Citizen priorities on violent crime

The community forum held April 21 addressed violent crime in Carbondale. Nearly 200 people attended, offering 31 suggestions for actions to make Carbondale safer. The top six priorities the group established were:

  1. Enact a chronic nuisance ordinance. The City Council was encouraged to develop an effective and proactive ordinance that will identify and resolve problems associated with chronic nuisance properties. Participants noted that frequent contact by police and other city agencies to respond to rental properties with reoccurring complaints removes officers from other, more important work that is more impactful in reducing crime.
  2. Increase police foot patrols. Participants indicated that police foot patrols could be used as an effective deterrent to crime as part of a comprehensive approach to community policing.
  3. Change the mindset of youth as they deal with conflict. Speakers urged the city to help agencies and organizations in the area that address the needs of youth at all ages. Randy Osborn of the Boys and Girls Club has volunteered to help lead the effort.
  4. Improve street lighting in the community. Participants in the forum suggested that the City and Ameren work together to help fight crime by installing and maintaining better lighting in high-crime areas.
  5. Develop landlord/property manager communication with the city regarding nuisance properties. Participants in the Forum suggested that criminal activity is sometimes identified with specific properties. They urged the City to develop a partnership with landlords to identify problem properties and to immediately communicate problems associated with those properties.
  6. Expand community outreach to SIU students.  A Joint committee could be instituted to identify community outreach actives that might be useful in fostering positive interaction between residents of the City and SIU students

These have been presented to the City Manager.


Make our city safe!

Leave a legacy for Tim Beaty

Community Forum Thursday, April 21, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Civic Center

This Thursday, April 21, 6:00-8:00 p.m., at the Civic Center, an ad hoc community group is holding a forum spurred by the killing of Tim Beaty and the recent spate of gun and other violent acts. The question asked of participants will be “What can we as a community do to make Carbondale safer and more welcoming for everyone?”

Mayor Henry and Chancellor Colwell have agreed to attend, and other city and university officials, including all members of the City Council have been invited. John Washburn will facilitate the forum.

A week after that dreadful Easter morning, March 27, when Tim Beaty was killed while protecting some of the fleeing party-goers, D. and I invited a number of our neighbors and other Carbondale residents to our home to discuss what should be done. The group decided a community forum should be held to bring people together and to develop responses to this shooting and other violence that occurs all-too-frequently in our neighborhoods.

The following week an ad hoc committee met to plan the meeting.

Several of the people we invited live where the bullets could have injured us: Our home is 450 feet from 402 W. Walnut; other participants live 270 feet, 400 feet, and 850 feet from the shooting. We have experienced other shootings and knifings in our neighborhood. These included shootings at unauthorized parties hosted by fraternities and at events at the bar at 227 W. Main, and Ryan Livingston’s murder July 13, 2006. He was knifed in the course of an armed robbery, dying in the 300 block of West Walnut.

For the past decade, alarmed by the dangers for residents and partygoers, the Arbor District has met repeatedly with the police department. As a result of these meetings, the Police Department now sends out notices of crimes on its email news feed and established crime mapping. Last year the neighborhood worked with the City to develop stronger mechanisms for averting large gatherings that result in mayhem (for example, overturning cars) and violence.

But this is the first time, to my knowledge, that anyone in Carbondale has been killed by a stray bullet. And, over the past couple of weeks, the papers have reported a spate of violent acts all over the city, and incidents that involve more than neighborhoods with large student populations.


Graphic from the Daily Egyptian. The latest incident, not on this graphic, occurred last night in the100 block of N. Glenview, on the city’s west side.

Leadership needed

When Tim Beaty was killed and hundreds of students and nearby families were endangered by an unsanctioned fraternity party, no one in authority spoke up. Not the Mayor, not the Chancellor, not the Carbondale or SIU Police Chiefs… there was a complete vacuum of leadership.

But Carbondale got in motion. Social media exploded. All Easter week PKs and other members of Tim’s community gathered. Friday night WDBX held a fundraiser for Tim’s 5-year-old son. We met in our living room on Monday; on Tuesday Council members spoke during Council Comments; on Wednesday, April 6, a group of SIUC’s black student leaders met to address violence at black events and racism on campus.

What to do?

We discussed two major issues in our living room: large parties and events that erupt in violence and mayhem, and nuisance houses in residential areas that bleed violence and crime into the surrounding neighborhood.

We need different – but overlapping – tools to address the different situations.

Parties and events

Strong coordination between the City and SIUC, and especially the department that oversees fraternities and sororities, is needed to address large parties and unruly student behavior. Event and party hosts need to know Carbondale’s laws; the police need to be able to quickly determine who is hosting the party or event; and they need to be proactive – with foot patrols – in making clear that people attending the events should enjoy themselves, but stay within the law.

Violent crime in neighborhoods

Cities around the country, faced with high crime apartment complexes and neighborhoods, have enacted a wide variety of “Good Neighbor” codes aimed at making housing safe.

One foundation for safe housing requires rental units to be physically safe for their tenants. With its strong housing codes, Carbondale does a good job of making sure landlords provide housing that is physically safe. A few tweaks could enhance tenant safety – for example, require working lights over every exterior entrance and in common hallways. In some areas enforcement could be more reliable – as in the city’s requirement that house numbers be clearly visible – something not enforced at 402 West Walnut and elsewhere.

The other foundation is helping landlords make sure they deliver a safe product to their customers – their renters. Carbondale does a poor job of this.

We own rental property in Carbondale. I can say in my lease that loud all-night parties, drug dealing, and other illegal behavior are grounds for eviction. But, unless I have knowledge of police contacts, I won’t be able to determine if my tenants are engaged in illegal activities.

Set up a system to quickly notify landlords any time a rental unit has a call for service to the police.

Some of the city’s most dangerous properties are apartment complexes owned by absentee landlords. For these landlords, we need the ability to declare high crime units “nuisances” by strengthening our nuisance codes.

Currently, if a property endangers the health, life, or safety of a tenant, the City will immediately post it as uninhabitable. The tenants must move out, and it cannot again be rented until the necessary repairs are made.

We need similar teeth to shut down units that are unsafe for the surrounding residents. Until the nuisance is abated, the unit cannot be rented.

These simple measures: Coordination between the City and SIUC to establish a strong and consistent “party policy,” landlord and manager notification of police contacts with their properties, and posting of nuisance properties will go a long way to assure students and others that they can rent a unit that is safe, and to decrease crime in our community.

Bring your concerns and ideas and come to the Community Forum April 21, 6:00-8:00 p.m., Civic Center/City Hall.


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