Alderman tries to cut city ties with Shop Local First

Alderman tries to cut city ties with Shop

slfBy Rick Wade
“I don’t understand this at all.”
With those six simple words, Shop Local First member Bob Bell voiced what many of the people at city hall Aug. 5 were probably thinking after Alderman Mark Staerk made a motion to revoke the city of Carlinville’s membership with the grassroots non-for-profit group that encourages residents to buy from local businesses.

“At this particular point in time, considering that Shop Local First is supposed to be a community-oriented type of an organization providing community services and cooperation amongst all of our various organizations, and considering that the current lawsuit against the city is being driven by Beth Toon and other members of that organization, I would ask that we revoke our membership, take all of our names off any media, websites, and things of that nature, until this issue is resolved, and look at it in the future for reconsideration for membership when dues come due again,” said Staerk, Ward 1 alderman.

“I am not asking for any money back, I simply don’t feel real comfortable being associated with an organization that allows its president to be the main face of a lawsuit against us.”

Staerk was referring to a complaint filed against the city of Carlinville in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court July 22 by opponents of the rezoning of the former Carlinville Area Hospital. Also named in the lawsuit is Carlinville Area Hospital and the Macoupin County Housing Authority, which requested the rezoning in order to convert the facility into affordable housing for military veterans.

Toon and her husband, Dennis, are two of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The couple do not live in the neighborhood surrounding the former hospital located at 1001 Morgan St. There are no other SLF members listed as plaintiffs in the complaint. Toon is also the former zoning officer for the city of Carlinville, and was defeated by Mayor Deanna Demuzio in the April mayoral election.

“Well, that person (Toon) is also affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary,” said Ward 2 Alderman Jan Best. “Should we pull our membership out from them, and cancel the Rotary Halloween Parade, too?”

“That’s their business,” responded Staerk. “I’m asking the city council, not the chamber.”

“We are members of the chamber,” returned Best.

“The chamber isn’t suing us,” said Staerk.

At that point, one of the plaintiffs in the complaint, Aimee Arseneaux-Payne, attempted to address the council, but at first was cut off by Demuzio, who said, “We’ve already had public comment,” at the beginning of the meeting.

Arseneaux-Payne continued her effort to be heard, saying, “Well, there’s incorrect information. So that’s why I am raising my hand.”

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