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Out Here: Gulf between politicians, public?

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Sometimes, our elected leaders’ discussions have little resemblance to those on social media.

One recent instance was the Lee County Board’s nearly unanimous decision to reject a proposal for a few apartments on land in Nelson Township.

The action was based on a zoning board recommendation, which said the apartments would not conform with the county’s comprehensive plan. That blueprint calls for protecting prime farmland and restricting development to property next to cities and villages.

The only dissenter on the Lee County Board was Wes Morrissey, D-Amboy, who said he didn’t believe it was the county’s role to stop the property owners from having apartments.

During the zoning board meeting, neighbors of the proposed development argued against it, saying it would probably bring in low-income people who would take part in criminal activity.

That set off a heated discussion on Sauk Valley Media’s Facebook page.

“Low-income families do not equal a rundown part of town,” one reader wrote. “How many people work to pay the bills and have less than a hundred bucks once their bills are paid? Our towns are full of people like that. Ridiculous reasoning on the part of the board.”

Said another: “Low-income does not equate to lazy! I’ll choose low-income or minority over someone who doesn’t want ‘them’ living next door.”

Others had a different perspective.

“Property value goes down when low-income people move in. It’s simple economics, not ‘feelings,’” one man wrote.

Andrew Kida, a former Ashton village trustee, noted on Facebook that the zoning board didn’t use the neighbors’ arguments. It rejected the development, he said, because it opposed spot zoning.

“The board acted appropriately,” he said. “I cannot say the same for the opinions of those who spoke at the meeting. Reading that was a bit disturbing.”

None of that discussion was heard at the County Board meeting.

Few members on Facebook

In reading the Facebook commentary, I wondered whether Lee County Board members were on the site, so I checked.

Of the 24 members, I found pages for only seven members – Greg Witzleb, Marilyn Shippert, Arlan McClain, Ryan Marshall, Bob Gibler, Kasey Considine and Wes Morrissey.

Six Whiteside County Board members have Facebook pages – James Arduini, Kurt Glazier, Tom Ausman, Bob VanDeVelde, Karen Nelson and Katherine Nelson.

Those are the ones I found. If you know of any others, please let me know.

David Giuliani is a news editor for Sauk Valley Media. You can reach him at dgiuliani@saukvalley.com or
800-798-4085, ext. 525. Follow him on Twitter: @DGiuliani_SVM.

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