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Normal Council Continues Feeling Out Process After Election Shakeup

Woman speaks to Normal council
Breanna Grow
Normal Council members are getting used to each other little by little.

Normal Town Council members are continuing to get used to each other. Dynamics have shifted with the addition of two new members, Stan Nord and Karyn Smith.

Normal Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy said during WGLT’s Sound Ideas that the results of a recent council retreat have yet to come to a draft report on a code of conduct.

McCarthy said the sessions were supposed to hammer out consensus on civility, and how the council is supposed to work as a team.

"By beginning to understand process, the mechanics of how we move things forward, I think we are stumbling less on those things and having more substantive conversations about the topics themselves and philosophy. I hope we continue in those ways," said McCarthy.

McCarthy stopped short of criticizing the new council members, Nord and Smith, for asking questions during meetings for which they already had answers from staff. That happened Monday night during discussion of renaming Mitsubishi Motorway for Rivian.

McCarthy said there is value in transparency. He said his own preference is also to advance discussion.

"For me, being very well prepared and knowing that information before so I don't have to ask known information at the council meeting, I can ask questions from that fact set forward rather than backwards is really important to me," said McCarthy.

But the council newcomers disagree. Nord and Smith said they think there is also value to the public from taking extra time to have everything explained and answered at meetings. Smith said, for instance, that's why she favored the recent change easing notice requirements for people to give public comments.

"You can mask their (the public’s) frustration, because if you are funneling their concerns to individual members outside the public eye, it does not allow them the opportunity to recognize oh! I am not alone with this."

Smith and Nord even said they submit questions to town staff ahead of time so they can ask the questions at the council meeting again.

McCarthy said that has some validity for public education, but not always.

"I suppose. I don't always think that some of the choices are worthwhile. Is it important to have discussion on the issues? Absolutely. You'll never hear me say not. But each individual person has to make that decision. Does it cost additional dollars to the taxpayers? Absolutely," said McCarthy.

For instance, the council spent more than a half hour Monday evening talking about simple name changes to two roads.

Smith said she would rather err on the side of public discourse.

"One of my frustrations when I was sitting in the audience is that so much of the business didn't get aired while people were watching," said Smith.

McCarthy and Nord both acknowledged their views of government may differ from the other. Nord said he's still learning the structure and roles for council members.

Even when the steep learning curve for new council members has eased, Smith said there might still be different approaches.

"I don't know if receptive is the right word or a recognition is setting in place that we are who we are and we do have a different style than they may have seen in previous council members."

For now, McCarthy said “it's a work in progress.”

You can also listen to WGLT's interview with Kevin McCarthy on Sound Ideas:

Listen to Normal Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McCarthy talk with GLT's Charlie Schlenker during Sound Ideas.

People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.

WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.