Macomb Mayor Mike Inman visited the Tri States Public Radio studios to talk about two of society's biggest issues of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism.
We talked at length about both issues. Here is a brief summary. Learn more by listening to the audio links.
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Mayor Inman said the city is being cautious with its finances during the pandemic even though it had a strong finish to last fiscal year (which ended April 30, 2020). He said the city’s revenues last fiscal year exceeded expectations by about $900,000 while the city spent around $330,000 less than projected.
Despite that, the city administration asked department heads to recommend cuts to the new budget approved by the city council in April. They came up with $635,000 in savings.
“They had very minimal impact on personnel,” Inman said, noting Macomb has employed around 110 full-time and part-time workers across all sectors of city government for at least the past decade.
Inman said Macomb must be prepared for the likelihood that the census will show a drop in the city’s population, which means the city will receive less money from various state and federal funding sources. He also said sales tax revenues are down due to the pandemic and it could take a year or two for the nation’s economy to recover from the coronavirus crisis.
“We believe that fiscally we’ve done what we can to set us up for the short-term – the next six, eight, ten months of the fiscal year – but also with a long view,” he said.
TSPR also asked Inman whether the city will encourage more restaurants to offer outdoor dining in the future, given the apparent popularity of dining alfresco in Macomb as the state has reopened its economy.
“This has been allowed by ordinance for probably close to seven years. We encourage that type of activity,” Inman said. “I think there may have been a reluctance (by restaurant owners) to take on any additional expense or there may have been some ambiguity about what was allowed and what wasn’t allowed.
“I’m just pleased that it’s been well-received and it seems to have worked well.”
He said the ADA requires 48 inches of unobstructed pathway for pedestrians to use sidewalks. He said there is “substantial room” on the sidewalks around the courthouse square to provide that and simultaneously offer outdoor dining.
Western Illinois University Interim President Martin Abraham told the Macomb City Council last month that both the university and the community must do better on issues of race. Dr. Abraham said systemic anti-black racism plagues both WIU and Macomb.
Mayor Inman said he agrees the city and the university can do better. He said that starts with taking every opportunity to review how they can improve.
“We have to as a society look at race issues. Here we are more than 150 years past the Emancipation Proclamation and we still struggle,” Inman said. “Macomb is not unlike so many other communities across the United States where we can do better. We have got to do better.”
He said issues of race are “…paramount in everything we’re doing at City Hall right now.” He also said the city needs to be more engaged and transparent in letting residents know what it is doing about race relations and it needs to be open to constructive criticism.
Inman said he formed a committee with Dr. Abraham in the past year to address race relations and racial issues. He said the Moving Macomb Forward Committee was put on hold during the first few months of the pandemic but members started meeting again in recent weeks.
Inman said he is aware of #blackatwiu but he is not on Twitter so he has not been in touch with any of the students who have tweeted complaints. He said WIU is reaching out to those students and he hopes to be part of discussions with them in the future.
The mayor said organizers of a racial justice march through town postponed the event, planned for July 7, because of safety concerns. Inman said city leaders had been looking forward to the event and have reached out to organizers to learn more about their concerns.
“We assured them that we would do everything within our power to ensure that the event was safe and we would be happy to pursue any issues that they felt needed to be pursued to ensure that safety or to follow up on any complaints that they had,” Inman said.
He pointed out the city provides buses and other assistance every January for the MLK Day march and ceremony and remains prepared to do the same for a racial justice march.
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