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Votes against downtown plan seemingly misinformed, curious

Tuesday, Sept. 4, the Glencoe City Council voted to participate in a study of the potential revitalization of downtown. The vote split the council and required Mayor Randy Wilson to break the impasse.
The votes against the proposed study cast by councilors Allen Robeck and Milan Alexander are, for two different reasons, somewhat puzzling.
The study would have cost $12,000. Thanks to donations and cost participation from the chamber, the city’s share would have been only $2,000. Yes, the city planned to front the chamber’s share of the cost of the study over the next two years, funding the chamber most certainly would have paid back had it wanted to maintain its credibility with this city council.
There are a few seemingly perplexing facets of the votes Alexander and Robeck cast. Alexander asked why the city needed a study of the downtown area when in the recent past it has conducted a traffic study and a study on a potential hotel coming to town. If those two studies contain useful data, hopefully it should be utilized.
Alexander believes the city’s emphasis on commercial development should be on Glencoe’s east side of town, starting with the Harpel proposal to develop land for a Kwik Trip. During Tuesday’s council meeting, he said the city should focus its emphasis on encouraging and facilitating private commercial development all the way to Diamond Avenue, land currently outside Glencoe’s corporate city limits.
And should the city’s focus switch entirely to commercial development on the east side of Glencoe, what is to become of downtown? Does anybody want the downtown area to become an expanding collection of vacant storefronts and aging, unkept buildings? That’s a question Councilor Alexander will have to answer when owners of downtown businesses approach him. Many of those owners live in Glencoe and their businesses fall within the city’s highest property tax rate. Councilor Alexander knows he represents a sizable portion of downtown Glencoe and to his credit, late last week he said he can accept the city’s participation in the downtown revitalization and vibrancy study as long as the city maintains a focus on the east side.
Councilor Robeck’s vote is especially curious and perhaps a bit misinformed. He abstained from the vote, reportedly because he serves on a committee that considered the proposed study and recommended the city council consider it. Robeck is a non-voting member of that committee.
Typically, councilors abstain from voting on an issue when they have a conflict of interest, a position where they would monetarily profit or have a family member who would benefit from as favorable vote. Council members typically announce they have a conflict of interest and indicate their intent to abstain at the beginning of discussion or during it. Councilor Robeck’s vote to abstain seemingly caught his fellow council members by surprise.
It’s unfortunate if Robeck voted against the city’s participation in the study to avoid taking a position on a controversial issue. Absent a conflict of interest, a council member’s job is to represent the will and best interest of constituents. Abstaining without justification doesn’t reflect the will of constituents.
In the end, the city council voted to participate in funding the downtown revitalization and vibrancy study. Hopefully, it will provide a roadmap for an energetic, thriving downtown area for many years to come. If so, the city’s $2,000 investment will provide a solid return on the council’s investment.