Elmhurst City Council members received a refresher course in city government Monday to orient newly elected members and to remind experienced alderman about rules surrounding the Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act and ethics.
As part of the mini-seminar, aldermen learned that a new state law might change how residents interact with officials.
During a review of the Open Meetings Act, City Attorney Donald Storino told aldermen a law that went into effect in January requires “any person be permitted an opportunity to address public officials at meetings subject to the Act.” Storino further clarified that this applies to committee and task force meetings as well as City Council meetings.
He added that the chairman of any public meeting can impose “reasonable” limits on the time allowed for public comments for each speaker.
Storino also reviewed how the Open Meetings Act pertains to aldermen discussing city business outside of publicly announced meetings. The act prohibits “a majority of a quorum” of the council from discussing city business without giving proper notice. In Elmhurst, a majority of a quorum is five aldermen. The rule also applies to email and instant message conversations.
While much of the city's policy work is done by aldermen serving on the city's four standing committees—Public Works and Building; Public Affairs and Safety; Finance, Council Affairs and Administrative Services; and Development, Planning and Zoning—the council also meets as a Committee of the Whole for larger issues, including the budget and development.
Looking Ahead: City Development Projects
City Manager Tom Borchert told aldermen two projects the council-as-committee will be addressing are the redevelopment of Addison Avenue between Schiller Court and Second Street, and Hahn Street, between York Road and Addison.
Last December, the council heard preliminary plans for a mixed-use building on Addison Avenue and Schiller Court. Borchert reported that the city's private development partner, Addison LLC, is working to secure leases on the properties.
As for the Hahn Street site, for which planning originally began several years ago, Borchert said “economics have pushed the timing of the project back.” Originally, the plan called for condominiums or townhomes and retail, but now the residential component would likely be deluxe apartments, Borchert said.
Aldermen will be assigned to serve on the city's four standing committees by next Monday's meeting, which will first convene as a special Committee of the Whole meeting before moving into standing committees.