Moratorium on new gambling establishments, downtown food trucks, and demolition of a former school on the next agenda
SIX MONTH MORATORIUM ON NEW VIDEO GAMBLING ESTABLISHMENTS PROPOSED
After years of continued growth in the video gambling industry, the city council will be voting on whether to have a six-month moratorium on new video gambling establishments in Decatur. I am strongly in favor of the moratorium and making changes to our ordinances that will ultimately reduce the number of gambling establishments in our city.
Decatur may already be the state’s gambling capital. Between Sept. 2021 – Aug. 2022, $180.7 million was gambled, and citizens lost $46.2 million at 95 establishments hosting 547 machines. With an estimated 2021 population of 69,646, the city has a per capita gambling loss of $663 per resident.
There is little if any evidence that the gambling industry is a net benefit to our city and its citizens, and the negative impacts of gambling include crime, bankruptcy, and addiction. Given that Decatur is one of the poorest cities in Illinois, it reasonable to assume that a large amount of the gambling revenue is from poorer individuals that may live in blighted neighborhoods, and it is going to large companies and businesses based outside of Decatur. The Decatur City Council has yet to take the action necessary to reverse the significant negative impacts of gambling in this city. A six-month moratorium is a first step in the right direction.
DEMOLITION OF FORMER WOODROW WILSON SCHOOL TO BE VOTED ON
Recently, Decatur Public Schools approved an intergovernmental agreement in which the city and school district agree to split the cost of demolishing the former Woodrow Wilson school building and transfer ownership of the site to the school district. It is now the city council’s turn to approve this agreement. Demolition of this dilapidated, unsafe structure will remove an eyesore and improve the condition of this neighborhood. Too much of Decatur’s urban core is blighted and what the proposed agreement between the city and school district demonstrates is that neighborhood revitalization benefits everyone and improves our neighborhoods.
This unmaintained, vacant building is within a neighborhood that is considered disadvantaged. It is in the 88th percentile for people in households where income is less than or equal to twice the federal poverty level, 96th percentile for share of homes that are likely to have lead paint, 98th percentile for number of unemployed people as part of the labor force, and 17% of people aged 25 years or older have less than a high school diploma (https://screeningtool.geoplatform.gov/en/#14.39/39.83524/-88.96973).
FOOD TRUCKS SHOULD BE WELCOMED AROUND CENTRAL PARK
Last year, the city council voted to “allow” food trucks in downtown Decatur. Eight months later, little has changed. Instead of a food trucks in our downtown parks, individuals who want the convenience and unique tastes of the region’s finest food trucks continue to have to go elsewhere in the city or visit a different city to find what they are looking for.
Unfortunately, the ordinance passed was so restrictive as to have limited if any impact on the number of food trucks downtown, and in fact, made it hard for food trucks to operate in the city. A poor model for economic growth. Among the new regulations: a new $500 fee to operate, food trucks must provide access to restroom facilities within 300 ft. of the truck if they stay in one place more than 3 hours, and the ordinance only applies to private downtown parking lots, not public spaces such as those around Central Park or Preston Jackson Park.
I am strongly in favor of eliminating fees and removing obstacles that are preventing more food trucks in Decatur, and particularly around our downtown parks. More food trucks will be a wonderful benefit to the citizens of Decatur who will have more choices of where to eat and in doing so can bring more people downtown.
PLEASE EXPRESS YOUR VIEWS AT THE NEXT CITY COUNCIL MEETING
These agenda items and others including the appointment of a new councilmember to complete former Councilman Faber’s term will be voted on at the next meeting of the Decatur City Council on Tuesday, January 17. Meetings take place at 5:30 PM in the council chambers located on the third floor of the Decatur Civic Center (1 Gary K. Anderson Place). Free parking is available in the lot immediately south of the entrance. Citizens are encouraged to attend meetings and express their views. Citizens are allotted 3 minutes per person near the beginning of each city council meeting. In addition, citizens can provide comments regarding one regular agenda item per meeting for up to three minutes provided they notify the city in advance (and prior to the start of the meeting). You can request to speak on a particular agenda item at a council meeting by filling out an on-line form at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/advance-request-to-speak-at-council-meeting/.
CITIZENS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PROVIDE FEEDBACK TO CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS
If you would like to discuss city issues with a council member, phone numbers and email addresses for each council member can be found at the following link: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council/.
AGENDAS FOR CITY COUNCIL MEETINGS ARE AVAILABLE ONLINE
An agenda and information about each agenda item for each city council meeting can be found at: https://www.decaturil.gov/mayor-and-council/council-meetings/.