By MICHAEL SCHLOSSER
For Rantoul Press
I contend that Debbra Sweat’s idea of Rantoul changing to an aldermanic form of government deserves serious consideration, as there are several benefits that would likely arise from this change for our village. We have to ask ourselves some important questions. Firstly, are the voices of all citizens in our village being heard? If not, why, and whose voices are being muted? Finally, will an aldermanic form of government give voice to those who are not heard or do not speak up?
Let’s tackle this by analyzing one question at a time. Based on the number of people that vote, the number of people who contact our village leaders, and the number of people who attend board meetings, I think it is safe to say that the voices of all citizens in our village are not being heard. Many of the citizens I speak with express the opinion that even if they did speak, it is unlikely they would be taken seriously. I often hear the expression, "what good would that do?" Some are simply not comfortable speaking up, and instead of blaming these citizens for their reticence, we should be proactive and reach out to all citizens.
As in most communities, it is usually those who are disadvantaged, oppressed, and marginalized who have no voice and thus no power. Since the inception of our country, wealth has equaled the power to make change. This greatly affects Rantoul’s low income and disproportionately impacts racial minority communities.
We need to improve the quality of life for all citizens, and a step in the right direction would be to find proactive methods of ensuring the concerns of all citizens are heard. Perhaps the aldermanic form of government would be a step in the right direction. This is not to say that our current board members are not concerned with all citizens, but because of the aforementioned reasoning, things do not seem to be working. If Rantoul were broken up into wards represented by an alderman in each area, it seems more likely that citizens will come forward with their concerns, thus giving them voice. Further, the alderman will be more invested in his or her particular area and neighborhood.
I ask that at the minimum, the board should analyze this possibility. I don’t believe in change just for the sake of changing, as "If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it." However, knowing the citizens of Rantoul and understanding the issues many face on a daily basis, perhaps there are elements that need to be fixed. While there is no guarantee that an aldermanic government will fix the problems, we should at least seize the opportunity to make proactive changes that could set us in the right direction. Improving the lives of all citizens will improve the vitality of our community, which in turn improves our economy, education, and opportunities.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Michael Schlosser is a resident of Rantoul.