By DEBBRA SWEAT
For Rantoul Press
In reading Kenny Chumbley’s opinion in the Dec. 5 Rantoul Press, his article was insightful and made you think. He stated, "We don’t need more reforms; we need regeneration. If there’s typhoid in the well, painting the pump doesn’t change that. If lava boils in Vesuvius’ belly, planting flowers on its slopes won’t save Pompeii."
He hit the nail on the head! The continual problem is the tunnel vision of our leadership thinking outsiders can "fix" Rantoul. Painting water towers, beautifying our main thoroughfares is not reform. Regeneration is not bringing in industry/jobs which don’t pay sustainable living wages where individuals can care for themselves, their families, maintain a standard of living or afford homes.
Since 2013, our administration has paid nearly $1 million village dollars to bring in outside "expert" consultants to tell us what we need under the guise of "Rantoul Tomorrow." This money spent on consultant salaries, advertising, miscellaneous expenses etc. they thought would enhance Rantoul’s economy could have been used to better benefit the community and citizens.
What have the citizens/community yielded from this? This year marks the 25th anniversary of the closing of Chanute Air Force Base. Ask yourself, how much has Rantoul grown? Has our standard of living, our schools, our overall community been enriched or has it depreciated? Tax breaks for new home starts but what about the on-going tax increases for current home owners?
This clearly is representative of the failure to communicate with and represent the citizens of this community. These outside consultants have been overpaid and allowed to become entrenched in the oversight of our village. They have been permitted to "whitewash" Rantoul and allow the slow erosion of our neighborhoods, schools and citizens.
Instead of reaching out and asking the majority of residents, they consulted the 5 percent of residents of what they want. They failed to consult the other 95 percent on how we feel or what we think is needed to unify, improve and stabilize our community, as well as what type of industry and growth we want. They put it in the hands of outsiders.
Rantoul’s mayor and trustees were approached in November regarding an advisory referendum for the spring ballot asking the citizens of Rantoul if an aldermanic form of governance would better represent the citizens. This move could tremendously impact the citizens in moving towards a stronger, more unified and stable community.
Among the benefits would be greater citizen input, efficiency and lead to neighborhood and community stabilization. It was met with skepticism and viewed as, "If it’s not broke, don’t fix it."
Something is broken.
The below is paraphrased from the Preamble to Washington State’s Public Records Act of 1972 RCWs > Title 42 > Chapter 42.56 > Section 42.56.030) and is an example of how a government body should work and who elected officials represent:
"The people of this community do not yield our sovereignty to those who are elected to serve us. We the people delegated this authority, do not give our public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. We insist on remaining informed so we retain control over the instruments we have elected."
What is an alderman? An alderman is a person who lives in your neighborhood and is elected by you to represent your area. They will know what is going on in your area, what is needed, be your point of contact for concerns, will meet with your neighborhood regularly, and keep you informed.
An alderman will represent your neighborhood on the village board. Who is your voice now? Who represents your neighborhood now?
Our problems are within. If Rantoul is going to progress, our leadership needs to stop, reassess and let the people of Rantoul speak and decide.
The greatest component of communication is the ability to listen. I hope my words give you food for thought and the soul and will help inspire and awaken you.
Thomas Jefferson said, "When the people fear the government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people there is liberty."
Debbra Sweat is interim president of Concerned Citizens of Rantoul.