NORMAL (WEEK) - Political divisions on the Normal Town Council were evident Monday night as Mayor Chris Koos made a much-anticipated appointment to the Twin-Cities public transit system board.
The council voted 6-0, with member Stan Nord abstaining, to approve Timothy McCue's appointment to fill a seat on the Connect Transit Board that's been vacant for more than a year.
McCue is an area coordinator of university housing services at Illinois State University. He's wheelchair-bound, apparently meeting one of the demands of disability advocates for a voice on the transit board. Town officials said McCue promoted accessibility for the disabled in restaurants and other businesses while working for convention and visitors bureaus in Oklahoma and Ohio.
Two council members, including Nord, did not object to McCue's qualifications, but they expressed frustration the council was not able to talk to McCue before the vote.
"I have to understand the issue before I give my vote," said Nord.
"I just don't feel comfortable essentially being asked to rubber stamp, especially for this issue because this has been such a hot topic," Nord also said.
Council member Karyn Smith voted for the appointment, but she too said she wanted to talk with McCue.
"Without having the opportunity to speak to this individual in advance, I don't have any sense of whether or not I can feel comfortable that this person will in fact support some of the things that constituents have identified as priorities," Smith said.
In May of last year, Koos' opponent in the 2017 mayoral election, Marc Tiritilli, pleaded with the mayor to pick him for the vacant seat to improve on what he said was poor transit board leadership.
Tiritilli plans to run for mayor again next year. Koos said transit issues have become so divisive that it was hard to find people willing to serve as a Connect Transit trustee.
"The reason that seat has been empty so long is because it's been so heavily politicized that frankly people I have reached out to to ask consideration to join this board told me there was no way they would do that because this is such a political hot potato."
During his 18-years as mayor, Koos said this is the first time council members have challenged any of his appointments to various boards and commissions, and he said he took the criticism personally.
Council member Kathleen Lorenz said having the entire council make a selection would be inefficient, and she doubts any candidate would be willing to go through a public interview process.
The Bloomington City Council recently approved, without discussion, Mayor Tari Renner's selection of local NAACP President Linda Foster to fill that city's transit board vacancy.