Waukegan mayor blasts challenger for skipping council meeting

Waukegan’s City Council adjourned within minutes of convening Tuesday when there was an insufficient number of members present to reach a quorum of five, as Ald. Keith Turner, 6th Ward, announced beforehand he would miss the meeting while “creeping around” looking for car burglars.

Turner, an announced candidate for mayor in 2025, posted a video on social media approximately two hours before the council was set to meet in which he said he was concerned about the increasing number of car “burglaries and vandalism” in his ward.

“They’re breaking in and taking what they can or trying to steal them and damaging these vehicles,” he said. “I’m going to be out creeping around this evening (and) the rest of the week, late night and early morning, to try to see if I can spot some guys.”

Though the City Council was unable to meet, a sufficient number of members of the council’s Finance and Purchasing Committee were there to unanimously recommend a $500,000 grant program to refurbish commercial building facades Tuesday at City Hall.

Mayor Ann Taylor said Turner was aware his presence was necessary for the meeting to take place Tuesday. Four other council members indicated well in advance they would not be at the meeting. She was not pleased with his decision to look for vandals.

“Alderperson Turner was fully aware his attendance was required this evening,” Taylor said before the adjournment. “I’m disturbed that one of the city’s legislators has chosen to ignore the actual duties of his office, and instead has chosen to prowl around the city.”

George Bridges, Jr., the mayor’s chief of staff, said Turner was made aware by city officials who left a phone message well before the meeting four other council members were unavailable and his presence was required for a quorum.

Bridges said Ald. Edith Newsome, 5th Ward, Ald. Michael Donnenwirth, 7th Ward, and Ald. Thomas Hayes, 9th Ward, were out of town. Ald. Victor Felix, 4th Ward, was at a previously scheduled meeting for his full-time job. Five are needed for a quorum.

Ald. Sylvia Sims Bolton, 1st Ward, Ald. Jose A. Guzman, 2nd Ward, and Ald. Lynn Florian, 8th Ward, were at the meeting. They are members of the Finance and Purchasing Committee giving that body the minimum needed for a quorum.

Ald. Juan Martinez, 3rd Ward, was also at the council meeting, leaving it one shy of the needed number to meet.

Taylor said Turner has the wrong priorities when he ignores the needs of residents who have business before the Cy Council, and his absence prevents his colleagues from taking action on the needs of the people.

“One thing I’ve learned in my decade on this council, both as an alderwoman and as mayor, is that there are alderpersons who are workhorses that actually do their jobs, and then there are alderpersons who neglect their actual jobs or don’t understand what their job is,” Taylor said

Attempts to reach Turner for a response were unsuccessful.

Before the scheduled council meeting, the Finance and Purchasing Committee recommended without discussion a $500,000 grant program to help individual property owners of commercial buildings improve the façades of their structures.

“This is a way to help small business owners spruce up their stores, especially downtown,” Taylor said. “This is important in a place like Waukegan, where business owners need some help. They have to have some skin in the game.”

Noelle Kischer-Lepper, the city’s director of planning and zoning,  said the maximum amount of the grant is $50,000, and the property owner must contribute 20% of the cost of the improvement. The money comes from unused federal COVID-19 relief funds.

Kischer-Lepper said property owners will be able to apply online in March, presenting their ideas. The Development Review Board will then consider giving them final approval.

The City Council will consider the grant program when it meets at 7 p.m. on March 4 at City Hall.


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