Western Report: Galena City Council overrides mayor’s veto of fire station vote

For only the second time in the last four Galena mayoral terms, a Galena mayor took the mayoral veto off the shelf, dusted it off and laid it out on the Council table.

The veto is used by the mayor whenever he wants to override any Council vote. Basically, once the mayor formally announces his intent to veto a vote, it’s pretty much like him taking his ball and going home. That’s it, game over.

After the veto is announced, any member of the Council can make a motion at the next open Council meeting to override the mayor’s veto and, with a two-thirds majority, override the mayor’s veto—kinda like running home and getting their own ball so the game can continue.

And this time, the veto was used by Galena Mayor Tom Brusch to block the unanimous vote of the Council—I repeat, the unanimous vote of the Council—to borrow approximately $500,000 to expand the current downtown Galena fire station.

When the issue of the fire station first arose, Brusch tipped his hand as to his feelings about it: he was the only member of the Council to vote in favor of pursuing moving the fire station to the rapidly growing west side, on or adjacent to Route 20. All other Council members, as well as the fire department itself, expressed their desire to keep it downtown. They cited the benefits of being close to the Galena Main Street area where the taller buildings are. These buildings, also because of their age and type of construction, pose a particular concern for the fire department. The department also stressed their need to be closer to where the density of residents is greatest.

So at the last Council meeting, with the fire chief and just about every firefighter in attendance, the Council overrode the mayor’s veto by a 6-0 vote. They not only brought one ball back so the game could continue, they had extras.

In his last-ditch plea to stop the Council from voting to proceed with the loan for the addition, Brusch told the Council and the audience that the residents in town whom he talked to are not in favor of the addition. (Ald. Todd Lincoln, who is also a member of the fire department, strongly disagreed, saying residents he heard from are overwhelmingly for it.)

Brusch also said he promised the voters when they elected him, he would not borrow anymore as mayor. He said he owed that to those who voted for him.

While a noble statement, Brusch should remember he was not quite given a mandate from the voters. Brusch won the mayor’s office with just 33 percent of the vote. More voters voted for other candidates than they did for him.

What Brusch owes residents is to be the mayor to all of the residents, and try to understand how the majority of the residents feel.

John Huschik is a free-lance writer from Galena and covers the Jo Daviess County political scene.

From the July 19-25, 2006, issue

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