Western Report: Galena trolley saga continues…

Mike Hillard, owner of Tri-State Travel in Galena, addressed the Galena City Council during the public comment portion of the Council’s regular meeting May 22. Hillard was there to update the Council about his own efforts to bring some closure to the recent controversy regarding the allowable trolley size permitted to tour the historic neighborhoods of Galena.

It was a request by Hillard last year to increase the allowable size, almost doubling the weight, that has sparked a year-long debate in Galena. Since then, the Galena City Council has waffled back and forth on the issue more than the Sunday morning breakfast chef at Denny’s.

In fact, the head waffler has been Galena Ald. Dan O’Keefe, who at last Monday’s (May 22) Council meeting, asked his fellow Council members to back him in his request to organize a citizens’ committee to help come to some compromises.

A pretty darn good idea, Mr. O’Keefe, but shouldn’t that have been done before the ordinance was changed—and then changed back again? And speaking of waffling, Mr. O’Keefe voted last year to change the original ordinance and allow the bigger trolleys. Then, when the citizens came together to oppose the change, O’Keefe voted with them to not allow the larger trolleys.

Apparantly, thinking three times was the charm. Earlier this month, O’Keefe, in response to a plea from Hillard, reversed himself again to allow the larger trolleys. He seems to be making waffling an art form.

Also addressing the Council with Hillard was Galena resident Rick Pariser. Pariser, who was defeated a year ago in an attempt to win an alderman seat and who also lives on the trolley route, has been a very vocal opponent of the larger trolleys and the ordinance change.

Hillard and Pariser informed the Council that the two of them had met and discussed possible compromises. Hillard also explained to the Council that trolley manufacturers, now having to comply with ADA regulations for the disabled, are not even offering trolleys at the smaller size. He also informed the Council that, as a result of his meeting with Pariser, he has altered his tour route, eliminating High, Hill, Lafayette and Third streets, thereby eliminating some more frequent objections.

Hmmmm…seems like Pariser might have made a pretty good alderman after all. Imagine sitting down with someone with an opposing idea and talking it out and offering compromises. Sounds like a great concept.

Of course, a good alderman still has to be able to throw out quotes that writers like us can eat up like a stack of waffles. Take this quote from Ald. O’Keefe regarding this issue after he has voted to change, then un-change, then change the ordinance again: “I don’t think we should be changing them (ordinances) back and forth.”

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

From the June 7-13, 2006, issue

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