City Council responds to demands


Kierra Frazier | Northern Star

DeKalb city council members (left to right) Bill Finucane, Tracy Smith, Greg Perkins, mayor Jerry Smith, Scott McAdams, Mike Verbic and Tony Faivre meet at a city council meeting.

By Kierra Frazier

In response to the list of demands of the local Black Lives Matter group, DeKalb City Council members began discussing the list at a virtual town hall during the Committee of the Whole meeting Tuesday.

Almost 40 people took part in the meeting via Zoom and it wasn’t as widely attended as the Human Relations Commission town hall on June 16 or the Black Lives Matter town hall at Hopkins Park on June 18. 

Demands from the local Black Lives Matter group at prior town halls included policy reform for the police department, cutting the police budget in half to fund social service programs, firing of officers who have used excessive force and creating a citizen-led committee to oversee the police department. 

Sixth Ward Alderperson Mike Verbic said it will take the whole community to work together to set goals for improvement and eliminate injustice within the town.  

“I would like to do everything in our authority to eliminate injustice,” Verbic said. “I certainly second with Alderperson Morris’s idea to review the list of demands but more importantly, what are those actionable items that we can build together?”

The City Council meeting was held at its new location at the DeKalb Public Library, 309 Oak St., in the Yusunas Meeting Room. This is their first meeting in its new location since the move from the DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St. 

Fifth Ward Alderperson Scott McAdams said some of the demands listed are easy to implement and some of them aren’t. McAdams said he would like to see the city work on putting together a citizen-led committee. 

He suggested that the DeKalb Police Department could establish a support team that would answer mental health crisis calls instead of a police officer. McAdams compared the idea to the Aurora Police Department who has a Crisis Intervention Team. 

City Manager Bill Nicklas said City Council members won’t be formally given the list of the demands from the HRC until the July 13 City Council meeting. This is where council members will discuss the demands and potentially take a vote on what to implement. 

First Ward Alderperson Carolyn Morris agreed with McAdams that some demands were easier to implement than others, such as those that conflict with the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan. One of the demands from organizers at the June 18 town hall included demolishing the building at 912 Edgebrook Drive, Morris said. 

Morris said the city plans on demolishing the building in the future to decrease the population density and replacing it with a neighborhood park. 

“I certainly want to make sure that we as a City Council address every single one of these issues and explain why they’re great ideas and maybe why they may not happen,” Morris said. “I just want to make clear that I am absolutely in support of moving toward ensuring we have real equality in our community.” 

DeKalb resident JJ Wett told council members that racial injustice isn’t just about police brutality, it includes economic justice, healthcare justice and educational justice.

“I encourage you to look at racial injustice not through the lens of just police brutality, but also through the lens of other injustices that have occurred throughout the centuries in our country,” Wett said. “I encourage you to try to fix that within the upcoming budget.” 

Mayor Jerry Smith also spoke on the incident where he was booed off the stage at the June 18 town hall at Hopkins Park where participants called Smith’s comments ‘empty promises.’ 

Smith said he’s a stronger mayor today after talking with Black Lives Matter organizers and discussing their concerns. 

“It was clear that what I was trying to do that evening at Hopkins Park did not resonate with the audience,” Smith said. “I appreciate that. I respect that. It was clear that those comments, even though they were from the heart and they were trying to show the human side of the mayor as it relates to these issues, it was the closest time that I’ve ever been booed off the stage.”