Island Lake hopefuls at odds over public's conduct
Island Lake Mayor Debbie Herrmann has been critical of outbursts from audience members that have marred some recent village board meetings.
But Charles Amrich, her challenger in the April 9 election, said the behavior shows residents are unhappy with the actions of their elected officials.
The candidates talked about residents' behavior at meetings and other issues during a joint interview at the Daily Herald's Libertyville office.
The village board voted in February to eliminate one of two public-comment sections on meeting agendas. Herrmann and the board also have, for the most part, refused to answer questions posed by residents during public comment sessions.
Amrich, the town's mayor from 1985 to 2005, has campaigned on the need for more transparency at village hall. He opposes the decision to limit public comment opportunities.
"I've always felt that they put us in office (and) we need to listen to them," Amrich said. "We don't always agree with them, but we owe them that, to listen to them and listen to their ideas."
Herrmann defended the board's decision to cut one of the public comment sections, saying it wasn't being used effectively.
"Unfortunately, the group of people that are now attending board meetings have become unruly," said Herrmann, who was elected mayor in 2009.
"You don't always like what decisions have been made," Herrmann added. "But you don't call people names. You don't yell and scream. You don't swear. It disturbs me that our society has come to that level."
When asked if the anger is a sign of some kind, Herrmann said the village suffers a "burst of negativity" every two years before an election.
Amrich said the anger that's surfaced at meetings shows people are unhappy and frustrated with the way village government is being run.
"When you get mad, you want answers," he said. "And sometimes they're not the answers you want to hear."
Even so, Amrich said that's not the kind of behavior he wants to see at meetings.
"I don't want to see yelling and screaming. I want to see some kind of dialogue between the board and the audience, the residents of the community," he said. "I don't agree with everybody's point of view, but I do respect their opinions."