When the Morris City Council reorganized at the start of its fiscal year Wednesday, there were a lot of familiar faces in the room.
Mayor Richard Kopczick was still there, gavel in hand, running the meeting and the city.
The incumbent aldermen who had sought re-election during the April elections were also in place, having been returned to their posts by voters.
There was even a former alderman, Don Matteson, whom voters returned to the council to fill the seat vacated when Drew Muffler opted to run for mayor instead.
Given the comfortable nature of the gathering for those involved, and the fact the mayor regained his position by a two-to-one margin over his nearest competitor, it would be easy for Kopczick and the other city officials around him to view the election results as a nod to the status quo and simply move forward. In our view, that would be a big mistake.
Landslide victory aside, the city’s administration needs to embrace the idea that there are things in this city that do need to be addressed differently in the years to come. That should have been clear from the fact that, after years of running unopposed, Kopczick faced not just one, but two, candidates with other ideas.
And while those opposing Kopczick fell short in their bids to unseat him, primarily because Kopczick has been effective through the years in his guidance of the city, there is some portion of their messages and platforms — and some of the questions raised of all three candidates during the race — that is well worth consideration and action.
Moving forward, the current administration must, as Kopczick’s opponents suggested (or the mayor has already established a track record of doing):
• Find an effective way to deal with municipal trash once Environtech Landfill is no longer in a position to accept the community’s rubbish... even if it means city residents (like those in almost every other town in America) have to continue to pay for garbage pickup.
• Work to ensure that every dollar of taxpayer money is being spent wisely and in an as efficient, cost-effective manner as possible, from each routine purchase, to big ticket expenditures, to contracts for professional services like legal advice and engineering work.
• Continue to find ways to clean up areas of the community in need of rehabilitation, most notably the old papermill property, while ensuring Tax Increment Financing funds reserved for this purpose are used properly, with lasting impact on the local economy and job market whenever possible. The deal for Grundy-Three Rivers Habitat for Humanity to build a subdivision on part of the papermill land is a good start, but it is only a start.
• Stop dragging its feet on certain existing projects and rethink taking on any additional projects that cannot be completed in an appropriately timely manner. The city waited for over a decade to erect a long-planned memorial to the victims of Sept. 11, and has kept a bandshell in storage at the airport for years. If something can wait indefinitely for completion, money probably shouldn’t be spent on it in the first place.
• Continue, when a project needs to be done — like building a new municipal building or reconstructing the Morris Municipal Pool — to proceed toward economically responsible completion of the work DESPITE whatever criticism may come from those not looking at the long term.
If these fresh approaches can be successfully intertwined with the positive course already begun during Kopczick’s earlier administrations, Morris will then be truly on its way to accomplishing the goal a sign that hung in front of the old city espoused — making Morris work for working families. ———
The Morris Daily Herald’s editorial decisions are made by an editorial board lead by General Manager Bob Wall and editors Patrick Graziano and Mark Malone. Decisions are made in consultation with other members of the MDH staff as appropriate.