Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said this week he is "110 percent opposed" to amending the city's liquor code to allow license holders to be aldermen.
His statement was prompted by a question from Alderman Ralph Dantino about the status of a proposed resolution to allow licensees to become aldermen. The council discussed the idea at a policy-themed committee of the whole meeting July 31 at the request of Alderman Sam Hill, and directed city staff members to craft such a change for consideration.
Hill, who is stepping down in April, was opposed in the 2009 election by the owner of a downtown bar. Hill favors letting license holders serve on the council. A change in state law now allows this in smaller municipalities such as Geneva.
"I believe that the mental gymnastics done that evening would have rivaled the dismal performance the Chinese had in London (at the Olympics)," Burns said of the previous discussion.
Aldermen discussed how the law discriminates against one class of business owners, and conflicts of interest, both legal and unofficial. State law requires the license holder to avoid discussing or voting on matters relating to liquor, including licensing or punishing establishments.
Burns said he has to "protect and preserve the integrity of the governing body," and that there would always be conflicts of interest. He cited as examples votes on fire safety codes, hiring police, building code enforcement, closing times and parking enforcement as times when he believes a license holder would have to recuse himself from discussing and voting on the matter.
He said it would also put police officers, who check for liquor law compliance, in an "untenable situation" of having to enforce laws on people who can hire and fire them.
Burns also said that, when the city was revising its liquor code earlier this year, it asked liquor licensees what they thought of proposed changes. Not one said anything about changing it to allow license holders to hold office, including the man who ran against Hill.
"We don't have a problem, folks, but I think we create a problem by amending the code," Burns said.