'Tearing Naperville apart': Critics, supporters of potential commission nominees speak out
Critics and supporters of two potential appointees to Naperville commissions spoke out at Tuesday's city council meeting to try to influence Mayor Steve Chirico's nominations.
Controversy erupted last week when it was learned former Naperville City Council member Kevin Coyne and Indian Prairie Unit District 204 board candidate Shannon Adcock were being considered by Chirico for openings on the Naperville Public Library Board and Special Events Cultural Amenities Commission, respectively.
Opponents are objecting to Adcock's consideration because she's the founder of Awake Illinois, a group critics have described as a far-right organization with extremist viewpoints.
Coyne, who said he is not an Awake Illinois member, is being opposed because his detractors say he is a "moderator" for Awake Illinois.
Even though Chirico said he is still gathering feedback from council members and hasn't decided if he will put the applicants forward, dozens of people showed up at Tuesday's meeting to make their case directly to the mayor.
Because the nominations were not on Tuesday's agenda, the earliest Adcock and Coyne could be voted on by the city council is at the May 17 meeting.
"These appointments are divisive and tearing Naperville apart," said Mark Borowicz, one of 18 speakers on Tuesday. "There are other members of our community that are more than willing and highly qualified for these positions."
Coyne defended his record as a supporter of the city's diversity and affordable housing initiatives, saying that as a council member he voted in favor of the Naper Pride summer event. Coyne said his status as a Republican who has been critical of the Illinois Democratic Party is the reason for the opposition.
"My actual and real record of service became irrelevant," Coyne said. "My beliefs as to these larger, unrelated political issues became central. These activists have since embarked upon a smear campaign attacking my character."
A Change.org petition that garnered more than 2,800 signatures accused Adcock of being against diversity and inclusion through her work with Awake Illinois, saying she is "anti-Black History, anti-mask and anti-LGBTQ."
Adcock, however, said a "mob" mentality is trying to destroy those with opposing opinions.
"Throughout the city and beyond, people are watching to see what happens when a small and vocal minority disagrees with even one facet of their world view," she said. "Instead of pitchforks and torches, this mob wields social media posts, email campaigns and a host of slurs such as bigot, racist, homophobe."
At Tuesday's meeting, Chirico told the crowd that since he took office he has gone out of his way to diversify the city's commissions. He expressed disappointment that a process that should have been completed in confidence was leaked to the public.
"We'll have to take a look and find out what happened here, why we're at this point," he said. "Because this has caused our community a lot of angst."
Among the groups that have lined up against Adcock and Coyne are the League of Women Voters of Naperville, the American Association of University Women Naperville Area, the Illinois National Organization for Women, the National Council of Jewish Women and Naper Pride.
"Exclusion of extreme voices is not cancel culture, as some would have you believe," speaker Tim Thompson said. "It is what reasonable people desire."