GENEVA – Petitions on paper and online have surfaced in Geneva, urging the City Council to amend its ordinance to allow liquor license holders to serve as aldermen.
Michael Olesen, who owns Stockholm’s, started the paper petition so he could run for 1st Ward alderman. A friend, Jennifer Anderson of St. Charles, created an online petition at www.change.org.
But Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said the issue will not come up for discussion at Committee of the Whole or City Council meetings before the April 9 consolidated election.
“It is my position – and has been from get-go – that this should not be considered until after the election is settled,” Burns said. “To do so before [the election] is a tacit endorsement of a single candidate – Michael Olesen.”
First Ward Alderman Sam Hill will not seek another term, and candidates Zac Ploppert, Michael Bruno and William Barclay have declared they would seek his seat. Olesen also declared for that position when he thought the law would be changed.
Aldermen voted 8-2 in a straw poll in July to have staff write an amendment to the city’s liquor code, but nothing has happened since. As mayor, Burns said, he builds the agendas in collaboration with the city administrator and department heads, so the matter will not come up.
But Burns offered a solution to Olesen: Run for alderman. If you win, the council will heed the voters’ choice and amend the law so you can serve. Olesen said he rejected Burns’ proposal and will not run if the law is not changed first.
“I believe asking people to vote for someone on a contingency like that is not appropriate,” Olesen said. “Will the council change the law? What if it doesn’t? Why not change the law now as it’s allowed under state law for the election to be fair?”
Anderson, who said she and her husband have come to know Olesen from eating at Stockholm’s, hopes the petitions will get the law changed before the election. Anderson said Olesen “has the best interests of Geneva at heart and needs to be given an opportunity.”
Both Olesen and Burns said there is no animosity toward each other over the issue, they just disagree.
“Unless the law is changed, I do not intend to run,” Olesen said. “I do not believe that is fair to ask of the voters, and I will not do that to them.”
Olesen had a failed bid for 1st Ward alderman in 2009 after the state law changed to allow liquor license holders to serve as aldermen.