UCC voices distaste at federal act

By Jonathan Jacobson

The federal government is threatening to weaken local control of telecommunications with an act currently in the Senate, and the Urbana City Council is not happy about it.

The Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act of 2005, sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Ensign (R-Nev.), will limit local franchise control of telecommunications.

Both Urbana City Council Member Danielle Chynoweth (Ward 2), who also serves on the C-U Joint Telecommunications Commission, and City Attorney Jim Gitz expressed their distaste with the act at Monday night’s meeting.

“The idea that we do not control our own telecommunications is, to me, unconscionable,” Gitz said. “This would reverse centuries of common law.”

But this is not the only statutory issue with which the council is currently nervous.

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Another bill currently in the Illinois House would allow cities to purchase their local water companies without the authorization of the Illinois Commerce Commission. The commission has consistently blocked proposals to allow cities to do this, including one involving the city of Pekin, Ill.

Urbana, in conjunction with Champaign and the University, has been trying to purchase the local water company, Illinois-American, for a few months now. But Gitz says that RWE, a parent company of Illinois-American Water, has hired various lobbying groups in Springfield to work against the cities and the University.

In other news, the council commended the efforts of the local farmer’s market, which drew 115,000 visitors from May to November of 2005.

In the last ten years, under the supervision of Kathy Larson, market director and economic development specialist, the market has grown exponentially.

“This is our tenth anniversary of the farmer’s market,” Larson said. “It’s also the highest number of vendors we’ve ever had – about 158.”

Bruce Walden, the Chief Administrative Officer of Urbana, said the market is the largest stand-alone market in Illinois. This year, the market will begin on May 13.