Champaign City Council to reconsider underage drinking grant

The Champaign City Council will be reconsidering application for an ordinance calling for support of a grant for underage drinking enforcement on March 16.

“A motion was made to suspend our rule so that the same agenda item could be put back on the agenda for the next meeting,” said Thomas Bruno, Council Member At-Large.

He said the council has a standard rule that when an item has been defeated, it can not reappear on an agenda for six months time. The motion for this grant was defeated on Feb. 16.

“I think fairness would dictate if some council members have changed their mind, it’s not abusive to put the same thing back on the agenda and take another vote,” Bruno said.

Champaign Mayor Gerald Schweighart said during the first vote, the grant was not presented properly which lead to confusion among council members and a misunderstanding of the purpose of the grant.

“Some of the information should have been brought forward about what the grant was for,” Schweighart said.

Bruno said Council Member La Due, deputy mayor for Champaign, mentioned he hadn’t fully appreciated the impact the council’s rejection of the grant had on the Champaign County Mental Health Center. Bruno said the mental health center had $300,000 at stake while the city of Champaign’s share would only be $11,000. He added the mental health center would focus funds on counseling and education while the City of Champaign would focus on alcohol enforcement.

“There were multiple parts to the grant request and we were one small part,” Bruno said. “We were in it with other agencies and when we said no, their expectation of receiving the money was put in jeopardy.”

Bruno said there is currently a political climate that accepting grant money from the state or federal government is immoral or wasteful of government money, but he doesn’t think that is the case. He said he has a problem with the heavy-handed enforcement of liquor laws on campus because of its unintended consequence of driving young people into private apartments and cars.

“The grant was awarded to our community and now we have to take official action to accept it,” Bruno said.