DANVILLE — Resident Derek Cooper asked city officials for answers at Tuesday night’s Danville City Council meeting after having been stopped by the Danville Police Department nine times since 2018.
Cooper, 59, who is Black and a veteran, is a former Decatur resident who relocated to Danville in 2010 to take advantage of the services offered at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System. He’s a 16-year decorated combat Army Ranger. He’s been employed at Quaker Oats since 2013.
Cooper said his 17-year-old son won’t ride in his car with him because of the number of times he’s been stopped by police.
Cooper said if he’s done something wrong, he will own up to it. Out of the nine stops, he’s received one ticket.
He said his wife wanted to have a meeting with then Mayor Scott Eisenhauer when the traffic stops started.
If the police are trying to scare him, “I’m afraid,” Cooper said.
He said police officers who are fellow veterans understand the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder effects he is suffering from.
Cooper asked city officials if he can meet with someone “where we can get this handled.”
He asked if it’s his car, himself or if he’s driving on the wrong side of town, about why he’s being stopped.
“I just need some kind of answers, man,” Cooper said.
Aldermen were given a list of the traffic stops starting in March 2018 and going to March 2022. Reasons cited for the stops: lights off; no complete stop at a stop sign; traveling 34 mph in a 30-mph zone; no turn signal; rear plate light out/dirty; obstructed vision, air freshener hanging from rear view mirror; crossing solid white line; and speeding.
Aldermen also were provided a letter from Cooper’s clinical psychologist on Cooper’s PTSD.
Cooper is concerned another traffic stop could lead him to being harmed in some way. It could push him to an emotional state that could lead to his death. He might overreact which could cause a police officer to overreact, according to Cooper.
In addition, the council heard from former alderman Lloyd Randle on behalf of Cooper.
Randle said Cooper came to him because Cooper recalled a conversation they had regarding Randle’s attempts to have the city conduct a formal traffic stop study. The City of Urbana commissioned a study which reviewed traffic and pedestrian stops of minorities.
Randle said an Illinois Department of Transportation search today regarding traffic stops involving African-Americans in Danville is telling.
“African-Americans are at least five times stopped more than other subgroups in this community,” Randle said.
Randle asked the city for a six-year review, to hire an independent firm, to review data and appoint an independent commission to determine whether race plays a factor in traffic stops.
He asked aldermen to ask the question whether African-Americans are being stopped more based on the percentage of the population in our community.
Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. said the city takes complaints seriously and it does everything it can to address citizen concerns. However, he, nor the mayor’s office or Human Relations Administrator Sandra Finch had been informed of Cooper’s allegations prior to Tuesday.
“We were just notified of this today. We haven’t had any opportunity to investigate or assist,” Williams said.
Williams too said as a former alderman, Randle knows the procedure in filing a police complaint. No one had spoken with Police Chief Chris Yates about the matter either, Williams said.
Ward 3 Alderwoman Sharon Pickering asked that the city meet with Cooper.
In other public comments, the city council heard from resident Brad Bergman about having the council revisit the city ordinance to allow trailers to be parked in resident’s private driveways.
Danville Community Development Administrator Logan Cronk also announced that money is still available for small businesses which lost revenue from COVID-19.
In other business, the council approved:
- A $1 million professional services agreement with the Farnsworth Group Inc. for stormwater management projects.
- A $230,830 professional services agreement with Lochmueller Group for completion of a Vermilion County Safety Action Plan for the Danville Area Transportation Study. The Vermilion County Highway Department will reimburse the city for up to $30,000 for the plan costs.
- The appointments of Zach Gwinn and Sharda Pascal to the Danville Public Library Board; and reappointing Tara Auter to the David S. Palmer Arena board, Marilyn Blanton to the Historic Preservation Commission and Harsha Gurujal to the Vermilion Housing Authority board.
- A five-year subscription for new police officer body-worn cameras and supporting equipment for $35,147 this fiscal year and $33,492 for each of the following four years for 50 Digital Ally body-worn cameras and three body-worn camera docking stations.
- Purchasing 934 N. Gilbert St. for Kirchner Building Center’s move for $55,000 from Kent and Joan Janesky.
- Amending the fiscal year 2022-2023 streets budget for salt purchased last year.
DANVILLE — A third cannabis dispensary will not be opening in the city in the Lynch Road corridor.
The Danville City Council Tuesday night denied Parkway Dispensary’s special-use permit request to open a dispensary north of Sunnyside Dispensary.
The council voted 6-7 for it, with the vote failing, with aldermen Carolyn Wands, James Poshard, Mike Puhr, Ethan Burt, Eve Ludwig, Sharon Pickering and Robert Williams voting ‘no’ and aldermen Mike O’Kane, Heidi Wilson, Rick Strebing, Tricia Teague, Alesia Ford and Bob Iverson voting ‘yes.”
Alderman Darren York was absent due to a family member passing away.
The vote came after Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. provided the majority 8th vote needed to change the city’s zoning ordinance to allow one or more cannabis dispensaries that are authorized or licensed pursuant to the Social Equity and/or Social Equity Justice Lottery to locate within 1,500 feet of each other and/or within 1,500 feet of an Early Approval Adult Use cannabis dispensary. Current ordinance allows one, and the city already has approved Seven Point’s across the road from Sunnyside.
City officials said they were following state law with the ordinance change.
The zoning ordinance change received 6 “no” votes from Wands, Poshard, Puhr, Burt, Ludwig and Williams; and 7 “yes” votes from Ford, Pickering, Iverson, O’Kane, Wilson, Strebing and Teague.
Williams said this was the first time he’s had to provide a tie-breaking vote, as he cast the 8th “yes” vote.
Parkway Dispensary’s Ambrose Jackson, chairman and CEO with the owner The 1937 Group, said he was “very disheartened” with the council’s vote and will be looking at another city in this area to open the dispensary.
Jackson said they will be exploring their options, but have a timeline to move quickly due to the time already spent on this.
Iverson said the public didn’t seem overly concerned with adding another dispensary in the Lynch Road corridor. He said he wasn’t enthusiastic about it, but didn’t see why the city shouldn’t go along with it. Other similar businesses, such as grocery stores and others, locate close to each other and compete for customers.
Teague too said the market dictates whether or not there are customers. Every time she drives by Sunnyside, she sees people standing in line around the building.
“There’s obviously demand,” she said, adding that she believes many people are coming across the state line. She understands why another cannabis dispensary wants to locate there.
O’Kane said he doesn’t want another dispensary, but he’d rather have the cannabis dispensaries located in that area to have some control over them and keep an eye on them.
Mayor Williams said city officials had not wanted the dispensaries near residential areas in the city.
He added that other possible areas of the city have had high prices for the land or the license holders weren’t interested in the locations. They want to be near the interstate.
Resident Vince Koers said the city would be giving up vacant land near the casino that could be for something better, possibly another more profitable business.
City officials said the land hadn’t been developed in the past, and the developers were willing to build a roadway extension behind Sunnyside to the new dispensary and potentially open up even more retail space and go to the intersection proposed by the casino.
Puhr said having three cannabis dispensaries will saturate the market, like with video gaming.
“I just can’t see how the community can support it,” Puhr said.
He knows the city will lose sales tax revenue by not having it, but he doesn’t think the city would see any additional revenue coming in.
Jackson said the argument is baseless about more dispensaries saturating the area. More competition means better quality and lower prices, he said.
Teague said it’s the state who has issued four licenses for the Danville metropolitan area which includes Tilton and other areas in Vermilion County.
Strebing said he’d like to see a cannabis dispensary in the southern part of the city, and one around Wal-Mart.
Wands asked, “when is enough, enough?”
The council also heard opposition to the zoning ordinance change and special-use permit from Seven Point Dispensary’s Vanessa Dotson. Seven Point plans to build the city’s second dispensary this year across the street from Sunnyside.
She said two dispensaries will be enough to handle the customer business. They hope to break ground in March or April and finish construction this year.
She said they want to avoid oversaturating the area with cannabis businesses, and she too said little if any additional revenue will come to the city with the additional dispensary.
Danville Community Development Administrator Logan Cronk said they don’t know yet about a development boom in the Lynch Road corridor with the casino.
City officials also weren’t sure Seven Point was going to open, but Cronk said they hope Seven Point is successful.
He said one of the reasons the zoning commission voted to recommend approving Parkway Dispensary’s special-use permit was that positive growth outweighed any negatives.
Also at Tuesday night’s meeting, the council honored former fire chief Don McMasters for his 27 years with the city; first Black alderwoman Brenda Brown; former alderman Steve Foster, who served 27 years on the council; and former alderman R.J Davis, who was one of the plaintiffs who changed Danville’s form of government, with awards. Mayor Williams said COVID-19 prevented them from honoring their service. Brown said don’t be surprised if she runs again in 2025. Former aldermen Steve Nichols and Sharon McMahon will be honored at another time.
Danville lost one of its strongest advocates earlier this month with the passing of former alderman and Vermilion County Board member John Dreher. Few others did as much to shape the city from the mid 1980s until his retirement in 2015.
Dreher was among those who helped create Danville’s mayor-aldermanic form of government after a civil rights lawsuit was filed in the 1980s. Until then, the city had been run by a three-person commission and a mayor. The new city government kept the mayor’s post, but added 14 aldermen as a way to ensure residents’ voices would be heard.
“We were starting a government from zero, from scratch,” Dreher was quoted as saying in a January 2015 story in the Commercial-News. “We had to put it together.”
He helped put it together, then served as an alderman for about a decade before becoming the city’s community development manager. In that post he, along with Danville Development Services Director Mike Federman, crafted the city’s historic preservation ordinance in an effort to preserve some of the community’s past.
He also fought hard for the city’s Renaissance Initiative, a program designed to help revitalize the neighborhoods just west of downtown. The program recorded some initial successes, but management issues and a lack of enough support from city officials brought about its demise. Still, during its short tenure, the program led to significant improvement in neighborhoods where homeowners were able to take advantage of it.
Dreher also helped organize and support neighborhood associations across the city. He led the city’s efforts using Community Development Block Grant funds to help homeowners repair and renovate their houses. His commitment to that program helped save hundreds of buildings that otherwise might have fallen into further disrepair and find their way onto the city’s demolition list.
Never one to be without something to do for long, Dreher was elected to the Vermilion County Board and served with that body from 2000 to 2015.
He and his wife, Barbara, moved to Terre Haute, Ind., in 2015 to be closer to her family, but he never lost his love for Danville. He remained a strong advocate for the Fischer Theatre before its recent renovation — efforts which included midnight showing of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” with Dreher frequently in costume as Riff Raff.
Dreher also was involved in Native American activities, and helped bring a major event to the city’s Ellsworth Park.
Few others during the past 40 years or so put as much time, effort and affection as did Dreher into improving Danville and Vermilion County.
Visitation for Dreher will be 3-6 p.m. EST Wednesday at Samaritan Funeral Home in Terre Haute.
Even though he is gone, the results of his efforts to make Danville a better place will continue to live on for decades.
Danville’s majestic Victory Monument — unveiled a century ago on Nov. 11, 1922 — faces Main Street, just west of Memorial Bridge. It remembers the local dead of World War I.
Downtown stores and offices closed on that Saturday afternoon so that everyone could be a part of the event. Mail deliveries were suspended. Veterans of the Civil War, the Spanish-American War and World War I joined in a parade that featured the Municipal Band, the Soldiers Home Band, city officials, floats, cars and honor guards. Mayor Claude Madden, former House Speaker Joseph G. Cannon and internationally known sculptor Lorado Taft were there. Thousands lined the sidewalks.
But the star of the show was the $50,000 monument, topped by a 13-foot-tall bronze figure representing “Victory.” “Miss Victory,” as she was nicknamed, holds a shield and sword. She was sculpted by Taft, a Chicago artist and early University of Illinois graduate. He also created the Alma Mater statue, which has become a beloved symbol of the U of I.
Taft designed the granite base of the Victory Monument. It features four uniformed figures representing the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and – unusual for the time – the Red Cross Nursing Corps. Inscriptions include the names of the 50-plus local men who died of wounds or disease in the war, the City Council resolution that authorized construction of the new “Victory Bridge” to South Danville, plus lyrics that were sung at the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. They read:
“Proudly you gathered on rank to war, who had heard God’s message from afar. All you had hoped for, all you had you gave to save mankind – yourself you scorned to save.”
Former city alderman Capt. Edwin Winter originated the idea of a Victory Bridge and Victory Monument. In 1919, local citizens approved the tax referendum needed to raise the necessary $400,000. An old iron bridge was razed. Construction of the 1,130-foot replacement, formed of reinforced concrete, 75 feet above the Vermilion River, began in March 1921. The span was opened to pedestrians late that year, then closed for paving.
The monument originally stood in a traffic circle between the bridge and Main Street. Although impressive, it was isolated and quite dangerous. Several cars jumped the curb and ran over the flower beds. On June 1, 1950, a car hit the monument head-on. In 1953, the city added steel posts and a chain.
In 1955, approaches to the bridge – commonly called Memorial Bridge – were altered. Some wanted to move the memorial to Harrison Park, Ellsworth Park, Spring Hill Cemetery or the Veterans Administration Medical Center. But a veterans’ committee voted unanimously to keep it near the bridge, as originally intended. That November, it was moved a few yards west, creating “Victory Park.”
“Each supplements the other,” The Commercial-News editorialized, “and each would lose something of its significance without the other.”