Former Naperville City Councilman Kevin Coyne and Naperville resident Shannon Adcock found themselves at the center of an intense public forum at the latest City Council meeting after their names were leaked as potential appointees for advisory board positions. Coyne is seeking to join the library board and Adcock the SECA Commission.
Mayor Steve Chirico explained at the Naperville City Council meeting on Tuesday that he typically distributes applications for board member nominations to City Council for a 10-day review in confidence. If there is not support for a particular candidate, there’s then an opportunity to move past them without it being done publicly.
“We aren’t here to embarrass people or shame them,” said Chirico. “We’re here to vet out volunteers for these positions. So we have part of the process that is done privately so we can protect people who volunteering for these positions.”
Community Speaks Out
More than 100 people showed up to express their concerns following the controversy that sprang from the leak and about 20 people spoke during public forum. A majority of the speakers opposed the potential appointments. Many residents mentioned Adcock’s group Awake Illinois and its anti-diversity, equity and inclusion; anti-Black history; anti-mask and anti-LGBTQ stance. They also cited Coyne’s involvement and support of her group. Several speakers believed its mission as being counter to Naperville’s mission statement, which speaks to inclusion and diversity.
“Mayor, Council, applicants must value our cultural diversity,” said Naperville resident Karen Peck. “Applicants must support all members of our community: our Black residents, our people of color, our many cultural and LGBTQ organizations like those who are supported by special events and cultural amenities grants. Our Naperville libraries deserve applicants that support their celebration of Pride Month and Black History Month and their offering of books including those written by diverse authors.“
“These appointments are divisive and tearing Naperville apart,” said Mark Borowicz.”There are other members of our community that are more than willing and highly qualified for these positions.”
Others called on leadership to respect all communities and to listen with the intention of inclusion.
”We need leadership with diverse mindset, high integrity and someone that has the confidence of the entire Naperville community,” said Robert Harris, an 18-year resident of Naperville. “Selecting the best leaders is paramount, selecting the best leaders is a signal to visitors to become residents or frequent shoppers, most of all selecting the best leaders is what will maintain our reputation as the best place to live in the United States of America. “
Adcock said she was honored to be considered for a spot on the commission, but added that the debate at hand brought up a greater issue than just these current appointments.
“Throughout the city and beyond, people are watching to see what happens when a small vocal minority disagrees with even one facet of the world view… We call it cancel culture. It’s deterring untold number of otherwise good citizens from stepping into volunteer leadership roles and not just in Naperville,” said Adcock.
Naperville resident Josh McBroom who spoke in support of both Coyne and Adcock said. “I’m not going to belabor cancel culture here. I think most reasonable people can see it for what it is. Citizens advocating for renewed focus on public safety and parents asking to be allowed to have a seat at the table in their public school over children’s education are not in my opinion extremist positions. But we don’t debate anymore, we don’t debate ideas. In Naperville there is a contingent that wants nothing to do with critical debate or exchange of ideas. They don’t just disagree with you they want to destroy your life, your livelihood, intimidate your family and anyone close to you.”
Many at the meeting cast Kevin Coyne, who has moderated events for Awake Illinois, in the same light as Adcock. He said his commitment to inclusion is well established and has been demonstrated repeatedly over many years.
“The whole town now knows these appointments were put forth by the Mayor and placed all of you – and quite frankly us as the appointees in a terrible position and public circus,” said Coyne. “Not moving forward with a vote will appear as capitulation to these activists that are incapable of mere civility with those having different political belief. You will have to accept this new breed of Naperville politics, reinforced and emboldened as the means to achieve political ends within our community.”
A Civil Manner
After nearly 90 minutes of public forum Mayor Chirico thanked the group for their comments and sharing their thoughts. “As Mayor I want to tell you that I am really proud of that because you obviously have some very different views but you did it in a civil manner and respectful and that is really, really important. So, thank you for doing that,“ said Chirico.
Naper Gals Facebook group founder Holly Hootman was also in attendance and denied the opportunity to speak. City staff had no record of her online sign up.
No decisions on appointments were made at the meeting, as the item was not on the council agenda. Council will vote on any appointments at a future meeting.
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