City Committees & the Culture of Mediocrity

Fourth Ward Alderman Brendon Gallagher has been guiding a BYOB license proposal through the city’s legislative process. Here is what he reported at his website about last Tuesday’s Liquor Commission meeting.

One member of the Commission asked the GM of the Haru of Japan sushi restaurant (who was at the meeting for liquor license approval) and I am not kidding on this question, “What ethnicity of waitstaff are your [sic] going to hire?”

This is 2010!!! Is Archie Bunker on this commission? What type of question is that to ask?

The General Manager of Haru of Japan asked a simple “What?” for his response.

Now you would think that the commission member would have taken the hint not to ask this again. But oh no he swung for the fences with “What ethnicity of your waitstaff are you going to hire?”

Wow! I could not believe he asked it a second time.

The GM of Haru of Japan looked shocked. He gave a great answer, “We are going to hire responsible people who want to work and be over 21 if they serve alcohol.”

From Gallagher’s description, it sounds like much of the meeting was a professionalism FAIL.

12 thoughts on “City Committees & the Culture of Mediocrity”

  1. Where was the liquor comissioner while this question was being asked and even repeated?

    It’s just like the school board president allowing fellow board members to belittle and talk badly of people not present at school board meetings.

    Does not the comissioner (who also plays a mayor) and the school board president are supposed to keep these meetings running with some sense of decorum. Maybe they are not aware of what proper decorum is?

  2. You are right, Ivan, and we are seeing similar lapses in lots of meetings nowadays. Unpreparedness, out-of-bounds remarks, hecklers — not much respect shown for the offices.

  3. Free speech is great. Free speech points out where the ignorant morons are instantly. Ignorance, however, can be ‘cured’ with education. Of course, the first step in any solution is to recognize and admit there is a problem.

    I still find it ironic that some people thought “Chronicle bloggers” were making the city look bad to potential businesses from the outside, with all this going on within city-approved committees (and the school meetings).

  4. With the exception of the new blood, the liquor commission has been a joke for a long time. Thanks to a lack of any ethical platform, liquor establishments ask for and received the commissions blessing to contact each member privately. Other commissions require that information be funneled through staff to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.

    When certain members say they are pro-business, what they really mean is that they support the existing dozen or so sinister forces who comprise a monopoly of a closely held license. These city-issued licenses cost them $1,000 a piece — but they are bought and sold for millions in the private marketplace. The city gets nothing from these transactions.

    The corrupting influence has been a plague on DeKalb for a long time. Because of lack of scrutiny and failure to connect the dots, these shenanigans have been allowed to persist unfettered.

    Thank you Alderman Gallagher for attending an official liquor commission meeting and shedding light on the dark underbelly of how things work (or don’t!) in this city.

    Why was this perspective mysteriously missing from the Chronicle story concerning the exact same meeting? Because the reporter sees similar unprofessional demeanor all the time at city hall and chooses to remain silent as a complicit accomplice. As long as she gets enough material to file her byline, it doesn’t matter what story she throws into the fish wrap.

    And so the sausage is made.

  5. I sent an e-mail to all members of the city council stating my displeasure with the whole deal, and how Mr. Embrey’s parade route will cost more than the money requested from the city, and also about how it reeked of impropriety. Went to the C.C meeting tonight, and after the meeting was approached by the mayor. He said “you made some accusations that I don’t appreciate”…and how “you don’t know anything of Embrey and my relationship”…. and how “negativity breeds negativity”… that “leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy”. I made no accusations of the Mayor, or Embrey, I simply stated that I did not approve of the prejudicial/racist attitudes that are still, in 2010, prevalent in society and government. Here is a copy of my E-mail.

    Request for a formal apology and/or resignation from Mr. Mike Embrey.‏
    From: John Salovesh (
    Sent: Sun 2/21/10 8:59 PM
    I do not know If I will be back from my job in Aurora in time to make it to the meeting on Monday, February 22 2010 to make comments about a few topics. Please consider this e-mail in two regards: first, as a request to make citizen comments, and second, as comments that I would make if I could attend the meeting.
    I would like to request that resolution 10-11 be removed from the agenda, and any proposed parade route be denied to Mr. Embrey. There are a few issues in play here: at the recent liquor commission meeting, Mr. Embrey asked very inappropriate questions of a local business owner. There is no room in our local government for racist or prejudicial attitudes, and there should be zero tolerance of any such behaviors or attitudes. Furthermore, the proposed parade route will cost the city more than just the $1050 (to come out of Mayor and Council’s Fund #505-8373 “Marketing, Ads and Public Information”**) for barricade rental, as there will most likely be Police overtime, Fire overtime, and Streets overtime involved.
    Anyone with outdated views such as the ones stated in the last meeting ( “What ethnicity of waitstaff are you going to hire? “BYOB would not work in this town because the only people who live here are unsophisticated farmers and professors who only buy a $3.99/bottle of wine from Walgreen’s.”) Does not deserve the support of this community, its’ peoples or local government.
    Another issue I have with this proposed parade: Mr. Embrey stands to make money on this endeavor, at the tax-payers expense. Sure, it would be good for DeKalb to have the drum and bugle come back to town, and yes business and community might benefit. However, the relationship of Mr. Kris Povlsen and Mr. Embrey on the Liquor commission seems to be a little too close for comfort, and reeks of impropriety.

    ** Does rental of barricades count as Marketing, Ads, or Public information? Not in my book, unless they were custom painted, decorated or holding some sort of information that had merit to the community displayed on it. Yet another instance of favoritism and impropriety in local government.

    I am requesting that a formal apology be issued to the owners of Haru of Japan, from the City of DeKalb, the Mayor, and the Liquor Commission. I am also requesting that the parade not be allowed as proposed, and that Mike Embrey either resign, or be dismissed of his duties on the liquor commission, immediately. I am contacting the ACLU with information about the incident at the liquor commission meeting, as this is quite a serious matter. This is not the way we want our city to be perceived, is it?

  6. The original description of the meeting on Alderman Gallagher’s website has now been taken down, or, as Mr. Gallagher put it, “in a holding pattern.” (Have they put him on the Airport Advisory Board yet?!) Luckily, an alert reader was able to recover the page. Anyone who wants it can e-mail me at

    Can’t wait to see the minutes of the meeting.

    Mayor Povlsen should specify for us which statements from Ald. Gallagher and/or Mr. Salovesh are inaccurate. Otherwise, I’d take what he is saying as an opinion that the truth should not be shared ’round because it happens to be negative. The criticism of negativity is common. Negativity is a very serious sin to the crowd who subscribe to the power of positive thinking.

    [Added: H/T Mark Charvat]

  7. Sadly, Lynn, if history repeats itself, the public record will most likely include a sanitized version of the proceedings. Minutes are kept by the legal department secretary, not the clerk’s office, and are subject to many omissions and rounded edges.

  8. I was informed by Ald Gallagher that Mr Embrey’s comments were suspiciously missing from the copy of the meeting minutes that he saw on Tuesday (2/23). I have made contact with the Norma Guess’s office to investigate this omission and to request that the full details of the liquor commission meeting be put in the official FINAL minutes that are to be approved by the Liquor commission and then by the city council.

    I am sad that Ald Gallagher took down his web page comments on the last week’s liquor commission meeting because I feel Ald Gallagher was DEAD ON RIGHT. So after some tricky web searching, I have found a link that will take you to Ald Gallagher’s “NOW DELETED” web page – Yes, it is still floating around in cyberspace. This page deserves to be read. It can be found here in it’s entirety:,+your+dumb+question+on+ethnicity&c=main&d=96207061770&cnsp=0

    I thank Ald Gallagher for his keen observations of a Liquor commission going down the wrong path.

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