Ms. Bannister told LBReport.com she intends to make this an election issue, pressing Council incumbents to send the measure to the Charter Amendment Committee before the April election with an up or down vote before the June runoff election.
"If incumbents want our votes to protect them, we want their votes to let the public protect parks. No more delays and excuses." Ms. Bannister added, "We expect this issue will resonate in the Mayoral race, as well as the 3d and 5th district Council races."
The development comes after 7th district Councilman Ray Grabinski (making second Mayoral bid) and 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell (seeking second term) both stopped short of advancing a Charter Amendment that would protect LB park land from non park use by future Councils.
Over a year ago, Mr. Grabinski offered a counter proposal to a Charter Amendment that he called "parks in perpetuity" but it didn't actually protect parks in perpetuity because it wasn't legally binding on future Councils. Grabinski's plan gave the public more opportunities to object but left Councilmembers with the power to decide.
In contrast, Ms. Bannister's park and beach protection Charter Amendment would be legally binding on future Councils and would give the public the power to decide. To become law, it would require a vote of the public and could be placed on the ballot by five Councilmembers or over 25,000 petition signatures.
During an August, 2000 Council meeting, Councilman Grabinski told park protection advocate Ann Cantrell that a charter amendment "wasn't going to happen" at that time. Meanwhile, City Hall proceeded with its plan to take roughly 2.0 acres of Scherer Park to expand a NLB police facility, producing contentious Council meetings at which Grabinski opposed and voted against City Hall's plan to take Scherer Park land (which the rest of the Council approved).
After the bruising Scherer Park vote, 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell, whose ELB district has the most park land and arguably the most at stake, vowed not to see similar votes repeated. She agendized, but then withdrew, Council discussion of some type of protection against non-recreational uses in parks but left details vague.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, during a televised 5th district Council candidate forum, Councilwoman Kell was less than definite when asked about a park protective Charter Amendment:
"We may be looking at a Charter Amendment when it comes to parks in perpetuity, and I do believe that we will possibly be doing that parks in perpetuity Charter change in that the voters would want us, I believe, to say that we would not put any non-recreational usage in any of the parks in the city," she said
Earlier in the broadcast, 5th district challenger and LB gas bill rebate supporter John Donaldson said plainly that if elected he would introduce a Charter Amendment "to protect our parks, and our parks really need protecting from our city [City Hall]."
The park protection Charter Amendment could also become an issue in the 3d Council district, where incumbent Councilman Frank Colonna is being challenged by ECO-link chair Diana Mann. Ms. Mann opposed taking Scherer park land; Colonna voted in favor of it.