Champaign residents call for city council member resignation amid controversy
Some Champaign residents called this week for two city council members to resign following comments they made at a meeting earlier this month.
The demands for council members Alicia Beck and Michael Foellmer to step down stemmed from an exchange Beck had with two local residents at the council's Feb. 15 meeting.
The Champaign residents, Albert and Claudia Morr, appeared at that meeting to share their concerns about bullets hitting their home.
Beck responded by saying white residents care about gun violence only when it affects their white, upper-middle-class neighborhoods. Foellmer agreed with her statement.
“I appreciate people coming in and telling us their concerns and being upset,” Beck said. “But until you come in because somebody else's neighborhood is being shot up, I don't want to hear it.”
Four people, including Albert Morr, attended the next council meeting, on Feb. 22, and called on Beck and Foellmer to resign.
Morr said Beck’s comments were unacceptable and disrespectful.
“It seems as though we had our character, our dignity, our moral compass questioned,” he said.
He said Beck’s earlier claims about his family living in a white, upper-middle-class neighborhood were wrong. He said he lives in a “mixed, middle-class neighborhood.”
“Two members had chosen to identify me through their own personal lens,” Morr said, “and what it shows to me is that they're unable to see through their indifference.”
Morr said the council should create an ethics code to regulate the way the council interacts with residents to improve future interactions.
“Since there’s presently no way to censure anyone for their conduct toward myself and my wife,” he said, “resignation seems like the only appropriate avenue.”
His statement was met with applause by several attendees of the meeting.
Multiple residents reprimanded Beck and Foellmer for what they said was their indifference toward gun violence’s effect on the entire community.
They said gun violence is a community-wide issue that doesn’t only happen in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. Although four residents demanded resignations, other residents at the meeting said Beck shouldn’t be forced to step down.
“I was shocked because I know Alicia Beck,” Champaign resident Craig Walker said, “and that was not the Alicia Beck I knew.”
He said the community should focus on the positives happening in the community – such as the recently approved Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint – rather than asking Beck to resign.
“She made a very, very big mistake,” he said. “And she will be held accountable for that. But as a community, we can't turn out for this. This is not what we should be turning out for.”
Beck did not reply to the Morrs’ concerns and left shortly after the meeting without speaking to any members of the public or the press. Foellmer did not attend the meeting.
Beck did not return later requests for comment.
At Tuesday’s meeting, several council members apologized for not defending the Morrs last week, though they did not apologize for the statement itself.
Champaign Mayor Deborah Feinen apologized for remaining silent after Beck’s statement.
Feinen said every person has the right to speak at city council meetings. She also encouraged residents to engage in the city’s effort to stop gun violence.
“As one resident said to me, when we see problems through only our own lens, we will never solve them,” she said. “Instead, we need to understand each other and work together for a better community.”
Sydney Wood is a student journalist in the Illinois Student Newsroom at Illinois Public Media.