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Aurora faces its critics
City council hears about clinic, police issues
By Amy Boerema | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 10/10/2007 12:01 AM

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Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner wasn't a popular guy on Tuesday, judging by the hundreds of protesters who converged at city hall to criticize him for different reasons.

Before a city council meeting, abortion opponents held a rally to rail against the opening of a controversial Planned Parenthood clinic last week on the far east side.

Police officers also held a picket to protest what they call mistreatment and unfair practices by city leaders. Their signs read, "Weisner unfair to organized labor" and "Police deserve a contract."

Several clinic supporters, who praised the mayor for opening the center, also stood along Downer Place.

Inside council chambers, 132 people had signed up to speak on the facility, a non-agenda item. Public comment was limited to two hours.

After an outside review showed no legal basis for denying the clinic an occupancy permit, city leaders allowed the center to open last week.

Many abortion opponents on Tuesday blasted the mayor for issuing a permit without the full council voting on the matter.

They say they were promised an open hearing with aldermen feedback, though city leaders say the council does not review such permit requests.

Opponents also have filed an appeal with Aurora's zoning board of appeals, though a hearing date hasn't yet been set.

Reports from the city's review were either irrelevant, improper or inadequate, Pro-Life Action League spokesman Eric Scheidler told aldermen.

Weisner could have chosen to uphold the city's zoning laws, but instead chose to "allow the abortion fortress of Aurora to open and to embroil the city of Aurora in a legal battle with its own citizens," he said. "That was the wrong choice!"

Resident Mary Ann Vincent accused the mayor of caring more about himself than his constituents. "In my opinion, you have proven … that you are untrustworthy," she said.

Elizabeth Earl said opponents won't "forget they are not being heard by their mayor and the majority of their city council."

As they have in past meetings, protesters got on their knees to pray, as well as joined in singing, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

They are arranging another big rally at Planned Parenthood on Saturday.

Weisner has defended his actions, saying that though plenty of emotion surrounded the issue, "our job as government is to try to follow the law."

Clinic supporters, meanwhile, thanked Weisner for "doing the right thing" and allowing women access to reproductive health care.

They also urged aldermen to vote down any potential parental consent proposal.

Mary Knightwright, a clergy leader, said she's glad the clinic is open.

"I believe women are moral agents, moral decision-makers, and can be trusted to make responsible decisions for their own legal health care procedures," she said.

Though the clinic dominated public comment, Aurora police also wanted their voices heard.

The police union's last three-year contract expired in March, and the union and the city have been negotiating for a new one since.

No progress has been made since their August picket, union spokesman Wayne Biles said.

"We take one step forward and three back," he said.

The city's lead negotiator said talks have moved forward. A meeting with an independent arbitrator is set for late November, though talks will continue in hopes of resolving as many issues as possible before then, Alex Alexandrou said.