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Streator critic offers to go mum

Kyle Mitchell
Kyle Mitchell

Streator resident Kyle Mitchell has offered to stop criticizing the city government, but there's a catch.

In return for his silence, he wants the city to help with the sale of his property at 324 E. Main St., the old Flips Exchange building.

He made the offer in an email to Mayor Jimmie Lansford and City Manager Scot Wrighton last month.

"If the city were to help facilitate a sale and I am able to sell within 7 percent of the listed price, I would be willing to provide my streatorpride.org website, my streatorpride YouTube channel, my research into the problems of Streator and even a nondisclosure statement," Mitchell said in his Dec. 6 message.

The proposal raises ethical and legal questions.

Mitchell has a history of criticizing Streator's local government. He's spoken during public comment sessions and making social media posts.

On streatorpride.org, Mitchell writes about what he perceives as Streator's problems. He contends crime is rampant in town and city leaders make it difficult for people like him to launch businesses. He also posts videos, including of a fight between a few people last year in downtown.

As for the nondisclosure statement, Mitchell said he would no longer be critical of Streator.

"I would walk away," he said. "I wouldn't be concerned with the problems."

Ben Silver, an attorney with the Elmhurst-based Citizen Advocacy Center, said Mitchell's offer is ethically questionable. He doubted the agreement Mitchell wanted would be legally enforceable.

"The city should treat him like anyone else and not accept the offer," Silver said.

He said he had never heard of an offer like Mitchell's. He wondered what the offer said about Mitchell's criticism if he were willing to trade it away.

In an interview, Mitchell, who owned the old Majestic Theatre in Streator years ago, said he has received no response from the city to his offer. He said he would give control of his websites to Streator if it helped with the process of selling the property.

Mitchell, who moved to Streator from Flagstaff, Ariz., a decade ago, said everything he has posted online is true, not a smear campaign. If anything on his website is false, he promised to remove it.

"I only want good things for Streator," he said. "I'm not trying to make the people of Streator look bad. There are a lot of good people. I have friends and family in Streator."

He also said Streator has many good police officers, saying he doesn't like being in the position of criticizing police response to crimes.

Tara Bedei, a City Council member, agreed the offer raises ethical questions. She said she would oppose any such agreement with Mitchell, saying she opposed giving any resident such special treatment.

Bedei said the city already provides interested parties that approach City Hall interested in commercial real estate with information on properties that may fit their purposes, including Mitchell's.

"We want economic growth and to spur business," she said.

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