by: Diane Benjamin
Since the press didn’t cover this event, I will recap the high points. Evidently the citizens of Bloomington are waiting for the Pantagraph to tell them who to vote for because a large part of the crowd were supporters of various candidates. Citizens of Bloomington evidently don’t care about crumbling roads and 100 year old sewer systems or the massive spending wanted on downtown Bloomington.
All the candidates were not asked the same questions. The ones vying for the same seat were asked identical questions.
Other debates are upcoming. Citizens can either take their voting rights seriously and attend at least one debate, or continue being un-involved. The results of this election will affect your wallet. If you care, get informed. Name recognition can cost you a lot of money. Your vote needs to be based on issues.
Only one candidate received loud applause which paused the debate – Matthew Koetters. Several other candidates received minimal applause. Citizens need to see the candidates in person in order to decide.
1) Ward 1
The write-in candidate thinks more spending on economic development needs to be done because young professional want to live in large cities like Chicago instead of Bloomington-Normal. He did not answer the Agenda 21 question, or he doesn’t understand what it is. He favors water conservation and reclamation instead of developing new sources. Would support bike lanes on busy streets to promote safety, when money is available.
Kevin Lower wants to relieve the financial stress on citizens by focusing on needs instead of wants, fund the pension deficit, and stop funding studies for projects that aren’t implemented. He believes the City Manger should implement the plans of the Mayor and City Council, not bring his vision to them. He also believes the 2 lakes should have been dredged when the levels were low so capacity would have increased. Kevin believes money should not be spent on projects just because the state wants to fund part, such as new parks and the West-Side Gateway project. He would not support adding bike lanes on busy streets.
2) Ward 3 and Ward 5
Mboka Mwilambwe supported a re-vote on electric aggregation. He did not believe the citizens made a decision the first time. He believes funds from the State or Federal government are fiscally responsible and that we should take the money because some other city will if we don’t. He believes in long range master planning for water, funding pensions, sidewalks, and other capital projects. He supports public-private partnerships.
Lane Hanson does not support the aggregation re-vote. He expressed concerns that too many factors are unknown, such as being forced to purchase green energy. Also, Good Energy is owned by Ameren which makes aggregation simply a matter of control. He believes funds that originate here, like Motor Fuel Taxes, should be returned here. Otherwise, Bloomington should take a leadership role in not excepting funds for non-essential projects because of massive state and federal deficits. Believes in 3-5 year planning, especially for pension funding. Need a comprehensive plan for capital projects. Lane believes the BCPA should concentrate more on more private funding instead of asking the council for money. He believes the city has more pressing priorities.
Ward 5 - Matthew Koetters was included in this group because his opponent was not present
Matthew would not have agreed to the aggregation re-vote, he believes the citizens spoke the first time. He does not believe in taking State or Federal money we don’t need, like the $800,000 for gateways and $400,000 for a park. He believes the city needs to be smarter about taking money since it always cost the city money too. He believes the city should act on long range plans, not concentrate on making plans. He supports infrastructure spending (roads, sewers) not downtown reconstruction. He fully supports the zoo, but believes is should be funded privately. He thinks spending on roads should be a priority.
3) Ward 7
Ryan Fiala believes the City Manager should carry out the plan of the Council, not push his plan that doesn’t originate with the citizens. He favors pension funding, road repairs, and a possible TIF district for the rail yards. He would not support the east-side bypass and expressed belief the plan is coming from the MCRPC and not the citizens. He wants to establish construction perimeters in advance for projects and set standards for the work so contractors can be held accountable.
Scott Black wants to promote direct communication with citizens. He believes citizen input should be solicited for downtown development. He might support the bypass based on his time on the County Board. He wants to hold contractors accountable and find value with choosing the right ones and proper materials.
Bernie Uszcienski believes the City Manager is running the city, not the citizens. Wants the railroad yards cleaned up and O’Neil Park revitalized. He favors road repairs and focusing on needs instead of wants. He does not support the East-side bypass. Wants quality contractors and feels the bridge design and materials at the Oakland and Main bridge may have contributed to the problems. He would have held the contractors more at fault with the west-side firehouse problems.