I previously wrote that I wouldn’t endorse any candidate in the municipal election, and I intended to stick with that, but I want to share who I think would be the best city council picks for Decatur. Knowing my endorsements sure didn’t help John McCain or Hillary Clinton, I sure hope I’m not the kiss of political death, but I’m going to share my picks anyway.
A few weeks ago I sent questions to most of the candidates. Out of ten candidates to whom I sent questions to, only four replied. The lack of responses from the majority of the candidates, tells me everything I need to know. Okay, I’m not Larry King or Oprah Winfrey; I’m sure there’s more important people to impress, but it’s not my ego that concerns me. I’m just a concerned resident of Decatur. If they aren’t willing to respond to me, a nobody, how could I believe they’d respond to the other 70,000 nobodys in town? It changed my mind about nearly all of the candidates. In fact, several of the people I was going to vote for, lost my vote.
2 Year Candidates: Marcia Phillips, Larry Foster, Pat McDaniel
My pick: Pat McDaniel
I have had discussions, albeit through a blog, with Pat McDaniel, but I think it’s given me a pretty good idea of the type of person he is. He seems like someone who would be independent enough to vote based upon, not only his convictions, but community input. He’s conservative but not aligned with any particular organization in town. He’s been involved with the community for many years, in many different roles. He has plenty of knowledge of city council issues, having been a reporter for the Decatur Tribune, covering city council meetings for several years. I believe he would be a reasonable voice on the council.
4 year Candidates: Betsy Stockard, Dan Caulkins, Rev. Carey Grady, Adam Ruderman, Matthew Jackson, Julie Moore-Wolfe, Jerry Dawson, Adam Brown
There are three 4-year council seats up for election. If Mike McElroy wins as mayor, his seat will be open; it’s likely that one of the losing candidates would be appointed to fill McElroy’s seat.
Here are my best picks:
Jerry Dawson – His response to my questions was convincing. I agree with everything he wrote. I think we’re on the same page, regarding many issues. I wasn’t aware of that prior to his response. He isn’t running as a “change” candidate, or a “chamber” candidate. He’s just running as a candidate. Refreshing. Much of Decatur’s success is dependent upon our school district. Even though the city council and school board are two different entities, they still need to work together to make Decatur public schools, the best in our area. It will require both our city council and school board working together to make that happen. I believe Dawson understands this. Making our neighborhoods safer and more attractive, will boost property values, and encourage young families to choose to stay in Decatur. This will create more revenue for both the city and school district. More importantly, it will create a better environment for kids to grow up in. Decatur needs to retain its’ young families, if we are to have positive growth and success in the future.
Adam Ruderman – Before I sent Ruderman my list of questions, he contacted me to come speak before the neighborhood group that a few neighbors in my area are trying to form. To me, that shows someone who is willing to get to know the people he would represent. A very important quality. I also like his ideas for lakefront development. In the Business Journal of Midcentral Illinois, he pointed out his interest in capitalizing on Decatur’s most attractive asset – our lake. “A boardwalk with everything from restaurants, specialty shops, arcades, etc. would give Central Illinoisans another reason to visit Decatur for a day or two.” I too believe it would be a unique attraction to the city and open up many possibilities and sources of revenue. I agree with him on several other issues as well. He also understand labor issues, which is important in a city like Decatur.
My third candidates choice is a toss up. I’m not even sure who I’m going to vote for yet, but I think any of these candidates would be a good choice:
Rev. Carey Grady: I believe he understand the problems of many of our most troubled youth in the community. As a pastor, he’s on the frontlines every day. I also believe he would be a voice for a large part of Decatur that hasn’t always been represented well in the community – our inner city.
Adam Brown: Brown is an energetic individual who I believe would be receptive to new ideas, and represent a segment of our population, of which Decatur desperately needs to attract and retain – young professionals. I also agree with his stance on city taxes. Decatur needs to be competitive with its neighboring communities to attract new business. Having a younger and fresher perspective on the city is important.
Matthew Jackson (Write-In Candidate): Of all the candidates I have discussed, Jackson is the one I have had the most discussions with over the past couple of years. He has faithfully attended city council meetings, and knows the issues well. I believe that he would take the time to study all aspects of an issue before voting on it.
Mayoral candidates: Steve Daniels, Mike McElroy
My pick: Steve Daniels. We know what status-quo has produced, and if we take a look around Decatur, we can see that it hasn’t achieved the effect many of us, working paycheck to paycheck, or trying to live without a paycheck, would like to see. Our city council has paid more attention to neighborhood issues as of late, but much of that is the result of ChangeDecatur’s efforts to give neighborhoods more of a voice in the city. I have been an opponent of ChangeDecatur in the past, and haven’t agreed with some of their tactics, but I think it’s fair to say- the opposing side isn’t without fault either.
Daniels education plan is on the right path, even though at this point, funding hasn’t been secured. I’m skeptical of it coming to fruition, but it shows me, that Daniels is at least thinking outside the box. I think a better alternative is to have Richland begin offering 4-year degrees. It would allow recent high school grads and adult learners an affordable option. Any way you slice it, Decatur needs an educated workforce to attract different employers, of which we haven’t been able to attract in the past. Decatur hasn’t been able to diversify our job base, in large part because we are seen as only a blue-collar town. The percentage of college graduates in Decatur is less than Springfield, Bloomington-Normal, and Champaign-Urbana. It puts us at a disadvantage right off the bat. If we are to attract high paying white collar jobs, we have to have a trained workforce ready to fill those positions.
I have some reservations of Daniels, but McElroy seems to lack a vision to really improve Decatur in any meaningful way. I haven’t heard anything new from him. No, I don’t want empty promises, or impossible plans, but I do want a mayor who is open to new ideas. I’m willing to give Daniels two years to try a different approach.
In conclusion, I think it’s important to see new faces on the city council. While I respect all of the candidates running for office, and have nothing against any one of them personally, I tried to pick the people that I believe would put forth the most effort to improve Decatur and, most importantly, respond to residents’ needs. I believe it’s important to have people from all walks of life on our city council, with open minds, and new ideas. In a city that could easily have a 10% unemployment rate soon, we need to try something different.