Second City Council Candidate Forum
The League of Women Voters held its second city council candidate’s forum Wednesday night featuring the six council candidates who were not invited to Monday’s event. Wednesday’s forum included candidates Lance Jack, Rick Jackson, Don Monty, Mike Riley, Candle Wester-Mittan, and Hugh Williams. The five remaining candidates participated in Monday’s forum.
Asked about steps to necessary to balance the budget, Williams pledged to oppose all tax increases. Jack pointed out that rising pension costs are responsible for recent tax increases and urged using “all the tools in the toolbox.” Jackson oppdosed cuts to city employees and increases to the property tax, adding that any plan should be equitable. Monty said that different methods are used to balance different city fund and said tax increases should be a last resort. Riley would keep property and sales taxes static and look for pension savings. Wester-Mittan said Carbondale should reassess its priorities and, as part of that, proposed a forum where representatives from all taxing bodies would be present.
The candidates were asked to name their top two priorities if elected. Jackson said he would prioritize requiring a referendum for any tax increase and the use of celebrations and festivals to develop community spirit. Monty pointed to protecting public health and safety along with protecting Carbondale’s future financial situation. Riley would focus on economic development (including both new and existing businesses) and improving Carbondale’s housing. Wester-Mittan would prioritize economic growth and crime prevention. Williams wants to give subpoena power to the Human Relations Commission and get rid of what he called the “anti-business attitude” in Carbondale, citing parking meters as an example.
The forum seemed almost like a debate when the candidates were asked about whether more citizen involvement is needed on big issues like the city’s controversial twenty year, $20 million commitment to Saluki Way. Jackson, Williams, and Riley expressed support for referendums, and Wester-Mittan for forums. Lance Jack defended his vote for Saluki Way funding and defended representative democracy itself. Monty also defended representative democracy, saying that elected representatives must sometimes make unpopular choices. I agree with Jack and Monty.
The candidates were also asked for their ideas on improving Carbondale’s housing. Monty said Carbondale needs a non-profit housing corporation, attractive neighborhoods, and improvements to infrastructure. Wester-Mittan said the city should work with local banks to develop an incentive program for SIUC and SIH employees to buy houses in Carbondale. Jackson said Carbondale needs higher incomes if it wants to increase the proportion of owner occupied housing. Jack supports keeping or expanding existing programs like the rental conversion incentives.
I thought Monty, Jack, and Jackson were clearly the strongest candidates. I defended Jack in a series of posts when he was driven off the city council last year (see here, here, and here), but last month I expressed some reservations about voting for him. Jack was at his best Wednesday night and he’s certainly back in the running for my vote. I expected Monty to do well and I was already planning to vote for him.
I hadn’t heard of Jackson before this election and I was dismissive of his candidacy in my post on last month’s primary, mostly because he didn’t send a candidate essay to the Carbondale Times and didn’t return the Shawnee Green Party questionnaire. After seeing him in tonight’s forum, I have to say I was wrong. Jackson is a serious candidate and if he doesn’t win this year I hope he’ll run again in 2013.
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’ve made up my mind on two council candidates – Monty and Adams. Judging by the results in the primary, I’m not the only one who feels that way. I need a third candidate, and I think the election is between Lance Jack and Tom Grant. Each would bring strengths to the council. I’ve nearly made up my mind which I’m supporting.
If you want to listen to either city council forum or the mayoral forum from earlier this month, they’re available on WSIU’s website.
Comments are welcome.