The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Posts Tagged ‘Elections

I Wonder What Happened to the Carbondale Observer

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I wonder what happened to that blog I used to read, the Carbondale Observer. I guess the author must have moved away, or maybe lost interest in Carbondale politics, right?

Wrong. I turned my primary attention to some other priorities during the last year and a half, but I’m still here and I’m still paying attention to Carbondale politics. I also spent some time serving on the Sustainability Commission, and I’m still serving on the Planning Commission.

I’ve also decided to run for City Council in 2015. If you liked my blog, you’d love having me on the Council. I think this election is winnable (otherwise I wouldn’t be running), but winning won’t be easy. If you want to help, I’d appreciate any assistance you can give.

All campaigns need at least four things: votes, volunteers, publicity, and money. If you live in Carbondale and you read and enjoyed the blog when it was active, I am asking for your vote. If you support my campaign and you want to volunteer to canvass precincts or help in any other way, that would mean a lot to me.

You can help with publicity by telling your friends and neighbors about the campaign, and by placing a yard sign in your lawn. You can also help by liking or following the campaign Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages, and sharing or retweeting updates. If you are a member of a group that has meetings, you can invite me to speak beginning in January.

What if you want to help, but you either: (1) can’t vote for me because you live outside Carbondale, (2) don’t have the time to volunteer, or (3) can’t help with publicity? Well, you can still help by donating. If you want to help finance the campaign, visit my campaign website and click the red “Make a Donation” link on the upper right part of the page.

Thank you for reading this blog over the years. I hope to earn your vote for City Council in 2015.


Written by The Carbondale Observer

November 18, 2014 at 7:00 am

Harvey, Fronabarger, and Bradshaw Elected

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Here are the numbers. All the precincts are in but, as I understand it, there are enough uncounted early votes and absentee ballots to potentially change the outcome between Bradshaw and Ritzel. The likelihood is that Bradshaw has been elected, but that is not certain yet. I expect these to be the final numbers for tonight, but I will update if I get any additional information.

UPDATED: The early votes are in, the totals have been updated, and Bradshaw is elected. My understanding is that there are still some absentee ballots that have not been counted, but there are not enough to change the result. You can view all the results for Jackson County here (pdf).

Carbondale City Council

  • Carolin Harvey – 942 (20.77) — Elected
  • Lee Fronabarger – 773 (17.05%) — Elected
  • Jessica Bradshaw – 697 (15.37%) — Elected
  • Brent Ritzel – 641 (14.13%)
  • Navreet Kang – 482 (10.63%)
  • Jerrold Hennrich – 229 (5.05%)
  • Blaine Tisdale – 177 (3.9%)
  • Tony Holsey – 170 (3.75%)
  • Pepper Holder – 163 (3.59%)
  • Karim Abdullah – 130 (2.8%)
  • William Graham – 73 (1.61%)
  • Luke L. Adams, Jr. – 58 (1.28%)

Carbondale Park District

  • Carl R. Flowers – 1031 (34.64%) — Elected
  • Harvey Welch – 999 (33.57%) — Elected
  • Kathryn Hollister – 946 (31.79%) — Elected

Carbondale Community High School District No. 165

  • John Joseph Hudgins – 2045 (23.40%) — Elected
  • Francis Tsung – 1889 (21.62%) — Elected
  • Brian Woodard – 1754 (20.07%) — Elected
  • Kathy Booziotis – 1729 (19.78%) — Elected
  • William Sherwood – 1322

Murphysboro Mayor

  • Will Stephens – 847 (56.96%) — Elected
  • Ron Williams – 640 (43.04%)

Written by The Carbondale Observer

April 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Council Candidate Coverage Roundup

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Remember to vote today, and remember to come back to this site after the polls close at 7:00 p.m. for updates on the election outcome. In the meantime, here is a roundup of all the coverage of the election and the candidates so far. If you haven’t made up your mind yet, check the links and make your choices.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by The Carbondale Observer

April 9, 2013 at 7:00 am

I Am Voting For Jessica Bradshaw and Carolin Harvey for City Council

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Last week, the Carbondaze Gazette reported that Mayor Joel Fritzler sent an email to supporters endorsing Jessica Bradshaw, Carolin Harvey, Jerrold Hennrich, and Blaine Tisdale for city council, and asking supporters to vote for three from that list. This weekend, Council Member Jane Adams sent an email to supporters naming six candidates (Lee Fronabarger, Carolin Harvey, Navreet Kang, Brent Ritzel, Jessica Bradshaw, and Tony Holsey) as “worthy of your consideration.” Adams noted that her list was specifically not an endorsement.

Two candidates appear on both lists: Jessica Bradshaw and Carolin Harvey. Coincidentally, I am planning to vote for both candidates. I’ll explain why below. I’ll also name the candidates I am considering for my third vote, and I’ll explain why I rejected the candidates I am no longer considering.

I wrote a lot about the 2011 election, but I haven’t had time to cover this one at all. I have been following the election, though, and I’ve given careful thought to which candidates I should vote for. I have changed my mind during the course of the campaign based on the performance of the candidates, which I believe is an indication that I have approached this election with an open mind. First let’s look at the two candidates I have decided to vote for. I’ll follow the practice I used last time and bold each candidate’s name the first time I mention him or her.

The Candidates I am Voting For

Jessica Bradshaw ran for city council in 2011 and, as I said at the time, I did not vote for her. At the beginning of this election season I didn’t expect to vote for Bradshaw, but her platform and understanding of the issues have improved so dramatically in the last two years that fairness compelled me to consider her. I was impressed with her performance in both the League of Women Voters candidate forum and the Arbor District forum. For the last year, I have served with her on the board of a local organization, and as a result I’ve had the chance to have several substantive conversations on city issues with her. I am convinced that she will make a good Council Member. If I only had one vote instead of three, Bradshaw would get it. View her platform at her website.

Carolin Harvey is getting my second vote. The city recently completed a revision of its zoning code, and regular readers know that I am keenly interested in zoning issues. The zoning revision involved the Planning Commission, of which Carolin Harvey is chair, and it is in that capacity that I am most familiar with her. In her role as chair of the Planning Commission, Ms. Harvey showed an ability to run a meeting and an open minded approach to the issues. She also demonstrated an even tempered disposition, which is important in a city council person. I am also impressed with Ms. Harvey’s record of public service during her long tenure in Carbondale.

The Candidates I am Considering for my Third Vote

Lee Fronabarger is the only incumbent running this year. Unlike most incumbents, however, Fronabarger can’t campaign for reelection, because he was appointed to fill Mayor Fritzler’s council seat after the 2011 election. The appointment was moderately controversial at the time because Fronabarger, as a council candidate in 2011, finished near the back of the pack. I’ve always liked Fronabarger’s positions on the issues – in fact, I voted for him in the primary in 2011, although I didn’t vote for him in the general election because I did not view him as a contender. The power of incumbency is strong, however, and Fronabarger does have a chance at being elected this time. I am still considering him. His website is

Navreet Kang is a business owner and a member of the planning commission. I like the three main planks of his platform (Economic Revitalization and Business Development, A Safer and Cleaner Carbondale, A Greener and Diverse Carbondale). I did not agree with several of his recent votes on the Planning Commission, especially his vote against reducing the side setbacks on small lots. I also do not agree with his positions on the Oakland Auto Shop. Like Fronabarger, I initially intended to vote for Mr. Kang. I’ve already settled on Bradshaw and Harvey, so I can’t vote for both Fronabarger and Kang. I’ll have to decide, but I haven’t made up my mind yet. You can view Kang’s website at

The Candidates I am Not Considering Voting For

I want to eliminate a couple of candidates right away. William Graham and Luke Adams will be listed on the ballot, but they haven’t attended any campaign events or returned any candidate surveys or questionnaires. They cannot be considered active candidates and I am not considering voting for them.

Similarly, although Karim Abdullah and Pepper Holder both attended the League of Women Voters forum, and Holder attended the Arbor District forum, neither returned their surveys to the Carbondale Times. If they are not serious enough to write the 250 word response and accept the free publicity, they aren’t serious enough to get my vote. (Fun fact: the first time I heard the name Barack Obama was in August of 2003 when he was being interviewed on WDBX by Pepper Holder.)

Tony Holsey would be a good council member. He is originally from Cleveland, Ohio and is a business owner and minister. I thought his performances at the League of Women Voters forum and the Arbor District forum showed competence. I would not be disappointed if Mr. Holsey wins. The only reason I’ve dropped him from consideration is that there are other candidates whose platforms more closely mirror my own interests.

Jerrold Hennrich is a law student at SIUC. Unlike most student candidates, however, Hennrich does own a home in Carbondale. That makes him as permanent a resident as Carbondale has. Hennrich ran for council in 2011, and I didn’t consider voting for him because he didn’t seem to have any ideas for Carbondale. His candidacy this year has the same problem it had last time: lack of vision. I expect a candidate to have an agenda and to be able to articulate it. I can’t tell you what Hennrich’s agenda is, so I am not going to vote for him.

Blaine Tisdale is a law student at SIUC. We always have a few student candidates and, as I will explain below, I don’t automatically eliminate student candidates from consideration. Tisdale does have some good ideas, but I decided that he doesn’t have the long term ties to the city that a member of council should have. I hope he will run again if he stays in Carbondale after graduation, but I just couldn’t vote for him this time.

Brent Ritzel, who ran for mayor in 2011, is a full-time MPA student at SIUC. He is running as a student candidate with the goal of being the first student elected to the city council. Many people in Carbondale flatly refuse to vote for a student. I am not one of them. I will consider a student candidate who is at least in his or her late twenties and who has permanent ties to Carbondale. Ritzel, who is in his forties, is old enough to receive my consideration and, although he is not a homeowner, Ritzel was born and raised in Carbondale, giving him the permanent ties I need to see in order to consider a student candidate.

Ritzel has a lot of signs up, which many people consider a measure of support. I’d caution against using lawn signs as a measure of support, as candidates sometimes get the agreement of landlords to allow signs to be posted on their properties. Also, by creatively placing multiple signs on a single lot, a candidate can create the appearance of greater support than he or she actually has. Still, because Ritzel has a real chance of winning, I think it is worthwhile to explain at some length why I am not considering voting for him.

Here’s what I said about Ritzel during his 2011 mayoral run:

…Ritzel always seemed to me like the odd man out in this group. His professional experience is different than the other candidates and he lacks elected political experience. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing – eclectic experiences bring an eclectic perspective and the public sometimes welcomes political outsiders. And Ritzel had some good ideas, notably the plastic bag tax. But considering the expansiveness of some of his ideas and the limits of his experience, I wasn’t comfortable voting for him for mayor.

I stand by those remarks today. Furthermore, I have watched Ritzel speak at several city council meetings and my impression is that his temperament would not be an asset to the council. Carbondale needs people who can work together to solve our problems; we don’t need bomb throwers.

Finally, Ritzel did not bother to return the Northwest Carbondale Neighborhood Association candidate questionnaire — this despite the fact that he is on the board of that organization (as am I). If he can’t be bothered to return a questionnaire to an organization in which he himself holds a leadership role, then I can’t be bothered to vote for him.

I’ll have a links post up on Tuesday linking to all the coverage of this year’s campaign.

Comments are welcome.

Written by The Carbondale Observer

April 8, 2013 at 7:00 am

Fritzler, Monty, Adams, Jack Elected – A Few Thoughts

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The polls are closed and the returns are in. Joel Fritzler will be our new mayor and Don Monty, Jane Adams, and Lance Jack will join the city council. Fritzler’s old council seat will need to be filled, and mayoral candidate Steven Haynes will leave the council. Sitting mayor Brad Cole and council members Mary Pohlmann and Michael Neill, none of whom ran for reelection, will also leave the council.

First, I voted for all the winners so I’m happy with the results. But the 2011 election season isn’t quite over. Since Fritzler won the mayoral election, his council seat will need to be filled by appointment. I wrote in February that the most democratic option is to appoint the fourth place finisher:

…It seems to me that the natural person to appoint would be the candidate who finishes in fourth place in the April 5 election.

When Lance Jack resigned last year it had been nearly two years since the last election, but that wouldn’t be the case this time. Since council members are usually elected, and since the appointment would happen so near the election, I think the fourth place finisher would have a strong democratic claim on Fritzler’s old council seat.

That claim would be even stronger if the race for third place is very close. In this week’s primary, one vote separated third place (Tom Grant) and fourth place (Lance Jack). If Fritzler is elected mayor and I was the candidate who finished a close fourth in the April 5 election, I would expect to be appointed to Fritzler’s old seat.

Lance Jack, who finished third and won a seat on the council, received 772 votes. Tom Grant, who finished fourth and did not win a seat on the council, received 744 – a difference of only 28 votes. Meanwhile, 84 votes separate Grant and Bradshaw, his nearest opponent. I think the case is strong to appoint Grant to fill Fritzler’s council seat, and I hope our new mayor and council will agree.

Second, I think Fritzler won a convincing victory. I was hoping to avoid a situation where the four candidates more or less equally split the vote. A 25.01% victory wouldn’t have been very convincing. We avoided it this time, but anything is possible in the next election. As others have suggested, at the very least Carbondale should use it’s home rule authority to return to the old system in which only two candidates for each seat continue to the general election.

Third, I don’t think it’s possible to really know who would have won a two person Fritzler vs. Maroney election, but I strongly suspect Fritzler would still have won. I’m betting against the conventional wisdom that Goldman’s voters would have broken for Fritzler. I think Maroney would have gotten  a majority of them. But I also think Fritzler would have gotten an even larger majority of Haynes’ voters and he still would have won.

Fourth, I think this election should mark the end of the Lance Jack liquor license controversy. As most readers will remember, Lance Jack was forced to resign the council last year in order to get a liquor license for his restaurant. I wrote two posts (one, two) criticizing Joel Fritzler’s interpretation of state and local laws, which he cited as his reason for voting against the license. Now, for the third time, voters have returned Lance Jack to the city council – even knowing that he has a liquor license. The new mayor and council should not reopen the Fat Patties liquor license controversy.

Fifth, whether justified or not (and I think it’s not), there is a perception that the business community is uneasy with Fritzler and vice versa. Fritzler’s poor performance in the admittedly unscientific Chamber of Commerce membership poll was bad enough and his reaction (at least as quoted in the papers) didn’t necessarily help. Now that the election is over, business should accept and work with Fritzler, and Fritzler should make it clear that he has no hard feelings.

Continuing Brad Cole’s tradition of delivering a “state of the city” address as a Chamber fundraiser would be a wise move for Fritzler. If Fritzler is concerned about citizen access, and I think he is, he could continue Cole’s tradition of televising the speech on channel 16, or even insist that some free tickets be available. At the same time, business should close ranks and support the duly elected mayor. At the municipal level, cooperation between business and government benefits both.

Sixth, I noticed that this is the second mayoral election in a row in which the second place finisher in the primary went on to win the general election. I don’t think it’s that important, but I wonder why it happens. Does the first place finisher get complacent, or does the second place finisher get motivated? A little of each?

Seventh, I wonder if Maroney’s lack of a website contributed to his defeat. I don’t have strong evidence that this is the case, but I have a hunch and some weak evidence. WordPress (my blogging software) gives me a variety of stats showing how people arrive at my blog. For most of the election, search terms like “george maroney carbondale” or “carbondale mayor maroney” brought more people to my blog than searches for any other candidate. I took that as evidence that Maroney would win.

Now that he has lost, I suspect his lack of a website hurt him. People searched for information on Maroney and, instead of finding a site controlled by him and extolling his virtues, they found this blog. This should be a lesson to future candidates. Times have changed. It will be tough to win a mayoral election in Carbondale without a website.

Eighth, as others point out, turnout was lower this year than in some recent elections. Our neighbor to the east, which has several thousand fewer citizens, had almost a thousand more voters than Carbondale. The total Carbondale mayoral vote in 1999 (pdf) was 4,367; in 2003 (pdf) it was 3,507; in 2007 (pdf) it was 3,903. In 2011, the total mayoral vote was 2,683. That suggests apathy, which is a problem.

Ninth, compliments to SIUC journalism student and local news blogger Barton Lorimor, who’s live election return updates on his B(ee)tl(e)Juice blog kept me up to date. Check his site if you want exact vote totals for mayor, city council, school district 95, and the John A. Logan board.

I’ll probably have more to say on this in a future post, but these are some preliminary thoughts.

Comments are welcome.

Election Today, Who I’m Voting for and Why

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As everyone knows, today is election day in Carbondale. There are eleven candidates for three seats on the city council, and four candidates for mayor. Polls are open from 6:00 am to 7:00 pm. You can find your polling place here.

I wrote a post after the primary explaining my votes for Jane Adams, Lee Fronabarger, and John Holt for city council and another post explaining my vote for Sam Goldman for mayor. I’m going to follow up here explaining who I’m voting for in today’s election, starting with city council.

It’s no secret that I’ve been planning to vote for Jane Adams and Don Monty since the primary in February. That hasn’t changed. I voted for Don Monty because I think his decades of experience at city hall place him in a unique position to guide Carbondale through tough fiscal times. Here is what I wrote about Jane Adams back in February:

I mentioned above that there is usually one council candidate in each election who stands out as deserving my vote. In this election, that candidate was Jane Adams. I admire her work in establishing the Arbor District. Adams owns some rental property in Carbondale and, unlike many landlords, she has improved the community by maintaining and improving her properties. She has a professional looking website with  a detailed platform and a blog. I agree with the positions Adams has taken, especially her emphasis on downtown development and neighborhood revitalization. I have seen Adams speak at city council meetings during citizen comments and I have read her letters to the editor. I have always been impressed, and have often wished she would run for council. Now she is, and she got my vote.

All of that still applies today. Simply put, Adams has the vision we need on city council.

That leaves one council seat, and several good candidates. I voted for Lee Fronabarger and John Holt in the primary, and I still think both would be good on the council. I thought Jackson did very well in the League of Women voters forum, and I thought Bradshaw showed some improvement as well. Any of these four would be acceptable choices for council.

But I still see the council election as a choice between Tom Grant and Lance Jack.  I think Grant would be a fine council member. His experience in city government is valuable, and his current work as the owner of a sustainable farm brings insight into an increasingly important industry. Grant might win today and Carbondale will benefit if he does, but I am voting for Lance Jack.

It was Jack’s performance in the League of Women Voters forum that earned him my vote. Jack faced indirect criticism from other candidates for his vote in favor of the Saluki Way tax. Jack not only defended his vote for the Saluki Way tax, he defended representative democracy from demands for direct democracy.

Jack isn’t without his flaws. In the LWV forum, he suggested that the city take the lead in building a multi-story, mixed-use development at the intersection of E. Walnut and S. Washington. I think that’s a step too far. The city would have to be a partner in any development of that kind, but it should be a junior partner. But Jack’s focus on downtown and his willingness to consider unconventional solutions are valuable.

Because of the large number of candidates, this election is unpredictable. It’s possible that neither Jack nor Grant will be elected. If they aren’t, the candidates most likely to win are probably Jackson and Bradshaw, in that order, with either Holt or Fronabarger having the potential to pull off a dark horse victory.  Any of these would be acceptable council members.

The mayor’s election was tougher for me. I voted for Sam Goldman in the primary, and I still like his platform. Steven Haynes has good experience in city government. But the election is between Joel Fritzler and George Maroney, and that’s a tough choice. It might seem odd, since the candidates are so different. I’ll explain as well as I can.

My personal politics are probably closer to Fritzler’s than to Maroney’s. But I’m not sure Fritzler can get things done, and he’d certainly be a part time mayor. On the other hand, I have little doubt that Maroney will be able to get things done, and I think he’d be a more active mayor than Fritzler. But I’m not sure I agree with Maroney on some important issues.

I had made up my mind to vote for Maroney because, as I’ve mentioned, I think Carbondale needs an active mayor. I had decided that strong and wrong is better than weak and right. But I never felt great about the decision. My feeling is that Maroney doesn’t understand the value of a traditional downtown, and that he doesn’t understand the built environment. I’m not sure he is diplomatic enough to play the political role of mayor in a town with as many competing interests as Carbondale.

Over the weekend, I decided I had to vote for Fritzler. He isn’t the active mayor I want. I’m not sure he has much of a positive agenda. But I also don’t think he’ll block the positive agenda others bring to the council. Fritzler also got an extra point for having a more active campaign. I’ve seen him walking neighborhoods, and he had a last minute TV commercial Monday evening.

Like the council election, the outcome of this race is unpredictable. Any of the four candidates could become mayor and, fortunately, each is qualified. I’m going with Fritzler, but I’d be satisfied with any of the others.

Comments are welcome.

(Incidentally, anonymous comments are allowed. The comment form asks for name and email by default, but feel free to use a pseudonym if you want to anonymously say who you’re voting for and why.)

Written by The Carbondale Observer

April 5, 2011 at 6:00 am

City Council and District 95

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Carbondale’s proposed agreement to fund a voluntary summer reading and math program at District 95 was the big issue at Tuesday’s city council meeting. During a public hearing on the city’s FY ’12 budget, one resident spoke in favor of the program. Five residents, including three city council candidates, spoke against the city funding the program.

I’m coming late to this controversy. The people opposed to the plan seem to share a number of objections: we shouldn’t give Carbondale’s tax money to another taxing district, education isn’t the city’s responsibility, there is no way to terminate the five year program early, there are no clear standards for evaluating success, and the program is voluntary (potentially missing the most at risk children).

Supporters say the poor performance of District 95 is an obstacle to bringing new residents to town, that the schools need help and the city has a responsibility to act, and that the city established a precedent for assisting school districts when it helped to finance the construction of the new high school. Supporters also point to the small cost of the program relative to the city’s Saluki Way donation ($750k over five years vs. $20 million over twenty years).

After the public meeting ended, council members spoke. Councilwoman Mary Pohlmann said if the District 95 program is in the final budget, she’ll vote against it. Councilman and mayoral candidate Joel Fritzler also expressed opposition. Councilwoman Corene McDaniel pledged her support for the program, and Mayor Brad Cole said someone has to step in and do something about the schools.

That’s two in favor and two opposed. Councilmen Neill and Wissmann didn’t say definitively whether or not they will support the program. Councilman and mayoral candidate Steven Haynes didn’t stake out a firm position either.

I expect some version of this to pass. Wissmann may have tipped his hand when he pointed out that this program would cost $150,000 in FY ’12, just .375% of Carbondale’s $40 million FY ’12 budget. If Wissmann is in, the proposal only needs the support of one more council member. Haynes will feel pressure from the black community to support the program. Even if Haynes doesn’t support is, I suspect Neill will vote with Cole.

Should the program receive the funds? I’m agnostic on the issue. I think the opponents raise some valid concerns. Some, like the lack of an escape clause or clear standards of measurement can be remedied. Others, like the idea that the city shouldn’t give money to another taxing body, cannot be overcome.

On the other hand, I think the city is trying to solve a problem that has undoubtedly stunted population growth in the city. It may not technically be the city’s responsibility, but the city government is the most competent and professional public organization in the region. If the city doesn’t act, no one will.

Comments are welcome.

Written by The Carbondale Observer

March 30, 2011 at 7:45 am

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