It’s election time in Champaign County. If you’re like me, the last election left you frustrated, angry, devastated... oh so many emotions come to mind. One positive that came from the November election however, is the motivation to become more informed and involved in the political process, rather than just sitting back and getting annoyed and angry at the state of the country. The midterm elections of 2018 are certainly important to focus on, but let’s not neglect the power of local politics. While the political scene in Washington grabs our attention daily, we have a greater capacity to influence change by participating at a local level.
Champaign County Clerk Gordy Hulten emphasizes this point:
"This election will feature low turnout, and decide a multitude of important local offices. These offices don't generate the publicity of contests for President, Senate or Congress, but in my opinion they have a much greater impact on the quality of our day-to-day life. Voting is easy and convenient, and with election day registration available, there is no excuse. Please come out and vote."
There are multiple contested races in Champaign, Urbana, and surrounding areas coming up in the April 4th election. Early voting has begun, and mail-in ballots are now available online. While traditional voter registration has closed, people can use “grace period registration” and register to vote at any location where voting is being conducted. You can check your registration, find your election day polling place, and view a sample ballot. Another great resource is the Illinois Sunshine website. It allows you to look up candidates and see who has donated to their campaigns, as well as the campaigns the candidates themselves have donated to in the past.
Here are contested races and ballot initiatives to know about:
Urbana Mayoral Race
Diane Marlin bested current Urbana mayor Laurel Prussing to become the Democratic mayoral candidate. She is a longtime Urbana resident, and has been on the Urbana City Council since 2009. She is retired from the University of Illinois as Coordinator of Research Programs in Family Resiliency. In a previous interview with Smile Politely, she emphasized priorities on reestablishing a city administrator position, better day to day management and coordination among departments, and addressing the lack of growth and development in Urbana.
Rex Bradfield, the Republican candidate, is running for the 3rd time. He has a degree in engineering from the University of Illinois and owns a land surveying business. He also wants to see more economic development in Urbana, and wants to see tax revenue come from new businesses rather than increased property tax. In an odd turn of events last month, he actually voted in the Urbana democratic primary race.
Champaign City Council
The District 2 seat is currently held by Michael LaDue (since 1985). He is being challenged by newcomer Alicia Beck. Her campaign platform includes: regular communication with constituents, responsible neighborhood development, creation of community that supports diversity, and responsible budgeting.
There are four candidates competing for the District 5 seat, currently held by Paul Faraci (not seeking re-election). Here’s a rundown of issues they are focused on:
- Fix the Kirby Avenue bridge over I-57
- Infrastructure needs in Southwest Champaign
- Garbage collection
- Drop in meetings monthly throughout the district at various times and locations
- Upgrading of our roads and bridges especially the I57 Kirby Ave overpass
- The hiring of more Police Officers to patrol District 5
- Working to ensure our property tax rate does not go up
- Support economic development and bringing new jobs to Champaign
- Work with the entire community to keep our neighborhoods safe
- Make Champaign a place where innovation thrives
- Keep effective city services without raising taxes.
- Public safety
- Neighborhood lighting for seniors
There are ten candidates vying for a spot on the Board of Trustees for Parkland College. Six candidates are running for a six year term (three positions). Four are running for a single two year term.* According to the Parkland website, the trustees "provide local control and direction for the college and operate in accordance with written policies and procedures published in the Parkland College Policies and Procedures Manual." Earlier this month, all ten candidates submitted questionnaires to The News-Gazette to demonstrate their positions on the issues facing the college.
Nursing Home Issue
The Champaign County Nursing Home is a public non-profit facility that the county has owned for over 100 years, and is currently facing financial hardship. There are two referendums on the ballot that will decide the fate of the nursing home.
Referendum #1: "Proposition to Increase the Limiting Rate"
This would raise the property tax a small amount, costing a property with a valuation of $100,000 an extra $22.50 a year.
Referendum #2: "Sale or Disposal of the Champaign County Nursing Home"
This would grant the authority to the County Board to sell or dispose of the nursing home.
The Champaign County CARE organization was formed in support of keeping the nursing home and raising property taxes. Their position: The Champaign County Nursing Home is a valued asset of this community and provides access to affordable healthcare and a diversity of services that are not widely available in the community. If it were to close or be sold to a private entity, many community members of low income would potentially not have anywhere in our community to go when they are at such a vulnerable point in their life.
The group Save CCNH-Vote to Sell is encouraging voters to vote to sell to a non-government entity rather than raise taxes and keep it under the ownership of the county. Their position: If the County doesn't sell the nursing home, Champaign County services will be imperiled. Already, cuts have been made in needed county public safety services over the years as taxpayers have repeatedly bailed out the nursing home. Even more drastic cuts await if the County does not get out of the nursing home business.
Check out your sample ballot, do your research, and go vote. It’s easy, takes just a few minutes, and can make a big difference. And of course, there's the sticker.
*Editor's Note: this was edited to clarify the distinctions between six-year and two-year positions, and the number of candidates running for each type of position.