PEORIA, IL -- Democracy may be in jeopardy in Washington DC, but in Peoria it still functions.
The candidates in contested races for the Peoria City Council in the municipal election ending April 4 met in a three hour event on March 23, sponsored by the Peoria NAACP and an activist sorority, the Deltas. A very large audience witnessed the forum.
It proved to be fascinating and enlightening. All of the candidates sounded sane and thoughtful.
Here is a recording of the candidates for mayor:
Here is the recording of the city council candidates:
Some of the questions asked of the candidates were a bit vague or squishy, and the candidates, like true politicians, knew how to dodge giving a 'yes' or 'no' answer to many of them. I didn't detect any outright lies in the answers. There were some omissions, however.
The mayor's race pits incumbent Jim Ardis against challenger Couri Thomas. Ardis is smooth and knows a lot, including where the bodies are buried. (joke). He has strong ties to the police and fire unions, and likely will be reelected.
Thomas can be incoherent and doesn't know enough. He's a young black man, who may be able to learn on the job if elected. He has one great point in his favor -- he opposes the awful apartments in Riverfront Park, and would be a vote on the council to drop the project.
Ardis has a problematic history that was ignored during the forum. First, there was the serious civil liberties and free speech violation that cost the city some $500,000, the Twittergate scandal, where he sent police to arrest a young guy who put up a mock Twitter account in Ardis' name, a practice that is widespread with celebrities.
The ACLU sued, the city settled. Ardis ignored calls to resign this awful abuse of power.
Then Ardis touted the River Trail apartments after taking a campaign contribution from one of the developers. (Others also took the contributions.) That should be made illegal. The project is still in limbo before the National Park Service and a lawsuit against it is likely if the NPS approves it.
There's also the bankruptcy of the Marriott Hotel project with the city on the hook for $7 million -- still unresolved.
A question did come up about failed city projects with developers, and the answer was that this happens because of incompetent vetting or cronyism or both, David Berry said.
Other highlights from the comments: Rob Hanauer: "I don't lie to get votes."
John Kelly: "No public risk for private profit."
Zack Oyler: "Eighty percent of the time people don't move into Peoria because of the schools. We need to better promote the schools."
Ardis: "Punishing bad landlords needs to be done" (with fines, though he could do that now).
Thomas: "I am a fresh face, a different direction."
The group mostly supported a study on whether to buy the water company, if someone else, not the city, will pay for it.
So after all this, here are my recommendations, based on opposition to the River Trail apartments in Riverfront Park. These candidates all oppose those apartments and will vote to stop the project. That's something concrete, not fine words about punishing landlords or promoting entrepreneurs to create jobs.
Mayor: Thomas. He likely will learn on the job. Ardis has too much baggage, too many mistakes in judgment.
At large: Rob Hanauer, John Kelly, Zach Oyler. (Your vote has more power if you vote for only one candidate).
District l: David Berry.
District 4:Either Jim Montelongo or Mike Eddleman, though Eddleman has been opposed from the beginning, and Montelongo took a developer's contribution and voted for the apartments. He now says he's changed his mind.
District 5: Rita Ali.
There were a few mild confrontations with the audience, when some shouted out comments. There are more forums before the election. See the coming post on those.
-- Elaine Hopkins