PEORIA, IL -- Candidate forums are always interesting as they reveal problems with the offices and insights about the candidates. The NAACP forum on Feb. 9 was no exception. It featured candidates for Peoria mayor and Peoria Township Supervisor.
First the mayor's nonpartisan race. It features long time incumbent Jim Ardis and two challengers, G. Marie Kennell and Couri Thomas. The two challengers are sincere, and great on an important issue: they both oppose the Riverfront Park apartments. But that issue never came up.
Instead the candidates spouted generalities, and the challengers seemed to know little about whatever issues they were asked about.
Ardis knows the issues, but he also supports giving the park to the developers. And he's known as Mr. Twittergate, because he sent the police to arrest a guy who mocked him by impersonating him with a Twitter account. The settlement and legal fees cost city taxpayers $500,000. This issue also never was mentioned.
Kennell said "bad decisions" have been made. That's it. Thomas rambled and seemed unable to make any strong points. Neither attacked Ardis on his many mistakes.
Why did the challengers let Ardis get away with saying how education is so important, but never mention that the many TIF districts under his regime deprive District 150 of needed tax dollars? Likely they don't even know about this issue.
Alas, they're just not ready for prime time. One of them will win the Feb. 28 primary to challenge Ardis in the April election. It remains to be seen who would offer the strongest challenge to Ardis in April.
To Ardis' credit, he did come out strongly for unions. Right-to-work laws will never happen in Peoria, he said. He's been endorsed by some unions, he added.
Here is a recording of the mayor forum.
The Township Supervisor race produced stronger arguments and candidates. It's a partisan contest, with five Democrats and two Republicans in the primary. It's a shame some of these are not challenging the mayor.
Why so many? Because the pay is a hefty $96,000 a year. A League of Women Voters investigation revealed that the overhead in that office equals the welfare benefits it gives out -- not good. And that's it's main function, to provide a last safety net with welfare benefits for those with no money.
Discussion among these candidates revealed problems in the office which need to be fixed. Frank Abdnour called for adding rental assistance and water bill assistance to the list of items that could be paid, and a better website, and adding Facebook and Twitter pages. That's the way people communicate now, he said.
Harvey Burnett said he would cut back his own pay. He has 38 things he wants to fix listed on his website, he said. But he also wants to link up with churches, a problematic church-state item, perhaps.
Evonne Fleming would make the office "user friendly." Apparently it's not now very friendly, several of the candidates noted.
Clyde Gulley Jr. has served on the Peoria City Council for a dozen years and has experience with the township office.
Sam Joseph said he's had experience working with the poor, and said " the number one problem in Peoria is poverty."
The only Republican to appear was Dan Sullivan, who said he has worked in the sheriff's office and for the city of Peoria. Another Republican on the ballot, Michael Aiello, didn't appear at the event.
Here is a recording of the Township race.
-- Elaine Hopkins