Before we get started, I want to inform our online readers that John Hanson won't be participating in today's chat. On Monday, he informed us that he has a work-related conflict and sent his apologies for not being able to participate. But the other two candidates for Bloomington mayor, Tari Renner and Lex Green, are with us. I'm Managing Editor Mark Pickering and I'll be monitoring the chat, including posting questions and comments submitted by readers and ones I have. Readers can start sending questions and comments now.
Great to see you guys online. I wanted to get things started with a question: As the campaign is winding down, what are the one or two issues on the minds of most residents you've talked with and met?
Well, Mark. First of all the campaign doesn't seem to be winding down, but there is just one week left. From the feedback I get, taxes and roads are on almost everybody's mind. Taxes are too high and roads need repair.
As I have spent time walking door-to-door and attending meet and greets all across our community what has become clear to me is that residents top concerns are growing the local economy and improving our streets and infrastructure. And a another concern I continue to hear from residents is improving communication and opening up city hall.
I don't think anyone will deny the streets are in bad shape. Do you think the current administration has an effective plan in place to address the problem?
We certainly have a plan, and it is very expensive. But it is the first job that people think that the city needs to attend to. I like the "back to basics" approach that everyone seems to be talking about. But we do need to address options beyond just which street will be fixed first. I applaud city manager Hales for putting a plan in place. We need to move forward on it.
The plan that is currently in place does a good job of grading the condition of our streets, which are clearly in bad shape. I believe we need to put a plan in place that sets time tables that spells out when we will achieve specific goals.
First of all, we have a $170 million budget. We first need to prioritize our spending, department by department, and address efficiency. If we can pad our general fund and get a $13 million reserve, we can find the money for the roads. We also need to make sure we are getting the most effective use of our current employees, many of whom can work on our infrastructure needs
I get all of my information on the Bloomington web site. I also find that most city employees and department heads have willingly shared with me any information I ask for. But since most employees do not talk with city employees, as mayor I will reach out to the community to help educate them.
Tari and Lex, I didn't want you to miss the question by Dan on downtown.
Dan, it is not my intention to curtail activity. It is only my intention to make sure that those who use and benefit from downtown entertainment subsidize it with their own spending, and those who don't or can't are not asked to subsidize someone else's entertainment. I am also concerned that public safety and the rights of downtown business owners and residents are respected.
Dan, while part of Downtown is an entertainment hub, in order for the downtown to thrive we need to diversify the types of businesses we have in the district. The downtown is more than just entertainment, for example we have many residents living downtown, offices, and retail shops.
I agree with Tari, although I think the people who live, work and shop downtown, and the entrepreneurs who invest there should define what businesses should go there, not city planners.
Hi Jeff, I agree that transparency in government is critical. I have stressed this point from the very beginning of the campaign and I will work to get the City an "A". Specifically, I have proposed having a Mayoral open houses every Friday before each City Council meeting. Residents would not need an appointment to meet with me, they can just stop by and voice their concerns. Further, we should scan all public documents and make them available on the City's website.
Jeff, I will happily sign the IPI pledge. I think we need to share what we are doing with all of the citizens of Bloomington. Like Tari, I will reach out to citizens so they don't have to dig to find information. However, I don't think another meeting is the way to reach them. I think we need to take it to them. Although I am reluctant to grow our payroll, I support the inclusion of a Communication person who will make the web site easier and more informative.
I think that city planners need to consider enforcement when they plan, but I do recognize their role in integrating the needs of neighborhoods, the infrastructure restrictions and ramifications of plans, and the financial benefit AND burden of zoning and restrictions. I am against any "one size fits all" approach because every neighborhood and business has different circumstances.
We currently are in a lawsuit because we denied a person the opportunity to provide niche shuttle service downtown when we should have been enabling an entrepreneur to compete.
Let's tackle another question for both candidates: What should the relationship between the mayor and city manager look like?
A quick note: We're halfway through the chat. and to also note that the third candidate, John Hanson, was unable to join us today.
The Mayor has executive authority that is similar to Presidents and Governors (Mayor sets legislative agenda, has a veto, and a voice). The Mayor needs to work closely on making policy with all nine Council members. As the only elected official chosen at-large, the Mayor has an obligation or duty to represent the broader interests and to lead. The City Manager is the hands that implement policy and manage personnel.
In our city's government, the city manager is the chief administrator. His duty is to administer the wishes of the council. Absent a consistent vision from the council, it is not surprising that he often pursues his own vision or that of advisors. The mayor is the head of the council. It is his duty make sure the council pursues the interests of the citizens. By bringing his own vision, he can help guide the council, and using leadership, help the council reach their decisions. It is then the duty of the mayor to communicate that to the manager and and work with the manager to see that the decisions of the council are implemented. The manager and mayor can also work together to be the face of the community to the public.
I disagree that our mayor has broad powers like the President or Governor. I support the mayor being a strong leader, but his powers are much more limited in our particular type of government.
Another reminder to commenters: I will not post questions directed to John Hanson since he is not participating in the chat.
Well the specific powers that the Mayor has are the most powerful policy making tools (setting legislative agenda, veto, and a bully-pulpit to speak out on issues). I believe a Mayor in a City-Manager form of government still needs to lead and use these tools.
I don't like such increases. The practice is on the rise state wide, and its use in our city can hurt us financially. If the salaries increase over the last three years, then pensions rise significantly. The time-off pay, such as our former police chief got, needs to be disregarded in figuring the pension. The practice of those payments is part of a negotiation with our unions.
Dear m1h2, I oppose "golden parachutes" period! Unfortunately, John Hanson voted to spike former City Manager's Tom Hamilton's salary and provided him a golden parachute. I believe that was wrong and fiscally irresponsible.
I will be a strong leader by pursuing my model of fiscally responsible government and helping the council be effective. However, I am comfortable in the whole of city government being a little less powerful by doing well what it should do, but leaving to the people those things that should be done by them.
M1h2, I have tried to address issues from a practical, yet economically consistent point of view. The issue of party politics as been thrust at me time and time again. I am proud of my political affiliation, but I find that supporters of my opponents won't let the issue of party die. To their credit, Tari and John have also approached issues from their principled viewpoints, not from party lines IMHO
m1h2, I believe local elections should be about issues and not partisanship. Over 80% of city elections across the country are non-partisan and our local elections should stay that way. We see how dysfunctional things are in Springfield and Washington and we need to keep partisan politics out of this race.
To point out something on Val's question: The $12,000 is to cover the entire search process for a new chief that could take 6 months.
It is a waste of money. We should be working within the ranks of our own force to fill that position. No one knows our city or our policing needs like the people we have on the job. I wish that Clay were able stay on the job, because he was doing fine.
I am really sorry to have to go, but I have an appointment that forces me to log out of the forum early. I want to thank the Pantagraph for hosting this excellent forum. I want to thank everyone for participating. It is people like you who care and get involved that make our city such a great place to live, work, and play. I hope you will consider voting for me on election day. If I can answer any additional questions please contact me directly by email: email@example.com.
Jeff's question is the last one we'll be able to consider today since Tari Renner has to log out. Thanks to everyone who contributed and, as a reminder, we will be having another chat from 10-11 a.m. Wednesday involving the three candidates for Normal mayor -- incumbent Chris Koos, and challengers JeVaughn Martin and Victor Connor. So, please, join us then.
Bye, Tari, See you in an hour.
I want to thank every one for participating and thank Mark for moderating. This was fun. If anyone wants to know more about me, go to www.justvotelex.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's about a minute past 11 a.m. so we're done here, everyone. Again, join in on Wednesday at 10 a.m. when the Normal mayoral candidates will be chatting. Have a great day.