City council contenders speak to business community
Four candidates who are vying for three seats on the Carbondale City Council recently spoke to the city's business community about taxes, jobs and economic development during a forum at the Carbondale Civic Center.
Jessica Bradshaw, Carolin Harvey and Lee Fronabarger, who are incumbents seeking re-election, and Jeff Doherty, the city's former manager, disagreed over taxes, but each said they wanted to boost job creation and accelerate the economic development of the downtown area.
“The tax rate has increased 30 percent over the last six years,” Doherty, who served as the city's manager for 16 years until retiring in 2008, said. “That really has an impact on homeowners.”
Doherty, who was Carbondale's longest-serving city manager, according to The Southern Illinoisan, said he would seek to lower taxes for potential homeowners.
The newcomer has cautioned against actions that could impede economic growth, including “the recent council action to rezone business property that placed greater restrictions on developing business in Carbondale,” according to his campaign's official Facebook page.
Fronabarger focused on job creation and the economic development of the downtown area. He said a favorable job market would lure graduates of Southern Illinois University (SIU) to the city.
“Jobs, jobs and more jobs," Fronabarger said. “A community that's growing is a healthy community.”
Fronabarger, a retired SIU employee who served on the city’s planning commission for five years before being appointed to the city council in 2011, was elected to a four-year term on the council in 2013.
Harvey, however, is wary of lowering taxes out of concerns that the city would be unable to collect the revenue to provide many of its services.
“I haven't come up with a great way to reduce those taxes and maintain those services," Harvey, a longtime SIU employee and current member of the university’s civil service council, said.
Bradshaw, for her part, encouraged constituents to share their ideas so the candidates could receive input from the public.
The office manager and former bookstore owner who was elected to the council in 2013 supports Carbondale’s Comprehensive Plan, according to her official campaign website. Like her opponents, she favors downtown revitalization.
“I'm sure there [are] some great ideas out there,” Bradshaw said. “We just haven't heard them up here yet."
The Carbondale Chamber of Commerce organized the forum, scheduling it to coincide with the chamber’s March membership luncheon.
"Maybe a business owner really didn't have an idea of [where] a particular candidate stood on a business perspective, and this gave them an opportunity to hear that candidate — and maybe change their mind on who they'll vote for on April 4," Les O'Dell, executive director of the Carbondale Chamber, told WSIL-TV.
City council members are elected at-large for staggered four-year terms, according to the city. The council convenes every two to three weeks.
Despite different approaches and priorities, the four candidates share “a desire to see the city prosper,” according to a recent report by WSIL-TV.