Candidates address voter concerns in Macomb

Steven Barnum , News editor

Candidates for mayor, city council and school board spoke about their hopes of being elected during a forum with the McDonough County chapter of the League of Women Voters.

Current members of the city council who are seeking re-election this spring are listed as followed: Annette Carper, Don Wynn, Tim Koch, Mike Wayland. Greg Huston and Tammy Leigh Brown Edwards are trying to get seats on the council.

Huston believes he is qualified to serve on Macomb City Council because of his history of employment by the Secretary of State. Huston said that Western Illinois University needs stronger representation in Springfield, regardless of political affiliation or other political differences.

Brown Edwards said that last week’s layoff announcement from Western was a “devastating blow” to the university and the community. With a background in journalism, she plans to focus her efforts on promoting Western and the city of Macomb through social media.

Alderman Wynn worked as an educator at Western for 31 years and at NTN-Bower for six years, offering knowledge in business and education. Wynn said that the town’s recovery will be an uphill battle, but Macomb is currently a buyer’s market.

“There’s a lot of vacant homes here and we’re going to have to find some way to promote the town and get them to stay,” Wynn said. Alderman Wayland said that brings business experience in retail to the table, which is important when fighting for more state funding for Western. He believes that the community’s help is critical in selling Macomb as a great place to live. He also said that future finances would be an issue, with which Alderman Koch agrees.

“The biggest challenge is finances since we’ll have fewer tax returns with fewer people living here,” Koch said.

When it comes to fewer tax dollars, Alderman Carper agrees. Carper said that every resident of Macomb indirectly accounts for $150 in money that the town has to use, and a population decline will give Macomb less money to spend.

“That means we have to do more with less,” Carper said. While Koch argues that recent economic growth from businesses like Pella and NTN-Bower will offset some of the job loss at Western, but that leaders should still try to lure more to Macomb.

As for what the candidates would do to help revive the community, Carper said that she would try to build off of the already-strong senior and medical community. She also said that Western should look toward the future and modernize their programs, which may include expanding their online teaching program.

Mayor Mike Inman is running for another term to lead Macomb after eight years in the position. He said that he was discouraged by the layoffs that Western announced last week but that he will continue to fight to bring back the student population.

“For anyone who would doubt where my efforts are at, I will tell you that I have worked tirelessly long before this (the layoffs) became a problem,” Inman said. “People were affected personally by those decisions, so it’s our job to support them in any way possible. We have a team in city hall that is prepared to do that.”

Kristen-Diane Pollock hopes to represent a new voice for the city of Macomb. Pollock moved to Macomb in 2015 from Seattle, Wash. after she took a liking to the community. She is proud of her family’s background in business, health care, transportation, and law enforcement and believes that she has the wisdom to lead.

“I’ve seen all aspects of how a city should run,” Pollock said, “let’s face our facts… businesses are leaving, our town is almost on life support… and that needs to stop. You elect me as mayor, I’m going to start… and I am not going to stop until that proverbial whistle blows.”

The candidates running for the Macomb School Board are listed as followed: Matthew Duncan, Byron Oden, Kishor Kapale, Julie Campbell, Scott Torrance, Stephen Gray and Emily Sutton.

The candidates spoke about the possibility of a new junior high school in Macomb, which Torrance and Gray both say should be built. Campbell comes from a different perspective, stating that there is no correlation between the quality of education and the quality of the structure of the school. Instead, she said that the city should focus on adding a complex that attracts entertainment to attract new students.

Sutton and Duncan both agree that the school would be within the budget.

“A new facility would benefit our students,” Sutton said, “and I understand that the financial planning has been done to ensure that we’re not taking a step that we can’t afford, so I would feel comfortable with that.”

“The math looks pretty safe for the middle school,” Duncan said. Byron and Torrance said that Macomb should try to diversify and expand its education program, while Kapale believes that the Macomb school district and Western should showcase the knowledge that they have to offer students.

For the Macomb Park Board, Phil Weiss currently serves on the board. He was also recently voted in as president. He is proud to have implemented a 10-year plan and securing funds from outside sources.

“I look forward to implementing initiates that further reinforce that Macomb is a great place to live,” Jason York would bring a law enforcement background to the board, having served in the Air Force and he has been a police officer for 19 years.

“I want to be a part of this change for the community in the programs that we offer,” Woods said.