Two new hopefuls want to examine MTD's priorities

CHAMPAIGN – Two new candidates for the MTD board say they're interested in examining the district's priorities.

After county members complained there weren't enough choices for the mass transit district board, Democrats enlisted retired Professor Ronald Peters, and Republicans have longtime school superintendent Jerry Zachary.

Still in the running are George Friedman, a Democrat who has chaired the board, and Republican Vickie Stewart.

Foes of MTD's expansion have been particularly vociferous about Friedman, a retired professor who has been an advocate for growing the MTD.

Champaign County Board Chairwoman Barb Wysocki said she'd announce her choices for the board at the next Policy, Personnel and Appointments Committee meeting, set for June 7.

Peters, 67, who has long experience with labor-management negotiations through the University of Illinois Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations, said he is a "strong believer in mass transit."

"I think we have to look for ways to serve special groups like handicapped, the low-income, students and others," he said.

Peters said he has some reservations about recent MTD decisions.

"I'm somewhat critical of the way in which the current board went about the annexation process; they should hold hearings and provide more public access," he said.

"You can't take the citizens for granted. It's important to add to the tax base, but you need to be sensitive to peoples' feelings, as well as make the case better."

Zachary, 68, said he is a "free thinker" and has no preconceptions about MTD. A longtime superintent in Rantoul, he has moved to Champaign and now runs the Ludlow school system.

As superintendent, he has written specifications for bus purchases, looked over bus routes, and hired and fired drivers, he said.

"That's not what the board's job is, but I understand the issues," he said.

He said he would not make judgments about the MTD until he has been on the board and watched it work.

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