Stratton, Prussing spar over Boneyard project

URBANA — Democratic mayoral candidate Les Stratton has leveled another attack on a downtown Urbana project as a February primary election between him and Mayor Laurel Prussing nears.

Stratton said on Wednesday that work under way to beautify the Boneyard Creek around Race Street and Broadway Avenue is an example of overspending and will not attract the business that city officials hope it will.

Meanwhile, Prussing said that Stratton is, once again, a "day late and a dollar short," and that she expects Urbana's $7.9 million Boneyard Creek project to be the most successful of similar projects that the University of Illinois and the city of Champaign have undertaken in previous years.

Stratton has spent the past few weeks criticizing the city's handling of a renovation of the Landmark Hotel, formerly the Lincoln Hotel. He said the city has mismanaged the project and spent more money than necessary to assist the hotel owner with reopening the business.

Prussing has defended that project, which includes $1.45 million in city funds over several years, as a key initiative to get the historic building back up and running and to bring more foot traffic to the downtown area.

Now, Stratton says the development of park-like space around the creek in downtown Urbana is a waste of $5 million that could be better spent on attracting business to vacant downtown properties.

"While it makes sense to improve Race Street and Broadway, it doesn't make sense to spend $5 million to make a mini-park out of a stretch of the Boneyard that is only two blocks long," Stratton said.

Stratton pointed at four other properties — including an empty block just north of the City Building on Vine Street and the former Denny's Dry Cleaners at 119 N. Race St. He thinks the city could leverage more funds to encourage private investment in those businesses, rather than spend the money on the Boneyard Creek beautification.

"If all the economic development money is used on the Boneyard, none will be left to help with incentives to develop these key sites in downtown Urbana," Stratton said.

The city has already spent money to assemble the block north of the City Building and has been working with architect Gary Olsen to attract developers to build a residential, office and retail center worth an estimated $84 million.

The city has also fronted the $200,000 to demolish the old Denny's Dry Cleaners, a site that still needs environmental cleanup. Officials hope they would recoup that money when development moves forward.

City officials hope the Boneyard Creek beautification will help drive more foot-traffic to downtown Urbana and encourage more private investment north of Main Street.

The project is based on input Prussing and other city officials gathered from residents during public meetings, she said.

"We have a lot of public input, and the public was offered different choices, and we had numerous meetings where they were offered options," Prussing said.

And Prussing said she did not see or hear from Stratton at the time.

"If he was interested in it, he could have come," Prussing said. "He could have participated."

Comparisons have been made to Champaign's $11 million project to build a park around the Boneyard Creek between Springfield and University avenues. But that was primarily a storm water drainage project, with a park included in the design.

Urbana's creek project, on the other hand, is not expected to affect water flow.

But city officials do expect it to affect quality of life and economic development, and Prussing is more confident in Urbana's project than the upgrades already completed in Champaign and on the University of Illinois campus.

"They will think the Urbana part is actually the prettiest," Prussing said. "And I think it will work economically."

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parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

What publc was "asked"?  Was there fair/direct representation from council staff?  Was it

put to public vote?  Was the public alerted to the daily/weekly sitings along the boneyard of rats scurrying to and fro?

Way to go Les-- keep up the excellent work.

cretis16 wrote on January 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

This is what happens when life long public service people assume the mayoral chair. Prussing has limited if any private sector experience,and has made a career of living off tax dollars. The ability to spend this sum of money on 2 blocks of  a drainage ditch is something these " giverment" people have no problem with. At the very least Stratton has some street smarts...something a city of 47% giverment employees do not have.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 23, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Prussing's perception of "pretty" is disgusting.  She's a lifetime late and millions long.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 23, 2013 at 9:01 pm
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This story does not include a reference to TIF.  Prussing says TIF money will pay for this expenditure. That's an expensive assumption, especially given Urbana's  ongoing failure to attract and keep businesses.

 

It would be better to reduce Urbana's license fees, and provide incentives to businesses and property owners along the Boneyard; and enforce nuisance codes for properties that blight the area.

 

Tax Increment Financing assumes a tax increment.  How's that for a sales pitch: "Invest here, and your taxes will go up!"

 

But of course, parks and schools don't get the money. So Urbana wants to use TIF money to build a park that will then not receive upkeep funding from its own investment. Later, you'll vote in a referendum to apply a special tax for Boneyard Park upkeep.

 

Repeat to yourself: TIF doesn't work. TIF doesn't work. TIF doesn't work. Keep repeating it.

 

Hey, let's see that list of "96 businesses" Prussing claims to have attracted.

youlikeroses wrote on January 24, 2013 at 9:01 am

98 Businesses? Name one that produces sales tax or helps send money to fund TIF's.

I hate having to travel to Champaign to buy EVERYTHING for my family. Why? Why is it every Sunday in the NG, we read about new businesses coming to the area, and they are all in Champaign or even worse, relocating FROM Urbana to Champaign?

Now please raise my property taxes some more Prussing.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 24, 2013 at 11:01 am
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I usually wear a hat, especailly in the cooler months. I'm wearing one right now!

 

But I wonder if Les should maybe take his hat off sometimes, at fpress conferences for example. (I hate myself for even thinking that image might be an issue.)

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 24, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I liked the image.  He appears to be more of a man of the people.  Just a common guy with common sense.  We have enough shiney, swarmy, sweet talking politicians as it is now.  The image of a common guy with common sense appeals to the working people.  Maybe; an inexpensive suit with an undone tie for the next news conference.

LocalTownie wrote on January 24, 2013 at 3:01 pm

I'm glad to know I am not the only one who noticed the hat. Come on man, it's your press conference, a chance to impress voters. At least be considerate and remove your hat. At least try to look like you care about the impression you are making on people.


I do agree with the things Stratton said. Prussing needs to go!

My common sense is tingling. wrote on January 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm
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"City officials hope the Boneyard Creek beautification will help drive more foot-traffic to downtown Urbana and encourage more private investment north of Main Street."

 

Beautification? Has anyone taken a look at the work on the Boneyard near campus? Trash floating everywhere, people throwing giant rocks in the water to break the ice, drug deals going down all the time, goose crap EVERYWHERE...yeah, I bet the Urbana park will be just as "beautiful".

 

I steer clear of that area, lest I should be jumped. And when I have rode my bike through, I've seen what I descibed above. Heck, once there was a dude just blatantly smoking weed on a bench.

 

You can "beautify" a turd all you want: it's still going to stink. I would much rather see that $$$ go to something more worthwhile, instead of Boneyard park. My guess is, by this time next year, I'll be hearing about how trashed the new park has become. 

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 24, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Let's have several dozen stocking caps  "elect Stratton for Mayor" printed on the front of them and send them to every Urbana staff member!!! Drive home Mr. Stratton's  agenda and pass out buttons with a stocking cap and stratton printed on them.  Let's get it done right!!! Onward!! Subliminal beauty at its best!!!

 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 25, 2013 at 10:01 am

It is January.  If he had taken the cap off, someone would have commented on "hat hair".  If he had worn a beret; he may have been more acceptable to some, but not to others.  If the objections to his wearing a stocking cap are the most detractions that can be said about him, it is petty.

What are his views on other issues besides his criticism of Prussing?  At some point in time, both of them need to provide a comprehensive plan regarding Urbana's future.  What are their views on zoning, schools, property taxes, crime, streets, lighting, tax breaks for businesses, and attracting industry?  Give the voters something to compare the two candidates.  

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 25, 2013 at 10:01 am
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Schools?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 25, 2013 at 12:01 pm

The city does have a responsibility for schools, right?  Property taxes are connected to school funding.  They will be more connected once the state stops funding down state teacher pensions in the future.  The city has the responsibility for school security also.  Yes, I did mention schools.

read the DI wrote on January 25, 2013 at 11:01 am

More Stratton, less Prussing!

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 25, 2013 at 3:01 pm
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The Prussing for Mayor $olicitation arrived in today's mail.

 

Apart from the how much money would you like to give me? card, and the self-adressed but not stamped* envelope it accompanied, there was a one sheet reiterating the Prussing Line that everything is great now that I'm mayor and  reminding us how "toxic" the envirornment was at city hall under ... well, it didn't actually name Tod or Jeff, but it said "from 1977 to 2004."

 

The lack of self-awareness is stunning.

 

Laurel Prussing may be the most divisive person in and of her own party. It's not just Tod, either. How about her Mike Kelleher? Or challenging Naomi Jakobsson?

 

Comparing herself favorably to Markland or Tod is fine, but substance would help. What's less toxic than "Goatlady?" She's certainly not open to suggestions. The environment at city hall is worse, if anything.

parkmymeterelsewhere wrote on January 25, 2013 at 6:01 pm

"Goatlady" originated within the context of "goatlady vs. goliath" article written about  the still-undecided Olympian drive project.   I must mention it was written by a staff member of the Chicago Tribune weekend magazine.  This also re-iterates the total lack of the News Gazette to publish anything anrti-Olympian simply because they are a "sole source benefactor" for this insane project.  Prussing was then referred to as the "Goad lady" because of her desperate need to "progress" .   So here we all are-- 3 years later--the goad lady has spent millions on farm property , lawyers, hotels, engineering firms, plans for roundabouts--all for nothing.  It's time--way past time.