Urbana mayoral candidates to debate

Urbana mayoral candidates to debate

URBANA — Mayor Laurel Prussing and challenger Les Stratton will have an opportunity to engage each other in person next month as a February primary election nears.

Now months into their campaigns, the two Democrats have exchanged ideas in the media, but have yet to do so in a public debate. The League of Women Voters plans to hold a candidate forum about two weeks before the Feb. 26 primary.

The candidates said on Monday that they likely will stick to the messages they have already pushed.

Stratton plans to say "nothing more than I've done already," he said. "I plan to present the issues and present my concerns with those issues and make sure she has an opportunity to answer."

One of the two most prominent of Stratton's concerns to date has been his disapproval of the city's management of a $1.45 million deal to assist the owner of the Landmark Hotel with his renovation and reopening of the business.

He has also attacked the Boneyard Creek beautification project under way in downtown Urbana. He has said it is a waste of $5 million and will not attract more investment in the area the way city officials expect it to.

"That's the type of spending that just is not going to be profitable for the city," Stratton said.

Prussing, on the other hand, is standing by her record as she finishes her second term.

"I think the main message is that candidates should tell the public what they're going to do," Prussing said. "But they should also be able to say what they have done, so voters can decide whether they're capable of doing what they promise."

One of Prussing's criticisms of Stratton has been that he did not participate in public discussions when city officials were putting together the details of projects like the Boneyard Creek beautification and the Landmark Hotel deal.

Stratton, who retired in 2010 after 30 years in the Urbana public works department, said that would have been hard to do as a city employee.

"I was still employed by the city, and that would have limited what I could say," Stratton said. "And even though she says that she doesn't exert influence among her people, I feel just the opposite."

Voters will decide on Feb. 26 whether Prussing or Stratton will be the Democratic nominee for mayor. The nominee will be put up against Republican Rex Bradfield in an April 9 election.