Kyles, Jackson square off in forum on council election

CHAMPAIGN — Familiar voices dominated the conversation about Champaign's District 1 during a candidate forum on Wednesday night.

The race for the District 1 seat will not be a typical challenger-versus-incumbent election as both candidates have served one term in the seat. Will Kyles has occupied the office for the past four years, and Gina Jackson did for the four years before that.

Both candidates leaned on that experience during Wednesday night's forum, and both candidates said the next four years will be about infrastructure and employment.

Here is a link to WDWS' audio from the forum.

Kyles rallied around what he calls successes during his term: the extension of North Fourth Street, the ongoing plan to rebuild the Bristol Park neighborhood and the continuation of a city program to provide summer jobs for teenagers.

He also said police-community relations have improved in District 1, but it will still be a priority moving forward.

"We've made a lot of headway, but we have a long way to go," Kyles said. "We have to continue to inspire and continue to motivate people."

Jackson, on the other hand, focused some attention on what has not been done during the past four years. She called for a return to safe neighborhoods and fixes for deteriorating areas.

"There's been a stagnation in District 1 in the last four years," Jackson said. "Things that were put in place when I was on council — as far as the progress being made, as far as neighborhood commercial being put in, as far as infrastructure being put in — it seems to be stagnating."

Jackson said she has a history of economic development in District 1 — the campus-area County Market and Family Dollar at the corner of Market Street and Bradley Avenue are examples of that, she said.

"Nothing has happened there since I left council," Jackson said. "I feel the need to pick up where I left off."

Audience members were allowed to submit written questions to the candidates during the forum, and many of those focused on the Ameren Illinois property at Fifth and Hill streets. The lot has been the subject of much controversy for years, first as the utility cleaned up hazardous chemicals left in the soil following the property's history as the site of a manufactured gas plant.

On Wednesday night, the candidates were asked what they saw as the future for the property.

"I had always planned for, hopefully, neighborhood commercial to be in that area so folks wouldn't have to go all the way across town to get the supplies they need and to get employment into that area," Jackson said.

Kyles agreed, and he also said he plans to work with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that residents' concerns are being addressed.

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Marti Wilkinson wrote on March 21, 2013 at 1:03 am

With the maps being redrawn, I'm now in District One and I don't support the candidacy of Ms. Jackson. I remember when she was council member, and how she responded to issues that happened when she was in office. She was not as pro-active on the Fifth and Hill issue as she should of been, and did not show the appropriate level of concern for the residents living in that area. Kyles has made an effort to stay in touch with this constituents on the issues, and is responsive to emails and facebook inquiries.

As for the County Market on Springfield and Fourth, it's mostly utlized by students who attend the University of Illinois. On the odd occassions that I shopped there, I found that the products and set up reflected the needs of the student population. You can find a lot of over-priced prepared foods at that County Market. This does not in any way, shape, or form address the 'food desert' that comprises much of North Champaign. A family dollar store is not very effective in addressing the needs of families with limited transportation.

Plus, Jackson had an opportunity to make some headway in the relationships between law enforcement and community members after the beating and pepper spray incident with Brian Chesley. I don't remember her taking a stand on the manner in which Douglass park was being policed, while community events were going on. This was before the death of Kiwane Carrington in 2009, and I can't help but wonder what would have happened if Ms. Jackson had stepped up to the plate. Since I now live in District One, I can express my concerns most effectively with my vote.

Local Yocal wrote on March 21, 2013 at 2:03 am
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"I don't remember her taking a stand on the manner in which Douglass park was being policed,..."

Jackson literally took the stand in the Brian Chesley case of not presenting I.D. to Officer Andre Davis, (who would later shoot the Saathoff lab). While Chesley was being beaten and pepper sprayed in the middle of the street in front of numerous onlookers, school children went to her house to summon her to see what was going on. She arrived to the scene about 20 minutes late and testified before the jury that she didn't see any blood or pepper spray on Chesley's person. Assistant state's attorney Scales mentioned this testimony about 3 times in his final argument to suggest police weren't that rough with Chesley and blamed the physical altarcation on Chesley. Jackson went further to say that the Douglass Park area was rightfully under an ill-defined, secret "Zero Tolerance" policy and the park should be closed after dusk. In fact, the Champaign Park District was operating a late-night basketball program, and children were leaving and arriving in the park area for weeks prior to the Chesley incident. Jackson is ex-military and pro law enforcement no matter if her constituents suffer the most under the Champaign Police racially biased policing.

The moment we had to head off the Kiwane Carrington incident was the Larry Martin case from 2006. Martin's case was an identical kind of shooting, and the Champaign City Council had voted in March of 2009 to an out-of-court settlement of $100,000. Instead, the Council snoozed as Finney not only kept his job, but changed the use of force policy without Council's awareness. Carrington's death did little to change anything, resulted in more police brutality cases with a $40,000 pay-out to Gary McFarland, and another $45,000 pay-out to Brandon Ward later in 2012. It was only after Finney had lied about the Brandon Ward investigation (see press conference with Troy Daniels) did Finney finally "retire," amid discontent from the 8 unknown sargeants who were passed over for promotion. Ironically, former city manager Steve Carter stood by Finney the entire time, praising his job performance throughout every controversy, but now...Carter takes credit for improving police-community relations by hiring new Chief Cobb.

Marti Wilkinson wrote on March 21, 2013 at 3:03 am

Thanks for the refresher in regards to the Chesley case. I do remember that the beating and pepper spraying occurred close to her home, but did not recall the details of the court case as you have described. It's been a long while since I've read up on the case. Kind of reinforces my belief that Jackson isn't someone to be pro-active in regards to police and community relations.

My recollection on what happened with Mildred Davis is much clearer, and how Vic McIntosh made the comment at a council meeting regarding how council members can function as a review board of sorts. Since the map itself has been re-drawn I no longer fall in his district.

It will be interesting to see what direction the city takes once Carter steps down as city manager.

Good-Will wrote on March 23, 2013 at 3:03 pm

 

Perhaps living in the former District 1 and understanding what the politics were/are, there might be a more informed take on what the problems were/are, have always been and continue to face. Jackson for sure is not a perfect candidate, no politician is, including Kyles. What I do respect about Jackson is her consistent independent thought to review the entire District 1, which has a large diverse population that goes well beyond the African-American community, though that group and District 1 seem to be interchangeable terms when referring to that District. The population of African-American voters in District 1 was approximately 1200, yet every election, both National and Local, never yielded more than approximately 400 in any one election. 

Obama, highly criticized for not being responsive to the "Black" thought, as Tavis Smiley enjoyed media messaging and by doing so was actually propagating separate but equal. As President of the People, Obama is to represent everyone equally regardless if some decisions appear to alienate one group on one matter over the other. In that regard, District 1 is not just Chesley, and those who actually witnessed the unfortunate matter differ on opinion. If the conservative N-G coverage, the IMC progressive school of thought, the oppressed Black groups, the White racists, and the Finney regime are removed from the equation, the only matter left are the facts. Reviews of court records, transcripts of arguments from both sides and the evidence presented will broaden perspective, even if predetermined opinions remain. In my opinion, having actually been there when the incident occurred, I put equal weight on both Chesley and the Offficer. The Chesley incident should not be lumped into the recent campus town choke out, or the Kiwane tragedy, or the Miller kid controversy, Chesley had just as much blame acting as provocateur with his "Bad Boy Behavior", as the CPD officer's lack of control that appeared to have been stimulated by pre-wired frustration, prior knowledge and dealings with Chesley and other residents in that patrol area, most of which never make press, but in aggregate show a much larger problem at stake.

Local Yocal wrote on March 24, 2013 at 7:03 am
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"Chesley had just as much blame acting as provocateur with his "Bad Boy Behavior", as the CPD officer's lack of control that appeared to have been stimulated by pre-wired frustration, prior knowledge and dealings with Chesley..."

I don't see a 17 year-old telling a police officer, "F--- you, you ain't running me!"  [checking for warrants] and walking away from the police officer as equal to four police officers then throwing Chesley against the fence, dragging him out in the middle of the street, applying knees to his neck, back and legs, and then pepper spraying him directly in the face as Chesley is pinned against the concrete. Chesley had an understandable outrage against the "checking of your papers" while lawfully walking in the park. Officer Shannon Bridges testified at trial that Champaign Police were given departmental orders that evening to check anyone in the Douglass Park area for warrants because of some recent shootings in the area. It was incumbant on the Finney Regime to notify residents that this would be happening, a checking of all I.D.'s because of the shootings. Instead, police tried to cover up with a lame excuse that the park was closed and the approach for Chesley's I.D. was because Chesley was trespassing the park after dark. (The State's Attorney never filed trespassing charges against Chesley since the park district would have been called to testify they were running a late night basketball program.) Defense Attorney Bob Kirchner was right to raise the issue of "selective enforcement" (which Judge Kennedy would not allow) for no where else in town are people approached at random and then shaked down for I.D. Officer Davis never testified he had any past "dealings" with Chesley, and he claimed his approach was about trespassing (while admitting he ignored the "trespassing" of many other kids in the park that night.) None of this justifies four police officers then physically torturing a kid for refusing to present I.D.  

Good-Will wrote on March 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm

 

 

Clearly you were there and witnessed the incident first hand? The incident was unfortunate I agree, but there always seems to be a lopsided opinion based on race matters from both ends of the spectrum. I agree that the Finney regime was toxic. Under this regime, Finney cultivated an already racially insensitive policing environment. I agree the reaction by CPD to Chesley reflected their pre-conditions for controlling community problems and problem makers, both real and imagined.

The real tragedy was Chesley himself. He had a long history of disregard for any person telling him how to behave. Disruptive behavior in the classroom and early signs of overly aggressive and violent behavior.  During Chesley's infamous trial, he was offered several opportunities to go into programs that would help rehabilitate ongoing delinquent behavior. Kirchner, whom I respected as a Civil Rights Advocate, appeared to use the Chesley case more as a poster child for legitimate racial profiling, then what might best help his client long-term, growing up in this ultra conservative region.

Post trial, it is a sad commentary that none of those outspoken critics who fought so valiantly for their perceived justice for Chesley have used the same passion to mentor Chesley into a productive citizen, one that is career ready. Instead, this young man got swept into being a career criminal, a frequent name appearing on the Court Dockets. The uninformed public outcry accomplished triumph and monetary compensation for Chesley, but in the end, he lost.  

Having said that, this comment section is about the Kyles-Jackson election. Speaking of, has Kyles explained how he managed to get petition signatures from vacant lots and vacant houses, many making up the eighty-one bogus signatures? For a candidate who claims to be "up close, honest and personable" with his constituents, as Council member who assisted in redefining boundaries for the New District 1, how was it possible for Kyles to only find eighty-one houses of unknown voters in a District where thousands of residents are registered voters. Or why an incumbent chose to only target blighted African-American neighborhoods when their District represents a constituency comprised of a racially diverse group of neighborhoods.

Local Yocal wrote on March 24, 2013 at 1:03 pm
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Are you suggesting Kyles doesn't have enough legitimate signatures on his petition and therefore, is inelgible to be on the ballot? Seems like there would have been a challenge to his elgibility, always the first way to win elections for both parties.

I've never understood how candidates screw up their petitions so often in this county because it's become standard procedure for opponents to go over a petition with a fine-tooth comb to get the "easy win."

Good-Will wrote on March 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm

 

Kyles petition was challenged by former Mayor, McCollum. McCollum lived in the old District 1 and not the new District 1 which made him ineligible to challenge. None of the election judges dismissed the merits of the complaint and had McCollum lived in the new District one, Mr. Kyles likely would not  be on the ballot. 

N-G 12/11/2012 - Decision on Kyles Candidacy Could come Friday

For those who aren't aware, McCollum was very instrumental in Kyles campaign four years ago. McCollum said he challenged the petitions because he saw no significant advancement in District 1 over the four years Kyles sat in office. McCollum also had concerns about Kyles narrow focus, at the sake of neglecting the entire District and infrastructure. 

 

Local Yocal wrote on March 25, 2013 at 6:03 am
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"McCollum claims 81 of the signatures are either not registered voters, they are not registered at the addresses listed on the petition, or the person named on the petition was not actually the one who signed the name.

If McCollum can prove that at least 51 of those signatures were invalid, Kyles could be kicked off the ballot."

Odd no one else picked up the challenge. Attorney Robert Auler went over Kyles' petition and he found it had no problems? 

Doesn't Kyles need 4 other votes on council for there to be any "singnificant advancement" in District 1? And how many co-sponsors to any new ordinance is required before an ordinance can be considered by the council? And who initiates 99% of all the ordinances in Champaign? That wouldn't be the perview of the Unelected Emperor, the City Manager, would it?

Good-Will wrote on March 25, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Auler's job is to defend his clients and deem them innocent so I don't expect him to say anything to harm his client.  The signatures were reviewed by the Clerks office, signature by signature, by computer voting records. For anyone who wants facts, educate yourselves and check out the petition signatures at Hulten's office. The clerk who went over each and every signature initialed each page. Though I respect sincere comments, if those commenting and responding have no interest in researching the facts, I can not continue to provide information. Thanks for reading. Enjoy this forum and your Sunday. School is out till election. 

ForBubby wrote on March 21, 2013 at 9:03 am

Steve Carter has stood behind police chiefs that continue to allow their officers to abuse the "use of force" policy and not hold them accountable.  I guess we will see if Dorothy David will do the same.  This police department needs to stop performing their own "internal investigations" and have another law enforcement agency review any time they use their service revolver.  Then they would not be able to "twist" the outcome in their favor time and time again.

Local Yocal wrote on March 21, 2013 at 10:03 am
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The local law enforcement departments are trained by the same school, the PTI, and the Illinois State Police, as we saw in the June '11 pepper spray incident and the Randy Steidl/ Herb Whitlock/Trooper Mike Callahan case, are not reliable. Police investigating police, brothers investigating brothers is never a safe idea toward objectivity. Better to have a Civilian Review Board with public proceedings, subpoena power, and ability to make recommendations for discipline.

And before the naysayers criticize civilians as too ignorant or biased, we could mandate the Review Board be also comprised of representatives from the St.'s Atty's office, the public defender's office, the law school, retired judges, ex-police officers, ect. along with a handful of regular citizens to protect the rights of police officers and citizens alike. Sincere, honest police officers who try to follow the rules, have nothing to fear from public scrutiny. It is understandable and right of police to expect a civilian review board to know the rules before handling complaints.

It should be noted that Gina Jackson, during her tenure on council, was consistently against Citizens Review Boards for Champaign. Jackson never initiated changing the complaint process despite it was her constituents demanding for such the most, and would have benefited the most. Jackson will always go along to get along since it's her personal ambition that is her prime ambition to hold office. Jackson has been solicited to run against Kyles because Kyles is now seen as "too uppity." J.W. Pirtle is the preferred model for holding that office. Go along to get along.

ForBubby wrote on March 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Will Kyles has recently commented that he would like to look into a Citizen Review Board but the rest of the council members didn't seem too keen on it.  It is going to take time and a big change for the community to believe that the CPD is trustworthy.  Unfortunately as more incidents keep taking place where the CPD is involved, the community is just left with a sour taste in its mouth.  A Citizen Review Board (with the right mix of experience and knowledge) is definitely the right way to go.  It would keep the CPD from policing themselves and making it come out favorable for them every time!

Good-Will wrote on March 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

 

If the council minutes during Jackson's tenure are checked, you will see that Rosales and Jackson voted in favor of a community police review, which was first introduced by Tracy Parsons and former head of the NACCP Cleveland Jefferson to the Human Relations a few years prior when Mowatt and Rosales were chair and co-chair respectively. Human Relations then took the approved committee proposal to the, then, City Council who flatly rejected. That is the first time the mantra, "We (City Council) don't need such a committee, we already review complaints." (paraphrased)

As reported on February 12, 2013 in the N-G, Chief Cobb and Lt. Swenson prepared a report and recommendation to empower the Human Relations Committee to hear and take complaints and use their right to subpoena. Human Relations always had power of subpoena but that right was buried under years of administrative turn over. Having never enacted their subpoena power made the Human Relations Commission a lame duck group with no serious ability to do anything. The issue facing us now will be to keep vigilant watch over those "appointed" to the HRC, and ensure politically educated and diverse citizens are identified, apply and are selected.

Politics is not only trying to "Do the Right Thing" but learning how to navigate often shark filled waters without being rendered ineffective. Obama found that out the hard way during his first term. It is behind the scenes where policy is made. What makes good press and public show, does not always translate into the complex world of getting enough support on a matter to pass it into policy. A decision making group, both elected and appointed, may only be able to win an important stride if friendly fire and casualty of war have to sacrifice one that may be made on principal. However, just because one political Chess ended in a check-mate, there is always another game, and an opportunity to work that "principal" into a larger framework that also has sustainable results.

johnny wrote on March 24, 2013 at 6:03 pm

I like them both.

I don't think it makes sense to throw Kyles out, though.  I'd support Jackson for an At-Large seat.