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.