DANVILLE — In the race for Ward 7 alderman, a former candidate for the Illinois Senate, Al Reynolds, is challenging one of the longest-serving Danville aldermen, Steve Foster.
Foster was first elected to the Danville City Council in 1992 and works at his website and marketing business in north Danville. He said he's still energetic and ready to tackle another four years as alderman. He said the positions he takes on issues and his voting record have been consistent through the years and resulted in improvements in the city. Foster said he has voted against property tax levy rate increases, sales tax increases and some union benefits and rate increases. He said has supported city employee reorganization plans that have resulted in personnel cuts or consolidation of positions. He said he did support this year an average 2 percent salary increase for non-union employees, who have taken salary freezes in the last five years.
But Reynolds said the city needs some fresh thinking on the council that would present new ideas and input to solve problems, and he really wants to be the voice of the people, especially in Ward 7. He said it's not about Al Reynolds' agenda, it's about the people of Ward 7.
Reynolds said if he were elected, he would hold town hall meetings at the library, for example, where residents could communicate with their aldermen, and he could communicate with them.
"I want dialogue, not monologue," he said.
And Reynolds said the top issue facing the city right now is jobs. If the city has more jobs, he said, it would have more people employed, more tax revenue and less crime.
"Everything hinges on jobs," he said.
Foster said the city needs to continue attracting retail and manufacturing businesses, because those businesses boost sales tax revenue, the city's largest source of income, which, in turn, keeps taxes and fees from increasing. New businesses also increase the city's' property tax base, he said.
Foster said he would be in support of reducing the city's property tax rate and rescinding a 1 percent increase in city sales tax if the city experiences some economic growth in the near future, for example if the city does get a casino.
Reynolds said the city is not being creative enough in attracting business to the community. He said he realizes incentives are sometimes necessary, but the city shouldn't always give cash or property, but rather give tax breaks. He said businesses looking to locate here should be sold on all the positives of Danville.
A key part of recruiting businesses, Reynolds said, is improving infrastructure in the city. He said chief executive officers of a company visiting Danville, entering the city from South Gilbert Street, would immediately see it as a poor community due to dilapidated homes and other infrastructure.
Foster said as an alderman, he has worked in the last year to attract new service businesses to Danville, but with the state of the world economy and high employee costs in the state, it's difficult to attract new manufacturers even with incentives.
Reynolds said the city's streets and roads still need work, especially patching, and he would rather the city take larger chunks of money and do more thorough reconstruction of city streets rather than doing overlays. He said he didn't agree with the city spending almost $1 million in federal grant dollars and local tax dollars for the infrastructure improvements at Danville High School. He said those improvements won't help recruit people to the community, who are more interested in graduation rates, test scores and academic and athletic programs than the appearance of the school campus.
Reynolds said he also believes the city should leave alone the city-owned dams on the Vermilion River and North Fork River that have been proposed for removal due to safety and other reasons.
"To say it's a safety issue is not justification enough to remove them," he said.
Address: 126 Lakeside Drive
Occupation: Founder of BEAMSCO, Business E-commerce Applications and Marketing Services Company
Education: Graduate of Franklin College
Political experience: Danville alderman since 1992
Address: 62 Thornhill Drive
Occupation: Retired IT manager
Education: East Los Angeles College, Cal State in Los Angeles
Political experience: Ran for Illinois Senate in 2010