Marlin: 'Urbana can thrive'
Hear more from Marlin Thursday at 10 on WDWS.
URBANA — An eight-year Urbana city councilwoman who campaigned on the promise of improving economic development in Urbana is one step closer to becoming mayor.
Diane Marlin took the Democratic mayoral nomination by a landslide in Tuesday’s primary — piling up 2,427 votes to 12-year incumbent Laurel Prussing’s 1,510 and Evelyn Underwood’s 316.
Next up: An April 4 date with Republican Rex Bradfield in the consolidated general election.
“I’m surprised by the margin,” Prussing said. “I thought it would be close, but (Marlin) ran a good campaign and started early, so she did a good job.”
With all 23 precincts reporting, the victory was called for the alderwoman about 8:20 p.m. Tuesday.
Arriving at the Brookens Administrative Center shortly after her victory was official, Marlin said she was “grateful” and “excited” about the road ahead.
“I’m looking forward to the next month of campaigning and plan to continue to meet with voters and discuss issues,” she said.
The three main topics she plans to campaign on: bringing professional administration back to the city of Urbana, putting together a plan for economic development so “Urbana can thrive” and negotiating a fair labor contract with city employees.
“I really want to see us grow and thrive,” Marlin said. “I want to develop a more resilient economy. It will be a long-term process; it won’t happen overnight. Urbana has so much potential, and we need to start to live up to that potential.
“The greatest resource in our community is the people here. Their knowledge and passion and talent, I want to utilize that and work together to make our community better and make sure we meet the needs of the people in the community,” she said.
‘Free at last!’
Marlin said her campaign team is “gearing up and ready to go” this next month as she works to defeat Bradfield, who lost mayoral races against Prussing in 2009 and 2013.
Prussing’s prediction this time around? Marlin “will win, no doubt about it,” she said. The two women go back a ways — to 2009, when Prussing said she encouraged Marlin to run for a seat on the city council.
Prussing even thought Marlin might one day unseat her, she admitted Tuesday night.
Upon arriving at Brookens, where unofficial tallying showed that about 15.8 percent of registered Urbana voters cast ballots, Marlin shook hands with both of her primary opponents.
“It takes courage to run for office,” she said, adding she has learned a lot from Prussing.
Prussing has no future plans to run for public office but said she wants to stay a part of the coalitions she started as mayor. Before leaving at the end of April, she said she wants to tie up loose ends with the state Supreme Court case against Carle Foundation Hospital — a decision is expected in the coming weeks — and establish a plan for renovating the former Landmark Hotel downtown.
“This will give me some time to work in my garden and do some more relaxing things,” Prussing said. “I enjoyed being mayor, but it was kind of a huge job.”
Asked on WDWS 1400-AM what else went through her mind as the news sunk in, Prussing paused before responding.
“Free at last!” she said with a laugh. “Free at last!”
Bradfield spent Tuesday night following the results from home.
After wishing all three Democratic contenders well and offering congratulations on a “nice, honest” campaign, the Republican engineer issued a plea to voters in his Democrat-dominated home city.
“I ask that the general public listen to the answers and decide which direction they want the city to go in,” he said by phone just after 9 p.m. “Please don’t make this just a division of political beliefs.”
He said voters should expect to hear a lot about economic development over the next month, a topic he said he has “preached about for the last eight years.”
He and Marlin have something in common there.
In candidate forums leading up the election, she vowed to help build relationships between local investors and developers and said she wants to make it easier for businesses to move into Urbana.
Among other issues on her platform:
— She’s on record as saying she plans to maintain Urbana’s status as a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants.
— She has said she would like to see the crime in the Sunnycrest Center part of town decrease before encouraging more business in that area.
— She’s in favor of making downtown Urbana more family-friendly and has said she’d like to see the city come up with a new plan for the Sweetcorn Festival, one in which the city doesn’t end up losing money.
— And she is in favor of lowering property taxes and marketing the city in a way that attracts more families.
One of Prussing’s favorite memories from her time as mayor was creating a better working relationship with city council than mayors of decades past.
“I think (Marlin) will continue that,” Prussing said.
What Marlin's win means
➜ If she defeats Republican Rex Bradfield next month, one of the first things Diane Marlin has said she’d do is to hire a professional city administrator, something the city hasn’t had for most of Mayor Laurel Prussing’s tenure. Prussing said she felt competent enough to handle that role herself.
➜ The big redevelopment plan for the 95-year-old hotel building in downtown Urbana (most recently known as the Urbana Landmark Hotel) is on very thin ice. Marlin called the redevelopment scheme — which hasn’t been made public yet — “a huge risk to taxpayers.” She favors building a new, environmentally friendly hotel and convention center on the site.
➜ The war of words between Carle and the city will fade away. Marlin says she believes hospitals should pay property taxes and shouldn’t get a tax exemption for providing charity care. But she’s also said she wants to have a more productive working arrangement with the big health care provider on the north side of the city.
— TOM KACICH