Veteran Champaign council member touts history of independent thinking

Veteran Champaign council member touts history of independent thinking

CHAMPAIGN — Independent thinking.

That's what longtime Champaign council member Tom Bruno says he has brought to decision-making on the body he was first appointed to in 1997.

Over that time, the longtime criminal defense attorney had a hand in dealing with some of the biggest issues facing Champaign, such as the financial crisis that began in 2007 and the decision to devote over $30 million to flood control into the Campustown area.

He has also been involved in decisions that guided downtown Champaign "to become the vibrant and healthy place it is now," he said, "and maybe a place that a lot of other communities our size would envy."

He said he's uniquely equipped to handle the tough questions the city is currently facing, like the Garden Hills drainage improvements and the continuing effort to increase interaction between the community and police.

"I recall the various voices that we had to try to reconcile with to account for the consensus we needed to do what was best," Bruno said. "I think what we did has worked so far for the city.

"And although I don't know what the next crisis might be, or the next opportunity, I think I have the judgment and experience to add to the decision-making process as we set policy for the next four years."

A lot has changed since Bruno first arrived on the council. Speaking with friends earlier this week, he hearkened back to 1997 and '98, when "our meetings frequently went till close to midnight" and thought "I don't think anybody is doing any good work at that point."

He remembers being on the council during ice storms and seeing how the community dealt with it, as well as several meetings where "we had to get everyone down to the basement because of tornado activity."

He recalls sending a team of firefighters to New Orleans in 2005 as that city was dealing with one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history. And forever in his memory will be the night he went to the emergency room two years later when two police officers were shot in West Side Park.

Bruno has seen it all in his role as council member, and he said most of the issues that may be most important on any given day can be made totally irrelevant when a new challenge pops up. Whatever happens "gradually and suddenly in the next four years," Bruno remains confident he'll have the experience to deal with it if he's re-elected to one of three at-large seats on the April 2 ballot.

"I talk to people in the community a great deal, and I have a fairly good sense of what people here want from their city government," he said. "Sometimes, it's difficult, and you can't please everyone all the time, but I try to apply my sound judgment and my independent thinking to do what is best for our community.

"I have the experience and the analytical skills that would allow me to do a good job in the future."

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