ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign City Council: Matthew Gladney

ELECTION 2019 QUESTIONNAIRES | Champaign City Council: Matthew Gladney

1. What prompted you to run for a seat on the city council?

"I was born and raised in Champaign, and feel as though I owe a lot to it. The people and the place helped provide a life that I was fortunate to have. There are many ways to give back to the community, but serving on city council is one of the most direct.

"As a kid, I had an interest and curiosity about all things political. In grade school, I memorized factoids from a book about the U.S. presidents. For Career Day in kindergarten, I went as 'the mayor,' complete with a key to the city, which I handed to a classmate. Also as a kid, I got to meet Joan Severns, the first female mayor of Champaign, and meeting her had a big impact on me.

"As I got older, I would watch Champaign City Council meetings on television, and liked the way the council conducted itself — for the most part. Basically, I grew to see serving in political office as something that could be noble, as something to aspire to so that it could, ultimately, make life better for people and the community.

"To that end, I want to be a part of helping to shape a safe, fair, prosperous and ambitious present and future for the city of Champaign, and all who dwell within."

2. What would make you a better candidate than your opponents?

"While I certainly want people to vote for me, I hesitate to use terms such as 'better' when discussing myself and the other people running for the three at-large council seats. All eight of us bring our own strengths and unique backgrounds to the table, and so, without trying to one-up them, I can tell you why I make a good candidate.

"First, I have spent the past four years serving as a Champaign City Council member, learning the ropes, broadening my knowledge of the intricacies of how the city works at the governmental level, attending community forums and neighborhood meetings, and hosting office hours, where I listen to issues important to constituents. This continual environment of knowledge and learning well-positions me to continue convincingly as a representative of the people of Champaign.

"Being born and raised here, along with spending most of my adult life in Champaign, also provides me with a perspective of where the city has been, how it has changed over the years, and what has and what hasn't worked. I believe this allows me to have a good frame of reference on how we could move forward as a community and plan for the future, while respecting where we've been."

3. What do you consider the greatest challenge facing the city in the next four years?

"Our greatest challenge is probably the gun violence in our community, and the safety of our citizens. I would also add infrastructure improvements to that list, as we will continue with the intergovernmental MCORE project, the Bristol Place redevelopment, Phase 3 of the West Washington watershed project, and continued work setting-up the Garden Hills drainage initiative.

"Additionally, making sure we make cogent zoning decisions for our residential areas, and working with Unit 4 as their referendum-approved construction projects get underway in the core of our city."

4. How would you evaluate the CU Fresh Start anti-gun-violence initiative after two years?

"I think that CU Fresh Start has done what it can with the resources available to it. We still have a ways to go, however, and will need to look at better ways to help the program succeed.

"This may entail providing additional funding for it, and perhaps involving additional community representation in order to expand its effectiveness."

5. How worrisome an issue is gun violence in Champaign-Urbana, and what more, if anything, can be done to curtail it?

"Oh, I think it is very worrisome. Overall, I believe that Champaign is a safe place to live, though I know that doesn't mean much to those who have lost their lives to gun violence, and their families.

"Our police department has been working diligently to keep up with the strain imposed by the gun violence issue, but they are often placed in a reactionary position, dealing with the crimes after they occur. We have the Community Coalition and CU Fresh Start initiatives, and they are doing good work, but I think we would do good to look at additional/alternative methods to address the issue.

"We could partner with Unit 4, reaching youth and helping them when they're at an age that positive influence and reinforcement can prevent poor decisions later on. I think the Youth Employment Services program is a great endeavor, and is an example of something to build on. Helping to provide job opportunities and hope can only help to hopefully allay the anxiety that can sometimes stoke the tensions that can lead to situations that result in gun violence."

6. Assuming recreational cannabis is legalized, what additional resources, if any, would you be in favor of devoting to police and DUI enforcement/education?

"Many of the laws regarding legalized recreational cannabis will likely be decided by the state. I think that legalized recreational cannabis should be treated like cigarettes and alcohol, with its sales and use only allowed for adults, cautionary health and warning labels applied to its packaging, and a determination made for what level would be deemed to be DUI-worthy.

"We should work with our police department to ensure there is adequate staffing and support provided, should it be necessary to address enforcement and education surrounding potential legalized recreational cannabis."

7. What are your thoughts on the growing number of high-rises near campus, and their impact on the look and feel of Campustown?"Quick aside: The tallest building in Champaign is 10' shorter than the antenna that are atop the Willis (Sears) Tower, so 'high-rise' is a relative term,

"I have long been a proponent of dense, infill development in our more urban areas, and Campustown certainly qualifies as that. While there can be no doubt that the growing number of apartment buildings — many of them taller than what has gone before for our area — alters the look and feel of that part of town, it is in fact true that Campustown has always been a steadily morphing area over time. From the early days of rows of houses, to low-rise brick retail buildings, to modest apartment complexes, to the taller residential dwellings we're seeing today, change has been the major constant of Campustown.

"While I may not agree with the exterior look of every new building that goes up, I think a lot of it is subjective. During conversations with folks, it has been interesting to note that some of the buildings I dislike, others tend to think look nice, and vice versa."

8. Do you worry about the loss of historic structures as this development expands?

"I have a certain level of concern about retaining our historic structures, though it's a balancing act between preservation and progress — not that the two are necessarily mutually exclusive.

"Personally, I love old structures, but am also a fan of some modern architecture, as well."

9. Given the recent Clark Park issue, how would you protect central Champaign neighborhoods that want to retain their character?

"I supported the proposed conservation district for the Clark Park area. I don't think that is a potential solution for every established neighborhood in Champaign, of course, but it was certainly a novel way to address some of the concerns raised in the area.

"Ultimately, I think we need to assess our zoning regulations for residential areas, and make prudent decisions going forward. That will make a big impact in preserving the character of existing neighborhoods, while still allowing for the occasional new construction, assuming it fits in with that is already there. I think we owe it our older neighborhoods to ensure some stability."

10. Similarly, are you worried that developments on the fringe of town — i.e., Carle at the Fields — will simply draw retail, etc., away from downtown and central Champaign?

"While we still have to be vigilant against the potentially negative consequences of sprawl, I am not opposed to development on the edge of town, and Carle at the Fields has, so far at least, proven to be a solid addition to our community, bringing office, retail and hotel amenities to a part of town that could use them.

"There will always be a certain level of shuffling-around of businesses within the area, and I like to think of a place like Carle at the Fields as complementing what we already have, rather than taking away from it."

11. Has the city done enough to award contracts to minority- and female-owned businesses? And, if not, what specifically would you propose?

"'Done enough' is a loaded phrase, as it can probably be argued with many things that more can always be done in order to be better. That being said, I am proud of the efforts the city has made thus far. This includes the Champaign Diversity Advancement Program (CDAP), which encourages city departments and contractors doing business with the city to work more with minority and female-owned local businesses.

"To help with that, the city has held a certification event for women- and minority-owned businesses. We also have the Equal Opportunity in Purchasing Ordinance, which looks to have companies doing business with the city of Champaign practice non-discriminatory hiring practices. This isn't to say that we should sit back and consider the job done, when it comes to equitability and fairness, but these are certainly steps in the right direction."

12. How significant an investment should Champaign specifically make to try to lure back the IHSA boys' basketball tournament once its contract with Peoria expires in 2020?

"We should certainly work with our regional partners on making a case to the IHSA for bringing the boys' basketball tournament back to the State Farm Center. I think most people in Champaign would welcome the tournament, and it is also an opportunity for prospective University of Illinois students to experience what our community has to offer."

13. What's the thing or two you're proudest of about living in Champaign?

"It probably sounds cliched, but I am proud of our diversity. Champaign is all things at once, and very often is that way successfully.

"We are a small town, and also contain elements of a big city. Our footprint is larger than some municipalities, but is still manageable to get around in either by car, bike, bus or on foot. We have a good amount of cultural and political diversity, and a world-class university. We have a mix of older structures and new.

"I enjoy that as I walk from one part of town to another, I can hear people speaking different languages, and conversations ranging from quantum mechanics to Illini sports. It's like our city is a microcosm of our country, and of the world, and I love it for that."

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