Champaign council incumbent's focus is (infra)structural support

 

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CHAMPAIGN — Matt Gladney does a lot of walking around town.

When he was running for his at-large seat on the Champaign City Council four years ago, his primary concerns were things he would see on his regular walks: cracked sidewalks, potholes and drainage and stormwater issues.

Not exactly the most exciting aspects of being on the council. But for Gladney, they remain an essential part of the work he does.

He's proudest of a measure that raised the hotel-motel tax "so we could develop more funds to repair our backlog of streets that need attention."

And as a resident of Clark Park, Gladney knows all too well the effects of flooding and stormwater issues. He has worked to meet the council's goal of moving up drainage-improvement projects as it becomes possible.

"But there's still lots to do in other parts of town," Gladney said.

He remembers clearly how high the floodwaters got in Garden Hills back in 2014. It's a neighborhood he spent time in regularly, as his grandmother lived in a house on Hedge Road for 20 years.

In the coming years, the homes along one side of Hedge Road will be gone — in the name of water retention, stormwater management and landscaping improvements — which Gladney knows are for the best.

He said making tough decisions comes with the job of being on the council. And finding money for big-ticket fixes isn't always easy.

But he said neighborhood upgrades like sidewalks and streetlights — historically lacking in parts of town like Garden Hills — ought to be prioritized.

Most prevalent on Gladney's mind in April's consolidated election is gun violence. Though he'll continue to support the CU Fresh Start initiative, he said, "we need to branch out and look at other ways to mitigate gun violence."

He hopes to work with "local educational units" to look at creating programming for children and young adults. He supports a measure that would launch a youth-employment services program and feels encouraged by the work being done with the Goal Getters.

"All of those things, I think, are good," Gladney said. "We need to approach gun violence proactively. I mean trying to focus on folks in a positive way when they're young, (before) they're already down the path of violent crime."

The benefit of running as an at-large candidate, Gladney said, is that "I don't feel limited to my district."

"I can go to an event in the north end, then something in the southwest and then go to central or campus," said the graduate of Westview Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Centennial High School. "It's fascinating because I've been born and raised here my whole life, and there's still things I'm learning. I'm still meeting more people, learning more about our neighborhoods.

"This job is a continual learning experience."

Pick six

Matt Gladney was among six candidates on April's ballot to pick up endorsements Thursday from the AFL-CIO of Champaign County. Also getting the union workers' support:

— Deb Feinen for Champaign mayor

— Andrew Christensen and Jon Paul Youakim for Champaign City Council

— Karie Brown-Tess and Paul Poulosky for Urbana school board