Urbana council lays out city's top-five priorities through 2021


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Last week, Urbana City Council members finished drafting the top five priorities to guide city work from 2018 to 2021.

These priorities are set to dovetail with basic city goals, like public safety and neighborhood services, and won't be followed to the complete exclusion of other activities.

They also can't be done by the city alone. Mayor Diane Marlin said each one requires partnership and collaboration with other agencies and organizations.

Ahead of the March 5 city council vote to officiate the goals, staff writer NATALIE WICKMAN asked members which priority-related goal topped their own list. No idea was off limits.

Priority 1

With consideration of downtown Urbana as a whole, initiate and plan for a transformation of the Lincoln Square site into a destination.

Marlin says: "You know how people look back on something, scratch their heads and say, 'Wow, what were they thinking?' I want people to look at Lincoln Square and say, 'They were really thinking ahead.' What we do needs to serve us for 50 years or longer — I see it as a permanent transformation. The site can change functions over time, so the basics we put in need to have lots of thought."

Priority 2

Increase minority participation in city procurement, hiring and contracting. And, working with the Human Relations Commission, develop a system to incentivize and advocate for equity and increased minority employment rates.

Alderman Eric Jakobsson says: "The dream is that people can be absolutely confident, if they're working with the city, that they're going to be judged completely by their merits. I may not live to see that dream realized but I'd sure like to see us on our way."

Priority 3

Work to achieve equity in traffic stops and reduce the disparate impact of court costs and fines on lower-income people.

Alderman Aaron Ammons says: "My answer is pretty straightforward. ... I want absolute equity for everyone across the board."

Priority 4

Expand the connectivity of the Kickapoo Rail Trail with a focus between Vine St. and Lincoln Ave.

Alderman Bill Brown says: "Eventually, hopefully (the trail) will go from the east side of Urbana clear to the northwest side of Champaign. That may take more than 10 years."

Priority 5

Invest in and repurpose older housing stock.

Alderwoman Maryalice Wu says: "These will be houses from around the 1920s to the 1960s. Landlords aren't always incentivized to keep up property maintenance for them, especially if their rent prices are low.

"My dream goal is to have neighborhoods that are vibrant, that people want to live in. And a lot of our community does invest in this because they don't want (older housing) to just be torn down. I want to see these areas maintained and enhanced."

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