Re-elect the mayor of Urbana.
Urbana voters must choose from among three mayoral candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic Party primary, but it’s an easy choice to make.
Mayor Diane Marlin is clearly the superior candidate, as anyone who has followed her first term in office can readily see.
Marlin is being challenged by Alderman Dennis Roberts, a veteran of the seven-member city council who entered the contest at the last minute, and Andy Ma, a recent University of Illinois political-science graduate.
Ma’s campaign appears to be little more than an act of youthful self-indulgence. He brings little to the table in terms of ability or experience. His campaign message is relatively simple — Ma said he “supports a moratorium on utility shutoffs and evictions, and would also like to see improvements in public transportation” and wants to facilitate the freedom-of-information process.
That’s pretty thin gruel on which to base a race for the mayor’s office.
The real contest for mayor is between Marlin, who served on the council before she ran for mayor in 2017, and Roberts.
Why? Urbana is solid Democratic turf, and the winner of the primary will win the April general election. Republicans challenged Marlin four years ago, but not this year.
That’s why, if they wish their voices to be heard on municipal governance issues, Republicans need to vote in the Democratic Party primary. They can speak now or forever hold their peace.
Roberts has emphasized the importance of downtown development and proposed producing downtown design guidelines aimed at “preserving the historic character of Main Street.” Roberts also proposes creating a variety of events that will draw UI students to the downtown area and a year-round, indoor farmers’ market.
He, obviously, is a thoughtful person whose ideas should be taken seriously.
Roberts’ political problem, however, is that Marlin has proven herself to be an effective public official who has been addressing the issues that Roberts has raised, particularly the economic development issue.
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, Urbana was on the verge of a major breakthrough with the Landmark Hotel at Lincoln Square — construction of a new hotel by a private developer. Although it’s still on the drawing board, it’s been unavoidably delayed. Other Marlin-driven construction projects continue in the face of the pandemic.
It’s difficult to measure the extent of the damage to Urbana business and government caused by the pandemic and the ongoing economic lockdowns. But it has been severe, and it would be an oversight not to recognize the job Marlin and members of her team have done maintaining city services while providing assistance to struggling businesses.
She has borne that challenge gracefully and in good humor, something not easily done under miserable circumstances.
In that respect, Marlin has shown strong leadership by demonstrating her penchant for meeting problems head on.
That’s something easier said than done, and it’s just one of the reasons why voters would be well advised to participate in the city’s Democratic primary and authorize what will be, in effect, a second four-year term for Marlin as mayor.