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Tuesday, May 13, 2003 02:20 pm

Jammed packed

Five candidates vie to become mayor of Springfield. Good luck.


Even people who aren't supporters of Karen Hasara will admit she's done a lot of good during her two terms as Springfield's first woman mayor. She's furthered the development of downtown and helped to build the new Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. She's brought in outside experts to suggest ways to beautify the city. Under her reign, trash pickups improved, community police officers were added, and City Council meetings were televised. Hasara has held community forums and appeared as frequently on the east side of town as she did on the west. This year, with her blessing, the city finally passed a gay rights ordinance. She's never wavered in her belief that Springfield could become a first-class city.

But Hasara's leaving behind a lot of troubles. Race relations arguably remain the city's top problem. She brought in an outside police chief, but the department's in worse shape today than before he came. The east side continues to decay, despite pockets of hope that have little to do with city government. Hasara has been blamed for union feuds, scandals at CWLP, and lawsuits from such groups as the NAACP. The city's self-insurance fund has been running annual deficits of a half million to three million dollars for the last six years.

In other words, the new mayor will confront a number of crises. He'll be forced to make decisions that could affect the city for generations. All of the mayoral candidates say they're up to the challenge. Springfield's voters must now do their part.

Party Animal
There's nothing fancy about Tony Libri's campaign headquarters. It's the old Town & Country Bank on MacArthur at Outer Park. What once was the main lobby is now a big meeting room and phone bank. The old vault is full of folding chairs. At the end of the hall is a break room with a case of soda pop, a hot dog machine, and a slab of day-old petrified pizza.

But there is one thing about Libri headquarters that is remarkable, and that's the bustle evident on a recent Saturday morning--a morning when the weather looks like Springfield is a snowglobe possessed by a toddler having a temper tantrum.

"Just wanted to let you know we've cancelled all 157 volunteers for the walk this morning in all four locations," says Libri's campaign manager, Brian Schackmann, popping into a conference room. "The e-mail chain and the phone chain are already working."

This bustle--the hum of well-organized activity--is the main rap his opponents have against Libri, the acknowledged frontrunner who has the full support of the powerful Republican Party in what is supposed to be a nonpartisan race. They say Libri, the Sangamon County Circuit Court Clerk, will merely continue the agenda of the powerbrokers who put current mayor Karen Hasara in office.

But the plans and programs promoted by Libri on the campaign trail seem to be written by someone dissatisfied with Springfield's current way of doing business. Libri has plans that would apparently change almost everything.

Take the Springfield Police Department. Libri would reduce the number of divisions from eight to three, with one assistant chief and three deputy chiefs instead of the current system of eight assistant chiefs. Under Libri's plan, officers in charge of media relations and labor management would report to the assistant chief, while the department's legal counsel and the Office of Professional Standards (now called Internal Affairs) would report directly to the chief. Libri would also institute a new system for reporting and tracking crime, and increase educational requirements for new recruits (an associate's degree or equivalent military training instead of a high school diploma). He would also hire a new police chief, according to a draft of his plan.

Libri also has a ten-page economic development plan to make Springfield more developer-friendly. He would allow developers to wait until their projects start selling before reimbursing the city for infrastructure improvements. He'd also end the current practice of having a rotating cast of building inspectors visit projects and instead have one inspector follow each project through.

He would sequester the city employees' health insurance fund, look for ways to merge duplicated city and county offices, and launch a "War on Crack Cocaine." Most of these plans are spelled out in detail, backed up, he says, by research in a stack of red folders piled in the conference room.

"We tried to be as explicit as we could," says Libri. "People are hiring the mayor to do the job, not to hire another company to do the job."

Libri's background includes years as an office manager and efficiency expert at various state agencies; he's also run several small businesses of his own. He says these various jobs have taught him how to save money and spend wisely. Indeed, his tenure in elected county offices has been marked by creative cost-cutting. Sangamon County had a $2 million deficit when Libri was elected auditor in 1992. A year later, the county had a $360,000 surplus. He's reduced the circuit clerk's budget three out of the six years he's been in office (this year's budget is $101,000 less than last year's), and he has 69 employees on staff instead of the 78 he started with.

"I live and breathe this stuff," says Libri, who is a certified government financial manager. "This is what I like."

Libri has no paid campaign staff. His calendar, however, is handled by a county worker, "because she's very organized and I'm not," Libri says. "She still has to schedule things for me because of courts and all."

Libri was born in Philadelphia and moved here as a child after his parents divorced. He grew up on the Northend, attending St. James Trade School, where he studied to be an auto mechanic. After graduation, he joined the Marines and just barely missed being sent to Vietnam. He's now a colonel in the Army National Guard. Libri has a degree in communications from Sangamon State University, and is working toward his master's in strategic studies from U.S. Army War College.

Besides his state and county jobs, Libri has worked as a radio disc jockey, a weekend TV weatherman, and a La-Z-Boy spokesman. All along he has participated at some level in political or civic organizations, he says.

Libri's first wife died in 1992 after a long battle with cancer. On Christmas Eve in 1995, he and his two daughters together proposed to Ann Reid, who is now his wife. Although Libri describes himself as "still officially Catholic," he and Ann attend the predominantly black Abundant Faith Church. "I like to learn about the Bible when I go to church," he says. "I don't want to alienate my Catholic friends, but I've been experimenting with Abundant Faith and I like it a lot."

Another volunteer pops in to tell Libri that "everybody is here for the 10 o'clock." It's now close to 11; since the doors opened shortly after 9 a.m., more than 30 volunteers have wandered in. Outside in the parking lot, their cars are already buried in snow.

No Strings Attached
In 1954, Don Hickman was a high school sophomore in rural Tennessee. He got a job at a radio station playing records and sweeping floors. He began reporting on traffic accidents and city council meetings, and soon journalism got into his blood. When he graduated, he put college plans on hold. He'd always wanted to study law, but instead he chose to become a newsman.

He covered James Meredith's 1962 enrollment at the University of Mississippi and embarked on what he now calls a "decade of decisions." He saw heads cracked at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and fed breaking reports of Martin Luther King's assassination in Memphis to NBC's national desk. All these dramatic stories, he says, taught him a valuable lesson: treat people fairly.

This is what's lacking in Springfield government, says Hickman, who moved here in 1972 to work as a TV anchorman for WICS. He says local "power brokers" perpetuate a partisan turf war that blocks real progress for all of the city's residents.

Hickman retired from journalism two years ago. Though he's now running for mayor, he says he's not a politician and his outsider status has hurt his chances for public office. When he declared his candidacy last year--the first of the five candidates to do so--Mayor Karen Hasara had yet to announce she wouldn't run again. Hickman claims both Republicans and Democrats privately pledged their support; even Tony Libri, he says, secretly supported his candidacy over lunch at the Sangamo Club. (Libri later told the State Journal-Register he had always supported Hasara.)

Not long after Hasara dropped out, Libri announced his own candidacy, and then came Tim Davlin. Libri, like Hickman, is a Republican. Davlin's a Democrat. Once the parties found their candidates, Hickman was left out in the cold. (So much for the nonpartisan election.) Hickman claims many people told him to forget about their previous support--unless, of course, he wins the primary. Then they'll be back.

"People will tell you they are ready for change, that they are tired of city government," he says. But fear of reprisals takes over; no one can effectively challenge the power structure. "People don't know what true political independence is."

Hickman says he's a true independent. "Partisanship doesn't mean a thing to me," he says. "Political philosophy here is as phony as hell."

If Hickman wants to restore trust in local government, he faces an uphill battle. First, he has to persuade voters that he is more than, in his own words, "a talking head and a necktie." Though he is widely known, he's had a hard time getting people to take him seriously. When he goes door-to-door, he says, all people can say is "I never thought I'd see you on my doorstep!"

He's compensated by holding more news conferences than any other candidate. He's taken stands on a wide range of issues: he wants to replace police chief John Harris, promote an east side redevelopment plan that rehabs blocks of houses rather than "a house here and there," add four wood-chipping trucks and three street sweepers to the public works arsenal, and cut down on Springfield employees using city vehicles for personal use. He wants to promote volunteerism, basing his ideas on working models in other communities. There seems to be nothing wrong with Hickman's plans, but who's listening?

He has no endorsements, but not for a lack of trying. His self-imposed ban on yard signs--a holiday gift to Springfieldians, he declared just before Christmas--was a clever pitch. But election signs are part of the culture here, like turning your front yard into a parking lot during the State Fair. If you're running for office, you have to have signs. If you don't, people will begin to wonder what's wrong with you.

Hickman's poured his own money into his campaign, recently loaning himself $10,000. His biggest outside benefactor is Democrat Blair Hall, a Chicago financier who's planning to challenge U.S. Senator Peter Fitzgerald in 2004. (So far Blair has donated $5,000 to Hickman's campaign.) Hickman says the politicians he's most admired were their own men--Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, and Paul Simon.

Hickman has been married to his wife Betty for 41 years. He's left his mark on the community as a sponsor of charities and as a trustee and board member for many local organizations. But, he says, he never expected to profit politically from these endeavors: he was already famous. Hickman's autonomy is the most refreshing thing about his candidacy, and the quality least likely to do him any good.

The Long Shot
Ask Joseph Thomas Keck where he's from and he gives a little laugh that indicates he hears this question all the time.

"I know, I have an accent," he says in a voice that's so soft you have to lean forward to hear. Both his grandmother and great-grandmother were French-Canadian, he explains, and spoke with a certain Quebecian patois.

"But interestingly, I was not alive to hear it," he volunteers. "So it came secondhand through my mother. People say the same thing about my mom: 'Where are you from?' And depending on how you count it, I am a third- or fourth-generation Illinois resident."

For the record, Keck grew up in Decatur and Peoria, and attended colleges in Chicago, Southern Illinois, and Peoria. He has spent a total of eight months outside of Illinois, he says, and most of those were in Europe as a youth ambassador for People to People, a humanitarian organization promoting international understanding.

The accent, though, may not be the only reason people ask Keck where he's from. The ideas he espouses may also seem foreign. For example, the one he emphasized at a recent mayoral debate concerned the redistribution of wealth. Over and over, he repeated the statistic that the money accumulated by the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans is equal to the amount of money shared by the poorest 95 percent of Americans. "I know it takes a while to understand this," he told the audience. But he repeated it so often that people began groaning and rolling their eyes--even the very people who would be on the receiving end of things if Keck somehow got elected and miraculously found a way to pass a city ordinance redistributing wealth in Springfield.

Keck is young (31), earnest, sincere, and passionate about his platform. He has big ideas--so big, they seem better suited for a bigger chunk of government, such as the U.N. He admits his ambitions don't end, or even begin, with running for mayor (he's also running for school board in sub district 2). "My greater project is world peace in my lifetime," he says.

He ran for mayor as a write-in candidate in 1999, and garnered three votes. (In keeping with his own peculiar honor code, he refused to vote for himself.) But he thinks in an honest election, his total might have approached 200. "There were allegations of pencils not being available in voting booths," he says. "And some people who told me they voted for me, their votes didn't show up" when the precinct reported.

Keck feels he has been misrepresented as nothing but a stay-at-home dad. He is the full-time caregiver to his three children (Elaina, 7, Ethan, 5, and Dylan, 3) while his wife, Erin, works for the state as a legislative rules coordinator. But Keck has also worked as a research assistant at the Carbondale city planning department and at the University of Illinois at Springfield's Institute of Public Affairs.

Keck is currently working toward his master's degree in political studies at UIS, and he plans to pursue a Ph.D. in international development.

"I would call myself the only scholar running for mayor," he says. The fact that Mike Houston has an MBA, and that Tony Libri is also pursuing a master's degree, doesn't sway Keck's sense of scholarly superiority. "I am definitely a scholar of ideas," he says. "I could have graduated years ago, but I chose to continue my education, to continue to learn. I'm the only candidate with a political science degree. And government is the business of politics."

This campaign, he says, is an experiment to discover "how far ideas can take you." And by that he means ideas alone--not money. In fact, he believes accepting any money while campaigning is unethical. He has been tempted by a few would-be donors, but ultimately decided to "stick to the ideal" and spend only his own money. So far, Keck says, that has amounted to about $50 for photocopying.

The Democrat
On February 10, candidate Tim Davlin received first-hand confirmation of his recognition problem. He showed up early at the Crowne Plaza for the first mayoral debate. A woman at the entrance opened the door for him and he joked with her, asking, "Is this where the debates are?" "Yup," she replied. "And all the candidates are supposed to be here."

That same night Davlin's commercial first aired on television. He's chumming with family members, walking with cops, and working at a desk. He's for fighting corruption and violence and holding down taxes. At the end, standing with his family, he turns and asks, "How's that?" "Good," someone says. He gives a sigh of relief and smiles. Everyone claps. A female voice says, "Tim Davlin. Problem solver for mayor."

Three days later, the State Journal-Register published results of a poll it conducted on February 10 and 11. It showed Davlin in a statistical tie for first with Tony Libri. A poll performed by Don Hickman in early January, which found Hickman at the top of the heap, showed Davlin slightly higher than Joe Keck, who received 1 percent of the vote in both polls.

Davlin says his campaign spent $60,000 on the commercial, which was produced by the Chicago firm Adelstein and Associates. Adelstein has also has done TV spots for the Clinton-Gore campaigns of 1992 and '96, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Michael Madigan, Honda, and Quaker Beverages.

"It's unfortunate we didn't start running it earlier," Davlin says. "It's provided a lot of momentum."

That's debatable, says Scott Althaus, political science and speech communications professor at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Althaus, who teaches classes on media and political campaigns, says he's seen the commercial a few times on WCIA, the CBS affiliate in Champaign that also broadcasts in Springfield.

"It's obviously well-produced," Althaus says. "It's a standard kind of ad to introduce a candidate who isn't well-known. It states who he is--a family member and problem solver--and what he's running for. It's positive. It shows he has a sense of humor. It's the kind of ad that might even be good enough to get a candidate past the primary." But, Althaus says, Davlin's position in the polls might be due as much to mass mailings and neighborhood walks as the commercial. "It will only go so far," Althaus says of the ad. "Beyond building his name recognition, it won't help a whole lot."

What's going to help Davlin more is that he's the only Democrat--a good party for an Illinoisan these days--he gets visibly flustered when he talks about government bureaucracy and waste, and he has a campaign with energy to spare. His spacious headquarters on West Monroe has been donated by Dick Levi, owner of the information technology firm Levi, Ray, and Shoup. Major campaign contributors include his uncle, Jim Davlin, a former Walgreen's treasurer, and two of his late father's friends. All three pumped $5,000 each into his campaign. He's won a few endorsements from local unions. He jokes that the local branch of the International Chili Society is also considering him. He's a serious chili man and once finished second place in a statewide competition.

Davlin, 45, is handsome and youthful, with an easy smile. He has the build of a former athlete who has kept active; he's got the replacement knees to prove it. His father, Robert Davlin, was a well-respected attorney in town. Davlin told me he once considered going to law school, but this week the State Journal-Register reported he may have never graduated from college. Davlin insists he earned his degree and is seeking records to prove it.

Davlin's one of six siblings; he's divorced with four children. He's a self-employed insurance and investment broker for AXA Advisors. He's been involved with many service and charitable organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, St. John's Breadline, Catholic Charities, and Oak Ridge Cemetery. His day begins at about ten minutes before 5 a.m. These days he's been going to bed as late as 1 a.m.

Davlin says he reads a couple of books a week, usually fiction. He prefers techno thrillers and authors such as John Grisham and Tom Clancy. Lately, though, he's been reading Springfield's budget, item-by-item, and a city-commissioned report about revitalizing the east side. He says this report (available at www.springfield.il.us) has informed his own ideas for the neighborhood. Its many proposals include attracting government offices, starting quality and large-scale housing projects, and strengthening building code enforcement. Davlin says he can cut a lot of city spending by offering early retirement and he plans to reduce the nonunion workforce by not replacing early retirees. He promises to run city government like a business. One proposal would centralize land development and zoning services into one office: a "one-stop shop" for neighborhood associations, developers, and homeowners.

Davlin says he enjoys a good prank. In St. Louis, after attending a World Series game, he and a few friends went to a restaurant where one of the guys in his party ordered the last oysters available. Right before the order came, Davlin went to a pay phone, dialed the restaurant, and had his friend paged. When his friend picked up the phony call, Davlin and another friend stuffed down the oysters. "A sense of humor is one of a person's most important attributes," he says.

But it's not the most important attribute, he notes. During this campaign, Davlin attended the funeral of a high school friend. The man was also 45. He was married and had children. Sitting in the back row of the church, Davlin caught himself thinking of the primary election and whether he'd make the cut. He remembers reflecting on the "scheme of things." Ultimately politics, he says, is not what life is about.


The Once and Future King?
The State Journal-Register recently published results of a poll showing that Mike Houston would get only 16 percent of the vote. Compare that to 25 percent for Tony Libri and 24 percent for Tim Davlin, and you might think that Houston--the former two-term mayor (1979 through '87)--would be worried. But he isn't.

Because leading in the polls with 27 percent is the candidate called "undecided," and Houston believes that's him.

"When you look at that 27 percent, what happens is, because of the way polling is done in Springfield, particularly by the Republican Party, the person receiving the call realizes the person on the other end knows who they're talking to," Houston says. "They've got their name, they've got their address, and they're recording this information. So [people receiving the call] generally tell pollsters whatever they want to hear.

"I think the 27 percent who say they have not made up their minds--I think they're afraid to tell a pollster who they're going to vote for out of fear of the ramifications that might come," Houston says.

Ramifications? Like what?

"You haven't been around this town very long, have you?" Houston asks. "Somebody may threaten their job. You don't really think all these yard signs are people who called up and said, 'I want a yard sign,' do you? For my signs, yes, you have to call up and ask. But for other people, they just walk up and put it in your yard because you work for the state or you work for the city and you're not going to say anything about it."

Houston, a Republican, is running as an independent, just as he did in previous mayoral elections. He's proud of the fact that he served as an independent mayor, refusing to hand out city jobs based on party affiliation, even if it cost him his party's support in this race. He believes his independence works in his favor.

"Traditionally, when Springfield voters have had an independent candidate who was capable and qualified, they've gone with the independent candidate," Houston says. "And I think that 27 percent are not going to vote for the Republican candidate, they're not going to vote for the Democratic candidate. They're going to vote for the independent candidate. And I'm the only viable independent candidate in this race."

Last time he ran for mayor, Houston didn't survive the primary, despite running as the incumbent. But he doesn't take that loss personally. "In Springfield, we've had a tradition of two terms and out," he says. "I think the city was ready for a change at that particular period."

He had, perhaps not coincidentally, just presided over one of the most painful episodes of Springfield history--a federal voting rights lawsuit that forced the city to abandon its at-large commission form of government and adopt a more representative aldermanic system. Though Houston initially resisted the change, he ended up working with a Northern Illinois University professor to formulate the government plan that was eventually adopted.

"I've always wanted to serve under that form," he says. "Ever since I left City Hall, I had the desire to run again."

After losing the 1987 mayoral election, Houston didn't exactly crawl away and sulk. He enrolled in UIS and got his MBA, becoming CEO of Bank One by 1992. He's taken a leave of absence from that job to run for mayor.

Houston likes to remind people that his first Springfield residence was in the public housing complex known as the John Hay Homes. His dad was a mail carrier, his mother a public-health nurse, but they managed to send their son to Cathedral Grade School and Griffin High School. Houston eventually started his own business selling chain link fence, and he became president of the Jaycees. His work on behalf of the Jaycees' campaign to increase District 186 funding is what drew him into the world of politics.

"I think I was probably one of the best mayors the City of Springfield ever had," Houston says. "But I think today, I could be a far better mayor, based on the fact that I've got not only the experience of having done the job but also the experience of having done other things. . . . My thinking is far broader today than it was back then."

Which doesn't mean he's not proud of his first two terms as mayor.

"I don't know that there's anything major that I would've done differently," he says.


Five Questions

Do you believe the city should seek to consolidate services with the county?

DAVLIN: I am very troubled by the fact that every time the city faces a difficult problem--especially those caused by budgetary concerns--the immediate response is to merge services with some other governmental body. From the proposed library merger to the election-commission merger and now the health department merger--rather than confront the issues and solve problems, our leaders have been passing the buck.

When it comes to consolidation, I am opposed unless you can prove to me, conclusively, that it would result in improved services for city residents and tax savings.

HICKMAN: No, the city residents deserve their own elected officials to run the city departments. City taxes are best used by city employees who can effectively deliver services. It is City Water, Light & Power, not County Water, Light & Power.

HOUSTON: No. While there has been much discussion about merging city and county services, using the term "merger" is incorrect. For example, it would not have been a merger of the city and county health departments. The city was going to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the county to purchase public health services. Originally the city was to pay the county $965,000 plus the rate of inflation annually. While the city was purchasing the services, it was giving up control of the delivery of the services. When questions were raised regarding it, suddenly the cost dropped to $500,000 annually with that cost dropping each year until it hit zero. It was amazing how there could be that much swing in cost within a one-week period when questions were asked.

KECK: Duplicative services among various levels of government are both wasteful and a disservice to the taxpayers of Springfield, Sangamon County, and the State of Illinois. Merging service may afford the opportunity for reducing duplicative services. Yet, consolidation of services should not necessarily always move from the city to the county. The Health Department of the City of Springfield, for example, may in many instances be more efficient at providing services to its constituent public. It may be that the county should shift the responsibility of providing services to the city.

LIBRI: My entire campaign is based on streamlining government. But we must keep in mind that with any merger of city and county services, the level of service cannot be sacrificed. It appears as though the mergers of the election commission, animal shelter, and county 911 service have worked well. If the level of service has not changed and we are doing more with less, that is something I support.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate John Harris's time as police chief?

DAVLIN: Clearly we have problems at the police department. To a large extent, that does reflect on the Chief. However, I only have recent newspaper reports upon which to base an assessment. I think it is inappropriate to assign a grade on Chief Harris's performance based on what I have read in the newspaper.

As mayor, one of my first priorities will be a top-to-bottom review of the police force and administrative officers at all levels--that includes the Chief.

HICKMAN: I would rate John Harris's time as a 1. He has completely lost all credibility with his own police force and with the taxpayer.

HOUSTON: Police Chief John Harris should have been fired as a result of the Renatta Frazier situation.

KECK: I would rate Chief Harris's performance a 4. While I believe Chief Harris to be an honorable officer in the sense that he has attempted to serve as best he could the citizens of Springfield and the officers under his command, he has failed to alleviate repeated allegations of police brutality, misconduct, and racism among certain police officers of the Springfield police force.

LIBRI: 3. Lack of proper management. We don't have an employee problem, we have a management problem in the Springfield Police Department.

Would you support the creation of a citizens review board to monitor the police department? If so, what power would it have? If not, why not?

DAVLIN: Yes I would support the citizens review board, along with the creation of a citywide Inspector General. Those two creations, along with the continued presence of an Internal Affairs department in the Police Department, should go a long way toward restoring public trust to that organization.

HICKMAN: Yes, I would be in favor of a citizens review board. It would be called in after the Inspector General has reviewed any problem and would report directly to the mayor.

HOUSTON: I would support a citizens review board if it were set up properly. I am the only candidate for Mayor who has put forth a specific plan for the creation of a Civilian Police Review Board. I proposed a seven-member board to be appointed by the Mayor with the approval of the City Council. The Board would serve without compensation. This panel would act as an appeals board for anyone who filed a formal complaint against an individual officer or the Police Department. After the complaint had been investigated by the Internal Affairs Unit of the Police Department, and the Chief of Police had made a final decision on the case, an individual could file an appeal to the Civilian Police Review Board. [The board] would have the power to subpoena witnesses . . . [and] would issue a written report to the Chief of Police, Mayor, City Council, and the public. The possibility of independent review will impact how investigations are conducted. This additional level of scrutiny will reassure even skeptical citizens that their complaint was handled thoroughly and fairly.

KECK: Yes. Instituting independent review of our city's police department is essential toward reestablishing trust within our community regarding our police department. I support strengthening the autonomy of internal affairs investigations within the Springfield police department and the creation of an independent inspector general to guarantee integrity within each city department, including the police department. However, due to recent allegations of police brutality and misconduct, the creation of a citizens' review board has become necessary. As the next Mayor of Springfield, I would form a Review Group for the Best Practices of Civilian Oversight of the Springfield Police Department.

LIBRI: I would support a citizens oversight committee that works in conjunction with the City Inspector General when Internal Affairs procedures are questioned.


How would you revitalize the east side?

DAVLIN: In December 2002, the city completed a comprehensive study on economic development for the east side. My feeling is that we shouldn't reinvent the wheel in looking for new ideas-we should apply the ideas that have been proposed. I'll focus on the Eastside [Neigborhood] Development study to guide my efforts in this area.

HICKMAN: My neighborhood revitalization press conference outlined my intention to use a "laser" approach to helping neighborhoods. I would target specific areas instead of spreading it all over.

HOUSTON: I want economic development in Springfield to be citywide, with an equitable amount of development going to the East Side. The city has federal funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Block Grant Program that is designated for use in East Side census tracts. These funds need to be used to help stabilize neighborhoods. The Springfield Project has been very successful in working with neighborhood groups to improve their neighborhoods. The neighborhood groups determine what needs to be done, and the Springfield Project helps them accomplish the group's goals. The city should work closely and support the Springfield Project as it works with East Side neighborhoods. . . . The city recently commissioned a study by a consultant titled Eastside Neighborhood Development Plan. That plan needs to be reviewed by the residents of the East Side to determine whether or not they feel this plan contains recommendations that should be adopted. . . . East Side revitalization should include a streetscape plan to be used for South Grand Avenue and Cook Street that would be implemented by the city. These two streets along with Clear Lake Avenue carry many of our out-of-town visitors from I-55 into our community. The city needs to continue to look for federal funds and programs that may be available to assist in East Side revitalization.

KECK: An overarching issue facing many of the citizens of Springfield, especially on the East Side, is a lack of economic opportunity. As a candidate for Mayor, I am continually reiterating the fact that 1 percent of the population of the U.S. has as much wealth as the lower 95 percent. . . . As the next Mayor of Springfield, I would advocate a program of economic empowerment in order to overcome the burden of inequitable wealth distribution within our society.

LIBRI: We have to support small business owners and create new jobs. Under my economic development plan, I have laid out a specific strategy for creating jobs in the biomedical, logistics, and tourism industries. The key is to create a climate where new jobs are being created. As more people work, more economic opportunity occurs. I would work as mayor to attract Community Service Block Grants to the east side.


"The celebrity I most resemble is ___________________."

DAVLIN: Mike Myers.

HICKMAN: I'm unique. I don't resemble anyone.

HOUSTON: Tom Cruise (I'm kidding).

KECK: Bono.

LIBRI: I am not sure who I resemble the most, but the person I would most want to resemble is Rudy Giuliani. This is a person who had more faith in the people of New York than they had in themselves. I would only hope that I would have the strength, courage, and perseverance that he showed through some difficult times.


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