Ward 1: Same faces, new race
Redpath says Lake 2 land could become a state park
Ward 1 Alderman Chuck Redpath and candidate Rev. T. Ray McJunkins are facing off again to represent the largest ward in the city.
McJunkins, lead pastor at Union Baptist Church and a founder of the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, received about a quarter of the votes in the 2015 election. McJunkins said he had no intention of running against Redpath a second time until he was approached the week of Thanksgiving by residents who wanted to see him on the ballot. He said he realizes it’s a tough race, especially since Redpath is “a Springfield name” that’s been around the city for the past couple of decades, but he knows there are constituents who are ready for change.
McJunkins said one of the biggest criticisms he has received is about his lack of experience in governing, but he disagrees. He said his current position leading his church required a vote, and he can be voted out if he’s doing an inefficient job. He was also tapped to serve on the Committee on Equality, Equity, and Opportunity transition team after Gov. J.B. Pritzker was elected.
Redpath, who’s now retired, was originally elected as the Ward 4 alderman in 1987 until he reached term limits in 2007. He returned to public service in 2015 when current mayoral candidate Frank Edwards termed out as the Ward 1 alderman and Redpath successfully ran for alderman in a new ward.
Redpath said he believes his record, like stabilizing residential energy needs for the next five years and shifting road maintenance in his ward from CWLP’s Lake Services to public works, demonstrates the type of change he’s been able to effect in his position.
Redpath and McJunkins both realize that issues in Ward 1 are vastly different than those of other wards, since residents living near the lake don’t typically deal with problems such as the homeless population, problem properties or fly dumping that are prevalent in many other parts of the city. However, both candidates see room for improvement.
McJunkins said he would like to see more commercial development on his side of the city since there are limited options for shopping in Ward 1. However, he thinks more development should be simultaneously occurring on the east side, rather than being limited to the west side of town. He is concerned with the future growth of the city as a whole.
“We could always stroke our egos, but there comes a time where you need to be honest with yourself. Jobs have left here,” McJunkins said.
He also thinks the city should take the opportunity to cultivate a better relationship with the new leaders in state government.
“If not, when other federal funding comes into the state … it’s going to go to Chicago, it’s going to go to Champaign, and the capital city will be neglected,” McJunkins said.
Redpath also agrees there is a need for economic development and jobs, and he thinks the $56 million hotel project that the council voted Feb. 19 to support is necessary if the city is going to revitalize its downtown. In his own ward, he sees Lake Springfield as critical for future development.
Redpath said he’s revisited the issue of Hunter Lake, or Lake 2, and thinks there’s a good chance the land purchased for a second lake could become a state park in the near future. But that would involve redredging Lake Springfield the correct way.
“Back in the 80s when we did it the first time, we did some dredging but we didn’t clog up the areas that drain into the lake, so all the silt ran right back into the lake,” Redpath said.
It’s necessary to have a backup water supply, Redpath said, but he also believes using Lake Springfield as a recreational area is a great way to create additional revenue. “Springfield is a tourism town,” Redpath said. “The big issue we have is tourism.”
Redpath said one of the improvements he made in the past few years was shifting some of the road maintenance from Lake Services to Public Works, and he believes his efforts have paid off. “The roads are in a lot better shape than they were about two years ago,” Redpath said.
Redpath is also concerned about accessibility to the lake for all residents in Springfield. He said he and Mayor Jim Langfelder have been working on a plan to develop a bike trail around the lake and install walking paths so it can be an area that everyone in the city can enjoy.
Redpath said the job of an alderman is to represent the people, but McJunkins said voters have expressed a need to have an alderman who returns calls.
McJunkins was also critical of what a vote for Redpath would mean. What’s missing from the city council, McJunkins said, is “newness,” citing an absence of innovation that is prohibiting the city from evolving.
“I don’t think Springfield is headed in the wrong direction,” McJunkins said. “It’s going in a slow direction. To me, there’s a better way, because right now it’s business as usual.”
Lindsey Salvatelli is an editorial intern with Illinois Times as part of the Public Affairs Reporting master’s degree program at University of Illinois Springfield. Contact her at email@example.com.