• MACON County Clerk Josh Tanner informed me that, near the end of last week, only 96 people had voted early. Considering that early voting started on Feb. 21, less than a hundred voters taking advantage of voting early in two weeks, doesn’t sound very encouraging for a huge turnout. Of course, the weather the past few weeks hasn’t exactly been conducive to people getting out and voting early. The voting pace may “warm up” with the weather. Right now, there’s less than three weeks before the election April 2.
• LISA GREGORY is one of two incumbents running for re-election on the Decatur City Council. The other incumbent is Bill Faber. The third of three seats up for election is presently held by Dr. Dana Ray who is not running for re-election after a decade on the council. Gregory told me that a lot of incredible progress has been made during the first four years she has served on council and she’s running for re-election because she wants to be part of continuing that momentum. I know that Gregory does her homework on the issues that face the council and goes beyond just reading the material provided, but personally checks for herself. She’s been a pretty solid council member her first four years, although her name and photo don’t appear in the news media that much. She told me that she’s not there to get publicity, but to do the job for the citizens of Decatur. Gregory and Faber face some strong opposition from some well-known names who are candidates for council.
• IF AT FIRST you don’t succeed….that’s probably the motto of City Council Candidate Marty Watkins who lost his race for city council two years ago, but is back for another try and his name seems to be everywhere. I think he learned a lot from his losing effort (most candidates do and many don’t run again) and he is running hard to win. Watkins told me that he views the “big picture” and has probably attended more council meetings over the past two years than a few of the council members. He is also heavily involved in serving on community boards and commissions which give him background and insight into what is going on in the area. He has one of the strongest advertising campaigns I’ve seen out of a city council candidate. His name is everywhere with yard signs, newspaper and electronic media advertising, mailers, etc. Watkins, more than most challengers I’ve seen, is in this race to win and among his supporters is former City Councilman Jerry Dawson.
I’ll have some other observations on the mayoral and city council candidates as we continue to draw closer to Election Day, April 2. Present Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, David J. Horn and Jacob Jenkins are the candidates for mayor this time around. In the race for three city council seats that are up for election, Shavon R. Francis, Marty Watkins, Shelith Hansbro, Lisa Gregory, Bill Faber, John Phillips Jr. and Rodney Walker are the candidates. Gregory and Faber are the incumbents running for re-election to retain their seats.
• DEBATES — The Decatur Herald & Review has announced a public forum where candidates for mayor and city council will be involved, at Richland Community College’s Shilling Audi-torium Thursday, March 14. Candidates for Decatur City Council will participate from 6:00-7:00 that evening and mayoral candidates from 7:15-8:15. Decatur School Board candidates will also have the opportunity to better express their views on March 13, from 6:00-7:00 — also in the Shilling Auditorium. This debate is being held in partnership with the Decatur NAACP. The candidates for the three open positions on the Decatur School Board are: Dan Oakes (incumbent), Andrew W. Taylor, Regan Lewis and Leara F Evans. WSOY’s Brian Byers is also in the process of interviewing candidates on his Byers & Co. program. I hope all of the candidates for school board, mayor and city council will take advantage of the above opportunities, and others, because they offer interested citizens the opportunity to get better acquainted with them and why they are running.
• SO SORRY to learn that Jay A. Dunn has notified Kevin Greenfield, the Chairman of the Macon County Board, that he is resigning as a Macon County Board Member in District 4 because of “a recent health emergency.” The resignation was effective Feb. 22. In his letter, Dunn stated: “I need to concentrate on my health now and am sure that you understand.” Dunn has been on the board for 16 years, serving 8 of those years as board chairman. He wrote that “I have been very proud to serve the citizens of Macon County” during that time. “We have accomplished much together. “I deeply value many friendships I have made and the many interesting projects I have had the opportunity to work on. My thanks to all the great employees and elected officials that have helped us work together in a responsible and productive way. I certainly wish you all the best in the future.”
I’ve known Jay for many years and worked with him during the years I was mayor. I certainly wish Jay the best and, as I indicated to him, my prayers and thoughts are with him.
• DISAGREES — State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) is taking issue with the reasons Gov. JB Pritzker outlined as to why people are leaving the state. In an interview with the suburban Daily Herald Newspaper, Gov. Pritzker was asked what he believes is the reason Illinois is losing population. Last year, Illinois lost more than 45,000 people – more than any other state in the Mid-west. Pritzker told the paper that, “we lose people because when you don’t fund universities, and when you threaten not to fund MAP grants, tens of thousands – it turns out it’s more than 72 thousand – young people choose not to go to school in Illinois and when they leave about 70 percent of them don’t come back. So those are all things that contribute to why people leave.” Caulkins said prioritizing higher education is important, but people are not leaving Illinois because state spending is insufficient. In fact, he said it is just the opposite. “I personally know a number of people who have left Illinois and not one of them has said the reason they moved is because the state is not spending enough money on education or any other program for that matter,” Caulkins said. “They are leaving because they are tired of paying too much in taxes and the high cost of Illinois’ burdensome business regulations. We already have some of the highest taxes in the nation. People who are leaving Illinois because we keep raising taxes to pay for more spending are not going to suddenly decide to stay here because we are taxing and spending more.”
Although Caulkins and I disagreed on some issues and votes when I was mayor and he was a councilman, I think his statement as to why people are leaving Illinois is 100% correct. I think everyone expected Caulkins to speak his mind when he was elected to the Illinois House — and he is doing just that and not getting much disagreement from those who want their voices heard in Springfield.
• DECATUR’S St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which is coming up on Saturday is the final parade before voters go to the polls on April 2 (or vote early) to select the candidates they want for mayor, three city council seats up for election, three school board seats, two Richland Community College seats and positions in other races. As mentioned in an earlier column, there are two candidates for the two park board commissioner positions that are opening up, so there is no suspense there.
One of the items in a glass cabinet not far from my desk is a photo of me participating in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade when I was a candidate for mayor. One of my sons, Kyle, shot a lot of photos along the campaign trail and then put together a collogue of pictures and gave it to me later. The jacket I wore was very green (obviously) the tie was even greener, and, about the only time I wore both, was every St. Patrick’s Day Parade during the years I was mayor.
The jacket and tie still hang in my closet and both bring back a lot of good memories of all of the people who marched with me that day. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a great time for all of the candidates, and their supporters, to participate and give the public an opportunity to see them. It’s also a lot of fun. Be sure to wear a lot of green!
Paul Osborne joins Brian Byers for City Hall Insider hour on WSOY’s Byers & Co. every Thursday morning at from 7:00 until 8:00.