Until late last week, there was not going to be a Consolidated Primary Election for three expiring Decatur City Council seats because no more than 12 candidates for the three positions had filed their nominating petitions with the city clerk by the time the deadline rolled around. But this is 2020 and we shouldn’t be surprised by anything that happens these days.
A Consolidated Primary Election will need to be held in Decatur on Feb. 23. The message that came from City Clerk Kim Althoff Friday was that, “On December 17th, one candidate (Eric Summerlott) filed a Declaration of Intent to be a Write-In Candidate for the office of Decatur City Council. This submission by a 13th candidate will trigger the need for a Consolidated Primary Election on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. The number of candidates to be voted for in the Consolidated Primary Election will be six.
“Twelve candidates previously filed their nominating petitions during the filing period in November 2020. Collectively, the 13 candidates will be narrowed to 6 candidates in the Primary Election. The Consolidated General Election will take place on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 for three available seats on the Decatur City Council.”
Back when I ran for my first term as mayor if you had more than two candidates for the office, there had to be a primary to narrow down the field to two, and the same applied to city council seats. If there were more than six candidates for three council seats a primary had to be held to narrow the field down to six. One big reason that the number was increased (from six to twelve) was the expense of holding a Primary Election, especially when the number of candidates was 7 and a very expensive primary (election judges, ballots, etc) had to be held to eliminate one candidate.
• THE PRIMARY involving city council candidates this time around will eliminate 7 candidates and reduce the number to 6 for the three positions. During this difficult time for candidates to get the normal campaign exposure that happens when there isn’t a pandemic, having the primary will give the race more exposure than it would have received with 12 candidates heading for the April General Election. The six candidates that will emerge from the February primary will be more manageable in the voters’ selection.
As I mentioned in last week’s column, candidates trying to get exposure during a time when about everything is geared down is difficult and familiar names, such as the incumbents and those who are better known, from either leadership positions in the community, or running in previous elections, will have the advantage.
• RIGHT NOW, until after the first of the year, people aren’t much interested in discussing candidates and elections. Hopefully, that will change soon after the beginning of 2021, because, we are only two months away from the Primary Election — and that’s not very much time to sort out the challengers and decide which six candidates will move on to the April election.
A big drawback for the candidates now running in the primary is the added expense of advertising their candidacies. Whatever funds they are trying to accumulate to pay for advertising will now have to be spent on the primary because, unless they win the first round they will not be in the second round and grand finale (the April election).
The twelve candidates who filed their nominating petitions by the deadline are: incumbent David Horn, incumbent Chuck Kuhle, Marty Watkins, Ed Culp, William (Will) Wetzel, Elijah England, Aldophia D. Cooper, Hardik J. Shah, Jacob Jenkins, John Phillips and Marc Girdler.
• THE DEADLINE for filing nominating petitions for other offices such as Decatur School Board, Decatur Park District and Richland Community College has now passed. I’ll take a little closer look at the candidates in those races in a future edition.
Monday, Dec. 21, was the deadline for filing the petitions. When the filing started a week earlier there was immediate interest from candidates seeking election to the Decatur School Board, but none seen from the four incumbents who presently hold the seats up for election. When the deadline passed Monday, Beth Nolan, Kendall Briscoe, Courtney Carson and Beth Creighton had not filed their nominating petitions to run for re-election. All four are serving their first term on the board and will be stepping down. However, seven candidates filed their petitions to run for the Decatur School Board last week: Jason Wayne Dion, Krystal Johnson, Ferlaxnes Carson, Kevin Collins-Brown, Al Scheider, Alana Giselle Banks and Jayjuan Young, Four of those seven candidates will be elected to replace the four retiring members.
Friday, Macon County Clerk Josh Tanner announced that a lottery was going to be held on Tuesday, (December 22, 2020) at 3:00 p.m. in the Macon County Clerk’s Office, 141 South Main Street, Room 104, because two or more petitions were received simultaneously for the same Board of Education position as of the opening hour (8:00 a.m.), of the filing period on December 14, 2020.
• THE CITY Council, in my opinion, made the right decision at Monday night’s meeting by deciding against a non-binding referendum on the April 6th ballot to ask residents how they feel about increasing property taxes to meet the costs of running and staffing the police and fire departments. As local city council history has taught us, a non-binding referendum creates more problems than it solves because the word “non-binding” is forgotten by many people when they cast their vote for or against an item.
Remember the leaf-burning question years ago? Ouch!
The city council, under our form of government, has the authority to increase property taxes without a public referendum. If the voters in a non-binding referendum vote against raising property taxes, for whatever purpose it might be, and the council raises property taxes anyway (which it has the power to do) there will be a lot of angry property owners who voted against it but feel their opinion was ignored. As the council’s decision Monday night indicated, other ways need to be found to raise revenue to fund increasing costs of our police and fire departments.
Quite frankly, our property taxes are very high now and raising them even more, regardless of the reason, cannot be the answer — especially during this tough economic time for so many that we are experiencing and one we will be living with for a time AFTER the pandemic is over. There has not been a time in our history where creative thinking on increasing city revenue has been more critical than now.
• JINGLE BELLS from Tiny Hill.
Faithful Decatur Tribune reader and history buff Tom Hanks sent me a copy of the label from his 1939, 78 RPM Okeh record of Tiny Hill and His Orchestra wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas with their rendition of “Jingle Bells”.
Tom wrote: “If you go to ‘You Tube Music’ on the internet you will be able to hear the awesome version of this classic Christmas song, one of his best and very popular when he and his orchestra were on top in the ‘Big Band Era’. “I just thought it to be an appropriate seasonal greeting with all that you have published lately about Tiny Hill and his connection to the Decatur area. He was a really ‘Big’ personality here in his day and fondly remembered by so many today.”
Thanks, Tom. I’ve heard from a lot of people since my recent “Scrapbook” article on Tiny Hill was printed. Tiny was a Decatur and Central Illinois personality that made it very big (no pun intended) in the Big Band era.
• I HOPE all of you have a very Merry Christmas holiday this week and be careful in how you celebrate. The COVID-19 infection and death rate in our community has been way down the last few weeks despite the numbers being awful in most parts of the nation. I appreciate everyone who has been abiding by the health department’s recommended COVID-19 protection criteria. Keep up the good work and our community will be looking, and feeling, much different in 2021 — and especially next Christmas. We’re almost there!