Friday, June 6, 2008

Risk vs. Reward in Danville Politics

Recently, in the Danville Commercial-News letters to the editor there was an exchange between a supporter of Lori DeYoung for State Representative and our current State Representative, Bill Black. At issue was speculation over why Black had decided to campaign for re-election to his seat and whether he would remain in office long enough to complete his term.

The back-story to this exchange [view it at the Commercial-News link at right] is the departure from the race of Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhower. Eisenhower's aborted bid for statewide office came after he suggested the closure of one of the city's fire stations as a way to close the city budget gap. A major downtown fire in the midst of already contentious budget hearings proved to be the spark that brought smoldering opposition to the closure to the level of a conflagration. However reasonable his suggestion may have seemed to him at the time, and however many people were involved in finding solutions to the budget crisis, in the eyes of the public, the blame rested with Eisenhower. This time, his understanding of the political climate was more accurate, and he pulled out of the State Representative race.

For a Mayor who has brought so much to the Danville Area in recent years, this was truly a stroke of bad political luck. One wonders what sort of lesson has been learned.

Urban renewal is not an easy path to pursue. In recent years, the City of Danville has stepped up code enforcement and begun a program to raze delapidated structures in the city. Tax Increment Financing zones have been established to give business owners financial incentives to invest in their property. Eisenhower and city officials deserve credit for showing initiative and finding creative ways to keep Danville moving forward.

Finding creative ways to promote growth in tough economic times is not easy. It is not without risk. But there are families throughout the area who are dedicated to remaining here. We like living in a town with teachers who care about our kids, with ample youth sports, DACC college for kids, vibrant churches, beautiful parks, youth theater, a city orchestra, and neighborhoods where people help each other and know each other. You might think that these things have nothing to do with city government. They do.

City leaders have the task of creating a safe place for my family to live and thrive. The policies the Mayor and City Council pursue have a direct effect on my husband's work, my children's school, and the safety of our home. Families depend on the Police and Fire Fighters for our safety, but also those maintaining our roads, bridges, and parks. There is a lot to do to serve this population -- not at the state level, but at the local level. It is just as important, if not more so. And all Danville residents know, there is much more work to be done.

I would hope that Mayor Eisenhower has not been turned off of creative problem solving for our city. Courage is what we need from our public servants. And, perhaps a lack of perspective during a tough budget battle can be forgiven, if the Mayor can remain creative, energetic, and enthusiastic about serving this local community.

As for Representative Black and Ms. DeYoung... let's hope their debate will be more about issues and less about speculation. An honest issues-focused debate will best serve the voters as they make decisions about who to support in the fall.

*Note: This and future politics articles will be available at Illini Family Politics


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