Where is the line between raising awareness about community issues and campaigning on those issues? That was the question for the city council Tuesday night when Ward 3 write-in candidate Nadine Wright addressed the council during the public comment section of the meeting. Wright touched on some of the pressing issues in Ward 3, and asked the council to develop plans to address them.
Incumbent Ward 3 Alderman Doris Turner immediately cried foul. Turner said that this was the second time Wright had used the public comment portion of a city council meeting to make a campaign speech. At a pervious meeting, Wright announced she was running write-in campaign against Turner. Turner’s objections raised several issues for the council on what was appropriate for public comment, as well as what constituted illegal campaigning.
What can you say during public comment?
Generally, citizens can talk about almost any issue they want during the public comment portion of a city council meeting. In just the last year, citizens have used this opportunity to talk about a wide range of issues, from weeds along the railroad tracks, to proposals to deal with the homeless situation downtown. And although the council might prefer that speakers stick to local topics that the council could actually address, the council has generally given speakers wide latitude to talk on whatever they wish.
While the council reaffirmed the public’s right to comment, Alderman Donelan pointed out that there are still rules restricting electioneering. Some things, like handing out campaign literature during the meeting, are clearly not allowed. But the line between bringing up city issues and campaigning on city issues is often a gray area. The same points can be brought in ways that are within the rule or that would constitute campaigning. Even some aldermen have accused each other of campaigning rather than debating when discussing council matters.
Some members of the council thought allowing candidates to speak during the public comment was not a good idea. Setting a precedent of what is allowed is hard to roll back. Alderman DiCenso blamed Mayor Langfelder, rather than Wright, saying, “The offense is that it was allowed.” Langfelder knew before the meeting that Wright was planning to speak.
The Inspector General will review the speeches given by Wright to see if they violate any policies, and hopefully will give guidance to the council about what is and is not against the rules. You can watch Wright’s speech and the ensuing discussion in the player. Her remarks start at 1:25:00.
New faces joining Jacksonville city council tonight
The Jacksonville City Council will be welcoming its two new members at tonight’s meeting. Brandon Adams defeated incumbent Karen Day-Mudd 167 to 139 in Ward 3. Mudd had recently been appointed for the remaining two years of the term. Adams will be joined by fellow newcomer Eren Williams. Williams was running unopposed in Ward 1.
Michael Bartlett, the other Ward 3 incumbent, fended off challenger Nicole Riley by a margin of just four votes. Incumbents Tony Williams (Ward 2) and Donald Cook (Ward 5) also won their reelection bids. Incumbent Aaron Scott (Ward 4) ran unopposed.
The swearing-in ceremony will be held tonight in the City Council room. The workshop session starts at 6:00 PM, with the chamber session following after.
You can see all the results for Jacksonville here.
Springfield reelects Langfelder, most incumbents
With 100 percent of the precincts reporting in, it appears Jim Langfelder has won another term as Springfield’s mayor. Langfelder received 58 percent of the vote, while his opponent, Frank Edwards, received 42 percent. He took 14,573 of the 25,092 votes cast.
Mayor Langfelder will have a familiar group with him at the council. City Treasurer Misty Buscher and City Clerk Frank Lesko both defeated their challengers. Lesko held on against Rianne Hawkins 54-46. Buscher won with 74 percent over Jennifer Notariano. Aldermanic races were mostly in favor of incumbents as well. Chuck Redpath (Ward 1), John Fulgenzi (Ward 4), Andrew Proctor (Ward 5), Kristin DiCenso (Ward 6), Joe McMenamin (Ward 7), and Ralph Hanauer (Ward 10) all retired their seats. Dorris Turner (Ward 3) and James Donelan (Ward 9) had no registered opponents.
Ward 8 was an open race. Longtime Alderman Kris Theilen term-limited out, and three candidates ran for the seat. Erin Conley won, taking 58 percent over Dean Graven’s 36 percent.
It currently looks as if Willie “Shawn” Gregory will be the next Ward 2 alderman. Gregory won over Gail Simpson by a single vote, 464 to 463. Alderman Herman Senor came in third, with 392 votes, or 28 percent.
For the full results of the Springfield election, as well as other races in Sangamon County, check of the County Clerk’s election page.
Morgan County Republicans host municipal candidate form for Jacksonville
The April 2nd election is just a few days away, and candidates are making their final appeals to voters. To help voters make an informed decision, the Republican Women’s Club of Morgan County hosted a candidate forum for Jacksonville and South Jacksonville municipal candidates on March 26th. This event was a chance for residents to learn more about the candidates seeking seats on the city council and village board.
Nearly all of the Jacksonville aldermanic candidates were in attendance. Both Anthony “Tony” Williams and Benjamin T. Cox came out for Ward 2. Donald Cook and Louis H. Eason III for Ward 5 were also present. Although Michael Bartlett and Brandon C. Adams are both running in Ward 3, they are running for different seats. Bartlett is facing off against Nicole Riley for the normal four-year term. Adams will face Karen Day-Mudd for the two year term that was vacated last fall.
The candidates had a clear focus on infrastructure development and economic development. Like many small towns, Jacksonville is facing a shrinking population and job losses. Making Jacksonville a more attractive place for businesses and residents will be the main focus for the city council after the election.
Half of the South Jacksonville trustee candidates attended the forum. Chris Norton, Jenn Slavin, Todd A. Warrick, and Stacy Pinkerton all made their case for office. Tom Jordan, Jason Hill, and John Stewart were not present.
South Jacksonville’s candidates had similar recommendations for the village. Improving roads and sidewalks was a major concern. However, local water infrastructure and increasing staffing at the fire department were also touched on as well.
You can watch the forum in the player. Due to an equipment issue, we were unable to record the opening statements for Cook, Cox, or Bartlett. The municipal election is April 2nd, and early voting is still ongoing.