BY JENNIFER BAILEY
DANVILLE — An incumbent Ward 3 alderman is being challenged by a former city employee and one of the plaintiffs who changed the form of city government in 1987.
R.J. Davis is challenging Bill Gilbert for the seat.
Gilbert enjoys helping residents resolve issues.
Davis would love to be an alderman and serve under the form of government he helped create.
The Commercial-News sent election questionnaires to the candidates running for alderman in the April 9 city election.
Gilbert said he’s running for a third term “because I feel that since I have been on the city council the city of Danville has begun to move forward. I feel that I have helped contribute to the success that the city of Danville has had. I also enjoy representing the residents in Ward 3 ….”
“I want the privilege to be an alderman,” Davis said.
Davis wants to start regular Ward 3 meetings and keep residents informed of city government business.
He wants more interaction between neighborhood associations, too.
Gilbert said the three biggest issues facing the city council are: the unemployment rate; crime rate; and road repair and maintenance.
Gilbert says the city needs to continue to work with Vermilion Advantage to continue to entice businesses to locate here. The city also needs to continue to work with Danville Area Community College to train citizens so they are able to work in today’s workforce.
“The city also must continue to work with the state to make the laws of this state friendlier to businesses so they will locate and stay in Danville,” he said.
As for crime, Gilbert said the city has continued to work hard at lowering the crime rate by creating a Problem Oriented Policing unit to target high crime areas.
“This has helped and I plan to continue to support the police department in solving the high crime issues. Crime may also be high due to the high unemployment rate that we have. So the city must still work on the unemployment,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said the cost of maintaining streets continues to go up and the city must find ways to pay for street repairs without increasing the dollars spent from the citizens.
“Since I have been on the city council, I believe that there has been a significant improvement in the repair and maintenance of our streets. I will continue to fight to have more work done on the streets in Ward 3,” Gilbert said.
Davis said the three biggest issues facing the city council are: small business/economic development; blighted areas; and neighborhood safety and children.
Davis said the city council can help address blighted areas of vacant lots and vacant buildings.
“I want to be a strong advocate for small business and economic development,” Davis said.
He would help encourage small businesses to locate here. He said the city is working on this, but Davis would like to do more.
Also, Davis wants to see more citizen participation in reducing crime. He said the police department is doing a good job, but more citizen participation could help with safety, decrease neighbor break-ins, etc.
“I want our ward to be more involved in neighborhood associations,” Davis added.
He said Ward 3 associations and residents need to interact more with other ward associations.
He said more interaction between neighbors, parents and their children will help keep youth more involved in their community and safer.
Davis wants to encourage residents to go to school board meetings too and visit their children’s schools more often.
If budget cuts are needed, Gilbert said, “the city has made many cuts to the budget in the past several years since I have been on the city council. We have tried to stay ahead of the problems that are now affecting other communities. If further cuts were to be made in our budget, we would have to decrease the services that our citizens have come to rely on. I believe that if we were to have to make cuts we would need to cut positions in some of the management areas and combine duties.”
Davis said he’d like to revisit city employee salaries if budget cuts are needed.
He said some recent salary increases have been “hefty” and the money could have been spread out elsewhere.
Retail incentives, attendance
Gilbert said he supports retail incentives for businesses to locate here. “When businesses locate here, more jobs are created and more tax dollars are spent in Danville and not taken to Champaign” he said.
Davis said he hasn’t been in the meetings and doesn’t have the full details to comment on retail incentives.
“I need more information,” Davis said.
That’s another reason he said he wants to be alderman, to keep his constituents informed.
There have been attendance issues for some aldermen in the last year.
“I have missed very few meetings in the past four years. I plan to continue to attend as many meetings as I can. I do not believe that alderman pay should be based on attendance of meetings because the work of a city alderman is not just attending meetings. The work of a city alderman is communicating and helping out citizens in our wards and our city. Although, I believe that if an alderman misses several meetings in a row he should be fined. I believe that it is OK to miss a meeting every once in a while for family emergencies, illness, and short-term job responsibilities but not for a long-term job responsibility as we have seen in recent months by a different alderman,” Gilbert said.
Davis said he has the time to serve as alderman.
He said he couldn’t comment now whether alderman pay should be based on attendance.
Gilbert adds he’s enjoyed “being honored to serve the citizens of Ward 3 for the past eight years. I hope that the citizens of Ward 3 continue to support me for one more term in office. I plan on continuing to serve them to the best of my abilities and try to make Danville a better place to live, shop and work.”
Davis said he’s proud to have been part of the change in city government.
“I intend to keep people informed. I will have ward meetings,” he said.
“I want to run on honesty and integrity … I want to be accountable and I want my ward to hold me accountable,” Davis said.
William ‘Bill’ Gilbert
Name: William “Bill” Gilbert
Address: 1200 Dakota St.
Family: Wife and fellow alderwoman, April Gilbert; 16-year-old son, Kristian Gilbert; 14-year-old son, Jonathon Gilbert; two macaws; five dogs; two cats; and a small king snake
High School: Danville High School, graduating class of 1994
College: Lakeview College of Nursing, 2007 BSN
Current Employment: Pathways at Seifert Counseling Center: drug and alcohol counselor
Previous Political Experience: Served as Ward 3 alderman for the last two terms (eight years)
Other Organization Involvement: Member of Second Church of Christ; Assistant Scout Master with Boy Scout Troop 390; member of Further Light 1130 AF&AM; member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville; member of the American Legion Post 210 and the American Legion Riders.
Name: R.J. Davis
Address: 1308 E. Main St.
Family: Wife, Gladys; three children. He is of no relation to Ward 1 Alderman Kevin Davis
High School: Dunbar High School in Chicago
College: Moody Bible Institute in Chicago; Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville, N.C.
He also served in the U.S. Army for three years with an honorable discharge
Current Employment: Retired from the city. He was a health and environmental inspector
Previous Political Experience: None
Other Organization Involvement: Volunteer at Laura Lee Fellowship House; associate minister with the New Union Missionary Baptist Church; Danville Ministerial Alliance