On March 4 at the Danville Public Library, more than 40 Danville residents sat down with journalists from Illinois Public Media — WILL Radio and TV — to discuss issues related to the future of the community. Below is a list of 10 questions created directly by community members during the Democracy in Danville event the candidates were asked to answer.

These responses were forwarded from WILL and are presented as they were received.

MAYOR

Donald Crews

1. What are your short term and long term strategic plans for Danville?

The first short term goal we must achieve to be successful is to set an overall mission for the direction of our city. This would include improving our community awareness and ongoing communication flow with our citizens. Being at this meeting and seeing the divide between our government and its people, proves our leadership is out of touch with its purpose. By engaging the public and getting ideas straight from our citizens, we will gain a much more broad spectrum of our true problems. We must also start addressing the crime and safety concerns in our city from a different angle. I am proposing the use of technology to increase notification, apprehension and response from our public safety departments. By utilizing technology we don't become entangled in another budget/pension mess. This system has been shown to reduce crime and with faster response times it has shown to increase the chances of apprehension. We must also immediately start working on a new demolition program that works with neighborhoods that are revitalizing. This program would initiate with cleaning up the blight in whole areas instead of scattering our resources across the entire city. We must also begin to identify and take action on improving the conditions of our existing structures that are not demo worthy.

Long term goals would consist of promoting & marketing the City of Danville so we can attract more business and stabilize the population. We must also work on providing a clean and safe city in the long run for continued growth opportunities. We certainly need to work on more positive revenue sources and planning for long term financial stability. Also we must strive to make our local government effective and expand the ability to form partnerships with neighboring municipalities. For our city to be viewed well from the outside we have to fund our infrastructure fully. Our streets, sidewalks and alleyways are in desperate need of repairs throughout our city. Our youth must also be involved in reworking our city and must have programs available so that we can keep them from turning to crime or other negative behavior. In order to move into the future we must explore smart technology to save money and become as efficient as possible. Some of the short term goals will continue too also be long term objectives within our city.

2. Sell someone in 3 minutes why they should live in (or come back to) Danville.

Danville has been home to some of the top actors, athletes and military hero's in the world. Those people set the path for the future and proved that dreams are reachable even in small town Danville. From our award winning parks and waterways, to our one of a kind events, Danville will continue to grow and welcome those that enjoy relaxed city life. With new faces representing our city, we now have the passion and partnership needed to expand our commitment to small business in our community. Citizens we too can make our dreams of a thriving economy, a safe place for families and a city that propels future leaders to success. So join us in making the City of Danville an experience of history, exploration and relaxation.

3. How will you regularly engage your community? How will you keep lines of communication open?

I will keep the community engaged by involving them in the decision making, involving them in the solution and allowing them to see that their ideas and their concerns are being addressed. We all think of traditional lines of communication when it comes to local government, but I want to add some changes. I would propose traveling meetings so we extend that problem solving approach to ALL neighborhoods in our city. I would also propose the use of more technology to allow busy residents to express their problems and not just leaving a message for a return call that may or may not happen. We can use video conferencing (FaceTime, Facebook Video) to reach residents with a limited time span but that truly care and want to see positive Danville progress. By continually placing ourselves into the community we can keep that information flow open and constant.

4.What personal experiences have prepared you for office?

My experience in local and state government gives me the added knowledge of a working system that truly listened to the people. My education and experience in the law enforcement community gives me the background to solve problems and work together to accomplish goals within our city. I currently work on the streets everyday speaking to citizens about their concerns and solutions. By working with current departments within our city, I have the best knowledge of how operations work and how our city is ran in real life not just on paper. I have also worked with adults & youth in solving problems and helping them transition into successful members in our communities. I am not a career politician whom has been in office for multiple years or helped create the unfortunate situation our city is in today. It is time our city started fresh with new ideas and fresh faces to get this economy jumping again.

5. How would you help improve the relationship between the police and the community (particularly minority groups in the community)?

We must continue to break that barrier within each group. Both the citizens and the police have common goals and want the best for their community. We must have our departments on the street level walking, talking and building relationships with the citizens of Danville. Each neighborhood would be assigned a police officer contact point to allow each officer/citizen to have a go to for issues, problems and solutions. We would also like to see more citizens and their children become involved in the auxiliary and jr police academy. By being involved within the department as a volunteer, it allows the citizens to see the work that's done in our city. Also by altering the traditional community policing model, we believe officers can better understand their community and in turn increase communication.

6. How will you create community partnerships to engage the youth?

In order for a community partnership to be successful we would encourage local businesses and schools to come together in rewarding our youth for the positives they do within our community. They would also divert those negative encounters to supporters within organizations that can help reduce and change these kids lives. By continually showing these youth that we will not give up on them, I believe we can change a lot of the negative behavior to productivity and stability. In Danville we have many programs that would be great to work together in achieving multiple layers of structure. Most importantly we need to talk to the kids and see what they want in the community, what they need to grow and what makes them passionate about helping bring change to the City of Danville.

7. What new ways can city resources be allocated to serve youth?

We have multiple empty buildings or spaces within the city that could be used to earn rewards or teach a skill to the youth. When the youth are engaged they become more active in their community and develop new interests and future opportunities. The reward based system could serve several functions and reduce some of the problems our city faces daily. At the meeting it was suggested to allow the civic center to be used by our youth and sponsorships that would allow this at no cost to the family. When you institute a reward based system for positives in the community, you get interest in doing good things and helping others. We can also hold events for youth at one or all of our city parks. Rather it be an outdoor movie or a music recording session, this allows the kids to see that we care about their lives and their future.

8. What ideas/plans do you have to address the violence in the community?

We must implement newer technology to address the violence in our community. We must also increase the police/citizen relationship to gain that information it takes to hold those accountable for their crimes. My proposal includes placing gun fire detectors in a test 6 miles radius. This system allows instant notification to dispatch, police officers directly and the community. With Danville coming off of its highest murder rate ever, this system could help save lives and hold those offenders accountable. We can also utilize cameras with this system that can be viewed by responding officers to better coordinate apprehension and citizen safety. We also need to assist neighborhoods in creating and maintaining neighborhood groups. This allows neighbors to work with police to combat areas of increased violence. We have to make sure our youth have positive ways to utilize their free time and opportunities within our city. We need better communication with our schools and more partnerships in being proactive in the lives of our kids.

9. How will you use code enforcement to improve the condition and affordability of property in the community?

As a code inspector with the city, I can personally inform the citizens that over 3000 cases are opened each year on properties not in compliance. With the current administrations proposal to eliminate AT LEAST 1 of the 4 positions in the code enforcement department this would be almost impossible to achieve. If elected mayor I have the knowledge and ability to use our code enforcement department to not only improve the functionality of the department but become more cost efficient. By bringing our whole team to areas that continually show decline we can make our presence known within that specific neighborhood. With partnerships we can place dumpsters in central locations for areas with the highest amount of illegal dumping and reduce the amount of trash around our city. I have also proposed setting aside 25% of code enforcement fines to create a citizen fund. Citizens can apply annually to this fund and receive up to $250 to fix active code violations on their property. By having a direction for our citizens we can help them improve their homes and also increase the vested interest in maintaining their neighborhoods.

10. How will you attract good jobs to the community?

We must have new faces in our local government in order to draw in those potential businesses. Speaking with dozens of previous business owners and investors, right now our current city government is seen as anti business. No one will relocate or start a new business in our town without getting rid of this negative image. I would immediately start a marketing plan for our city. I would also reach out to those business owners to inform them that the city is interested in working with them every step of the process. We must work with DACC manufacturing, technology and other areas to achieve that pool of local candidates to show Danville has the quality work force for their businesses. We must market our city for the future and that time is now.

STEVE NICHOLS

1. What are your short term and long term strategic plans for Danville?

In the short term, our focus must be in three areas. The first is to reconnect with the citizens of Danville. The focus of city government the past few years has been on itself; the pensions, the job descriptions, the benefit packages. Government is created to serve the people not the other way around. The second short-term plan needs to be curbing the epidemic of violence in our community. We need to start by adding three police officers as recommended by Acting Mayor Williams and forming a Problem Orientated Police unit. This unit will be assigned to problem areas in the city. This is only a start. All employees of the city must become more engaged, and I will make sure that they get out of the office more and into the community that they serve. We need to select a Police Chief that not only can build morale but also provide the necessary leadership and training to deal with our current challenges. The selection committee must contain members from the entire spectrum of our city if we are to achieve the necessary buy-in from the community. The third short-term goal is to evaluate our financial situation from top to bottom. We need a one-year freeze on tax and fee increases and a thorough review in the public eye of all expenses. Our long-term plan should be to begin a strategic planning process to cover all aspects of the city government, and again that process must include community members from all segments of our city.

2. Sell someone in 3 minutes why they should live in (or come back to) Danville.

Danville is a great place to live. We have a thriving arts community with a symphony orchestra, municipal band, the Danville Art League and many performing and theatrical groups. Through Summer Sounds downtown, the Lincoln Park Theater Company, and the Municipal Band, our citizens have free access to the arts. We have great parks in the city and in the county. We have rivers to canoe on and fish in and a beautiful lake for boating as well as a developing downtown riverfront area. We have a long tradition of volunteerism; an example this month is the NJCAA basketball tournament and this summer, Balloons Over Vermilion. Nobody puts on an event better than Danville. We also have a wide variety of churches and faith-based organizations. Our housing is affordable. Our people are friendly. There are skilled and unskilled jobs available, as well as a community college to help you gain any skills you lack. I love Danville and you will too.

3. How will you regularly engage your community? How will you keep lines of communication open?

I am going to spend most of my time out in the community. I will work beside the city employees to solicit their feedback, I’ve found that most good ideas for improvement come from the people actually doing the work. I am taking the government out to the public. We will conduct four city council meetings a year in the various sections of town, beginning with the eastern part of town. This will foster more neighborhood feedback and hopefully make people more willing to bring their issues to the city council on a regular basis. It will also allow city staff and aldermen to visit all neighborhoods in our city. I am also planning to add a substation or staging area in the east end, not just for police, but inspectors or other city workers doing projects in that section of town and to serve as a neighborhood community center for meetings and events. This will foster more community engagement and improve awareness.

4. What personal experiences have prepared you for office?

I bring a unique blend of business and public-sector experience to the office. I have been a small business owner, and I am used to supervising a large organization. As a District Manager with Steak ‘n Shake, I managed 10 units with over 400 employees, 30 managers and over $20 million in sales. I was responsible for all aspects of the business; labor relations, cost controls, marketing, vendor relations and, most importantly, guest service. We need to remember the citizens of Danville are our customers. In the public sector, I am an elected alderman and also serve as chairman of the Public Services Committee. This committee provides oversight for police, fire, human resources, human relations and finance. This has prepared me to understand and manage the wide range of functions that are involved in city operations. I have also been active in civic organizations and am currently vice -president of the Vermilion Heritage Foundation, which is overseeing the rapidly progressing Fischer Theater renovation project thanks to the generous support of Julius W. Hegeler II. I am a Danville native, and I have lived in every ward in the city during my life which allows me to better understand the challenges of all of our citizens. I believe that this combination of experiences has prepared me to be Mayor of the City of Danville.

5. How would you help improve the relationship between the police and the community (particularly minority groups in the community)?

We must work with the various neighborhood and citizen groups to bridge what I will call the trust gap. It is easy for people not directly involved to use phrases such as “see something , say something,” and it’s another for those living in these high crime areas who must worry about retaliation and the safety of their families to come forward with information about criminal activity. We must work more closely with the County officeholders, particularly the Sheriff and State’s Attorney to assure those who report criminal activity that there will be action taken and they will be provided some measure of protection if they testify. We should establish a substation in the east side not just for police, but to provide staging areas for other city workers as well as a community center. When the city has a bigger footprint in high crime areas, the public will be more comfortable with coming forward with information and advice on how to effectively deal with the neighborhood crime issues.

6. How will you create community partnerships to engage the youth?

The main driver of the drug culture, and therefore the crime issue, is lack of hope among our young people. We must reverse this perception. There are numerous activities, especially in the summer, for youth in Danville. The problem is that these opportunities are not as readily accessible for many of the more at-risk youth in high crime neighborhoods. The Danville recreation department must do a better job of providing ways to help people without transportation to get to the various activities or to bring activities to them. We should look for grant programs through the bus system and work with agencies such as CRIS who have fleets of vehicles. DACC also has small buses and could be a partner to provide transportation services. We can work with the American Job Center to identify summer-work partnerships with businesses that could be offered with transportation provided to the recipients. I can tell you first hand from my work experience that lack of reliable, affordable transportation is a major barrier to those from low-income households. We currently have two young men from DHS working with us three hours a day from the DHS Step program. They are great workers, but I know that when school is out for the summer, they will struggle with transportation issues. Without the structure and income, these young men could become disillusioned and turn to far less productive ways to spend their summer.

7. What new ways can city resources be allocated to serve youth?

We mow many lots around the city during the summer. While there are barriers with union contracts and insurance, the city could provide jobs to youth with funds already being spent by the taxpayers. We should reach out to local business and civic organizations and look for ways to provide transportation to and from the job sites. We could offer internships in various city departments and provide transportation there as well. These would provide structure and training to those involved. We should incentivize city employees to become active in the recently announced roll out of Big Brothers- Big Sisters with allowed time off during the work day. This would include sitting down with all city unions, but especially police and fire, to get their buy-in and cooperation.

8. What ideas/plans do you have to address the violence in the community?

I am serious about taking the government out into the community. The establishment of a small neighborhood center in the eastern section of the city would be a start. The more activity that is conducted in an area, the less likely there will be criminal activity. We must convince the residents that we want to help them improve their neighborhoods. You must win hearts before you can win minds. Stepped-up law enforcement that is supported by neighborhood residents is the key to combating these societal issues. There should be one person employed by the city to act as a liaison between all city departments and the neighborhood and citizen groups across the city. That person should also act as a liaison with the county and township to coordinate joint efforts to not only fight crime but create opportunities to combat the feelings of hopelessness and desperation that drive the crime in the first place.

9. How will you use code enforcement to improve the condition and affordability of property in the community?

The easy answer is to go after the landlords with higher fines and high levels of scrutiny. While everyone deserves safe, affordable housing, taxing and fining the landlords out of business will only make a bad situation worse. While there are terrible landlords out there offering substandard living situations, I have been encouraged by the landlord association’s willingness to step up and be part of the solution to this very real problem. The sad fact is that with an aging population, we have many code problems in owner-occupied housing as well. We must find grant sources to assist those doing their best to maintain their own homes. On the business front, Danville has an unfortunately well-deserved reputation for not being friendly to business. Again, while no one wants unsafe conditions for workers or customers, adding to the already seemingly endless layers of red tape and bureaucracy is forcing business to locate or re-located outside of Danville. Our area is particularly vulnerable because the anti-business attitude generated by the State of Illinois may encourage a company to locate in the more business-friendly state of Indiana. In the short run, I will have the inspection department report directly to me. This will give me an opportunity to evaluate the entire inspection system.

10. How will you attract good jobs to the community?

The reality is that there are many high-paying, skilled and unskilled positions unfilled in the private sector in Danville. Many businesses have created their own apprenticeships and internship opportunities and partner with DACC and the American Job Center to provide needed skills. We must also market ourselves better. With the thriving arts community, great parks, reasonably priced housing and easy access to large population centers, Danville is an ideal place to raise a family. The application for the new $15 million mixed-income housing project gives us the opportunity to offer good housing opportunities to working families that make up a large segment of the population that is currently underserved. I love Danville and believe that with the right leadership, we can overcome our difficulties and make Danville a place we can all be proud to call home. I am up for the challenge and will hit the ground running.

JAMES MCMAHON

1. What are your short term and long term strategic plans for Danville?

Quality of Life, Economic Growth, Public Safety. Short-term, I want to stabilize our budget by carefully examining our spending priorities and planning to go forward without trying to raise taxes. Long-term I have three major strategic objectives that need to operate together. First, would be the quality of life. This involves removal of blight and improvement of neighborhoods, and long-term maintenance of our infrastructure to avoid costly repairs in the future. It also involves emphasizing the opportunities right here to enjoy life, whether it is a summer downtown events or other events. There is always something going on and we need to advertise that both to residents and visitors. Sprucing up neighborhoods and getting out into the neighborhoods and visiting I think will help our self-image.

Next, and going hand-in-hand with and part of the quality of life, is to develop plans for economic growth. That involves a professional marketing and business plan to do two things: 1. Develop ideas of how we can draw people here to visit and pump money into our economy. We have great parks for camping, hiking or just day visits. We have a scenic river. We have a unique baseball field and team. Once you start thinking about it, the list goes on. We have some regular tournaments hosted by DACC or other institutions. We can look at finding ways to make Danville a convention center location. The marketing plan may reveal other possible niche’s for us to develop, if we all work together. It might take years but we have to start breathing some new life into our community. We have some fantastic assets. How do we maximize them? Those seeds need to be planted now. 2. Continued development of traditional manufacturing or other types of businesses that provide stable, satisfying jobs. As mayor, I want constant interaction with our business community to identify ways to help them sustain them and help them grow. I want their ideas on how we can add businesses here that would complement what we have and be a natural and sustainable extension of our economic growth. We need to partner with our neighboring communities to leverage our combined assets to draw business and jobs here to our County. A rising tide does lift all boats. We are all in this together. And that includes our neighboring counties. Can we partner with them as a region to make this area a convenient hub for business? We are a half hour from the University of Illinois, 2.5 hours from Chicago and the neighboring suburbs and within easy reach of Springfield, Bloomington, Decatur, and also Indianapolis, Indiana. Again, this takes a unified marketing study and business plan to fully mine all of our resources as well as just keeping communication lines open with business. All ideas about economic growth and jobs require us to think out of the box and be constantly on the look for possibilities.

Finally, the last leg of a combined strategic plan is public safety. That is discussed below as well, but in summary, we need a police chief who can partner with the Sheriff’s Department and all other law enforcement agencies that touch or operate within our boundaries, to find the right community-based plan to fight violence, gangs and drugs. There are successful models out there employed in other jurisdictions to develop a community policing approach to win back our neighborhoods. Blight includes the deterioration of neighborhoods from crime and drugs. It drives good residents away. It has to stop. A consistent approach with a realistic plan is needed. That will involve using all of our tools from law enforcement to code enforcement. Homes will be maintained. Drug activity will be driven out. Problems affecting the ability of a resident to feel safe will be identified and attacked. We will go neighborhood by neighborhood. Some areas around schools, churches, and DACC will be especially watched. The previous administration took us a long way, but as with any change, it is an opportunity to get the next step and build on that progress.

2. Sell someone in 3 minutes why they should live in (or come back to) Danville.

Danville has the best of two worlds – rural and urban. We are 2.5 hours from downtown Chicago, a half hour from the University of Champaign/Urbana, an hour from Indianapolis. We have easy access to Springfield, Bloomington and Peoria. So, we are in a nice center hub.

While still maintaining many small town attributes, we have quality health care from clinics to hospitals and a Veteran’s Administration facility right here in Danville and also in Champaign. Access to quality health care is easy and, in an emergency, very responsive and quick. Our fire and police departments are second to none and have the track record to prove it.

We have a strong rural economy and community with smaller towns nearby with unique shops and food establishments. State and County Parks are of the highest quality for camping, hiking or just hanging out for the day. We boast a scenic river, great fishing, and the space for quiet times. You can take in a ballgame at a unique stadium with our Danville Dans, a team of young athletes who often end up going further in their baseball career.

We have a small town downtown that is still growing but has great food restaurants and unique shops to visit, an incredible library, and a history that includes a nearby museum where Abraham Lincoln stayed at when it was a private residence. The room is nicely preserved.

We have some vibrant industries, new and long-term, that supports a growing economy. And there really is room to grow. Our community college, DACC, offers many avenues toward success and is just a great, extremely accessible and pleasant place to learn.

3. How will you regularly engage your community? How will you keep lines of communication open?

With my private business, Illini Skateland, I learned early on how important it was to communicate with respect and show cordiality to a customer. I taught my staff that same thing, particularly when someone might seem to be upset. Everyone has a bad day and I needed to help make it better. I carried that into my time as County Board Chairman. We radically changed the budget process when I was elected, so with the first budget, I personally went out to each 27 board members and delivered and discussed the budget one on one. I tried to stay open to all. I changed our committee assignment process to include both sides of the spectrum and collaborated with the so-called minority party on committee assignments. That process has now been institutionalized. Over time, people saw it was my approach was OK and we had a very productive six year run with little opposition because we tried to work with everyone. In the meantime, we ran for six years with no tax increase. I took the same attitude toward the public. I would always meet with them, listen and try to find middle ground if that solved the issue and was the right thing to do. One-on-one conversation got a lot done.

That same approach will work here, both with the elected officials, department heads, employees and the public. A large part of what I want to accomplish requires partnership with the community as well as business. For the community, I or key members of my staff will be at neighborhood association meetings to listen or talk. We will have opportunities for citizens to meet with ‘problem solvers’. That means they won’t go department to department being confused. Someone will help them solve their problem by helping them make connections. It may not be quite a one stop shop idea, but we will be as customer friendly as possible. We will be here to help.

On a larger scale, we will be frequently surveying neighborhoods to determine what their concerns are and trying to find how we can partner to solve those problems.

With the business community, I want to have a semi-regular meeting to discuss their concerns or frustrations. I also want to hear about ideas for growth and how we can help economic development.

I enjoy personal one-on-one communications with all and I enjoy solving problems – big and small. That is the best feeling you can get in public service.

4. What personal experiences have prepared you for office?

First, raising a family. Sometimes it was scary, sometimes challenging, but it was always rewarding. There were no real handbooks as the saying goes; you had to learn to be responsible for the growth and success of the people you love. Responsibility is the key word there.

The same goes for running a small family owned business. The ups and downs of revenue and the need to constantly adapt to changing situations, developing new ways of offering quality entertainment and family time with always limited resources was and is a challenge. But I needed to succeed because it was up to me to make it happen so my family could grow and one day take over. I wanted and still do want a good life for them. This experience constantly molded me to be responsible, creative, and learn to never give up. I might not always have succeeded in every business idea, but long-term, it worked because I never gave up. You cannot walk away from responsibility.

While at the county I managed over 400 employees, worked with all department heads and delivered a balanced budget all six years with no tax increases. This summer I negotiated a 1 million dollar deal with ASCAP to benefit all the roller rinks across the country. I want to be able to do those kinds of things for the City. I have spent a lot of time watching and learning, seeing how others did their jobs and how the County and City operated. These experiences will prove to be invaluable to me if I am elected Mayor.

Other than government service, family, and work, I also volunteered for some years to visit our VA as a representative of our church. Seeing those who have served and trying to help them a bit by distributing communion on Sundays, helped keep me humble and alive to the need to serve others.

5. How would you help improve the relationship between the police and the community (particularly minority groups in the community)?

To be honest, I think the thing that helps the most right now with communication is having the school resource officers. They are developing a relationship with our youth and hopefully those relationships can carry on outside of the school. I would want to keep that communication level and relationship in high gear with more community outreach and presence in the neighborhoods. I and my immediate staff will connect with community groups and listen. We will pay attention to important events like the Martin Luther King celebration and use that as a time to really reflect and review the issues people face, particularly those who can feel marginalized or treated unfairly. MLK Day is not just a parade, it is a time to reflect and talk.

Part of that communication with all groups and neighborhoods is about how we can help you be safer and comfortable in your neighborhood. So we want to open lines of communication with every neighborhood. The police are the first responders in times of need as a rule. I want to foster a positive relationship between the police and community by being seen as a point of assistance. Once you see someone as a person, you can share thoughts and concerns more readily. I want to connect with the public in positive ways at meetings or events.

We want to support the neighborhood and community groups we have right now and become a part of their daily landscape to the point that, when there is a problem, the police will be a partner toward a positive resolution. All people are tired of violence and the fear that comes with it. All of us deserve a peaceful home and a good quality of life. If we can continue to partner with all minority and neighborhood groups, we can achieve that.

6. How will you create community partnerships to engage the youth?

There are already a number of groups out there that try to engage our youth. I would want to listen to them all, find the best ideas from their experience and form a collaboration group that would help be sure these good ideas are available to all youth. As I said elsewhere, the solutions may differ from neighborhood to neighborhood. But if we bring the current leaders together and find out what works, we can strategically offer it to more people. It doesn’t take money to bring together some very dedicated people and say, how can we help further your goals and our goal of helping youth make good decisions and be a blessing for their families and friends. The tools are right there, we need to facilitate it.

7. What new ways can city resources be allocated to serve youth?

If I can identify the local people who know what resources and opportunities are out there, I can move mountains. I do not need the speech-makers or policy people; I need the hands on workers who know what can actually be done and where to squeeze the funding from. Those folks are the treasure of a community. Like I said already, there are dedicated, capable people out there and we need to help facilitate their work and from time to time help them find the right tools. From experience I know that if we work through the 708 Community Mental Health Board and existing service providers, we can achieve a lot by just listening to them and helping as we can to organize efforts on a City-wide or even County-wide basis, in a consistent, planned way.

8. What ideas/plans do you have to address the violence in the community?

There are two approaches that must be done in conjunction with one another. First, to anyone who wants to get out of the world of violence and drugs, we will find a way to help. We have to show people that there is a better life possible. Hopelessness and anger can drive people to violence and crime. So we have to address some root problems in concrete ways with education and opportunities. DACC just announced a new program to help get job skills as part of their continuing efforts to develop training and education opportunities at all levels.

Second, to those who do not want to change, we will hound you and your associates until we see you all in jail or just plain out of our community. The families tortured by violence in their neighborhoods will not accept less. Our police force will deliver on public safety by careful, best practices within the law enforcement community. So a police chief who can study the different successful models for effective law enforcement is critical. I know there are different programs that have been successful. We need to find one for our community and be consistent. I am not a police officer, so I won’t pretend to come up with any plan. I want the professionals to do that, brief me until I am convinced that is the way to go, and then I will approve it. Then the key is consistency and a firm commitment to support every officer who does their job, give them the right tools to be safe and succeed.

9. How will you use code enforcement to improve the condition and affordability of property in the community?

Part of my overall plan for both public safety and economic development is to go neighborhood by neighborhood and survey the issues in each. Code enforcement, public works, law enforcement, I and my staff will be involved. On the one hand, to the extent we can get State and Federal grants, every last dollar possible should be going to improving our image in each neighborhood and helping those unable to do so maybe spruce up their homes. Helping now before it becomes a demolition issue might be cheaper and more effective. Too many empty lots on a city block due to demolition will not attract buyers. Obviously the City cannot just fund all repairs as a matter of course, so those able to do it on their own will be encouraged by code enforcement to do so. It takes time, but we will have a strategy. For instance, the Main Street corridor that leads you to DACC is important and should look great and inviting.

One way we can help is reinstituting the neighborhood clean-up days. These were very successful in just getting the old toys and furniture to the curb instead of on the porch.

We will be on the lookout for residences that are clearly hotspots for crime and that weaken the neighborhood’s sense of safety and we will address these properties. I want to see some crime free lease provisions to make evictions for criminal activity easier. A lot of older people who made their neighborhoods wonderful places to grow families are now distraught with how run down and sometimes dangerous their neighborhood has become. But they cannot just up and move due to financial or other reasons. They cannot afford to start over. They invested their life and money here. For them we need to try hard to protect and preserve their neighborhood and try to change and turn it around.

10. How will you attract good jobs to the community?

First, there are some good jobs here already, and DACC’s new and continuing training programs will help get you there if you want to work at it. DACC offers education on many levels from training to full-fledged college education. Having said that, we do need to develop more economic growth to establish a diverse and satisfying job market. I want to see a thriving downtown and nice neighborhoods. So we need to develop a plan to grow.

Second, I want to work with every individual business here and find ways to help their business grow and develop more jobs or find new businesses that will complement them or be a good addition. Marketing is a key and the business people we have now are a great pool of talent and information to draw on. They will be invited to my office from time to time to talk about how we can be partners in growing their business. To be clear, I want to support current local business. I will always want more businesses and jobs, but I will not trade one old business for a new business. There is no net gain there and the old business has already made a commitment to Danville and we will support that commitment.

We need to be more business friendly and make sure that the people understand that the city is here to help and not hinder their growth and success. It takes time and constant attentiveness. As mayor I will be in the thick of it with my staff so we never overlook or underestimate the possibilities.

RICKEY WILLIAMS

1. What are your short term and long term strategic plans for Danville?

As Mayor, I pledge to carefully and responsibly manage the two most important parts of our community: our people and our resources. This starts by cultivating a culture of respect within our City team and for the people we serve. Government cannot do anything without first taking from citizens and businesses; therefore, we owe it to you to do the absolute best with what you provide. I want to bring strong stewardship to our City so that we can thrive and help Danville continue to be a place where people want to live, work, play, and visit!

Stewardship is the first step in enacting both short and long-term plans. It will provide us with the resources we need to meet goals and objectives. In the near term, we have and will continue to eliminate any unnecessary positions and reduce outrageous salaries. This will provide us with money to meet emergent needs such as hiring Police and Fire Chiefs, hiring 3 additional officers to restore our POP (Problem Oriented Policing) Unit. Second, we will complete asset mapping for the entire city to have an accurate portrait of the condition of everything we own and maintain such as buildings, streets, sewers (sanitary and storm), parks, equipment, etc. We need to start being proactive instead of reactive and doing so will save us millions of dollars. Third, we will invest in our neighborhoods by providing increased support for existing Neighborhood Associations and Watches and helping establish new ones; reconnecting neighbors will help citizens do their part while we do ours. We will also use strategic removal of blight and grant funds to redevelop one neighborhood at a time versus the piecemeal approach of the past. Finally, we must take business-friendly steps such as ensuring a clear process for development/redevelopment, providing incentives for use of local labor/materials, and work to bolster, not hinder, ingenuity.

All of this will allow us to meet immediate needs while providing the information we need to develop a comprehensive long-term plan and make us a community of choice.

2. Sell someone in 3 minutes why they should live in (or come back to) Danville.

Danville has one of the best costs of living in the entire country! You can buy a stately Victorian home or build your own modern masterpiece for a fraction of what it would cost you to anywhere else. Right here in Danville, we make the machines that power the world and have excellent employment opportunities ranging from the medical and educational fields to engineering and manufacturing. We have really strong community college, DACC, engaged in not only typical post-secondary education, but preparing people to work in the trades. Our citizens’ sincerity, tenacity, friendliness, and willingness to serve are incomparable! We have brilliant people who work hard to make a good life for themselves and to improve the lives of others. They are creative, artistic, and ingenious. We have a vibrant local theater and art scene, including museums and a newly remodeled grand opera house, the Fischer. Finally, if you’re more of an outdoorsman, our city has a lot of natural beauty, including a River Front, county, and state parks with hiking, fishing, and boating opportunities. If you need a great place for your kids to play, Danville has a host of awesome parks as well as a variety of public and private places to golf or play tennis. No matter what you’re looking for or what you want to do in life, we have a little bit of everything to satisfy your needs!

3. How will you regularly engage your community? How will you keep lines of communication open?

First, I will maintain an open-door policy, meeting with citizens whenever I am needed and returning phone calls and emails within 48 business hours. Second, I intend to keep answering audience comments immediately when possible and through follow-up when necessary. It is important that our citizens not only have a chance to speak their minds, but to have their questions answered and receive feedback. Third, I will have Monthly coffee/cocktails with the Mayor where we will discuss things that will be voted on at Council meetings and hear about things that our important to our people. Finally, I will regularly attend Neighborhood Association meetings and also have annual meetings in each Ward; it is important that we not only expect our citizens to come to us, but to meet with them.

4. What personal experiences have prepared you for office?

My educational training and practical management experience has given me a proven record of taking entities on the verge of collapse and turning them into prosperous pillars of the community. I am an excellent communicator who is honest, hard-working, respectful, and a good steward. In 13 years, organizations under my leadership operated in the black all but one year. At the Boys & Girls Club, we nearly doubled our revenue while serving 3 times as many children and paying off our $300,000+ mortgage (during the Great Recession). At Project Success, we’ve grown from a budget of only about $700,000 with 4 sites and less than 30 employees to a nearly $2 million budget with 15 sites and more than 120 employees by securing more than $11 million in new grants. I have shown that I manage money well and am a strong team leader; that is what we need to secure our future!

5. How would you help improve the relationship between the police and the community (particularly minority groups in the community)?

First, we will move towards more community-based policing, doing public outreach so that officers and the public have a chance to build relationships with one another in a non-law enforcement setting. This is crucial to reestablishing trust and will improve public safety and sentiment immensely. Second, we will have a summit with small roundtable-discussions between citizens and police, allowing everyone to share concerns and establish common expectations for moving foroward. This will happen at least once/year, but likely more often. Finally, we will research diversity training curriculum and secure the best one, using it to provide our officers with tools to better serve and interact with our people.

6. How will you create community partnerships to engage the youth?

This is my specialty. First, I will restore Mayor’s youth council, which I was once a part of as a student. We will meet quarterly so that I can hear about what is important to them and help empower/equip them with the tools and resources needed to effect change. Second, I intend to visit each school at least once/year and give students a chance to meet me and ask questions. I will also regularly visit out-of -school programs to interact with them in informal settings. Finally, I will meet with all youth-serving agencies in our community to strategically plan how we can all work together to better mobilize our young people to serve their peers and the larger community.

7. What new ways can city resources be allocated to serve youth?

First, we will work with Vermilion Advantage, non-profits, and/or religious organizations to create job training and employment opportunities for both youth and adults. I am an excellent grant writer and believe we can help secure outside funding to make this happen. Second, we can create youth internship opportunities within the City. This would allow students to shadow City employees who serve in the field the students hope to someday while providing them with practical experience.

8. What ideas/plans do you have to address the violence in the community?

We will take three steps. First, we will change the way we patrol the city from a rotational basis to assigning officers a specific area. This will allow the residents to get to know and trust them (which will help build rapport), and allow the officers to get a better handle on the neighborhood (allowing more crimes to be solved). Second, we need to reinstitute our POP (Problem Oriented Policing) Unit to focus on particular crimes (violence, drug, and gang activity) in particular areas. We had 3 times fewer murders and a drastic increase in drug busts when this unit was in place, and we need to restore it. Third, we need to work to establish programs like the Violence Interrupters used in places around the country. They use individuals who have left a life a crime to work with those who are currently involved and help them transition out of a violent lifestyle. When shootings, etc., happen, they meet with the families on both sides to provide supports and interventions to keep the situation from escalating. They also do preventative programming to preclude such instances from occurring in the first place.

9. How will you use code enforcement to improve the condition and affordability of property in the community?

First, we will work with homeowners and landlords to improve their properties with a goal of remediation versus collecting fines. We would only use the latter to hold those who fail to do so accountable. We will ensure that our code enforcement officers make those who have limited means aware of the grant programs the City has available to help them remediate issues. Second, we could make them ambassadors of community pride by implementing monthly awards to those who either maintain their homes well or who have made drastic home improvements. The inspectors would choose the winners in each of their respective areas and display a sign in the winners’ yards for a month. This is not directly related to inspectors, but I would support temporary tax freezes (City only) for individuals who substantially improve their property.

10. How will you attract good jobs to the community?

The best way we can attract more good jobs to the community is to ensure we meet the needs of existing employers. Local businesses are clamoring for good workers and often struggle to hire them. Therefore, as mentioned above, I would work with DACC, local non-profits, and/or religious entities to write grants which bring job training and life skills courses for potential employees. We must help our citizens be job-ready. Second, we will take business-friendly steps such as ensuring a clear process for development/redevelopment, providing incentives for use of local labor/materials, and work to bolster, not hinder, ingenuity. Finally, instead of simply responding to business RFP’s, we will actively pursue industry partnerships to bring jobs to the area.

ALDERMAN CANDIDATES

SHARON "SHERRY" PICKERING

1. Short-term plans are to have a balanced budget with enough money in our reserve to carry us through the year with some left over. This will help us long term. We must concentrate on what nature has provided us, including Vermilion River, Lake Vermilion, all of our beautiful parks, etc. One draw we have is our River Walk. The U of I engineering students designed very impressive proposals for this project; but, again this would take money. We need to look at grants and investors to make it happen.

2. Danville is a very unique city. For people who love nature, we have much to offer with our lake, river, and parks, including Forrest Glenn, Kickapoo State Park, Kennekuk County Park, and Vermilion County Conservation District. These parks offer camping, canoeing, great fishing, boating, walking trails, biking, and bird watching. We also have Heron County Park, which has a board walk in the marsh area of Lake Vermilion and a look-out stand over the river, another wonderful place to view wildlife.

Our downtown offers unique shops; mural paintings by the Wall Dogs that tell the history of Danville; Temple Plaza with its beautiful brick sculptures; Sign Garden; and historic Fisher Theater. For those who want to further their education, we have Danville Area Community College with a beautiful campus and NJCAA Basketball Tournament that brings students and hundreds of visitors to our city. We have very active organizations and clubs who sponsor varies activities in our community, including Balloons Over Vermilion and Festival of Trees. For golfers, we offer three beautiful golf courses.

If you are a reader and love to explore with books, we have a beautiful library. The Danville Public Library also provides many programs for the children as well as adults. Our children in Danville have numerous opportunities in the schools, not only for their education, but for all the extracurricular activities, such as sports, music (Show Choir, Marching Band, etc.), Debate Club, along with so many others. We also have three private grade schools and one private high school. The Veterans Administration Hospital draws people from all over the state. Not only does it provide services for our veterans and their families, but also helps to support employment in Danville. We have a variety of job opportunities ranging from fast food services to engineering.

When asked if I am proud of my home town, my reply is always "yes." I'm proud of things commonly associated with us, like great hospitality, appreciation for the simple things, unspoiled natural beauty, inexpensive fun, strong family ties, friendliness, a slower pace, front porches, good food, hugging, showing emotions, and working hard. In summary: that is why I have lived in Danville all my life and will continue to live here the rest of my life. Of course, then I will be laid to rest in one of our beautiful cemeteries. Although we are proud of these things, we are ashamed of the terrible statistics we often show. But, together we must think "positive" and take personal responsibility for making them better.

3. I engage daily with my constituents, by email, phone, and in person. We have a City of Danville website that lists my email address and phone number. Citizens can also call the City of Danville to get the information. I encourage our citizens to attend city council meetings to voice their opinions. When I first took office, I had a Ward 3 meeting to see what problems and concerns the people had in my ward and in our city. I also started and continued neighborhood meetings at my house, with a code inspector attending, so we could address the issues in our neighborhood and city. I organized clean ups in our area. I have always tried to return calls and emails as soon as possible and will continue to do so.

4. I first became interested in our city government when I was asked to serve on the Fire Sustainability Committee. I have now served four years on the council. It has been an education, and one I have enjoyed. My four-year learning experience has given me an insight of how our city is run, including our budget and problems the city faces daily.

5. We need to build a better rapport between our police officers and our community. I think we can do this by a rotating system with our officers to include: getting out on the streets to know the people in their area; and attending organizational meetings where minority groups are involved.

6. Danville's youth are very important for our future, and we must start when they are young. There is a need for partnership with our schools on their requests and activities; sponsor more programs for our children in the downtown area; and assure this is a safe place where they want to stay and raise their families.

7. We must explore new ways the city resources can be allocated to serve the youth. One suggestion would be the addition of three police officers who could plan programs that involve our children, and participate in a mentoring program with younger children.

8. I feel the best way to address the violence in our community is to reinstate the Problem Oriented Policing (P.O.P.). This would add three police officers to concentrate in the areas that have the highest crime rate.

9. Using code enforcement can improve the condition of our city by cleaning up areas, citing houses on violations, and locating houses that need to be condemned. Being an alderman, I use code enforcement on a weekly basis; sometimes daily. There is always something that I contact my inspectors about, whether it is a violation happening in my ward (or anywhere in the city), checking to see where we stand on a citation, or advice on what to do in certain situations. The problem, where we get slowed down, is the legal system. That is where I think we need to improve. We need to revisit some of our ordinances to change them. There are people out there who know how to abuse the system, and we need to stop that.

10. First, we have to make our city attractive to businesses. We also need to make it business friendly, and that comes from our city officials. It is up to us to make sure that companies see a city that manages their money and has good infrastructure. In our defense, we do have jobs in our city! The problem being people who are not able to pass the tests needed for hiring, and I believe this is where we need to concentrate. As a city, we also need to promote the classes that are available through DACC to help our unemployed be more employable.

BOB IVERSON

1. What are your short term and long term strategic plans for Danville?

My short-term priorities are:

-- Re-examine unnecessary city spending on items like beautification projects and concentrate on fixing roads and keeping the public safe.

-- Have department heads come to the full city council each year and justify their entire budget so aldermen will be able to make more informed decisions. The budget should not be constructed by only the mayor. The council should be active in developing the budget from day one, since they are representing the citizens of the city.

-- Hire more police officers, but also develop more programs to get the police and the community to work together to combat drugs and violence.

-- Rather than build new apartment buildings in the downtown area as proposed by the Danville Housing Authority, work with the Housing Authority to renovate abandoned houses in the city to provide affordable and attractive homes. Perhaps this could be developed through a local agency like Habitat for Humanity

Long range priorities include

-- A multi-year spending plan, not just a year to year budget. Looking forward would allow Danville to avoid the budget panic that seems to develop each year.

-- Develop a plan to reduce the city’s energy cost. I worked with a University of Illinois department that helped businesses reduce their environmental impact and save money. I brought this company to the First Presbyterian Church to develop a sustainability report. By tying this to the energy improvement and environmental efforts of the church, First Presbyterian was able to win an Illinois Sustainability Award, the first church in the state to win one. The city of Danville has made some energy improvements, but I am convinced that more could be done. I will use my experience and contacts to help the city reduce energy costs and help the environment.

2. Sell someone in 3 minutes why they should live in (or come back to) Danville.

What makes Danville a great place to live in is the people who inhabit the city. They are always working on fund-raising for worthy causes and helping those in need in the community. There is a community spirit about helping others that you will not find everywhere. The community leaders also work together on mutual needs, there is no concern about political parties in getting things done. In fact, the Danville City Council is non-partisan so there will never be any concern about doing something for the political party instead of the people. Danville has a good community college, proximity to several major universities, recent updates in retail shopping, a good fire department keeping the community save and keeping insurance low, quality healthcare through the OSF Medical System, and the Veteran Affairs Medical Center. For sports, there are three inexpensive public golf courses, a college level baseball team, an ice hockey team, and a variety of high schools sports. The cultural possibilities are unmatched for a community the size of Danville. There is a Symphony Orchestra, a Danville Municipal Band, The Danville Light Opera, the Red Mask Player, the Beef House theatre, and other organizations, There is a low cost of living, affordable housing, and light traffic. Danville is proud of its history and ready to meet the needs of the future. It is a good place to raise children and grandchildren.

3. How will you regularly engage your community? How will you keep lines of communication open?

There needs to be more communication between the city and residents. Communication has been my professional life as a newspaper and radio reporter as well as a public information officer for the local schools, local hospital, and a department at the University of Illinois. I would have quarterly meetings with the voters and a monthly radio show about city hall (including other council members). I also use social media by having a Facebook page for citizens to learn about city activities and ask questions. There also will be e-mails where citizens can contact me at home or city hall. There is no perfect way to communicate, it requires an on-going commitment to speaking out and listening to the community.

4. What personal experiences have prepared you for office?

I was in the first group of aldermen elected when Danville changed to the alderman form of government. I know how to help operate city government during a difficult time. I have been away from city hall for a number of years and offer a new voice that will look at alternative ways to fund and operate the city. As I said in the previous answer, I have the communication background to work with the public and city leaders to make government work in these difficult times. In my professional jobs, I have worked with a variety of people from local residents to international scientists at the University of Illinois. I will bring this communication skill to the city council and the public.

5. How would you help improve the relationship between the police and the community (particularly minority groups in the community)?

The police need to be in the community more to let people get to know them and learn how the police and citizens can work together. Police officers should patrol in a specific area rather than the city in general so they can build personal relationships. Patrols could include bike patrols or foot patrols instead in patrol cars. Relationship with groups like the 3 Kings of Peace and the Housing Authority must be expanded.

6. How will you create community partnerships to engage the youth?

One of the saddest aspects of the recent violence in Danville is that so much of it has been done by teenagers. The city needs to develop a task force of community leaders, school officials, health care professionals, law enforcement officials, housing authority officials, and others to consider ways to help the young people in our city. We need to find ways to show these youngsters that life can be good and something they can succeed at without violence.

7. What new ways can city resources be allocated to serve youth?

The city should develop youth summer programs in the parks. These could be partnerships with the Boys & Girls Club, Danville Housing Authority, Project Success, YMCA, and local churches. The city should have youth internships with city employees to give young people an examination of possible future jobs. The city should work with local businesses to develop more internships and apprentice programs.

8. What ideas/plans do you have to address the violence in the community?

This may be the most important issue facing the council, and the most difficult to fix. Violence and drugs are a national problem, not just a Danville problem. I agree with the budget proposal to hire 3 more officers and restore the POP program. But we also need more police involvement with city residents. Trust is a two way street that must be restored. As I stated in a previous answer, city leaders need to develop a task force with local schools, health care providers, local businesses, community leaders and social service agencies to reach young people and give them ways to succeed and alternatives to using drugs and joining gangs. We must reach these children with the good news that a crime-free life is worth living.

9. How will you use code enforcement to improve the condition and affordability of property in the community?

One of the current budget proposals is to cut one of the code enforcement officers. This is a bad idea. Danville needs to enforce codes to make housing attractive and safe for residents. Also, code enforcement officers are revenue producers, so eliminating one can cost the city money instead of saving money. The city needs to be aggressive in enforcing codes to protect residents, beautify the community and bring in revenue from fines, etc. The city, however, also has to work with small business owners and entrepreneurs to make certain rigid code enforcement isn’t hurting business.

10. How will you attract good jobs to the community?

A large part of the challenge has been state taxes and policies that do not promote economic development. Danville needs to work closely with its state lawmakers to improve the economic outlook. But the city council also has not helped this with its actions that make Danville seem like a high tax city. Danville has suffered badly under the inaccurate articles in social media. It is hard to complete for new economic development when prospective companies see negative stories. Danville needs to take a social media offensive and generate numerous stories about what a great place this is to live. Danville offers a good quality of life, special activities and places, the community college, a first class fire department, etc. Danville is often its own worst enemy. We need to start telling the world that we like it here, and it is a good place to live. Business are more likely to come to Danville, or expand in the city, if they hear about a great place to live where the citizens enjoy their life and work together on any problems.