QUINCY -- Two candidates running for a 3rd Ward seat on the Quincy City Council in the April 4 election say public safety issues are important to the voters whom they hope to represent on the city's northeastern side.
Tom Ernst, a Republican, said public safety "should be our top priority." He said the closing of Fire Station 6 at 24th and Cedar two years ago slowed response times in the 3rd Ward.
"Closing or opening any station or public safety facility without a plan is not the course I would support," Ernst said.
Joel Logue, a Democrat, also supports public safety but proposes "a moratorium on pension enrollments" to lower the long-term costs of hiring public safety employees. He would like to see a 401(k)-style retirement system set up for people hired by the city after Jan. 1, 2020. Logue's ideas also would require the city to move away from programs spelled out under state law.
"This would allow the city, police and fire unions ample time to iron out all negotiations for the transition and allow the city to calculate the contributions needed to fully fund pensions" for current employees, which would continue to be funded, Logue said.
Logue was born and raised in Quincy, but he worked for five years at ADM in Peoria as a process engineer. While living in Peoria, Logue was impressed with the program that has been retooled as Q-TAP -- the Quincy Turn Around Partnership. The anti-violence initiative seeks to bring together churches, social service agencies, businesses and the law enforcement community to identify and work with people who are likely to commit violent crimes. The Peoria program "made a great difference for their community" and could do the same in Quincy, Logue said.
Ernst said violent crime is a challenge for Quincy.
"I believe we do not have a revenue issue, but a priority issue" with respect to budgeting for public safety, he said.
A Quincy native who has served on the Quincy Park Board, Ernst also has pledged to work with other aldermen to prioritize core services, infrastructure needs and clean water.
Both men praise the strategic plan process. They want to see the city promote jobs and be a business-friendly community.
There also are some concerns.
"I see Quincy regressing from the city I remember growing up on the northwest side. Quincy has always been a family-oriented community, and I want to help make sure that continues," Logue said.
Ernst worries that a property tax freeze that has been debated by Illinois lawmakers would make it difficult for the city to pay its debt and pension obligations.
"If there is no growth and a (property tax) freeze, we would have to make other adjustments" to cover obligations, he said.
Talking with other 3rd Ward residents, Ernst said streets, sidewalks and water are always topics of interest. He said persistent low water pressure in the ward might be resolved by a new pump station, but "it has to be fixed and be fixed soon" as the Quincy School District prepares to open a new school building in the area.
Logue has been involved with the Quincy Humane Society for many years. He also volunteered as a service dog trainer for people with special needs while living in Peoria.
"Growing up, I saw very few people who looked like me getting involved in the community in a positive manner," Logue said. "I want to change that for the next generation. I want to show young minorities that you can come from challenging backgrounds and even struggle in school and still have a rewarding career, a fantastic family and the ability to give back to the community."
The 3rd Ward seat is being vacated by Alderman Jared Holbrook, a Republican, who chose not to seek re-election to a second term.
Employment: Self-employed, pre-arrangement counselor at James O'Donnell Funeral Home.
Education: Graduated from Catholic Boys High School, Quincy, 1974; Culver-Stockton College with bachelor's degree in economics, 1978.
Political Experience: Quincy Park Board, 1993-2005 and 2011-present, nine years as president and three as vice president; Illinois Senate campaign, 2004; Quincy treasurer campaign, 2013.
Family: Two adult children.
Employment: Electrical engineer at BASF, Palmyra, Mo.
Education: Graduated from Quincy High School, 2002; Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Mo., with bachelor's degrees in electrical engineering and engineering management, 2009.
Political Experience: None. Seeking to join the Human Rights Commission.
Family: Wife, Melody, and one child.