Voters were given the opportunity to hear Streator City Council candidates introduce themselves and answer five questions Thursday during a candidates forum, including questions about job creation and the future of the city’s 911 ambulance service.
Incumbents Timothy Geary and Jacob Darby participated, along with David Reed, David “Moose” Conner and Scott Scheuer, in the forum organized by the Streator Area Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Eastwood. Candidate Anthony Hartley was not present and mayoral candidates Tara Bedei and Brian Crouch also participated in the same format.
Geary, Darby, Reed and Hartley are vying for two seats carrying a four-year term, while Conner and Scheuer are opposing each other for a seat with a two-year term.
Introduction and closing remarks
Darby, a father of five, said he’s been on the council for a year and still learning how it works. He’s worked at factories and served four years in the Army: “I would bring a unique perspective to the council, and leadership as a whole, knowing what people really need and working toward to achieve that.”
Reed cited more than 40 years of participation in volunteerism, as well as being elected to City Council in 1997 and serving 18 years on the library board, including five years as its president: “We’ve lost some experience and leadership in City Hall ... I’m not saying anything about current board members, but we have a big vacuum of leadership and experience. That’s why I’m running, to bring that leadership and experience I’ve accumulated over last 40 years to the City Council.”
Conner, 62, who has been married for 28 years and has two children, worked for the city for 30 years in the public works department before taking other jobs. He’s served 16 years on the Streator Elementary School Board, including four years as president: “I’m running because I can make a difference. I’d like to see us step up our police protection.”
Geary said he and his wife raised their child in Streator, where he was born and raised. He’s been on the council for the past two years and believes it is moving in the right direction and would like to see it continue that way: “There’s so much left in this town to be had, just now starting to scrape the surface, something will come to fruition soon.”
Scheuer, who grew up between Streator and Wenona, moved to the city in 2008 with his wife, calling Streator his home. He said he’s committed to transparency, accountability and working with community members to build a better future: “Streator is our home. We have chosen to live here, work here and raise our family here ... I believe in our community and I want to make a difference.”
On firefighters being cross-trained as EMTs
Reed said he supports the idea, because cross-training in any business and in any industry is a good thing, especially in this situation where keeping everything in house allows the city to control personnel and costs.
Conner also supported the idea, saying firefighters provide faster and improved ambulance coverage, and he said it could become a revenue source for the city.
Geary said he favored the idea because he believed contracted personnel may come and go, but the firefighters “are not going anywhere.” He said it was the best way to maintain the health of the community.
Scheuer said one of the best ways to promote economic growth is to provide better city services and he believes the firefighters being cross-trained as EMTs would do so.
Darby said in a perfect world he would love to have the firefighters cross-trained, but he would have to see the numbers and the data before he made an absolute answer.
On how the council can attract job creators
Conner said he would like to get together with business leaders, school leaders, state officials and look for future trends and needs of existing businesses and those looking to relocate. He also was in favor of a service to help citizens with job application/interviewing skills.
Geary said the city needs to be aggressive with its assets and sell itself.
Scheuer was in favor of a more robust system connecting potential employees with available jobs and helping them with the skills needed to apply for them.
Darby said he would like to see the city improve its communication with prospective business and industry. He believes the best approach is figuring out what prospective business wants and providing what they need, believing Streator has all the tools to do so.
Reed was concerned with how the city voted against a $30,000 incentive to attract a prospective Arby’s restaurant, saying it sent a message to other investors “you don’t need to go to Streator, they’re not interested in bringing new business.” He said he knows that wasn’t the intent of the council, but that was the message that was sent, saying more professionalism was needed.
What would you change?
Geary said the city’s image. He wants residents to take more pride in their community and their properties. He said volunteers work hard to make the community better.
Scheurer wants the community to do more to address the ongoing drug abuse issue. He said the city should try to get them the help they need, or at least pointed in the right direction, because he knows there are services available, but they may not be communicated well.
Darby said he wants better communication on the council. He said there are times he believes the council didn’t receive data necessary to make critical votes. He also would like the council to communicate better with residents.
Reed would like to see the visual image of the community improve. He said this starts with the public works department “cutting down the weeds,” then neighbors reporting on their neighbors to take care of their properties. He said the more pride people take in their community, the more they will work to clean up their neighborhoods.
Conner said he would like to see improved streets and alleys. He suggested the city utilize its oil and chip machine to fill potholes and cracks in the streets, as well as oil and chip the worst alleys in town. He said doing so would save future labor on the public works staff.
What can Streator learn from another community?
Scheurer said quality of life issues don’t have to be on a large scale. He said other communities have lawn and leaf pickup services and don’t require their residents to bag them. He would like to see Streator explore that service.
Darby said he would like the city to explore more general recreational opportunities, either with parks or businesses in that regard. He also believes exploring more annexation will benefit everyone.
Reed would like the city to be more aggressive with annexation. He said he doesn’t believe in forced annexation, but he would like to see the city educate residents in unincorporated areas on the benefits of coming into the city. He said residents will be getting full-time fire and police departments, among other services, for roughly $150 more in property taxes, adding the more people who join the city, the lower taxes will be everybody.
Conner supports more law enforcement. He said neighboring towns are “cracking down a little bit more.” He said the police department is understaffed, with officers working 16 to 18 hours a day per shift. He is concerned about overworking employees and creating a dangerous situation. He said more law enforcement can help reduce vandalism and make the city a better place to live and visit.
Geary said the city needs a greater, more expansive economic plan. He said other communities have had success with growing on interstates and believes Streator needs to attract more manufacturing businesses utilizing the three nearby interstates.