Bradfield, Marlin agree to disagree at Urbana mayoral debate
Underscoring Urbana’s needs and defining his prospective mayoral role as distinct from any personal agenda, Republican Rex Bradfield tussled with but also generally struck similar chords with Democrat Diane Marlin at their first debate before the mayoral election on Tuesday.
"This (candidacy) is not about me; this is about people like me who really like Urbana and what it's offered us over the years,” Bradfield said, according to Champaign-Urbana's News-Gazette.
He stressed that his focus is largely on business and the tax base. Marlin highlighted her top issues as public safety and community connections.
Although Marlin shares Bradfield’s interest in economic development, they approach it differently. Marlin favors input from stakeholders past and present; Bradfield prefers to organize committees drawing spokespersons from all walks of city life — government, academia, construction-related industry and finance.
The two readily agreed on some points, such as the desire to employ a city administrator and fortify the local police force, but diverged when it came to items such as tax increment financing (TIF) districts and their stance on a legal issue regarding the Carle Foundation, the Urbana-based not-for-profit health care provider whose tax-exempt status is currently central to local debate.
Bradfield, an engineer by trade, told University of Illinois’ WILL-AM 580 (willradio.tv.online) that the Carle issue has created tension between it and the city, arguing that the publicity could impact Urbana’s capacity for attracting key job creators. Furthermore, Carle’s benevolent work could be compromised.
“Who’s going to replace the charity that Carle does?” he asked, according to the radio station. "If you take their tax money and they say, well, fine, we’ll give you the tax money, and we’ll stop doing 6 to 8 million dollars in charity.”
Marlin, on the other hand, said that the entire applicable law — a measure passed in 2012 — needs to be replaced, adding that the legal language needs clarification regardless of the outcome.
The two candidates also deviated on their views of TIF districts. Marlin believes new TIF districts will spur development, citing available vacant commercial space. While agreeing that office space needs to be available, Bradfield, however, disapproves of the practice.
“I hate government giving people money to develop in an area and turning their back on the people that have been there forever, and they don’t get any money,” Bradfield told WILL. "Where’s the competition?”
In an interview with Michael Kiser of the News-Gazette-owned WDWS radio station on March 21, Bradfield said he likes the response he’s been getting.
This is Bradfield's third consecutive campaign for mayor. Four years ago, he came in second in a four-way race, missing the chance to oust incumbent Mayor Laurel Prussing. He told WDWS that people truly seem willing to embrace change this time.
“I don’t get the feeling that this election is as polarized as it used to be [between parties],” he said. “I think people are interested in seeing what direction the new mayor takes the city in … they’re looking for new ideas to try and get out from underneath the tax burden.”
The candidate added that he would focus on deterring crime and developing downtown business, according to Fox News.
“Of course I have the issue of the sanctuary city,” Bradfield said. “But if you look [at] my platform that I had four years ago, I knew that was coming. I said I wanted to put a help desk at the city of Urbana to help people who were here from other countries who just needed help.”
Marlin, an alderwoman representing Ward 7, won the Democratic spot on the ballot in the primary, edging out Prussing.
The debate was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Champaign County, the Champaign County NAACP and the News-Gazette.
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