Ward 5 Alderman candidates Matthew Koetters (left) joined WJBC political blogger Bob Bradley and opponent Jennifer McDade square off on the issues. (photo by Beth Whisman/WJBC)
By Zach Dietmeier
BLOOMINGTON - The candidates for Bloomington Ward 5 Alderman had an opportunity to make their views known in debate fashion on Thursday.
Incumbent Jennifer McDade and challenger Matthew Koetters joined WJBC political blogger Bob Bradley and shared their most important issues for the next four years.
"We'll face issues around infrastructure and we'll continue to struggle in putting together budgets when faced with declining revenues and we'll face struggles with pensions," McDade said.
"What we owe in unfunded pension liability and unfunded road maintenance is a major challenge," Koetters said. "We need to get back to focusing on the essential items - our streets, our sewers, our safety - and we need to figure out what we will do with the non-essential services our city is offering right now."
The downtown liquor debate
Koetters said there is a lack of urgency in dealing with liquor issues in downtown Bloomington.
"I believe it's important for the downtown areas to be preserved because it is important financially and historically," Koetters said. "When you look at the recent actions that city has taken, it doesn't appear that they are serious about this issue."
McDade strongly disagreed.
"Our council couldn't be more serious about downtown, I don't think our staff could be working harder to address some of the situations, and I don't think the downtown stakeholders could be more engaged than they are," McDade said.
Both pointed to the bar scene as needing improvements in the immediate future. Late night weekend activity has been a longtime concern for citizens and the council. A liquor moratorium will remain in place until May for new licenses in the downtown area.
As the April election approaches, McDade said intercity relationships are strong between Bloomington and Normal.
"A lot of residents tell me they don't exactly drive across Division Street and see a clear dividing line," McDade said. "They expect that we will continue to work together to find new efficiencies."
While she pointed to the trails, parks, and pools as postive cooperations, Koetters gives a plus to the bus system but warns of Bloomington trying to be too much like Normal.
"I think the cooperation between the two municipalities is important but I do think there are difference between them," Koetters said. "Not everything that's good for Normal is good for Bloomington."
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at email@example.com.