For Bloomington-Normal residents, the election season continues into the spring. Local elections will be contested on February 28 and April 4. On February 28, there are primaries for the Bloomington mayoral race, narrowing a field of five candidates to two. On April 4, there are general elections in Normal and Bloomington.
Incumbent Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner is running for re-election. Renner touts his improvement in City Hall transparency, improvement of infrastructure, economic redevelopment, and stable budget. The city budget received attention from the other mayoral candidates, but Renner says the city has structural debt and has come in under budget during his years in office. He wants to continue to improve the streets, and revitalize Downtown Bloomington if re-elected. Democratic challenger Diana Hauman critiques Renner’s city government for a lack of a long term vision for the city, an adversarial relationship with the Town of Normal, and squabbling within City Hall.
Former controversial radio host Ian Bayne critiqued high property tax rates in Bloomington. He wants to see the city buy all of their goods and services locally, repair the streets, and lower the tax rates. He, and the other Republican candidates, see out of county advisors and services as easy places to cut as to not impact operations. Bayne also received criticism for dissidents being silenced on his campaign Facebook page. Multiple audience members at a forum with the McLean County Democratic Party claimed to have been blocked from the page for posing questions. Bayne claims that only those using vulgarities were blocked.
Retired firefighter Robert Fike has a platform of “across the board cuts” and reversing Renner’s “tax and spend policies”. He raised issue with frivolous spending in a potential Downtown Bloomington hotel, the soon-to-be-renamed U.S. Cellular Coliseum, and the unoccupied #5 fire station in south Bloomington. Fike lamented about a dearth in a long term strategy for infrastructure, claiming it was a detriment to business coming to Bloomington. “The only time a street gets fixed is when a water main breaks, and that seems to happen every day now.”
Kevin Lower is the fifth candidate for the mayor’s desk. While meeting with the Democratic Party, he opened with the fact that he is a Republican who lives on the Democratic stronghold of the west side. His message was that the polarized political climate needed to come together, and get back to city management basics. He believes in free markets, and cutting city costs. Insiders anticipate a tight race on February 28 in the primary, and on April 4 in the general election.
Normal mayor, Chris Koos, is running for re-election for the 4th time. During his 16 years in office, he has pushed for the revitalization of Uptown Normal, along with the Uptown Station project. He has created a “Sustainable Normal” initiative which has garnered national acclaim. Koos was an honorable mention in the United States Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Awards. The town received the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in Civic Places from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Koos’ opponent, high school physics teacher Marc Tiritilli, believes that the town of Normal has become burdened with these initiatives. He says there’s a gap in funding for pensions for first responders. Though the mayor’s office has been making the progress required by state law and expects to be funding the pensions fully independently by 2020, Tiritilli thinks that it is insufficient progress, and that the Town of Normal will be unable to reach its goal. One of his solutions is to lower the benefits to future first responders, or change the pension system to be in the style of a 401k. Tiritilli told WGLT’s Charlie Schelenker that he didn’t want to see the property tax rate rise, and would ideally like to see it lowered. Tiritilli would not specify by how much he would like to see the property tax rate lowered by, and what would be cut to compensate for the lower cash flows.