These responses were submitted by Alex Campbell, a candidate for Normal Town Council. The questionnaire was prepared by GLT in partnership with the League of Women Voters of McLean County. See more candidate responses.
What in your personal and professional background has prepared you for this position? Include any experience serving in local government.
I am a junior at Illinois State University and I am studying Integrated Marketing Communications and Political Science. Over the past 3 years I have spent time slowly becoming more and more involved on campus and in Normal. I have been a mentee and a mentor at ISU, have planned and implemented inclusive events on and off campus, and I have advocated for students' rights. My most applicable experience has been working in Student Government at ISU over the past year. I have lead the "you'll be fine, wait to sign" initiative to push back open leasing dates, I have advocated for the implementation of the recycling ordinance, and I have written legislation to try and expand inclusivity at ISU.
Through my involvement, I have learned a lot about leading and about myself. I now know that it is best to lead by example and that I am a very quick learner. I work extremely hard to accomplish goals when I see the possibility of bettering lives.
Since 2000, the town has embarked on a massive redevelopment of Uptown Normal. What do you think of what’s been done so far? What should be done in Uptown in the future?
I love Uptown. The area is a great social setting, a place to de-stress, has great food options, and has a phenomenal atmosphere. However, I think we should slow down some of the development in Uptown. The area is pretty updated and aesthetically pleasing. I think there are other areas of Normal that would benefit from building new office buildings and receiving money for improved infrastructure. While Uptown is great, it is great because we like it in its current state. Let's hope that we can enjoy this Uptown for a while before we need to adjust to a new one.
When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?
I think that incentives (especially tax incentives) are a great and powerful tool. However, it needs to be used effectively. Priority for tax incentives should always be given to companies that appear to offer long-term, sustainable job opportunities.
If faced with a challenging budget situation, what would be your approach to balancing taxes and fees against preserving or expanding programs and services?
Social programs and services are essential to local government practices. We need to take care of our most vulnerable citizens over anything else. Taxes are essentially the government and the people investing in their community and in the future of their community. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take care of themselves. When people fall short, their government should be able to step up and assist them in getting back on their feet. In challenging budget situations, I would always look to put citizens' needs over the Town's needs.
What new programs or initiatives do you think the town should pursue?
We need to start by adding a civilians' review board. Bloomington and Normal worked with very similar groups to try and pass this about a year ago and Bloomington was successful where Normal was not. There is a large policy force in Normal (not to mention ISU PD to add to that) and there needs to be a check and balance to that. Civilians' companies (against law enforcement or otherwise) are extremely important. A government is there to listen to and better the lives of the people that elected their officials. This starts and ends by giving everyone the opportunity and the platform to discuss their issues.
What should be the town’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?
The town needs to move towards more local development. There are smaller development companies that want to do business here but we keep outsourcing these jobs to bigger, outside companies. We need to keep construction jobs and money within the town. Also, we need more pro-labor developers and maintenance companies. The town desperately needs folks that are specifically trained to fix certain issues to be involved in development and maintenance. This would greatly improve life for folks within their places of residence. The town also needs more mixed-income housing. I would like to see more variety in places to live. We need more options in between student housing and owning a $300,000 home.
Do you think the town needs a full-time communications manager and/or economic development coordinator? Why or why not?
The more staff for the town, the better. The council and even the mayor are part-time positions. They can't solve every problem nor be responsible for every piece of information within the town. These two positions could have a great impact on the town. Having staff members that are directly in charge of these specific tasks would ensure that they are always at the forefront of conversations and decisions that the Town makes.
Do you support either physical expansion of the Normal Public Library at its current site or construction of a new, larger building? Why or why not?
Yes and yes. Either one would be fine with me. I don't see a ton of problem with the current location of the library. However, I do recognize that to have a large expansion they would portably need another plot of land. The Normal Public Library offers a lot to the community and its members. The amount of resources (after-school programs, literacy programs, book clubs, events, etc.) that they offer is just incredible. Libraries are the types of establishments that hold together successful towns.
Do you think the town should offer up money, land, or other incentives to support development of a multisport complex in McLean County? Why or not?
I think that Normal is about a decade behind on a multisport complex. There are so many other projects (like the library) that could use the money that would have a much greater impact on the community. I do think that a multisport complex could bring in a decent amount of tourism money. However, I don't think we should offer up too much. Land needs to be the first priority in a project like this. If we can't find a large enough space to build this complex in then we should just stop there.