These responses were submitted by Jeff Crabill, a candidate for Bloomington City Council in Ward 8. 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 have worked as an attorney for 25 years, including 10 years representing State Farm insureds in court and the last 7 serving as a Corporate attorney for State Farm. In the legal work I do, you have to listen, ask the right questions and build a consensus. I plan to bring those same skills to Council. I graduated from the Multicultural Leadership Program which has taught me key leadership skills and introduced me to many people in the community. Bloomington 101 taught me a great deal about the City and introduced me to department heads and other employees of the City. After graduating from Bloomington 101, I was appointed to serve on the Cultural Commission.
What would be your approach to building effective working relationships with other aldermen, the mayor, and city staff?
The best way to build effective working relationships with people is to sit and meet with people face to face. You need to learn their life perspective and what is important to them. Relationships are built slowly and over time. I have already met with many current members of council and more than a dozen departments heads and staff members of the City.
What new programs or initiatives do you think the city should pursue?
We should focus on fixing infrastructure, which includes more than $100 million in deferred maintenance. Upon the basis of that improved infrastructure, people will want to start new businesses and grow existing businesses. Improved infrastructure should include making City streets, sidewalks and crosswalks more accessible; providing small financial incentives to owners of older commercial buildings to make their entrances accessible; and improving bus stop access.
When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?
The benefits have to outweigh the costs. An incentivized economic development project should benefit everyone in the community for a long period of time. The impact on the taxing bodies should take priority in consideration. Incentive agreements should include claw back provisions based on the developer meeting targeted outcomes. Any agreement should require local labor, preferably union labor at prevailing wages. Priority should be given to manufacturing type businesses that can serve as economic generators, bringing in money from outside the community. We should also try to keep any incentive as short term as possible such as the five year abatement for the Foundry development.
What specifically would you support to make Downtown Bloomington a more attractive destination for residents, tourists, and business owners?
First, Downtown Bloomington is already an attractive destination, whether that is the BCPA, the Museum, the many artist studios, restaurants and specialty shops. We have multiple festivals and events that bring in thousands of residents and tourists. Improving accessibility for downtown businesses will help. We should look to implement some of the ideas from the Downtown Task Force Committee such as create more and wider pedestrian walkways, more shade, more ground level retail, more street facing windows, more street art and more public plazas. We should continue to encourage new businesses to start and grow downtown. At this time, I favor more incremental growth rather than a catalyst type project.
What should be the city’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?
The City should work to create public-private partnerships and focus on mixed use developments that serve multiple income levels. Zoning and code issues should be reviewed that would allow for creation of more duplexes and living areas in the upper floors of downtown buildings.
City staff say O’Neil Pool needs to be replaced and the public library needs to expand. Should the city pursue those projects? If so, how should they be funded?
Both projects should be pursued and have for too long been ignored. Turning O’Neil into an aquatics center would serve as a needed community place for those on the west side and serve as an attraction for the larger community. The library likely should double in size to meet the needs of the community, similar to the size of the library in Champaign. We need to look at all funding sources, including public/private partnerships, grants, capital campaigns and the issuance of bonds. We should finalize a capital improvement plan that includes these projects and infrastructure improvements.
A recent Governing magazine investigation found a big disparity in median incomes between white and black households in Bloomington. What can the city do to address this and other inequalities that exist within the community?
Key reasons for this disparity include long-term systemic discrimination such as redlining and denial of access to capital. Solutions need to come from all levels of government, including at the local level. Some ideas for the City to address these issues would include making sure everyone is paid a living wage, putting protections in place to minimize discrimination in hiring, expanding availability of union apprenticeships, increasing affordable housing options in all parts of the City, opening credit availability with reasonable terms and making sure that our economic development activities include promoting small businesses in communities of color.
What additional steps should the city take, if any, to better protect and serve local immigrants, especially those who are undocumented?
We need all residents to feel welcomed. Undocumented immigrants need to feel safe in reporting crimes without the fear of law enforcement communicating with federal immigration officials. We know from FOIA results that this type of communication has happened in the past. We need a strongly worded ordinance that protects the undocumented in our community and focuses law enforcement on their main job, fighting crime.