These responses were submitted by Pat Turner, 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 graduate of Illinois State University with a master's degree in Politics and Government and specialization in Community and Economic Development. My undergraduate degree is in Foreign Languages and Culture. I have nearly thirty years of experience in leadership, advocacy and agency management as the Executive Director of the Center for Hope Outreach Programs. I served on the Town of Normal's 20/20 Vision Planning Committee and have volunteered in the community with AmeriCorps, the McLean County Detention Center, and the Advocate BroMenn Delegate Church Association. I have received various honors for my leadership and service including the Town of Normal's Human Relations Award, the Illinois Human Relations Humanitarian Award, a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition for Community Service and three nominations for the YWCA Women of Distinction award.
Through my education, professional experience, civic engagement, and personal experiences with food insecurity I feel uniquely equipped for service on the Normal Town Council.
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 believe that the Town of Normal should be forward thinking and should always strive to be on the cutting edge of what is excellent and innovative. However, I don't believe that kind of growth should be done at all costs. We need to re-examine our current debt status and check our spending accordingly. We should move cautiously forward in our Uptown Expansion and adjust our plans so that we do not develop one part of while allowing severe decline in others.
When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?
Sound economic development is key for municipalities and the tool of incentives is reasonable when used judiciously. We must make sure that incentives don't run one-way—out of our community. Where blight, and economic decline are evident, we should first pursue local development options and when external developers are involved, we should stipulate that there are opportunities for local jobs, and other wins for our citizens.
If faced with a challenging budget situation, what would be your approach to balancing taxes and fees against preserving or expanding programs and services?
There is no question that we are currently faced with a budget situation. We need to expand programs and services but we should not let increased taxes and fees be our knee-jerk reaction. They tend to negatively impact the most vulnerable of our citizens and bring an added burden to home owners. I propose we begin tackling problems on the front end, being proactive in our social policies so that we are not spending unnecessarily on the back end where costs are out of control. We have to make sound decisions that address our needs and priorities before charging forward with project that are simply nice to have.
What new programs or initiatives do you think the town should pursue?
We urgently need to close the gaps between employment income and the cost of living so that each and every working citizen can afford to live in the community they call home. We must also create job opportunities for those still seeking sustainable employment. We have to tackle the problem of homelessness so that our residents aren't calling motels, cars and vans home. We have to create a Council that represents all of the Town of Normal's citizens.
What should be the town’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?
The town council must assume a leadership role in expanding affordable housing opportunities. There are few things that attract business, economy, and opportunity better than the reputation that a town or city is an affordable and safe place to live. Just as I did, many chose this community as a place where they felt they could raise a family. Keeping home ownership affordable and eliminating unnecessary tax burdens on home owners creates an environment that is attractive and rewarding. Our citizens become the very ambassadors to those who look to bring more jobs, and opportunities and the innovations that make our Town exemplary.
Do you think the town needs a full-time communications manager and/or economic development coordinator? Why or why not?
I felt privileged to meet with Town of Normal department heads and was encouraged by their knowledge and passion for the jobs that they and their staff carries out. It appears that at this time the position of a full time communications manager and/ or economic development officer are not critical, especially in light of budget constraints. I believe that as the Town's staffing needs change over time, we will develop both the resources and quality candidates to carry out those needed responsibilities.
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?
I value the Normal Public Library as one of our town's treasures! The staff and volunteers get the most out of every square inch providing critical and unduplicated resources and programs. The NPL helps to close the digital divide helping hundreds of people to connect to possible jobs, educational opportunities and community resources. They provide access to those with varying abilities whether via audio books, or materials in Braille. The community room is a ideal space where many town organizations and groups meet and the library's children's programing is second to none. I believe its time for the construction of a more suitable space as designated in the original Uptown expansion proposal. It will be an investment on which we will see both immediate and long term benefits community wide.
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?
The development of a multisport complex in McLean County is a project for another time and possibly another place. The Town of Normal has more pressing priorities. Our tax dollars have greater purpose.