Candidate Questionnaire: R.C. McBride | WGLT

Candidate Questionnaire: R.C. McBride

Feb 25, 2019

These responses were submitted by R.C. McBride, an incumbent candidate for Normal Town Council. McBride is also GLT's general manager.

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’ve served nearly four years on the Town Council and was a member of the planning commission for nine years before that. I’ve volunteered for and worked with a number of not-for-profits, currently run a successful nonprofit entity in my day job, and have a communications background. All of that experience has honed my listening skills and taught me the importance of building buy-in and reaching consensus when planning for the future, meeting challenges head on, and making tough decisions.

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?

Uptown is an obvious success by any measurable standard: it has recreated a vibrant city center, created a communal gathering place, attracted private investment, enhanced ISU student recruitment, and when the TIF expires, its added value will greatly increase the amount of property tax revenue available to all local taxing bodies - especially Unit 5 schools.

I’m excited about Uptown’s future. I’d encourage everyone to go to normal.org and read the revised Uptown plan the council adopted in 2017. There’s wonderful opportunity for equitable housing, office and retail space, a park, and a new library, all within walking distance of transportation and other amenities. It will take another 15-20 years and a lot of hard work to get there. We'll have to invest responsibly and in a way that doesn't take resources away from the rest of Normal, but that investment in our community is worth it, both from a quality of life and from a financial perspective.

When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?

These opportunities are, as they should be, reviewed case by case to ensure maximum community benefit. Many solicitations are rejected at the staff level because it’s apparent they wouldn’t bring that benefit and therefore don’t warrant the staff work or council discussion.

When incentives are being considered, we always work with the other impacted governmental units. Questions to be answered include: how does this fit in with the adopted comprehensive plans or other relevant master plans? How will the community stand to benefit? What’s the financial risk to taxpayers and stakeholders? What are other potential impacts, positive and negative?

If faced with a challenging budget situation, what would be your approach to balancing taxes and fees against preserving or expanding programs and services?

We went through a tough budget cycle last year and worked together as a council with department heads to come up with ideas, but in the end it was council that had to make tough decisions. Being able to make those tough calls is an important, if unpleasant, part of the job, and I have a track record of making reasoned, difficult decisions. The bottom line is allocating resources for quality core services and the staff and infrastructure to deliver them is job one.

What new programs or initiatives do you think the town should pursue?

A big part of the job is listening, and the council and staff don't have a monopoly on good ideas. In fact, some of our recent accomplishments, such as the Welcoming Cities Ordinance and the Multifamily Recycling Ordinance stem directly from listening to constituents and their concerns.

This is also a matter of getting to work on the initiatives we’ve already been planning for. The Town’s new comprehensive plan lays out 20 years worth of goals and actions in areas pertaining to housing, technology, economic vitality, health, sustainability, inclusion, infrastructure, public safety, and more. We need to get to work because the pace of change isn’t waiting for us.

What should be the town’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?

This is for many an invisible issue in our county—unless you or someone you know is living it. The town can be a facilitator, and we must do a better job working with builders to ensure housing diversity. This can't be achieved overnight. The continued implementation of the town’s comprehensive plan is a good start but it can't be the whole of our efforts.

Do you think the town needs a full-time communications manager and/or economic development coordinator? Why or why not?

Both those positions were eliminated during last year’s budget reductions in large part because the people in them were approaching retirement.

Communications should be viewed as a service to the community; people have a right to know what their government is doing, and we no longer live in an age where a newspaper beat reporter is hanging around city hall every day to pick up what’s happening. I’ve long been an advocate for transparency and walk the walk in my own life. Still, the town needs to do better, though we’re far from alone in grappling with this issue.

As for economic development, this is somewhat dependent on what the happens with the EDC, but there’s no question McLean County can no longer take economic growth for granted. We need to be aggressive promoting ourselves. Recent successes with Rivian and Brandt can help us tell that story.

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 commend all the legwork of our library board and its director and staff on this issue. The data shows there’s not much cost difference between expanding the current site or building on a new site Uptown south of the railroad tracks. The data also indicates there’s a need for more library programming than the current space can meet. My preference would be to building south of the tracks, but we need to work to find a revenue stream to pay for construction.

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?

It will be a challenge to put a package together to responsibly pay for it. Unfortunately, you don’t always have the money to invest in every good opportunity. That said, a multisports complex represents a very good economic development opportunity, and it's one with a relatively quick conversion timeline. We’re uniquely positioned to bring people to our community for youth sports, and those people will spend money locally to everyone's benefit.