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Emig Touts Bridge-Building Skills In Run For Bloomington Council

 Julie Emig
Ryan Denham
Bloomington City Council candidate Julie Emig.

The Ward 4 resident looking to succeed Amelia Buragas on the Bloomington City Council said she would draw on her experience in education to build bridges between aldermen—and between the public and private sectors.

Julie Emig is running for alderman in the April 2 election. Emig is a professor at Illinois State University’s College of Education. She previously worked in literacy roles for school districts in and around Chicago and the East Coast. Emig said those jobs required her to “build bridges” between school boards, principals, teachers, parents, and funders.

“It will be helpful for the council to have a member who is really good at building relationships and seeking coalition,” Emig said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “I’m very good at making sure all stakeholders are represented and that there is some mechanism for coming to a decision, even though we may not all agree about the pieces at play. And that’s OK. We don’t have to agree.”

This is Emig’s first run for office. She’s lived in Bloomington-Normal for 10 years and worked on the 2018 campaign of new Democratic McLean County Board member Elizabeth Johnston.

Emig said her priorities include strong oversight of rental properties, preservation of historic neighborhoods, and the “diversification” of the city’s economic development efforts.

She said that means helping attract and grow “diverse and innovative” small businesses in sectors like information technology and even biotechnology. She said it will require even more information-sharing and collaboration between the city and organizations like the Economic Development Council and the Small Business Development Center at Illinois Wesleyan.

“In our community there are pockets in which we can expand and grow, and there’s a lot of good information out there. We just have to act on it,” Emig said.

At least three new faces will join the Bloomington City Council this spring following the April 2 election. Buragas is one of three aldermen not seeking re-election. Buragas said in November that her decision to step away was "made easier" knowing Emig would be running and that they have "many shared interests and priorities."

Current aldermen have been reluctant to raise property taxes. When asked about her approach to the city’s share of property taxes, Emig said she would want to lobby Springfield to reduce the K-12 education system’s reliance on property taxes in favor of another revenue stream.

“Property taxes in Bloomington are a big issue,” she said. “I’ve talked to a lot of voters who’ve expressed concern about it. I understand that before any changes are made, I would need to reach out and get input but also seek expert counsel. And think outside the box. What other avenues can we try in terms of our tax base?”

“The other thing about diversifying the economy and having strong neighborhoods and infrastructure is that home values go up, so that also provides more opportunity for a base for raising revenue," she added.

Emig, whose community service includes board roles for the Ecology Action Center and BCAI School of Arts, lives in the White Place historic district, one of several older neighborhoods in Ward 4. The central Bloomington ward also includes parts of downtown Bloomington. 

Also running in Ward 4 is Don “Chip” Frank.

You can also listen to the full interview:

GLT's interview with Julie Emig.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.