A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.
Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 1 candidate Rev. T. Ray McJunkins.
Ward 1 Ald. Chuck Redpath did not submit answers.
McJunkins: We must replace lost business outlets and continue to expand. I would like to see business development increase by working with the Chamber of Commerce and Sangamon County. We have faced the loss of Sears, Bergner’s, K-Mart, etc., but have witnessed growth with the expansion of LRS, Memorial Medical Center, and St. John’s Hospital. I will continue to provide as much support as possible for the development around Scheel’s and the East side of Springfield, as well.
McJunkins: Healthy Wards means a healthy Springfield. Therefore, I represent ideas that are conducive to the growth and nurturing of enterprise- both local and large-scale business interests. A stronger local economy is necessary, fundamental, and crucial to jobs, opportunity, and infrastructure maintenance. This means economic opportunity for all citizens and areas of the city, better streets and roads, and essential services such as law enforcement and fire protection.
McJunkins: I will push to schedule and coordinate Ward Planning meetings. The meetings/forums will allow individuals and business to share their ideas and set strategic goals. I will also then bring the Wards together as a quarterly or bi-yearly Town Hall Meeting to have open and candid discussions about our city. With an outside facilitator so the voice of the residents can be heard. The topics for example will be homelessness, economic development, education, infrastructure, racism and others. This will create communication and a sense of involvement to make residents feel part of the decision-making process.
McJunkins: Currently or perhaps the immediate focus on downtown would be the Y-Block. I support the idea of SIU-Medical School expansion on that property referred to as the Y-Block. Other ideas that have merit include the possibility of a state supported Law School, an extension or satellite of the University of Illinois at Springfield, and the development of an historical park with multi-purpose features as an entertainment venue.
Recently, concrete legislative ideas have surfaced with the funding of $50 million dollars attached to this idea of higher education/urban development (Senator Andy Manar). The development of the Y-Block with public education in mind would create employment and enhance the urban landscape. It would be a challenge to support this development at the expense of already existing businesses and institutions. Of course, one must ask, “What can the city afford?” and “What are the details?
McJunkins: Yes, there is a strong possibility for a satellite location of UIS within the downtown Y-Block area. I will also partner and collaborate with UIS administration to create more space for the university to expand because UIS future hinge upon administrative short- and long-term plans
McJunkins: So much is tied to Economic Development that is concurrent with “the quality of life” in our community: jobs, equality of opportunity, revenue, per capita income, hope, public health, and education are examples. The proper and clever Alderman or Alderwoman will seek creative solutions to unemployment and revenue growth through tax structures and fees meant to assist old and new business. With prosperity comes additional municipal income for essential services, tourism, and further business development. In this manner the City Council may develop a plan addressing the needs of pension funds that could be very long range in nature but significantly pay down the underfunded pension situation. Underfunded pensions are a critical problem tied directly to revenue growth. Local prosperity impacts the quality of our education system in a positive way. Prosperity also creates opportunity for less fortunate or economically disadvantaged citizens. Without job creation and stimulation thereof, we face additional potential social problems.
McJunkins: Good leadership not only means doing something right, it also means “Do the right thing!” It means the development of a social conscience among those who would lead and follow. With this in mind I would offer the following in terms of possible policy change: a. When possible place city residents at the center of our governmental bureaucracy rather than relegate them to a “feedback loop”. We might be able to get reaction (feedback) as we identify and solve problems. b. Nurture innovation. Let’s make ideas, particularly new ideas that work or might work, part of the reality of city government rather than wait for a new “process” or set of administrative or bureaucratic instructions. Make IDEAS part of the REALITY. c. Encourage partnership with innovators outside the realm of government.
McJunkins: No, I do not think there is too much video gambling. With 576 terminals at 126 locations, Springfield is the videogaming capital of Illinois. Taxes on gambling terminals have raised approximately $5.8 million, including license fees, since gaming began in the fall of 2012. Tax revenue from terminals generates $120,000 per month. Springfield’s gambling taxes have been set aside for road and infrastructure improvements.
McJunkins: Currently there is a group called the Mayor’s Youth Council. This council consist of High School students. I would like to see Mayor’s Youth Council promote civic engagement by and for youth. As an Alderman I will make sure this council provide high school and young adults with opportunities to learn about city government, develop leadership skills and bring awareness to issues that are important to the young people of Springfield. I would also introduce the concept of a Citizens Academy. This would be a group of individuals from the community engaging in a six-eight-week program that gives an inside look at city government. The purpose would be to promote involvement and to foster a greater understanding of city government and the decision making process.