By Mike Kroll
Somehow it just seems appropriate that the upcoming Consolidated Election-- where four Galesburg City Council seats will be at stake-- falls on April Fools Day. Three of the incumbent alderpersons from odd-numbered wards have committed to seeking reelection while the last, Seventh Ward Alderman Rick Sundburg, has now decided unequivocally not to seek a second term. Meanwhile, two familiar political faces said Tuesday night that they are eager to replace Sundburg. Former First Ward Alderman Rollie Paulsgrove (who now lives in the Seventh Ward near Lake Storey) will face Bruce Weik who just completed a decade on the Knox County Board.
Ken Goad, a member of the Planning Commission and regular attendee at council meetings confirmed that he will oppose incumbent Mike Spah in Ward 1. Spah is completing his first four-year term after winning a close three-way race where he unseated Paulsgrove in 1999. Spah was unavailable for comment Tuesday night.
"I have followed the council closely for about 12 years now," explained Goad, "and I think I can make a difference. Four years ago I was planning to run but there were already three candidates in the race and I didn't see the point. While there are no 'big' issues causing me to run I do think that the deliberations of the City Council need to be more open. I think Mike is more interested in the golf course than he ought to be and I don't feel he has focused enough on the most important issues facing this city. I often times feel that too much time is spent on less important items while too little discussion of key issues takes place, at least in a public forum."
The current "dean" of the Galesburg City Council, Monte Gifford of Ward 3, at least considered calling it quits after this term-- but when negotiations to sell water to Monmouth fell apart last summer "I decided I still had work to complete on the City Council." Gifford may well be the only candidate without an opponent come April. Although there have been rumors of others interested in this seat no one has stepped forward to commit to the race as yet. With a candidate filing deadline of January 21 and relatively small numbers of petition signatures required there remains ample time for someone to step forward.
"Galesburg can play an important role not only in its own healthy growth but is helping to foster economic prosperity for the nearby region and I want to do my part," said Gifford. "In my view there are two essentials to growth and prosperity: water and sewer. With continued good management Galesburg is well served by our water system and we are in a position to share this good fortune with our neighboring communities and even some of the rural areas. We also need to see a second sewage treatment plant constructed southeast of Galesburg to foster growth. These have been goals of mine for over a decade and I think they might be attainable in the coming years."
In Galesburg's Fifth Ward first-term incumbent Karen Lafferty is determined to seek at least one more term. Four years ago Lafferty, a political newcomer at the time, defeated then-incumbent Bill Hayes in what most observers considered an upset. Along with Spah and Sundburg she helped changed the face of the City Council. Two years ago Lafferty unsuccessfully ran in a three-way race for Mayor and some thought at the time that disappointment would sour her on seeking a second term.
"Were it not for the Maytag announcement I'm not sure what I would have done, but because of that tragic news I feel compelled to run for another four years. I was right there when the State closed the Mental Health Center and I understand well what the Maytag employees are going through. I remember well what did and didn't work during that go-around and I belief that has prepared me to help lead us through this new challenge. I feel obligated to be here as the City works to handle the closure of Maytag. I hope my performance during the past four years will earn me the continued support of the residents and voters of Ward 5."
Lafferty may or may not be opposed come April. Scott Swanson has expressed interest in running but is not yet ready to commit either way. "I have been waffling back and forth," explained Swanson. He and his wife have been very involved in the neighborhood watch program on North Broad Street between North and Losey Streets. To a large extent it is a feeling Swanson says is shared by his neighbors that Lafferty has not been sufficiently supportive of their efforts to reduce crime, vandalism and drug sales in the neighborhood that motivates his potential candidacy.
A second motivation might be the Register-Mail. "I have to say I was very surprised and disappointed to be characterized as a political newcomer by the Register-Mail after serving 11 years on the Knox County Board and running twice for Alderman and once for Mayor. I'll bet no one at that newspaper even remembers that I lost one of my two races against [then incumbent Alderman] Jack Lee by the luck of a coin flip! There are a lot of people pushing me to run and one very important person discouraging me; and I promised my wife that I would decide one way or the other by New Year's."
After dancing back and forth around the question for a while Sundburg stated Monday night that he was not going to run for reelection. Although he hasn't actually endorsed Paulsgrove's candidacy yet Sundburg has said that knowing Rollie was committed to this race helped make up his mind. Some others have suggested that Sundburg has his eyes on the Mayor's race in 2005. Perhaps Sundburg feels that it would be easier to challenge Mayor Bob Sheehan form outside City Hall or perhaps Sundburg has really had his fill of the frustrations of Galesburg government.
Paulsgrove's name was the first to arise as a potential aldermanic challenger this past summer. He lost narrowly four years ago after 12 years as First Ward Alderman and changed residences in the meantime. When asked to spell out a few of the reasons he was running for City Council Paulsgrove said, "I really don't think either of us want to spend that much time talking this over tonight."
Opposing Paulsgrove will be his political polar opposite, Bruce Weik. Weik has been very outspoken in his beliefs that the Galesburg City Council is floundering. "We need new direction and the willingness to recognize that what we've been doing for so many years just isn't working. I'm just crazy enough to think I can help turn this City Council around and better focus its energy." The key issue to Weik is quality of life in Galesburg. He feels that too many resources have been squandered attempting to lure jobs to Galesburg with incentive rather than by making this "a community where people want to live and work."
Weik is also quite blunt in pointing out that the roles of the City Council and City Manager are currently reversed in Galesburg. "I believe that the Mayor and City Council need to be taking charge of the city and telling the City Manager and his staff what to do rather than the other way around." As a just "retired" former Knox County Board member Weik also feels he is in a unique position to help foster better and closer ties between the city and the county."The present relationship between the city and county is barely existent and the languishing issue of the Public Safety Building is just the most obvious symptom of this bigger problem."
Over a month exists between now and the filing deadline for petitions and much can change in that period of time. One indisputable fact is that many Galesburg voters have long since given up hope of a responsible City Council. The televised meetings every second Monday are sources of both amusement and disdain as the City faces one of the biggest challenges in decades-- the imminent closure of Maytag. As voters and taxpayers we ignore this upcoming election at our own peril.