Council candidates debate city issues

By Gus Bode

Five of the six remaining City Council candidates met last night in City Hall to distinguish themselves from the pack as they vie for three council seats.

However, at the end of the night, Councilman Lance Jack acknowledged that there wasn’t much difference in each of the candidates’ answers.

“Their answers are very similar and we really only have a few things that separate us as a group,” he said. “Maybe I should just stand up and faint now or do a dance to distinguish myself from everybody else.”


The five attending candidates did differ in answers to questions ranging from the Clean Indoor Air ordinance, to zoning and rental housing, to ways the city can reach out to university students. Luanne Brown, the director of security at Carbondale Community High School, did not attend the forum due to the death of a student during a track meet.

Candidate Mary Pohlmann, who is the chairwoman for Smoke Free Carbondale Coalition, stressed during the forum that she was not a one-issue candidate, but did highlight the importance of a responsive city government. She said the city had failed to respond to a public that wanted a smoke-free Carbondale.

Jack was a part of the tie vote taken last year that failed to pass the indoor air ordinance and said he would still vote against that ordinance. He said he found that it was too far reaching and he intended to introduce a compromise at the next City Council meeting.

Pohlmann responded by questioning if there would be a way to narrow the scope of the indoor air ordinance.

“Which workers would you not want to protect from second-hand smoke?” Pohlmann said.

Candidates Elizabeth Lewin and Joseph Moore both said they would support a smoking ban, while Councilman Steven Haynes said he would abstain from the vote. Haynes also abstained in the original vote last year because of a conflict of interest. He is a manager at Kroger grocery store – an establishment that sells cigarettes.

However, all five candidates agreed the zoning plan created for the city in 1974 was no longer effective. The issue of mixed-use zoning, which would allow businesses to come into residential areas, was supported by several of the candidates, although each said the business would have to suit the area.


Haynes said it was the duty of the neighborhoods where businesses may come in to communicate their feelings to the city. He said the Arbor District speaking out against a proposed CVS/pharmacy was a good example of that.

“When we have an issue or concern or things going on like that, then members of that community need to speak up and say what’s on their mind and not wait until the last minute,” he said.

Improving residential areas and housing stock was also a topic the candidates discussed. Moore said the city should add inspectors to make sure rental properties are up to code. He said he would support a fee for renters, not exceeding $25 to $30, to pay for the inspectors.

Moore also said the city should encourage home ownership.

“For most people their house is their largest investment,” he said. “If you see the neighbors are going downhill, the last thing you’re going to do is throw a bunch of money into your house and make improvements.”

Lewin said the city should consider offering money to those who want to fix up homes that may have been mistreated by students, abandoned by owners or run down, to encourage families to stay in the city. She said having nearly 75 percent rental properties in Carbondale could create community problems as well as safety issues.

“I think it’s changing our priorities,” she said. “Let’s invest in people who want to be here.”

Lewin also said a way to keep the city student-friendly was to work closer with families and make sure businesses didn’t offer unhealthy activities for students and check ID’s.

Pohlmann said the best way to get a student’s perspective of the city was to elect a student to City Council, while Moore, the only traditional student running for a seat, said the city should increase internships to use the brain surplus in Carbondale.

The next City Council candidate debate is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. April 1 at the Fellowship Hall of the First Christian Church. The event is sponsored by the Arbor District and encourages questions from those in attendance.

The general election is on April 17.

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