‘I’m going to be the voice of SIU students,’ student campaigns for Jackson County Board


Mary Newman

Anthony Barbato, a junior studying management from Metropolis, poses for a portrait, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018, outside Rehn Hall. Barbato is a Republican write-in candidate for the Jackson County sixth district County Board. “I have SIU students’ best interest in mind. Whenever I get onto the Jackson County Board I’m going to fight to lower tuition for students, and taxes for Jackson County residents, and I want to make Jackson County a positive learning environment as well as a place where businesses can thrive. I will also drive students to vote at the courthouse for free, no matter how they want to vote,” Barbato said. The election is March 20, 2018. (Mary Newman | @MaryNewmanDE)

By Amelia Blakely , Campus Editor

Tony Barbato, a senior from Metropolis, is running for Jackson County Board hoping to be a voice for SIU students.

One of his running platforms for county board is lowering taxes.

While growing up in southern Illinois, Barbato said he has seen the effects higher taxes have had in Carbondale and in the local region.


“It hits home seeing that things are not as good as they used to be,” Barbato said. “I just want to take it upon myself to help improve things.”

High taxes are what is crippling the local economy Barbato said.

According to the Carbondale City Council meeting minutes on June 14, the council approved to raise the food and beverage tax and packaged liquor tax four percent in June 2016. The raised food and beverage tax increased the city’s combined meal tax to 12.75 percent, which is among the highest in the nation.

An example of a local business negatively impacted by the high taxes is El Greco, Barbato said.

The gyro restaurant that had been a staple on the Carbondale strip since 1973 recently closed because of declining student enrollment, declining city population, and city taxes. According to the Belleville News Democrat, El Greco will be reopen by a new owner and long-time fan, Steve Rogers, this spring semester.

However, Carbondale’s current economic situation is not only because of taxes; the university’s tuition increases and the city’s tax increases have created a hostile economic environment for students and small businesses Barbato said.

“It’s terrible, students can’t afford to come here anymore,” Barbato said. “Tax dollars are not going back into the community to make this a place where students want to come to learn.”


For the students that do attend the university, Barbato said because of high taxes they don’t have enough spending money to put back into local economy.

Barbato said lowering city taxes will create more incentives for small-business owners to raise wages for students that work in Carbondale.

The second point for Barbato’s campaign is lowering the university’s tuition.

Although Jackson County Board has no authority over university tuition, Barbato said he wants to initiate a discussion between the university administration to lower tuition and manage university spending if he is elected.

“They have a spending problem,” Barbato said. “I want to tell them to lower tuition and spending. SIU students need this to be an affordable place that they can learn. Right now, it’s not.”

Barbato is a business major that has attended the university for almost four years now and has seen the effects of the university’s enrollment decline.

“Just since freshman year, Schneider, Mae Smith and Neely had all sorts of students there. But now, Schneider is shut down because of low enrollment,“ Barbato said. “It’s disappointing to see that fewer students go here.”

Barbato decided to run for Jackson County Board when he moved into a new district in Jackson County where many other university students live.

He said if he could gain the support of his neighbors to run for county board then students would have the opportunity to make an impact in Jackson County.

“Students are underrepresented in the local government,” Barbato said.

When students are underrepresented in the local government, it leaves an opportunity for them to be taken advantage of, Barbato said. He encourages other students to be active in local government, speak up and represent their fellow students.

“If I’m elected to county board by SIU students, then I’m going to be the voice for SIU students,” Barbato said.

Barbato said he will work with student constituency bodies including Undergraduate Student Government, Graduate Council and Graduate and Professional Student Council to voice student concerns to the county Board.

This is not the first time a university student has run for county board. Jackson County Clerk Larry Reinhardt, who has been in that position for about 20 years, said students running on county board is not unusual.

“There are students that run for county board on a regular basis,” Reinhardt said.

If Barbato is elected to the county board, Reinhardt said his responsibilities would be addressing issues that come to the county board.

Barbato is a write-in candidate on the Republican ballot for the Republican primary election on March 20.

“As long as one or the other [Republican candidates] receive 25 votes, then they will move forward as the party nominee in the general election this fall,” Reinhardt said.

Barbato said if he is elected, he will be involved in local politics for his term limit. After his career in politics is completed, he hopes to establish himself in Carbondale pursuing a business career.

Campus editor Amelia Blakely can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @AmeilaBlakely.

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