News Local/State

Mayoral Candidates Look Downtown In Second Debate

Rev. Evelyn Burnett Underwood, Incument Mayor Laurel Prussing, and Alderwoman Diane Marlin debated at Urbana's Riggs Brewery Wednesday.

Rev. Evelyn Burnett Underwood, Incument Mayor Laurel Prussing, and Alderwoman Diane Marlin debated at Urbana's Riggs Brewery Wednesday. Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

The three women seeking the Democratic nomination for Urbana mayor got a chance to discuss what issues set them apart in their second debate Wednesday night. Issues ranged from downtown festivals and other events, development in areas like the Philo Road Business District, to the future of the Champaign County Nursing Home.

Rev. Evelyn Burnett Underwood was asked about the use of tasers by city police, but chose instead to focus on Urbana’s Civilian Police Review Board a panel without a residency requirement.

“And if I were mayor, I would try to get the council to reverse that," she said. "Because we have too many people in Urbana. Intelligent people – we should try to take care of it ourselves.”

Incumbent Mayor Laurel Prussing was asked specifically about city’s ongoing legal fight with Carle Foundation Hospital over property taxes, which claims to be tax exempt over its level of charity care.

"Carle Hospital is a regional hospital," she said. "It serves 26 counties in two states, a market of 1-million people, and the people of Urbana, a city of 41,000 people, are being asked to pay the charity care for 1-million people. This is more than a local issue, this is a national issue."

Prussing's comments brought applause from the audience. A decision is pending in Illinois’ Supreme Court after arguments were made last month.

Part of the large crowd at Riggs Brewery for Wednesday's Democratic mayoral debate. 

Photo Credit: Jeff Bossert/Illinois Public Media

Marlin was asked to defend her voting record - and specifically, about a recent News-Gazette article - which speculated she’s running as a Democrat due to the city’s political climate – and the fact there is no GOP primary this month.

Marlin says she’s voted Republican in just three out of the last 40 primaries.

“The majority of people who vote in primaries vote some Republican, vote some Democrat, especially in local elections, because they vote for people," she said. "I am a Democrat. My voting record has demonstrated that, my life has demonstrated that.”

Rev. Underwood says Urbana could use more ‘family friendly’ events, but Prussing says Urbana already accommodates families well with its farmer’s market and many parks.

When asked about the Philo Road District, Underwood cited the need for business in the Sunnycrest Shopping Center.

Marlin repeated a point made at the prior debate about downtown events, saying the city’s annual Sweetcorn Festival is “worn out”, and no longer reflects Urbana’s character. She suggests seeking out new proposals for downtown events.

The winner of the February 28th primary faces Republican Rex Bradfield on April 4th. 

About 100 people watched the debate at Urbana’s Riggs Brewery Wednesday night, an event hosted by the Champaign County Young Democrats, Chambana Moms, and Smile Politely.