The Public Square

The Urbana Mayoral contest is the focus of three Public Square commentaries submitted by advocates o

The Urbana Mayoral contest is the focus of three Public Square commentaries submitted by advocates of the three candidates: Esther Patt for Laurel Prussing

My name is Esther Patt and I am a member of the Urbana City Council.

Twelve years ago, a young man with no government experience stood in front of an empty storefront and declared it was time for a change of leadership in Urbana. The man was Tod Satterthwaite and he said that the incumbent mayor had failed to meet the challenges Urbana faced.

Today, one could stand on Philo Road and make the same claim about Mayor Satterthwaite. It has been more than two years since K-Mart announced it was closing. In all of that time, the mayor has done nothing about the decline of Philo Road. Only now, on the eve of the election, has he presented a plan.

We need new energy in city government and former State Representative Laurel Prussing has it.

If we elect Prussing as mayor, she'll actively pursue business development year-round, not just at election time. Prussing will work with the city's outstanding staff on the large projects that build Urbana's tax base. And, she'll also focus on small businesses, establishing an incentive program to attract more retail uses to Urbana.

In her 22 years of government experience, as County Auditor and State Representative, Laurel Prussing proved she is an innovator who seeks out new ideas. She'll study what has worked in other cities and bring the best of those ideas to Urbana.

More than anything, I feel next Tuesday's election is about character.

Although I was once an enthusiastic supporter of Tod, his handling of the library expansion proved that he cannot be trusted.

After years of fighting to keep the project small, Satterthwaite finally agreed to double the size of the library, but only if the Library Foundation raised $2 million. Foundation members made good on their end of the bargain. They raised the money from donors who were promised a specific plan.

When architects told Satterthwaite costs would exceed the estimates, the mayor directed the architects to chop 6,000 square feet off the library. He kept his action a secret from the library board and the public. When the city council found out, Satterthwaite publicly claimed that everything from the original plan would fit in the downsized building. That wasn't the truth. We found out that he had cut space for 26,000 books.

It was pure luck that the city council discovered Satterthwaite's deception at the last minute and saved the project. Public-private partnerships can be successful only if private donors can trust the honesty of public officials. Tod Satterthwaite betrayed that trust.