For this election cycle, there are three at-large seats up for grabs on the Champaign City Council. At-large council members are elected by the whole of registered voters in Champaign, rather than only those from a specific geographical area. There are four candidates running: current at-large City Council members Matthew Gladney and Will Kyles, former City Council member for District 4 Greg Stock, and Kathy Shannon, who is stepping down from Unit 4 School Board to run for this position.
I sent questions to each of the candidates, and will be publishing them as received. The election is April 4th, but early voting is happening now. Find all of your voting information on the Champaign County Clerk’s website. You can also read more from each candidate at the Champaign County Voter’s Alliance website and in The News-Gazette, or by watching the League of Women Voters candidate forum.
Smile Politely: What is the most important issue facing Champaign right now, and what is your plan to address it?
Greg Stock: I think gun violence and crime are still the hot button issues on people’s minds. Thankfully the trend seems to be on the decline, but that certainly doesn’t mean that the problem is solved. I think there are several reasons why the situation seems to be improving, at least on the surface. Having a better-staffed police department, the implementation of license plate readers which have been helpful and the myriad of social programs and partnerships that the city has been creating and strengthening are just a few of the reasons. I think the challenge is going to be how to continue to fund these various activities, among others, as federal ARPA funds disappear. I think it will require some creative thinking as well as some tough choices as we move forward as we evaluate programs and their success to ensure that the city is getting results. My plan is to work with, as I have in the past, city staff, other elected officials and citizens to ensure that we are able to provide core services while still being able to fund programs that are effective in reducing gun violence specifically, but also to improve the quality of life for citizens for citizens across our community.
SP: What is an issue you wish you’d handled or approached differently during your previous time on the council?
Stock: I can’t speak to any specific issue because I think the bigger issue is one of communication with the public. Remote meetings using Zoom was a trying time for me and I think most of my then colleagues. Public engagement was much more difficult and simply making pertinent points in council meetings was more difficult and they were often lost due to the format. One example of that might be the BLM street painting. While I was one of five members of Council who voted against it (including one African American member), I felt that, in retrospect, I should have made a much more concerted effort to communicate why. I suggested and favored the honorary street sign because of its visibility despite whatever rain, snow or ice might be covering the street and I also wanted the additional cost of the street painting and its upkeep be dedicated to helping fund the Champaign County African American History Trail which was then in its infancy, but, particularly as the teacher of an African History course, I thought had more lasting impact for the community. I think clearer communication about some issues would be helpful for the public to understand the thought process behind the votes. If people still disagree, I certainly respect that but more clearly communicating the rationale would be important for the public’s understanding.
SP: What are you most proud of from your previous time on the council?
Stock: An overall sense of pride for me is collaborating with other elected officials and staff to find ways to get things done to better the City of Champaign. It’s hard to choose just one so I’ll name a couple. Early in the discussions about the Garden Hills drainage project, former Council member Angie Brix and I strongly encouraged the City Manager to start the property acquisition process for Hedge Road so that if funds became available, the city could get started that much faster. That did indeed happen and I think the project was ready to move forward earlier than planned in part because that initial step had started sooner. Another thing that I am proud of was my push to stop the further proliferation of video gaming cafes from opening in Champaign. While they are certainly revenue-generators for the city and their operators, they suck the money out of some of our most desperate residents and neighborhoods and are disproportionally located in the northern half of the city. I was able to pass a study session request that eventually led to a cap on the number of gaming cafes within the city.
SP: How do you approach problem solving within a structure such as city council, which brings together people from all parts of the community, with differing views, who are advocating for those they represent?
Stock: There are various ways to work with the impacted or interested citizens or groups about issues. My approach has been to be as responsive as I can and willing to hear and consider different points of view to better form a complete opinion that I think is the best decision based on the information that I have. There are some issues that are very individual and involve simply connecting them with someone to work through a solution. Others are more neighborhood-specific which might involve meeting with neighborhood groups and trying to find a solution or, in some cases, come to an agreement if possible. Many are city-wide issues that involve larger public engagement which might occur through meetings or with city-sponsored events. I think at the end of the day, it’s quite possible and sometimes likely that people are not satisfied with the outcome. It’s important that they at least feel they had the opportunity to express their views and it’s my responsibility to listen.
SP: If you are not elected, how would you continue to advocate for the issues you care about in Champaign?
Stock: As a nearly 30-year Social Studies teacher at Centennial, I have advocated for students and families for my entire career. I have been a Champaign Federation of Teachers union steward and one-time Vice President for about 25 years advocating for teachers and other staff members. I have sat on countless boards, committees and commissions including the Champaign Public Library Board and currently serve on the Crimestoppers board and Champaign County African American Heritage Trail committee. I will continue to be involved in all of these roles to better my community just as I have done for the past 29 years.