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?
Matthew Gladney: I would say that public safety is our biggest issue at the moment. We have already been addressing this by developing a multi-pronged approach: Implementing and developing the Gun Violence Reduction Blueprint; working with Unit 4 on the LIFT Program; increasing the frequency of hiring of our Fire and Police departments; the development of our Neighborhood Ambassadors program; partnering with local agencies that are working toward the same goal(s); and supporting the work of the Community Coalition. We’ve already seen a reduction in gun violence from 2021 to 2022, and I believe our efforts will continue to make a positive impact.
SP: What is an issue you wish you’d handled or approached differently during your previous time on the council?
Gladney: In 2021, the University of Illinois approached the city, asking for permission to install atmospheric sensors (for research purposes) around Champaign. There were concerns regarding privacy and data collection, and the City Council voted it down. Later that year, we approved License Plate Readers and, in hindsight, I think that, for the sake of consistency, we probably should have approved the atmospheric sensors.
SP: What are you most proud of from your previous time on the council?
Gladney: I am proud of the work we’ve done in dealing with the pandemic, and also the work we’ve been doing to reduce gun violence in our community. I am also happy with the efforts made — and the money put toward — the Garden Hills infrastructure improvement project.
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?
Gladney: Listening, understanding, advocating, learning. I like to think that I keep an open mind to at least hearing out what others’ thoughts, passions, and opinions are regarding various issues. Part of our role — one of the primary reasons we’re elected to representative government — is to make decisions on behalf of thousands of constituents. With that said, it is very impactful when a member of the public takes the time to contact us, either in-person, by phone, or e-mail. I take very seriously the fact that we serve a diverse community, with views and opinions that run the gamut. I take the public’s input onboard during the decision making process, as well as that of our city staff, and fellow council members. And, it’s important to know that, sometimes, things will not go the way I’d prefer, and to understand that that’s often how life works.
SP: If you are not elected, how would you continue to advocate for the issues you care about in Champaign?
Gladney: There are a myriad of opportunities to work for the betterment of Champaign. I already serve on two boards (40 North, and McKinley Foundation) that bring a lot to our community and, if not re-elected, I would have more time to devote toward service, and volunteering in general. City Council is but one way to make a difference to the people of Champaign.