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Who is running for Urbana City Council?

There are three contested races for Urbana City Council. Voters in Wards 2, 4, and 6 will have a choice to make on their ballot, and those elected will serve a four year term. Local elections like this one for City Council are critical to our daily lives; these are the people who are shaping our community. It’s frustrating to see generally low turn out, so make a plan to vote on or before April 6th. Unlike Champaign City Council positions, Urbana’s are partisan. Here’s a quick rundown of the contested races. You can find full questionnaires at Champaign County Voters Alliance (CCVA).

Ward 2

Colin Dodson, representing the Party for Socialism & Liberation, is running against Democrat Christopher Evans.

Dodson is interested in prioritizing common-sense public safety, housing justice, and COVID Recovery. From our interview with them:

If elected, I’ll continue working cooperatively and collaboratively with the residents of my ward tofind solutions that work for all of us. Additionally, I’ll strive to work with Ward 2 residents to establish a regular forum for Ward residents to organize and communicate their needs and interests with myself and City Council as a whole. By maintaining such a positive relationship with my constituents, I’m confident that we can make the city government work for us and achieve many of the goals that our residents need.

Evans is interested in prioritizing police reform, ending the drug war, and redefining where opportunity zones are and ending housing discrimination. From our interview with him:

I’m qualified for city council because I have lived in Urbana for a long time, I love the city of Urbana, I know a fair amount of local history, I enjoy doing research, I enjoy looking for solutions and crafting policy; and as a poor person myself, I recognize the needs that if met, can reduce crime, can give everyone an opportunity to become the best they can be, and we can design a sustainable future. I’m optimistic we can do this.

Ward 4

Democrat Jaya Kolisetty is running against Republican Mike Kobel. Kobel recently ran for Champaign County Board District 10, but lost to Democrat Mary King. Kolisetty has been endorsed by Champaign County Young Democrats.

From the CCVA questionnaire:

Kolisetty: I believe that we can make significant changes in the short-term and set the foundation for more long-term initiatives. For example, by building on the work that the Cunningham Township Supervisor’s office and our local nonprofits are doing I believe we can end or significantly decrease chronic homelessness in Urbana within a relatively short period. This is vitally important work and there are steps that the Council could take right now to move towards this goal. Another immediate goal must be supporting our community members and local businesses that are suffering as a result of the pandemic. I am also committed to comprehensive police reform. This is going to need to be a multi-stage process. The passage of the 2021 criminal justice and policing reform bill at the state level will provide significant guidance for this process and our local chapters of the ACLU and NAACP have led the way in drafting meaningful guidance on the use of force and de-escalation.

Kobel: Foremost on my list is working with our law enforcement, community leaders, churches, and others to help address the violent crimes in our city and the east side of Urbana. Far too often, I sit in my living room near Philo Road and Florida Avenue and watch the police drive by with their lights and siren on. I read later that a crime, often violent in nature, occurred. Our police perform a tough job under tough conditions, but these scenarios will return. This is a community problem which requires a community effort so if they’ll accept my help, I will give it. As for a timeline, I’d like to get involved right away and I think this issue will be ongoing.

Ward 6

Democrat Grace Wilken is running against incumbent Republican William Colbrook. Colbrook was appointed to the seat by Mayor Diane Marlin in 2020.

From the CCVA questionnaire:

Wilken: If elected, my most immediate actions would be to vote on and propose local policy that will benefit the people of Urbana (especially in regard to funding, community investment, and public services). I would like to reevaluate our city spending in order to use our tax dollars more efficiently to serve our community members. Particularly in ward 6, I see a lot of potential in reinvestment in the Philo road business center–adding a community/youth center working with existing organizations in the area. Food waste compost is also another passion of mine that I’m currently working on having more available in Urbana. While all of these goals will have different timelines, I would work with the necessary stakeholders to accomplish these goals as soon as possible.

Colbrook: I would like to continue to work with city staff on the Comprehensive Plan, that will help chart the path for the city on a multitude of issues, including our critical infrastructure like roads, sidewalks, and facilities. I would like to continue to work with city staff on helping guide police-related policies to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all of our citizens. In addition, I would like to continue to work with city staff to craft sound annual budgets that will allow the city to deliver first class services to all of our citizens, while maintaining and enhancing our financial strength. All of these initiatives are on-going projects that have no particular end date and call for continued focus.

Top photo by Anna Longworth.


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