Rock Island mayoral candidates face off at forum
The four candidates running for Rock Island mayor sparred over topics ranging from green energy to raising sales tax revenue at a forum last week, the Moline Dispatch & Rock Island Argus reported.
The four hopefuls running in the April 4 election are Alderman Stephen Tollenaer, former Alderman Terry Brooks, Michael Thoms and Andrew Rowe. The forum, titled Corned Beef and Candidates, attracted an estimated 100 people, an online article by the Dispatch Argus said.
"We're stuck," the newspaper reported Brooks as saying. "Rock Island has been stuck for many years. We haven't made much movement as far as change, We've got to move forward."
If elected, Brooks plans on working to promote business in the city through changing the area’s attitude about the local business environment. He emphasized the need to move away from the idea that Rock Island is a rust-belt community that has atrophied after the closures of several prominent factories, including Farmall, according to the newspaper report.
Specifically, Brooks said he would establish a blue ribbon committee that would allow successful business people from the community to generate ideas and proposals for economic revitalization of the city. He also discussed the potential benefits of investing in solar, wind and other green energy sources.
Thoms mirrored Brooks’ emphasis on promoting Rock Island’s business community. In the run-up to the election, Thoms has made a point of visiting dozens of local businesses to hear their perspective on how the city could improve its prospects. Based on those talks, Thoms is determined, if elected, to push for a more business-friendly atmosphere in the municipality. He plans to make it easier for businesses to move into Rock Island, reducing the regulatory hoops they currently need to jump through.
Rowe’s vision emphasizes expanding the Rock Island city government’s efforts to involve and engage the community. He says that area residents no longer believe they have a connection to city officials, and that the city is not currently doing enough to dispel that notion, according to the newspaper report.
Rowe cited the failed plan to bring a Wal-Mart SuperCenter to Rock City as an example of poor communication between the city and its residents. According to a September 2016 article in the Quad City Times, that plan saw the city spend $15 million to prepare the Watch Tower Plaza site on 11th Street and relocate some adjacent businesses before Wal-Mart decided not to move forward with the store.
"The end result is, when you talk to citizens, they feel like they were misled," the newspaper quoted Rowe as saying. "Whether that's fair or not, that is the feeling."
Tollenaer, the only mayoral candidate currently holding elective office, pushed the need for more revenue.
"We have to pay our bills," said Tollenaer, who rejected raising property taxes. These constitute a large burden to homeowners and businesses, according to the newspaper account, and so he proposed a higher generation of retail tax funds as an alternative revenue source.
"Retail tax," he said. "Retail tax. We have to go get it."
Renaissance Rock Island, which hosted the forum, is the collective of three organizations targeting revitalization in the city: the Rock Island Economic Growth Corp., Development Association of Rock Island and Downtown Rock Island Arts & Entertainment District.
Organizations in this Story
1528 Third Ave
Rock Island, IL 61201