The Forest Park Civic Association has released questionnaires it sent to the four candidates for the City Council’s Wards 3 and 6 seats, each of which will represent parts of that neighborhood. The results are on the association’s website (which, by the way, is a treasure trove of links, reports and announcements about city matters).
The candidates for the Ward 3 seat are Melvin Edwards, a retired employee of the state Department of Mental Retardation, and Martin Loughman, a court officer. In ward 6, the candidates are Amaad Rivera, who works for United for a Fair Economy, and Keith Wright, a city school teacher.
A group of residents in Ward 6 has also launched a write-in campaign in support of Tom Walsh, communications aide to Mayor Domenic Sarno. Walsh, who has said he's not campaigning for the seat, did not receive a candidate questionnaire.
Edwards, Rivera and Wright all filled out the questionnaire. Loughman, the FPCA reports, did not respond.
The FPCA, to its great credit, did not mince words in the phrasing of the 10 questions it asked the candidates, which covered crime, library access and city zoning, among other topics. Instead, the association wears its biases on its sleeves, with pointed questions that should make it clear to candidates where the group’s members stand on key matters in their community and in the city—for instance, making plain their dissatisfaction with the City Council for failing to take a vote on the proposed new city zoning ordinance. The FPCA also takes on one of the city’s feel-good sacred cows—Bright Nights—asserting the need for Spirit of Springfield to lessen its negative effects on the neighborhood.
The candidates, in contrast, were not always as forthright, and (being, after all, candidates) sometimes slipped into a sort of vague “let’s all work together” language. Overall, though, they offered thoughtful responses that showed that they are following key city issues—or at least were smart enough to do their homework once the questionnaire arrived in their mailboxes.
A very brief sampling: Edwards—who serves as president of the volunteer group Keep Springfield Beautiful—talked persuasively about the importance of community engagement in addressing crime and improving quality of life in the city; he also vowed to form “effective coalitions” with fellow councilors to get things done for their neighborhoods.
Rivera talked about the importance of the Council fully exercising its powers to audit city spending. “[I]t is essential to creating accountability, especially in a strong mayoral form of government,” he wrote. “In times in which this city has struggled with issues of transparency, it is important for a City Councilor to take leadership in accountability and forcing transparency.”
Wright noted the limitations to what a councilor can and cannot do: “The Council cannot spend money and it does not have a budget that would allow it to initiate programs that cost money without the prior support of the mayor. For this reason, I have been careful in my campaign to not promise what I cannot deliver. With the new ward representation, I will be able to provide constituent service—I promise to respond to the calls and concerns of constituents from Ward 6.”
Loughman’s failure to respond to the questionnaire, meanwhile, leaves glaring holes in the report, and unanswered questions in the minds of voters about where he stands. While each of the other three candidates also have campaign websites, where voters can learn more about them and their positions, I could find no Internet presence for Loughman.