Urbana Democrats debate issues for upcoming primary

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Nate Sandstrom

Urbana mayoral challenger Laurel Prussing criticized incumbent Mayor Tod Satterthwaite on his ability to work with other city council members while Satterthwaite stressed accomplishments in Urbana during his 12-year tenure Thursday night at a candidate forum sponsored by the College Democrats. About 35 people attended the event, along with current aldermen and city council candidates.

Prussing and Satterthwaite clashed over the addition of a Wal-Mart to Urbana. Prussing said that many people in Urbana do not think Wal-Mart is the kind of business that is right for the community and that a pending lawsuit may prevent it from moving into Urbana.

Satterthwaite said he thought local anti-discrimination laws would prevent the pay discrimination against women that Wal-Mart has been criticized for. He also said that while Wal-Mart has driven smaller businesses to close in other places, “that dynamic has already taken place” in Champaign and Urbana.

Residents would like to shop in Urbana so their tax dollars are not spent in Champaign, Satterthwaite said.

Prussing also criticized Satterthwaite’s support for the addition of two at-large members to the city council during November elections. She accused Satterthwaite of pitting neighborhoods against each other and disenfranchising University students.

Satterthwaite said he supported the at-large positions because a new Ward Map passed by the City Council was unfair. He said the map put nearly all the new growth areas in one ward, making it substantially larger geographically and more densely populated than any other ward.

“Redistricting is supposed to be done by actual people, not potential people,” Prussing replied.

Prussing also said that while she didn’t support underage drinking, Satterthwaite’s previous proposal to raise the fine for underage drinking to $280 was unfair. She said making it the most expensive fine in the city disproportionately affected a small population of the city made up by students.

Satterthwaite said he proposed the fine because it was the same amount as in Champaign and residents in west Urbana had come to him with concerns that students were having parties in Urbana because the fine was lower.

Both candidates said recycling was a large issue in their campaigns. Satterthwaite said it was a major initiative of his when he took office and said it was far better than the program in Champaign run by haulers. He said that since he took office the program was expanded to provide recycling for larger apartment complexes, which is not available in Champaign.

But Prussing accused the mayor of resisting the recycling program for multi-family housing until he was pressured to pass it by the City Council.

Jacob Smallhorn, sophomore in LAS, said he decided he would vote for Satterthwaite.

“I thought Mayor Tod (Satterthwaite) was amazingly good,” Smallhorn said. “I thought Prussing was a little accusatory. She’s grasping for straws because she’s so close to the Mayor on many issues.”

However, Ian Goral, sophomore in engineering, said the debate has convinced him to vote for Prussing.

Both candidates encouraged students to vote in the Feb. 22 primary election. They said local elections often have low turnouts and every vote truly counts.

Both have experience with close elections; Satterthwaite was elected mayor by 53 votes in 1993 and Prussing won the primary for Champaign County Board by a single vote in 1972.