Election results in conservative shift

By Patrick Wade

Hot button issues like the smoking ban and police review board are in jeopardy after last week’s elections resulted in a shift from a liberal to a conservative majority on the Champaign City Council.

Council incumbents Thomas Bruno, and Deborah Feinen retained their seats on the council, but newcomer Karen Foster will replace Giraldo Rosales in one of the at-large positions beginning May 1.

“I think that (the council) will shift to a more conservative stance on the issues,” Foster said.

In addition to Rosales, Annette Williams and Patricia Avery did not win seats on the council.

Foster said that the positions of the three candidates who did win differed greatly from the stances of the candidates who lost.

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“I feel that we had opposite philosophies,” Foster said. “And it’s possible that those opposite philosophies will take precedent now that there is a more conservative council.”

Foster said she would be in favor of partially repealing the smoking ban. The council voted 5-4 in favor of the ban in May 2006, with Rosales casting one of the concurring votes. But with Foster now replacing him, that majority could shift.

“I think that there are several city council members who want to see the economic data relating to how the ban has affected the business,” Feinen said. “I believe that it is very possible at least a portion of the smoking ban may be overturned.”

Feinen said that direction on the smoking ban will most likely come from either Mayor Gerald Schweighart or Dist. 3 Council member Vic McIntosh, who have been working closely on the issue.

The council has also considered a police review board in recent weeks, but the establishment of a review board is now less likely with Foster on the council.

“I feel that there are already layers the police department has in place where people who have a complaint with the police department can go, and if they’re not satisfied with one layer they can go to the next level,” Foster said.

Feinen, who said she would not be in favor of a traditional review board like the one set up in Urbana, said that Champaign Police Chief R.T. Finney has been working with community groups to develop a proposal to put a check on the police.

“If we received a proposal from the chief, that’s something I would be willing to consider,” Feinen said. “But other than that, I’m not supportive of a police review board.”

Other than the hot issues, Foster said that the overall philosophy of the council will not change.

“I think, currently, the council does an excellent job with looking into all angles before making a decision,” Foster said. “I think it will continue to be that way.”

Feinen said she believes council members make most of the big decisions independent of their political stance, and she said that the council should act as a “nonpartisan board” and should consider its decisions on an “issue to issue basis.”

“There’s not a Republican or Democrat way to fix a pothole,” Feinen said. “I still believe that is true.”