Champaign mayor-elect, Deb Feinen on her plans for the city

By Caeli Cleary

A lifelong resident of Champaign, Deb Frank Feinen won the Champaign mayoral election on April 7, defeating incumbent Don Gerard, Joe Petry and Karen Foster. Feinen won the mayoral race with 41 percent of the vote, beating Gerard by 1,167 votes. Feinen has been an at-large council member since 2007 and is a partner and practicing attorney at Tummelson, Bryan & Knox LLP. Feinen has two daughters, Karlee and Catherine, and she likes to ride horses in her free time. 

The Daily Illini: How will it be transitioning to mayor?

Deborah Feinen: Luckily, I know all the staff from the council members, so I am aware of the work that we do, but it is certainly a different world. 

DI: What are your plans for the city, and how will you implement those plans? 

DF: One of the biggest things I’m interested in is really utilizing our broadband network. The University and Champaign and Urbana put in $25 million worth of … Internet infrastructure, and we have some of the fastest Internet available to us in the country. There are only about 30 cities in the country that have it. Now that we have the infrastructure in place, we need to really develop it for economic development, get new businesses here and really use it for education, especially in our public schools.

DI: Do you have any plans for the University?

DF: Broadband is a part of the University, so I would say that’s pretty big, but I think the biggest thing with the University right now is the medical school. That is just a huge benefit to our community, a benefit to the University and certainly something that we, as a city, are going to support as much as we possibly can.

DI: In what other ways will you promote economic development? 

DF: Broadband for sure. Also trying to continue to work with minority and small business owners — we had some money in this year’s budget that we’re (using to help)develop some new small businesses. We’re talking about amending our zoning ordinance to allow home businesses and things like that — trying to get businesses started in lower economic areas in the city.

DI: How will you make the city more environmentally friendly?

DF: I was one of the primary council members who supported and continued to push to have multi-family recycling. We didn’t have that when I became a council member, and that was something I continued to ask for when we set council goals, and it was my second term as a council member before I could get enough support to get it done. But now we have multi-family recycling, which means that all the apartments on campus have recycling — so that is something that I have supported. I have supported our sustainability plan. Something else that is something I always ask about when we talk about new lighting is having what is called full cutoff lighting. It is lighting that is directional where you actually need it on the street, and we don’t have all the light pollution going up into the sky so that people can continue to use the observatory and see the stars. 

DI: What are you ideas about decreasing violence on campus and in Champaign?

DF: We have to work with our chief of police and the officers — I think they are beginning to have some community conversations. They are going to be coming to us, working on their strategic plan, and we need to be talking about what they need as support from council. Those conversations are starting to happen, and I think in the next few months we’ll be having a study session with the chief to talk about it. 

DI: Do you plan to do anything differently than the former mayor?

DF: Well, I think the job is the same, it’s just the direction you want the city to head. He did that, and I will, too.

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