Rock Island voters have three candidates with strong business and leadership backgrounds from which to choose for mayor.|
Rick Cassini is owner of Cassini Marble & Tile Co., which has operated in the city for three generations. He is critical of some recent decisions by the council, is concerned about how the city is spending money, criticizes The District due to parking and policing issues, and thinks the Second Avenue Plaza should be opened back up as a street.
Unfortunately for Mr. Cassini, he faces two heavyweights in Dennis Pauley and David Levin who went toe-to-toe four years ago. The election ended in a tie. Mr. Pauley, director of external affairs for AT&T, won on a coin flip.
Mr. Levin, a commercial Realtor with Ruhl & Ruhl, said his administration would be marked by "conservative financial stewardship" and transparency. He has issues with both the proposed Walmart and Jumer's Crossing developments and claims 72 businesses have left the city in the past four years. We asked for a list of those businesses but did not receive it. He also thinks there should be a better working relationship with Augustana College.
Mr. Levin would appoint more immigrants to city commissions and boards and get rid of the "old guard" he said has served too long. He would also hold an open discussion about the city's inspection division where he says owners of multifamily properties have received a 304 percent increase in fees with no inspections. He supports The District, but is against the city policing it, thinks the loitering ordinance for youth is wrong, and would shorten the late hours for District bars.
He said he supported a new combined police/fire station four years ago, claiming there is still water and mold in the basement of the Central Fire Station. Mayor Pauley said the problem was resolved three years ago.
We differed with Mr. Levin on some key issues four years ago and still do, including his opposition to construction of Schwiebert Riverfront Park. It is the crown jewel of Rock Island's great park system and Quad-Cities parks as a whole. Today he says the park looks nice but the city is spending too much money to maintain it.
We expect candidates to disagree on the issues. But we're concerned that Mr. Levin's criticism seems aimed at the job performance of city manager and department heads, rather than the mayor. We worry that he does not see the distinction between Rock Island's city manager form of government (where the mayor and council set policy for city manager and staff to follow), and a strong mayor government where the mayor runs the city's day-to-day operations.
When Mayor Pauley was elected, we wondered how his efforts could compare to the achievements of long-time former mayor Mark Schwiebert. But Mayor Pauley has put those fears to rest and done a commendable job.
His appointment of a Crime Task Force challenged the city to address an issue of significant concern. As liquor commissioner he has cracked down and ended what had become a consistent string of violations by bar owners, improving that aspect of entertainment in the city.
As he was as an alderman, Mr. Pauley has been accessible and responsive to taxpayers. He makes many public appearances and has held a series of Coffees with the Mayor to give taxpayers even greater access. Most important, he has continued the tradition of keeping the city council professional, on task, and generally headed in the same direction.
The capstone to the mayor's first term is bringing Walmart, Fareway Foods and others to town, which will contribute jobs, sales and property taxes for years to come. According to a recent study, the planned Jumer's Crossing alone when completed would produce $2.4 million to $4 million per year in sales tax while supporting Jumer's Casino & Hotel as a destination.
Big gains have been made with both retail and downtown living in The District and a string of projects are starting to turn around the city's west side and 11th Street corridor. We believe the city has been frugal under his watch and held the property tax rate steady despite a trying national and state economy. Big ideas sometimes require a big commitment.
Rock Island has a vision of where it wants to be and is racing ahead to achieve that. We see no reason to change leadership and recommend voters retain Dennis Pauley as mayor.
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