Most East Moline voters won't see contested races for open city council seats on their April 2 ballots. But 4th Ward residents are blessed with a wealth of good candidates engaged in a three-way race to represent them.
Justin Bergen, Bryan Horton and Jayne Biscontine O'Brien are new to city politics, and offer fresh perspectives and experiences to help grow East Moline. All are focused on promoting and capitalizing on the transformative East Moline development that includes The Bend on the Mighty Mississippi and the Rust Belt.
Horton is a conductor for the Canadian Pacific Railway who is active in his community. A founder of East Moline's Freedom Fest, he is involved with East Moline Main Street. He got into the race at the urging of then-Ald. Ed DeJaynes. DeJaynes, who died in February, already had opted not to run for re-election. Horton said DeJaynes believed he would bring common sense to the city. Horton also shares DeJayne's passion for East Moline and isn't afraid to roll up his sleeves and work to make it better.
Bergen is a 10-year Army veteran whose posts included serving as a logistics support officer at the Rock Island Arsenal. The Centralia native made East Moline his home after he was hired as a firefighter/paramedic three years ago. His job has led some to suggest that his campaign is aimed at giving firefighters and their union -- Bergen is a union steward -- a vote on the council. Bergen has heard those conflict-of-interest claims, too. He promises to recuse himself from voting on matters that impact the fire department.
He sees his job as an advantage because it helps bring valuable perspective and experiences to the council. The paramedic's inside view of East Moline housing, for example, convinced him the city needs an ordinance to address substandard rental properties.
He also wants to rebrand East Moline to counter a negative image and to reflect the exciting things happening today. Those efforts aren't helped, Bergen said, by a city motto that declares, "East Moline, one of the Quad-Cities." He's right.
O'Brien is a social worker who serves as executive director of Moline Public Schools Foundation, and director of the Moline Community Development Corporation, an agency that works to revitalize neighborhoods.
Like both of her opponents, O'Brien's goal is to capitalize on The Bend and other developments near it to create a corridor that will attract businesses and welcome visitors to the downtown area.
She also shares her fellow candidates' goal to make East Moline's infrastructure a top priority.
O'Brien believes partnerships are crucial to leveraging the resources to do those things and to beautify and revitalize East Moline. That includes launching community projects and cleanups to build engagement and community pride.
It also means aggressively identifying and pursuing grants that will help a cash-strapped city get things done. That is squarely in O'Brien's wheelhouse. She's not only administered grants, she's written them. And she boasts a track record in building partnerships to grow better neighborhoods and communities.
We believe any of these candidates would be a good choice to represent the 4th Ward, East Moline's downtown, and a city that is ready and eager to grow.
All are worthy of our recommendation. But her success in securing grants, and building neighborhoods and partnerships, gives O'Brien the edge. She is endorsed.
Letters deadline Wednesday:
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we will share our observations and recommendations here in contested city council races in Rock Island and Silvis.
We also urge readers not to miss the chance to also share their views here. But hurry. Deadline for election letters is noon Wednesday. Send your letter of 250 words or less and include your name, hometown, and a daytime phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the letter to the editor form at QCOnline.com.