Barbara Van Auken is the current representative for the second district. She lives near the intersection of Knoxville and Forrest Hill avenues. She received her bachelor’s degree from Bradley and her juris doctor from the University of Illinois.
Editor’s note: Answers were edited for space constraints.
Scout: Why do you want to represent the second district?
Van Auken: Because I believe strongly in public service and I think I do it well.
Scout: Why do you think you’re a better fit for the second district than your opponent?
Van Auken: Because I have the experience and the knowledge to know how to get services to people who need and deserve them, and I’ve been doing it for four years. And I’ve earned a reputation for being one of the hardest working members on the council.
Scout: What are your qualifications?
Van Auken: I was the president of the library board for two terms, and in its 128 years, I remain the only woman who served as president of the board of trustees. My background was in law, and I find the two very similar … in that they both involve solving problems for people. I also served as the president of the YWCA board of directors and I served on the Boys and Girls Club board of directors and I just recently was awarded the Peoria Jaycees good government award.
Scout: Do you have any working relationships with anyone with Bradley?
Van Auken: Yes, absolutely. I enjoy an excellent relationship with [University] President [Joanne] Glasser. I think she’s doing a wonderful job. I also work with [Vice President for Business Affairs] Gary Anna, [Business Manager] Ken Goldin and [Vice President for Student Affairs] Alan Galsky as issues come up.
Scout: What role do you think Bradley and its students play in the community?
Van Auken: I think it certainly plays a huge role. First of all, Bradley is a major source of aid to our economy simply because of the number of people they employ. But it’s not just money alone, it’s the atmosphere of having a university in your midst. And for a city the size of Peoria to have a university … is huge.
I’m an alum of Bradley. As for students, they often get involved in the community through charitable events. Frankly, I just can’t imagine the community being as well off as we are without them.
Scout: What is the single most important issue facing the city of Peoria?
Van Auken: The biggest issue for Peoria is that our largest [school] district, 150, struggles. And that has a negative impact on the city in a very serious way. So this city council … has tried to make our ties to the school board as close as possible, and to offer any help we can to the city schools. [Students are] the people who, whether they go to ICC, hopefully will go on to Bradley and, like many Bradley grads, stay in the community and offer their talents. That’s probably the key issue in Peoria.
Scout: Do you support the Walkable West Bluff Campaign?
Van Auken: Yes, and one of the things that’s interesting about Main Street is that it’s much more complex than it appears. I can see at least three different solutions for the different sections of Main Street.
[Businesses] can’t rely solely on the people who live within walking distance. … Main Street from Bourland Avenue to University Street is one of the busiest sections in the city, that’s about 25,000 cars a day in the area. [We can consider] narrowing Main Street to three lanes as you approach the intersection, and widen the sidewalks. But we’ve got to do it in a safe way. I’d like to make that intersection smaller, but the safety folks say that really isn’t possible.