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Local candidates debate on the hilltop

Peter Kobak, one of 10 at-large city council candidates, answers a question at a debate held in Peplow Pavilion. Photo by William Craine.

Peoria’s local election candidates paid a visit to Peplow Pavilion Wednesday night, each taking 60-second turns in the hot seat.

The forum featured three different panels: at-large city council, Peoria Park District board president and Peoria Park District central district trustee candidates.

Junior economics major Nicholas Brusick assisted in promoting the event to Bradley students by sending an email to every student registered in Peoria, encouraging them to come.

“If you really want your vote to count, if you want your voice to be heard, you should vote in the local election,” Brusick said. “The local level is most influential in day-to-day life.”

The night began when WMBD anchor Eugene Daniels introduced the 10 At-Large City Council candidates running for five seats, four of them running for re-election.

“I was so grateful when I was elected four years ago, and really hope I can gain your support again this year. I’m well researched, I vote for your best interest, and many times I’ve taken serious political risk to champion what I know is right,” councilwoman Beth Akeson, said.

Other candidates focused on introducing who they are, and what they would change if elected. Peter Kobak introduced himself as a first-generation American citizen with a lot of background in government.

“I’ve worked in small business, I’ve been a community organizer, and like I’ve said, I’ve worked in City Hall,” Peter Kobak said. “I hope that tonight I made you a little uncomfortable in a good way. I’d be your representative to push and advocate for change we need in our city.”

Candidates were asked six questions about topics ranging from head of household jobs to community involvement. They also tackled more sensitive topics like Peoria’s race and inequality issues.

Andre Allen said he thinks we should not be trying to achieve equality, but equity to address problems like the 17 percent unemployment rate for African-Americans.

“Equality is if I’m a 6-foot-7-inch Lebron James and you’re a 5-foot-one-inch Muggsy Bogues, we’re still playing on the same ten-foot hoop,” Allen said. “Equity is me having my own hoop based off of my height and you having your own hoop based off of your height, and that’s what we need to bring to Peoria.”

Candidate Rita Ali addressed Peoria’s growing poverty issues and indicated that education is the solution.

“Right now, less than 40 percent of people within our region have an education or skill beyond high school,” Ali said. “In order to be a strong economic base, you have to be at 60 percent.”

Bradley sophomores Veronica Blascoe and Emma Finch wore “Jensen 2019” stickers at the forum.

“I like that [Jensen] is passionate about giving a voice to everyone,” said Finch. “I also like that she’s pushing to end Islamaphobia, a problem in Peoria.”

Election Day for local candidates is April 2 and early voting began March 8.

“Turnout for the 2018 election was at a record high for our age group,” Brusick said. “However, though the midterms recognized a higher turnout than usual, there is no guarantee for the same with our local elections. That being said, our local elections are equally important.”

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