Two candidates are running for the position of mayor of Urbana: incumbent Republican Bill Bean and Independent Justin T. Weller. The Urbana Daily Citizen sent questions to both candidates to better inform readers of their positions prior to the Nov. 5 election. The responses are in their words, unless otherwise noted.
Bill Bean: Bill Bean, proudly serving as Mayor of the City of Urbana since 2012, was born and raised in Urbana. Bill graduated from Urbana High and Urbana University receiving a Bachelor’s Degree.
Bill was the owner of L.B. Berry Insurance in downtown Urbana for 36 years. A member/President of Urbana Lion’s Club; Bill serves on the board of the Champaign County EMA. He is a founding member of Champaign Economic Partnership. Bill is a member of Ohio Municipal League and serves on the Executive Board of the Ohio Mayors Association and is Chairman of Champaign District Health Board.
Learn more-visit https://www.wespendlocal.com/mayor-bill-bean.html
Justin Weller: Justin grew up in Urbana and graduated from UHS. He attended Xavier University before pursuing his own business. Today, TrueChat is a national organization with clients like the Committee for Economic Development.
Justin has had the opportunity to meet many advisers with years of government experience like Jon Huntsman, Ambassador to Russia and former Governor of Utah.
Justin has spent more than 5,000 hours studying government and politics. He served No Labels as the Ohio State Director. Justin was a Field Organizer for Republican and Democratic candidates. He’s currently serving on Urbana’s Charter Review Committee.
Details on our plans can be found at UrbanaWins.com
What should be done about the persistent revenue problems? Higher taxes, lower expenses or both? What would you propose to cut?
Bean: The administration will continue to prudently monitor budgets and build the best base possible to provide services to the citizens. We evaluate each department as job openings arise to determine if and how best to fill positions. We continually look for opportunities to improve efficiencies.
Weller: The mayor attempted to raise taxes, I would veto any effort to raise taxes until we first demonstrate that we have saved every dime. Our team plans to eliminate more than $500,000 in government waste by modernizing systems, lowering healthcare costs, and eliminating unnecessary government positions.
What would be the ideal way for the city to pay for curb and gutter repair prior to street resurfacing?
Bean: Since 1989, Chapter 913 of the City’s codified-ordinances has placed the responsibility of construction/ maintaining curbs, gutters and sidewalks on the landowner. No new revisions have changed that. I would support a Council review to consider changing the ordinance, including a thorough evaluation of how to fund changes in responsibility.
Weller: The Urbana Wins team has visited about 3,500 doors in Urbana and people have conveyed their sincere displeasure with the current leadership’s approach which requires homeowners to front pay the entire cost. Our team would split the cost with people and allow them to pay their share over several years.
What should be done to help the downtown merchants survive the roundabout redo and thrive afterwards?
Bean: From the design phase, the City included downtown property/business owners in the renovation project. When construction began, a key component was to maintain access to downtown businesses. Added signage identified businesses were open and businesses communicated they were open and ways to assist making sure their customers received their product/service.
Weller: The city leadership should reach out to local businesses and citizens many months in advance to get their input. My team would put in place a Business Coordinator to cut unnecessary regulations and be a resource for businesses. This is just one step we’d take to build a better community for business.
Is the city responsible for protecting low-income residents at Settler’s Ridge from flooding in the Northwest Quadrant?
Bean: The City has a responsibility for the safety/welfare of all citizens, regardless of income. I take that obligation seriously. The complexity around the cause of the water problem is hard to address in 50 words. We have had discussions with local agencies/ property owners. Ultimately, this is a landlord/tenant issue.
Weller: The city’s leadership has a moral and ethical responsibility to provide for public health and safety. If the property owner won’t act, then the city must. Just because they weren’t in office when the facility was built, doesn’t absolve them of their responsibilities to keep people safe now.
How can Urbana improve communication between the city council and the residents they represent?
Bean: Administration has done due diligence to provide open communication. The Mayor’s Office is open daily and appointments are easily made. The City’s website has been updated in 2019, along with a Facebook presence. You can find information, such as recent minutes, upcoming council agendas and packet information and much more.
Weller: I run a communications business for a living and our leadership has a responsibility to provide convenient and transparent access to information. Communication is an active process and is a two-way street. My team would develop a communications strategy that involves new and traditional media to bring our city into the 21st century.
What should be the city government’s top priority in 2020?
Bean: I am committed to look for opportunities to improve our baseline of defense within our Police/Fire Divisions and strong support we receive from Engineering and Public Works to improve/maintain the City’s infrastructure. 2020 will focus on 1st portion of our Phase 2 Water Upgrade for Scioto, Crescent, Ames and Finch.
Weller: The U.S. Census Bureau in 2017 stated that Urbana has a 20.5% poverty rate (that’s nearly doubled since the year 2000 and is about 2,250 people) — the worst of 10 area communities. About 1,160 kids are classified as disadvantaged by the Ohio Department of Education. Addressing these issues is highest priority.