FRONTENAC — Candidates for the mayoral and school board races showcased their ideas to the public Tuesday during a candidate forum.
Current Mayor Jim Kennedy and his opponent, Linda Grilz, discussed their views on infrastructure, growth and cooperation during the forum. Both have experience working in municipal or county government, as well as serving on several boards.
One topic of discussion included drawing new businesses to the community. Grilz said while drawing in new business is important, a city shouldn’t lose sight of local businesses.
“Cities often get wrapped up with recruiting businesses from outside of the four-state area to come here with tax abatements and all kinds of incentives,” she said. “I would like to see incentives for local businesses to encourage them to expand and grow. Local businesses are our bread and butter; they started here and stayed here because this is home.”
Grilz also expressed the desire to create a comprehensive plan for growth, and said recruiting new businesses to the area comes back to making sure plan is in place to have the infrastructure that these businesses need.
Kennedy focused on U.S. Highway 69 as a key to recruiting business.
“The acquiring of additional industrial land is key,” he said. “Land along the Highway 69 corridor offers us a great opportunity for recruitment.”
Kennedy drew on his experience as mayor to discuss strengthening the enforcement of city regulations to make businesses, tenants and homeowners keep their property clean. He said law enforcement has done a good job enforcing city codes and ordinances that are in place, but would like to make the process more strict.
“Law enforcement is doing well,” he said. “One thing I would like to see is a shorter time frame to get into compliance with the codes and a harsher fine for those who remain in non-compliance.”
Grilz focused on communication, saying she would like to utilize the city’s new website and social media to educate citizens about the importance of a clean city, as well as rewarding those who keep their property clean.
“Properties in the city are often people’s first impression, so I’d like to reach out and explain that importance to people,” she said. “I also think our council and city boards could come together and recognize businesses, tenants and homeowners who go out of their way to keep properties looking nice.”
She said she would also like to reinstate city-wide clean up days twice a year — once in the fall and once in the spring.
Kennedy also discussed stormwater system improvements. He said a sales tax implemented in the 1990s has been used to fund projects — either one large or several small — on an annual basis to improve the system.
“We do what we can each year to improve,” he said. “Some cities have put in place a stormwater tax, but I don’t want to see that happen here.”
Grilz discussed cooperation with the school, stating again that communication is the key to creating events like Festa Italiana that help benefit local students. Grilz has served on the Festa board in the past.
“Most of us know how important the school is to our city,” she said. “And we should work together to better both the city and school any way we can.”
The candidate forum also featured four candidates running for three open spots on the Frontenac-USD 249 Board of Education. Mark Coomes, Curtiss Hemby, Heather Eckstein and Scott Kunshek will be running for one of the three available positions in November.
A main topic of discussion was encouraging parent involvement in the school. Eckstein said creating events, programs or even day-to-day activities to get parents physically in the school is how she would encourage the board to improve parent involvement.
“I think we should look at ways to get parents physically into the school,” she said. “It makes parents feel more a part of the building, the community and their student’s education. The best way to get these parents into the school is reaching out to them on a personal level.”
Coomes agreed and said he would add that advertising what good things are happening at the school encourages parents to get involved.
“I’d encourage teachers to show off a little bit,” he said. “There are a lot of good things going on here and word of mouth is the best way to get it out there.”
Hemby said engagement is key. He said he would support reaching out through social media — or whatever the best means — to open a line of communication with parents.
“Engage. Engage. Engage.” he said. “I would like to work with teachers and administrators to identify the target audience of parents we want to see more involved and find the best way to reach them.”
Kunshek said he thinks parent involvement starts at home. He said it is important to educate parents on the importance of their involvement in a student’s education.
“It starts at home,” he said. “Some parents may be overwhelmed with work obligations or other things, and I would encourage the board to reach out and talk to them about getting involved at home.”
The election takes place November 7, and all of the candidates encouraged citizens to get out and exercise their right to vote.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.