With just one week left until election day, the three-way race for mayor of Rock Island is heating up, especially over business issues.
“You’re busy from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, you’re going everywhere you can go, making all the contacts you can make, talking to people constantly, so it’s hectic,” said current Mayor Dennis Pauley of the final stretch.
One of the hot button issues of this election is economic development, something Pauley considers a point of pride from his four-year term.
“For years, people have been asking for more retail in Rock Island. You need the retail tax, sales tax, in order to do the infrastructure repairs. It’s either that, or you’re gonna raise property taxes, and we definitely do not want to raise any property taxes,” said Pauley.
Among those developments are plans for a Walmart on 11th Street, a Fareway grocery store on 18th Avenue, and retail at Jumer’s Crossing at the intersection of Interstate 280 and Illinois Route 92. Not all those plans, though, are supported by Pauley’s opponents.
“I think that’s a debacle all the way,” said candidate Rick Cassini of the Jumer’s Crossing plan. Among Cassini’s concerns are opposition to the project from Big Island residents, as well as wasteful spending.
Cassini has also spoken out against the plan to bring Fareway to the old Audubon Elementary School and Walmart to WatchTower Plaza.
“I’m all for big box stores, the retail, the sales tax and the jobs, but we’ve given a lot of concessions to Walmart, and they haven’t signed on the contract yet,” said Cassini.
Candidate David Levin brokered the Fareway deal and calls it a success. He’s raised issue, though, with both the Walmart deal and Jumer’s Crossing.
“Am I worried about Jumers? Always. But I think that the southwest corridor of Rock Island is where these things, big box retail, should go,” said Levin.
Levin, who sold the land three years ago, is also skeptical of the purchase of WatchTower Plaza for Walmart.
“I sold it for $300,000. Today, the owner of that got in excess of a $1.5 million. Somewhere along the line, this doesn’t make sense,” said Levin.
One thing all three men agree upon, though, is the importance of getting to the polls next Tuesday. Four years ago, Pauley and Levin actually tied in the race for mayor, before a random drawing from an envelope declared Pauley the winner.
“People came up to me, and they came up to me even three-and-a-half years ago, and said, ‘You know what, I should have voted.’ They thought that it was just a slam dunk, and it really means that every vote counts,” said Levin.
It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Pauley.
“It proved last time that every vote counts. So let’s get out there and vote.”