Galesburg’s April 9 mayoral election is fast approaching, and to debate major issues facing Galesburg, the three candidates — current Mayor Salvador Garza, former Councilwoman Margaret Hall and business owner John Pritchard — took the stage in Kresge Hall on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini moderated.
Much of the debate centered on the uncertain future of Galesburg: its population loss, its need to create more jobs, support small businesses, raise its population’s educational attainment and improvement of its crumbling infrastructure. The candidates also expressed their love for the city and the need to recognize its strengths and accomplishments.
The audience was primarily composed of members of the Galesburg community; the student turnout was low, with possibly 15 or so students not affiliated with the event in attendance.
Senior Anna Novikova expressed her disappointment over the low student turnout, having been “heartened by the great campus involvement after the hit-and-run this fall [when] students really rallied together in Tundun [Lawani]‘s memory to get things changed.” She had hoped that the momentum would carry forward into further student engagement.
Novikova chose to attend the event in order to stay informed and participate.
“The things that directly impact our quality of life are decided at the local level — things like economic development. I’m sure a lot of Knox students complain that they don’t have a place to do x, y or z in Galesburg — and that’s local government. When the streets aren’t plowed and it’s dangerous to drive — that’s local government. When your landlord doesn’t give you your security deposit back and you don’t have any recourse — that’s local government,” she said.
Senior Alex Uzarowicz was similarly disillusioned by the lack of student participation, which he characterized as a “missed opportunity” given that Galesburg’s local elections are decided by a small number of votes.
According to Uzarowicz, Knox could conceivably carry elections, but the college faces a great degree of apathy and fails to recognize that “this is our home for four years and we really need to improve it.”
“Yeah, there is that whole Knox bubble. But we make it, we create it. We are really not as engaged as we should be,” he said.
Uzarowicz suggested that students wishing to bridge the gap register to vote in Galesburg, attend events in the community and pay attention. He noted that President Teresa Amott is making efforts to reach out to Galesburg but that “it takes people to follow her.”
Given the low turnout despite the upcoming mayoral election, Uzarowicz asserted that Galesburg “needs someone that energizes the crowd.”
Uzarowicz believed that Pritchard delivered the best message — one focused on bringing businesses back and retaining population — but that “he could have done a better job delivering it.”
Novikova, like Uzarowicz, felt that the debate lacked specifics.
“They all have great intentions. I’m just not sure I see a strategy. … You need more than great intentions — you need a plan,” she said.
Civettini was surprised that the candidates were not as prepared as he had expected.
“I didn’t feel like they very thoroughly answered most of the questions and was disappointed by that,” he said.
After the event, Hall hoped that she had conveyed how much she would like to collaborate with Knox, viewing a collective effort from all facets of the Galesburg community as crucial to the city’s success and adding that Galesburg “so underutilize[s] Knox, and we have forever.”
Garza emphasized a desire to “go back to the official records [and work] within the established guidelines” of the mayoral system.
Pritchard saw it as coming down “to the need to create opportunities for young people to get employed and opportunities for people who are underemployed now.”