I am supporting Diane Marlin for mayor of Urbana in the upcoming primary election. Having served on the City Council with Diane for several years, I have seen her common sense and keen logic, and her commitment to serving the community in every aspect. She is a tremendously hard worker.
Diane’s opponent is the incumbent mayor Laurel Prussing. In previous years I have always supported Mayor Prussing and have never regretted that decision. In all of the previous selections she was the better choice, but that is not true in this election.
A major concern about Mayor Prussing is the extent to which her rhetoric has destroyed the possibility of any constructive engagement between the city and Carle hospital and clinic, one of the most important institutions in our city. I totally support the lawsuit challenging Carle’s tax exempt status. The logic of the suit is well-founded, we have a good chance of winning, and I hope we we do. But it is counterproductive and frankly foolish to demonize Carle, as Mayor Prussing repeatedly has done, because we disagree with them about a matter of tax policy. For example the Mayor has said, without evidence, that Carle misrepresents the amount of charity care it provides, calling their numbers “highly inflated”. The only effect of such statements is to make it impossible for Carle and the city to work together in areas where they do have common interests. How do you work with somebody after you call that person a liar? How does that person trust you when you have made that accusation without evidence?
This demonization is especially destructive because, with the institution of the new medical school at the University, there is a wonderful opportunity for a local biotechnology industry to emerge. We should be talking with Carle and with the University about how the city can facilitate that, and especially to facilitate the development here in Urbana, which is contiguous to both Carle and to the University engineering campus. Instead the mayor has created such a climate of enmity that these discussions are currently impossible. We need a new leader to move forward on this issue.
I am also greatly concerned about Mayor Prussing’s actions in letting a personal vendetta distort her decision-making in the exercise of her public duties, with resultant great cost to the taxpayers. A couple of years ago the Mayor fired (strictly speaking, refused to re-appoint) an employee in the Urbana’s Finance Department.
The employee felt that the firing was wrongful and sought a hearing from the city under our Human Rights Ordinance. The staff, who reported to Mayor Prussing and served at her pleasure, made a ruling that the city could not be held accountable under its own Human Rights Ordinance. The reasoning was that for city staff to preside over such a hearing would be a conflict of interest. This decision, under Mayor Prussing’s guidance, effectively exempts the city from the Human Rights Ordinance that it imposes on all other institutions in the city. This is illogical and wrong.
I believe this decision was the result of a climate of fear within the city workforce, and serves to reinforce that climate of fear. It led to the resignation by then-Finance Director Bill DeJarnette, who cited a “toxic environment” and bullying in his resignation statement.
When the fired employee resorted to a lawsuit, the correct path for the city was clear. The city has liability insurance, with a deductible cap of $100,000, for just such cases. However Mayor Prussing decided that the law firms the insurance company suggested were not acceptable, and instead hired an outside firm, therefore forfeiting all of the protection we had under the insurance policy. The city wound up spending approximately $200,000 on the case, at least $100,000 more than we should have. It is totally unacceptable for the taxpayers to pay for the Mayor’s personal hostilities towards a particular individual, which I believe was the issue in this case.
By contrast I am completely confident that Mayor Marlin will execute the responsibilities motivated not by her personal feelings, but completely by the public good. I have read a bit about Bernie Sanders as Mayor of Burlington. In his first run, businesses opposed him, because of his populist views. For his re-election, they all supported him, because he brought people together in a way that everybody benefited. I think Diane has the potential to be that kind of Mayor. For her temperament, her character, her experience, and her competence, I support Diane Marlin for Mayor completely without reservation.