Galesburg Mayor-elect Peter Schwartzman will be sworn in on Monday, May 3. Tri States Public Radio talked to Schwartzman about his plans for leading the city.
Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:
TSPR: What will your top three priorities be as mayor?
Schwartzman: Transparency is critical. We cannot have a government that is for the people, by the people, if they don’t know what’s happening. That means making all documents available to the community in every way possible. It means putting information in a form that people can understand.
I think also we need things for youth to do, particularly coming out of COVID. We need to promote our youth programs this year as much as possible. If that includes raising money so that some of our disadvantaged youth can participate, we need to do that. We cannot let the youth roam the streets. I’m not saying playing games. I’m talking about mentorship, opportunities to engage college students, and those kinds of activities.
The third [priority] is regaining confidence that we live in a safe community. When I walked the streets—which I did for 38 straight day—I heard a lot of people voicing concerns that they were afraid. They were afraid of gun shots, of violence. We cannot live in a community [where] that is a widespread notion.
TSPR: How, specifically, will you work to boost Galesburg’s economic development?
Schwartzman: This is an exciting front. I ran on a platform that said renewable energy and urban agriculture are two growing industries both statewide and nationally, and I’ve begun conversations with people in those areas, and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback. We have a lot of abandoned lots, a lot of homes [and buildings] and those could be used and reutilized and repurposed. I’m very excited about the prospects there.
Economic development is one of those things that [when] you have some positive traction, it’s like a virtuous cycle. People see that and then they want to invest. That’s what I see happening. I heard all kinds of great ideas out there about things we can do, like having more amenities. People want more things to do, especially coming out of Covid
TSPR: Do you consider yourself a Green Party candidate or mayor? Is that relevant to your vision of Galesburg?
Schwartzman: Obviously, I did not run as a Green Party person. We’re all Independents. I don’t carry the Green Party flagship. I do consider myself a Green Party Illinois member. I do support the Green Party. I do think, among the parties that exist, the Green Party has a lot to offer.
People in the Green Party are enthusiastic about this victory, and I think that’s great. I want people to be enthusiastic about local elections and making change.
TSPR: You are known as a progressive. What would you say to economic conservatives in Galesburg?
Schwartzman: I’ve been on the council for ten years. Have our taxes gone up? Have I been out there pushing for these giant initiatives that will only be paid for by taxing? No. Actually not. If people look at my record, that’s not where I stand.
I recognize that we have a limited tax base right now. We have to work within it. But I also would say there are ways to increase our tax base and save money, like in the renewable energy sector. I pushed forward with those initiatives. The solar panels—that array that we built at Oquawka—we put no money down. I had to repeat that to people, because it’s a concept they don’t understand. I don’t blame them. It’s true with the school district as well. Those solar panels that are out there producing electricity, saving the school district money, did not require them to put any money down.
I walked every door. I don’t represent just the people that voted for me. I represent the community as a whole.
TSPR: You’ll be allowed to appoint a replacement on the council. What kind of outlook and qualities would you like that person to have?
Schwartzman I want to see diversity on the council—continued. I think that’s important. I want to see a person who has given to the community and is dedicated to the community in a visible way.
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