Three women face off for Ward 2 alderman
Mar 17, 2013 (The Telegraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second in a series of four articles on the contested Alton aldermanic races. Incumbents in Wards 4, 5 and 6 are unopposed.
ALTON -- Three women are vying for the soon-to-be-vacated, Alton 2nd Ward aldermanic seat in the April 9 consolidated election.
First-term Alderman Mick McCahill is not running for another four-year term, prompting Beth Johnes, 51, to try again for the seat; and Monica Mason, 53, and Carolyn MacAfee, 68, to run for the office for the first time. In 2005, Johnes pulled in 346 votes against the longtime incumbent, the late Phil Hanrahan, who drew 455 votes.
All three candidates said they will step up representation of Ward 2 residents' voices from its current level.
Johnes, of the 800 block of Hopp Hollow Drive, is a 1979 graduate of Marquette Catholic High School. An accounting major, she earned an associate's degree from Lewis and Clark Community College. She is an owner of Quality Assured Industrial Painting, a union industrial painting company that is a certified lead abatement contractor with the state of Illinois.
"I have over 25 years experience in the finance and accounting field," she said, now responsible for all financial aspects of the business, training and regulations in the painting business.
"My strong financial/business background and also the understanding that this position requires 100 percent commitment," Johnes said. "I will guarantee that I will always be available. I will not stop helping until you and I are completely satisfied. I have the tenacity to go toe-to-toe with the Council members and will stand firm until the residents of the Second Ward have answers."
She said she already has met with the police and fire chiefs and city comptroller to learn more about the departments and city budget.
MacAfee, of the 400 block of East 10th Street, is a 1962 graduate of Alton High School and attended Lewis and Clark Community College. She retired from Owens-Illinois mold shop and then was a store manager. She is past president of Pride Inc. and has served on the Alton Beautification and Clean City Committee.
"I am energetic, retired and have ample time to do the job correctly," MacAfee said. "Being a lifelong resident of Alton, I have witnessed the upward trend of the city in the last few years, and I would like to serve the continuing progress."
MacAfee said the current mayoral administration "has the budget under control," but the city must rebuild its Reserve Fund, and use the money for true emergencies, not day-to-day operations. She said fees need to be examined from time to time, but there would have to be a "tremendous amount of justification for increases."
She said she wants to see the PACUP program expanded, through which people work off fines by picking up litter and trash, and wants to continue beautification programs.
Mason, of the 900 block of Alton Street, is a retired, 20-year college instructor and a designer for the "Art Horse" exhibit design and installation. She earned an associate's degree in fine art from St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in 1984; a bachelor's degree in fine art from Washington University in St. Louis in 1986; and a master's degree in art history and theory from Vermont College of Norwich University in 2001.
"Teaching provided me with the opportunity to fully develop my skills in communication, collaboration, research and extensive community outreach," Mason said. "These abilities are vital to the City Council in terms of making informed and intelligent decisions and creating effective lines of communication between our citizens and our city government."
Mason's community involvement includes serving on the Alton Historical Commission; board member of Alton Area Landmarks Association and chairman of its annual historic house tour. She said a key issue among Ward 2 constituents is neighborhood stability.
"I am going to be in continual contact with my constituents, with City Hall, law enforcement and Building and Zoning in order to address problems," Mason said.
She said priorities would be to hold regular meetings with constituents and business owners; to create a forum to address issues related to rental properties, landlords and tenants; and to develop more innovative means to revitalize business districts through combined use of existing architecture, as residential and creative retail spaces.
"My vision for Alton is one that combines a respect for our historic past with a view to our successful economic future," Mason said.
None of the candidates supports raising taxes, all saying they instead would work to help bring business to the city while making sure the city controls spending. Johnes said she would "do whatever it takes to prevent anyone from losing their job" before supporting personnel cuts, including evaluating departments' budgets and spending. She particularly opposes cutting the number of firefighters or police officers.
"I see no need for privatization, as long as the taxpayers are getting the services they deserve," MacAfee said.
Mason's opinion: "I don't think the answer to a productive city government is a matter of too many or too few employees. The answer to a productive city government is efficiency. Efficiency comes from properly qualified, highly trained and engaged employees."
Regarding crime, Johnes said many people attribute the city's reduction in crime to Alton's decrease in population.
"They view the crime rate as perception versus reality," she said. "It is our Police Department doing a job well done. We need to continue with programs like Weed and Seed and get all the citizens involved."
MacAfee said crime "is on a very serious decline, and the Police Department is to be commended for that. We must continue to implement what works and improve on the accomplishments already made."
Mason said she would collaborate with law enforcement, work to establish new Neighborhood Watch programs, and strengthen existing Watch groups to fight crime.
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