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Meet Decatur City Council candidate Jacob Jenkins

From the Meet the candidates running for Decatur City Council series
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Jacob Jenkins

Age: 42

Occupation: Case worker with Illinois Department of Human Services

Have you ever held an elected office? I am a union-elected president.

Why are you seeking a seat on the Decatur City Council? I am seeking a seat on the city council because our community is ready for change and the time is now. This is a watershed moment for Decatur. The people we elect now will provide the vision for our city for the next five to 10 years. The policies enacted by the next council will have a lasting impact on our community.

What attributes do you possess that will make you a good council member? I’m a problem solver. I do not shy away from the tallest of challenges. I believe in the people of Decatur and I know when we build consensus, we can leverage the best of all our ideas to make our city stronger. I’m a voice for working families as well as small business owners and that’s what our city needs most right now.

The city council may be asked to make some serious decisions when it comes to the city budget, which has been severely impacted by COVID-19. What cuts are you willing to consider? I believe we need to revisit our TIFs. The fact that our city is leaving approximately $2 million in taxpayer revenue on the table in order to help businesses developers when our working families are hurting is unacceptable. We need to be claiming development tax revenues to benefit the people of Decatur. Another opportunity to target cuts is to slowly spread out cuts via attrition and temporary freezes on backfills until the budget can support it again. Lastly, the administrative court is a lower priority operation that can weather cuts without higher impact to our community. I would pursue additional targeted cuts as a temporary means of helping us balance our budget. I would work with the council to put together a task force to ensure that all cuts are targeted, allowing us to leverage cuts with the least impact to our working families. A task force should include all stakeholders including city workers, citizens, and business owners. I also believe our city can lower operating costs in some departments by embracing online channels, streamlining existing operations, while at the same time ensuring greater accessibility and efficiency to our citizens.

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What cuts are off the table? Fire services and core public safety services should be preserved, as well as our capital funds budget for local roads and streets.

What are the top three issues you want to see addressed once you are elected? 

1. Job creation and expanding opportunities. We need to make Central Illinois a hub for cannabis processing. By treating cannabis as an agricultural crop, we can process it in our facilities, test it in our labs, and handle the statewide shipping and distribution of it through trucking and logistics companies — as well as create a premier cottage industry, thereby bringing more tax dollars and revenue to Decatur. This new revenue can be used to expand our currently underfunded public safety services. An example of that is how the $1.5 million in tax revenues from the gaming industry are used to offset budget shortfalls for police and other vital services. We also need to facilitate next generation development for those who are looking into the infusing of cannabis into other goods and products. We can choose to be an agricultural hub in the industry.

We can also do more to attract tech jobs, and work to create a sustainable entertainment district. For companies looking for training and development, there are excellent opportunities to collaborate with our universities and colleges.

We also have a duty and responsibility, especially during the COVID pandemic, to our small businesses and mom and pop shops that have been the base of economic growth in our community. That responsibility is to ensure that they do not go under. Many of our small businesses have spent their life building up their dream. While many of them were able to put away some money at the beginning of the pandemic, the ongoing restrictions have negatively impacted their long term financial viability. As a prospective elected official, I truly believe that we must bring small business owners to the table and address their needs.

2. Ending chronic homelessness. We have a moral duty and civic mandate to end chronic homelessness in Decatur. Currently, Decatur’s homeless population is 130. One of the ways to end homeless in our community is through focusing on mental health wraparound services and finally removing the barriers that stand in the way of an unhoused person being able to permanently find residency. Additionally we will work to solve this issue by following the models of other large cities who have employed unhoused residents to clean up parts of the city.

3. Neighborhood Revitalization. For the past 5 to 7 years the city of Decatur and its leaders have used the term neighborhood revitalization as a catch phrase without any real planning, timetable or funding. This in essence has caused the problem to become exacerbated. It is imperative that the next council take immediate action to remove blighted properties, assess which properties can be brought up to standard, and make those properties available to the residents of Decatur through either microlending or other finance opportunities. As a union leader, I will work with others in labor and industry to ensure that these aspirational goals become a reality for our city.

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