Champaign Mayoral Debate Set; Got a Question? Ask it Here

The two candidates seeking election to the Champaign mayor’s office will face off in their first debate at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16, at the Champaign Public Library.

Incumbent Jerry Schweighart, who has been in office for the last 12 years, is being challenged by political newcomer Don Gerard. Junior League of Champaign-Urbana mayoral debate Champaign

The debate is being organized by the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana.

“The Junior League of Champaign-Urbana (JLCU) is committed to improving our community.  JLCU develops and participates in projects, educational programs, conferences, and advocacy efforts, in areas where needs are unmet and existing resources are minimal,” wrote JLCU president Jen Parastaran in an email to “JLCU is excited to host a debate of the mayoral candidates.  It will give community members an opportunity to hear the candidates address issues that are affecting our community.

JLCU asked Laura Weisskopf Bleill and Amy Hatch, editors of, to moderate the debate.

The exact format of the debate is still being determined. Questions are being solicited from the community; if you have a question for the candidates, please leave it here in the comments or send it to us ( and we will forward it to the debate organizers at JLCU.

Read more about the debate in the March 8 edition of the News-Gazette.

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  1. Seriously, did I dream this, or is this for reals?! Cannot imagine a more awesome event. Can Urbana-ites submit questions?

  2. Anyone can send in a question. We won’t be examining your voter registration card!

  3. I’d like to know the candidates’ opinion of Tax Increment Financing districts, which effect tax revenue for multiple taxing districts including the City, Schools and the County, and their opinion specifically on extending TIFs that have already been on the books for the allowed 23 years, but have failed to accomplish their intended purpose, such as the recently extended University Ave. TIF.

  4. OK. You definitely can’t examine my voter ID card, but I certainly had one back in the day. So my question would be: I know how dangerous Campustown can be because of its heavy mix of traffic, buses, pedestrians and bicyclists. (I just read about the tragic death of a student running across the street last week. So incredibly sad.) Because of the large student and faculty population, I’d bet Champaign has more pedestrians and bicyclists in general than a city its size. Would the mayoral candidates consider a ban on driving while talking on a hand-held cellphone? Do they have any suggestions for improving traffic safety in the city for everyone?

  5. Charles Young says:

    Questions for the two mayor candidates: What role do the mayor plays in school funding with the school boards if any? Do you believe that state/district funds can shape students’ learning for the good or bad?

  6. From Gerard’s website (, he states the following:

    Don Gerard – “I propose the City investigate re-financing its ‘Pension Debt’ – currently borrowed at 7% – at a much lower rate to create liquid cash flow and avoid cuts to ‘muscle and bone’ in city services. While the savings was estimated at $20 million over three years when first proposed last Fall, if quick action is taken there may still be a good opportunity to free up $11 million now. Champaign has a Triple-A credit rating and this type of refinancing would be ideal in the current budget situation.”

    Consequently, how would he respond to the recent editorial in the N-G by two U of I finance professors who warned that pursuing pension obligation bonds would be a financial gable. Their analysis can be read in full here:

    FYI – I’m not a citizen of Champaign, but I’m following this race with interest. 😉

  7. How do you reconcile the needs of the public with the financial limits of the tax payer?

  8. Debbi Burton says:

    i mean this with the utmost respect for Mayor Schweighart. He called into questions the president’s citizenship at a tea party rally at Westside Park–the remarks he made were caught on video and made national news. I would like to know if the Mayor still feels the same way or if his opinion has changed? I am not trying to be disrespectful of the Mayor–I realize he has committed almost 50 years to serving the public. I would just like to know where the Mayor stands on this issue.

  9. Will the debate be broadcast on any of the local stations? Or recorded and posted online somewhere? I am very interested in this debate, but may not be able to attend.

  10. I would like to know why Don won’t tell us who his donors are? He says he is interested in transparency but doesn’t want anyone to know who is funding his campaign until after the election. What is he ashamed of? The mayor is willing to release that information now. So, who has bought a piece of Don?

  11. I wonder what makes Don think he is qualified to be mayor? He has never volunteered to serve on one municipal committee or commission. He apparently is the “reluctant politician” as he claims since he has never done anything before. Does he really think that mayor is an entry level position?

  12. @AmyP The broadcast details are still being worked out.