Five contested races for City Council

Candidates for the five contested ward representatives on the Springfield City Council have heard concerns from residents about public safety, fly dumping, speeding and deteriorating streets and residences as the April 4 election approaches.

Candidates for alderperson in wards 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 told Illinois Times they have been busy on evenings and weekends knocking on doors of residents' homes. Several said they have had a hard time convincing residents to care about the upcoming municipal election, especially after general elections for statewide offices in November.

"I think people get burned out on it," Ward 4 candidate Larry Rockford said.

Ward 3 candidate William Eddington said, "I tell them this is more important than a federal election. This is right in your backyard. I'm hoping we can turn some people to get out and vote."

Fewer than 30% of Sangamon County registered voters cast ballots in the 2019 and 2015 municipal elections, County Clerk Don Gray said. In Springfield, 32% cast ballots in 2019, and 34% in 2015, though Gray said turnout could be higher this municipal election.

That's because it's the first municipal election since a state law allowed voters in 2022 to enroll in a program in which mail-in ballots are automatically sent to them for every election going forward, Gray said.

The job of alderperson in Springfield is an officially nonpartisan, elected position with a four-year term that pays $16,099 per year. Here's a breakdown of candidates and some of their priorities in Springfield aldermanic races:

WARD 5

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Lakeisha Purchase, Ward 5

Incumbent Lakeisha Purchase, 34, was appointed to the council in September 2021 after former alderperson Andrew Proctor resigned. Purchase previously was elected twice as a Democrat to the Capital Township board.

If elected, she said public safety and "economic vitality" for her ward – which covers most of downtown and the Mid-Illinois Medical District – would continue to be top priorities. She said she also focuses on "quality neighborhoods" and notes that Ward 5 has problems with illegal dumping, known as fly dumping.

Purchase, who is single and works as a supportive services specialist for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said she prides herself on constituent services and returning phone calls.

"There's another level of transparency I'm putting out to the community," she said.

One of her opponents, former Ward 5 Ald. Sam Cahnman, 68, said he would propose several new initiatives, if elected.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Sam Cahnman, Ward 5

One would be an ordinance requiring all emergency medical technicians from private ambulance services in Springfield to wear body cameras and video cameras inside all ambulances – all in response to the December asphyxiation death of LifeStar Ambulance patient Earl Moore Jr.

Cahnman also wants to see quarterly boarding fees paid by owners of vacant properties with code violations set aside to help low-income property owners fix their code violations. And he said he would like to prohibit or limit campaign contributions to candidates for elected city offices if they have contracts or do business with the city.

Cahnman, a lawyer and married father of a 1-month-old daughter, Justice, criticized Purchase for code violations at rental properties owned by her or by a limited liability corporation she controls.

"A number of people have told me Purchase was a slumlord but did not show me evidence," he said. "Now we have the evidence: 34 code violations filed against her for nine different properties, including one just filed this month for one of her Ward 5 properties. How are we ever supposed to clean up the problem properties in Ward 5 with an alderperson who, as a serial problem property violator, is part of the problem?"

In response to Cahnman, Purchase said: "I bought my first property at 22 years old and was complaint-free for nine years. The code violations primarily occurred while going through a nasty divorce where my estranged husband was co-owner. I often did not even have access to the properties.

"The nature of older neighborhoods and properties is that there are always problems needing repairs," she said. "The key to a reported violation is addressing the problems, which is what I do as a responsible landlord. All the complaints have been addressed, and repairs are currently underway. To suggest that I am a slumlord is highly offensive and simply untrue."

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Calvin Pitts, Ward 5

Calvin Pitts, 54, is an official write-in candidate after his name was removed from the ballot for inadequate verified signatures on petitions. He said he has been encouraged by ward residents' reactions to his write-in campaign and is distributing cards explaining the write-in process.

"They're excited and glad I'm running," said Pitts, the owner of Bringing Others New Empowerment LLC, or B.O.N.E., a construction and investment company, and president of the nonprofit Southtown Construction Training Center. He is a widower with four grown children.

When asked his priorities if elected, he said, "The biggest thing is going to be transparency – that we're fair." He also wants to see surveillance cameras installed in the ward to cut down on fly dumping and speeding, and he wants to see broadband Internet availability expanded.

"I also want to increase employment opportunities for individuals," he said.

WARD 4

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Larry Rockford, Ward 4

Larry Rockford, Jason Ratts and David Yankee are vying for the spot being vacated by John Fulgenzi, who decided not to seek reelection.

Rockford, 60, is a recently retired maintenance supervisor for the city who works part-time for FedEx Corp. He is married with three children and is the brother-in-law of Mayor Jim Langfelder.

He is promoting his experience with city government as a benefit to constituents if elected. "I tell people I'm passionate," he said, adding that he would advocate for infrastructure improvements on the city's north end.

Ratts, 50, is a licensed practical nurse for Memorial Health and was elected three times as a Republican on the Sangamon County Board. He previously was divorced and now is engaged, with three daughters and two stepchildren.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Jason Ratts, Ward 4

Door-to-door campaigning, he said, is the "only way to win this race," he said. "That's how people remember you. ... This is going to be a close race."

"The north end needs a lot of improvements structurally," he said.

Yankee, 46, is a licensed financial adviser, married and a foster parent. If elected, he said he would push for "better upkeep of the area," referring to improvements in streets, street lights and storm sewers, and he would work to reduce fly dumping.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
David Yankee, Ward 4

He said he has an edge on the other candidates because of his extensive volunteer service, including serving on the boards of Sangamon County Community Resources and Phoenix Center.

WARD 3

Ward 3 incumbent Roy Williams Jr., 63, is being challenged by William Eddington. A retired Army veteran and longtime community activist, Williams was appointed to the council in March 2021 to replace Doris Turner, who was appointed to the Illinois Senate.

Williams, who is divorced, said he wants to see several projects through, including the redevelopment of Poplar Place, a privately owned housing development on the east side.

Five contested races for City Council
Roy Williams Jr., Ward 3

He said he is an advocate for good wages and for unions as well as for minorities getting their share of good-paying jobs in projects funded by the city. With him on the council, ward residents always will be represented, he said.

"I'm always going to have them at the table," he said.

Eddington, 59, is a union brick mason and owns Eddington Masonry. He is divorced and has two grown children and one grown stepdaughter.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
William Eddington, Ward 3

Eddington said ward residents are telling him they want him to make sure the former Pillsbury Mills site is redeveloped and that flooding in many parts of the ward is addressed.

He said he is "experienced in services that the neighborhoods need. I like to be out in front."

WARD 6

Jennifer Notariano is facing off against Alyssa Haaker to replace incumbent Kristin DiCenso, who decided not to seek another term. Dan Pittman filed as a candidate and later withdrew from the race.

Notariano, 39, is a bid officer with the Illinois Capital Development Board and is married.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Jennifer Notariano, Ward 6

A native of southeast Louisiana who moved to Springfield from Decatur in 2016, Notariano said she would bring an outsider's perspective to the council. "I'm not afraid of asking why we've done things a certain way," she said.

She said she would advocate ways to reduce speeding and improve streets and storm sewers in the ward.

Haaker, 33, a staff attorney for the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council, is single. She is a lifelong city resident and a former Sangamon County assistant state's attorney.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
Alyssa Haaker, Ward 6

She said she would be an advocate for police and business expansion. "I also hear from residents about blighted housing and fly dumping," she said, adding that she would push for prosecution of landlords with ordinance violations.

WARD 7

Brad Carlson is on the ballot with John Houlihan in the race to fill the seat that incumbent Joe McMenamin is vacating because of term limits. Jaleesa Davis, who previously filed as a candidate, was removed from the ballot because of an inadequate number of valid signatures on her petitions.

Five contested races for City Council
Brad Carlson, Ward 7

Carlson, 57, is a policy analyst for the Illinois Senate Republican Caucus and is the married father of two adult children. He is an elected Republican member of the Capital Township Board.

Carlson said he would promote "reliable infrastructure" for the city and the ward and push for additional payments to reduce the city's police and fire pension debt. "We have to keep our word to the first responders," he said.

He said his 30 years of experience in government would serve ward residents well.

click to enlarge Five contested races for City Council
John Houlihan, Ward 7

Houlihan, 34, is single with a 12-year-old son. Houlihan is the son of Sangamon County Democratic Party Chairman Bill Houlihan, and he works for the Illinois Senate Democratic Caucus as an administrative assistant on the policy and budget staff.

Houlihan, who grew up in Springfield, has been working on political campaigns with his family since he was 9 and is dedicated to public service. "That's who I am," he said.

Houlihan said his main priorities on the council would include being "always responsive to the constituents" and working to improve public safety, economic development and infrastructure.

Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer at Illinois Times. He can be reached at [email protected], 217-679-7810 or twitter.com/DeanOlsenIT.

Dean Olsen

Dean Olsen is a senior staff writer for Illinois Times. He can be reached at:
[email protected], 217-679-7810 or @DeanOlsenIT.

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for almost 50 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Your support will help cover the costs of editorial content published each week. Without local news organizations, we would be less informed about the issues that affect our community..

Click here to show your support for community journalism.

Got something to say?

Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)
Add a Comment