Alton MayorBrant WalkerALTON - Alton Mayor Brant Walker responded to some questions from in the April election race against David Goins.

These are Walker's responses below:

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What are your thoughts for economic growth of the area for the future?

"Over the course of my administration, the City of Alton has expanded an innovative business retention program, implemented a retail recruitment strategy, and utilized local incentives to stimulate private investment. As a result, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alton was experiencing an economic renaissance that included more than $116 million in private capital investment, the issuance of more than two thousand individual business licenses, and the lowest unemployment rate in decades.

To ease the burden on businesses and homeowners and to promote increased private investment in the community, my administration has also frozen the City’s property tax levy for the past four years.

To further support small business growth, the City also serves as sponsor for the annual Start-up Challenge offered by SIUE’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC). We also work collaboratively with our county and state counterparts to provide incentives and technical assistance to aid small businesses.

Affordable homeownership has been a staple of our revitalization efforts. Since 2013, our HOMEownership Program has assisted 189 families achieve the dream of homeownership while expending over $560K in down payment and closing cost assistance.

Economic growth also requires that a community be attractive to potential new businesses and residents - that’s why my administration has made it a priority to invest in our parks and infrastructure.

My administration has completed more than $6 million dollars in grant funded improvements to our parks including new turf fields and a concession stand at Gordon Moore Park, a new pavilion in Norside Park, repaired the dormant fountain and installed a new play area in Rock Spring Park, resurfaced the courts and installed LED lighting in Killion Park, and replaced the sunken garden planter and sidewalks as part of a complete renovation of Riverview Park. We have also improved our infrastructure by investing more than $3.7 million dollars in grant-funded resurfacing projects for our streets while investing in new sidewalks and making them compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

As a result of my administration’s economic policies, Alton has been nationally recognized as a great place to live, work, and raise a family. The Travel Channel named Alton as one of the top 50 “Charming Small Towns in America,” Forbes Magazine named Alton “the best place to retire in Illinois,” and the AARP named Alton as one of the “Top 10 Places to Live” in Illinois for seniors. The City of Alton also won Season 3 of Deluxe’s “Small Business Revolution.”

What is your reaction to COVID-19 and its impact on families, businesses and schools and how do you put this in priority for the election?

"This pandemic has had an adverse impact on our small businesses, our families, and our city’s budget. It will take experienced, tested leadership to guide us through the end of the COVID-19 pandemic so that we can emerge from it well-positioned to resume the revitalization that was underway in our city prior to its onset.

All levels of government must work together in an integrated manner to efficiently roll out the vaccine so that we can begin to resume our normal activities. One of the biggest challenges in this pandemic has been the patchwork of different plans and regulations put forth by the county, state, and federal governments. These often contradictory regulations have left local governments with little or no resources to effectively manage the response to COVID-19. Despite this fact, we have efficiently employed our federal CARES Act funding to assist small businesses, non-profit agencies, and to plan for emergency responses in the event of future spikes in positivity rates. To date, our Cares Act have provided funding to 36 small businesses totaling $290,000. I have, and will remain, in contact with our elected leaders at every level to ensure that Alton residents are able to get the vaccine as soon as possible.

Further, COVID-19 has stressed our city’s budget unlike ever before. Just like our local businesses, the City has experienced a dramatic decline in revenue that has made it more difficult than ever to meet the needs of our residents. But because we have been fiscally responsible and maintained balanced budgets during my administration, we have been able to weather this financial strain without cuts to vital services or lay-offs of employees. I will continue to use my relationships with our state and federal elected officials to advocate for funding for local governments to fight this pandemic and support our families and local businesses.

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In spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tested leadership of the diverse, dedicated team of public servants in my administration have been able to continue to invest in the critical infrastructure and services necessary to make Alton a great place to live, work, and raise a family."

What are some of the most major things you would like to do for Alton?

"First and foremost, I will ensure that we do everything within the City’s power to ensure that residents have access to the COVID-19 vaccine so that we can return to normal activities, re-start our economy, and continue Alton’s revitalization as an inviting place to live, work, and raise a family.

I will continue, and expand on, the economic policies that led to so much growth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic while doing what’s necessary to aid our business community as they recover from this difficult period. We will continue our retail recruitment strategy and pro-actively market our city to potential new businesses, using our access to major infrastructure routes to leverage our position in the regional economy.

We must also expand on the Community Oriented Policing strategies that have been an emphasis of the Alton Police Department during the entirety of my administration. To that end, in 2017 the Community Relations Committee and APD solicited public input through multiple citizen surveys and a series of public meetings to develop a Community Policing Strategic Plan. It is imperative that we build on the progress we’ve made in this area by continuing to engage stakeholders from across the community in our efforts at building an inclusive community where no one is left behind.

We’ve also made undeniable strides in minority hiring both on the basis of race and gender. My administration and the Alton Police Department have made strategic efforts to increase minority hiring specifically through the establishment of the lateral entry program. Additional efforts have been made to attract and recruit minorities to the law enforcement profession so that the APD is representative of the entire city. While my administration is the most diverse in Alton’s history, we must build on our efforts to expand diversity across the entirety of city government.

Additionally, I will continue the City’s efforts to invest in our parks and infrastructure to make the city attractive to potential residents and businesses while giving current residents safe, family friendly public spaces to utilize for recreation and entertainment.

The strength of the local education system is fundamental to the growth of any community. As such, we support all efforts made by the Alton School District to educate and equip our students for future success and will continue to partner with our educational institutions to ensure we have a well-educated community at large. We have worked collaboratively with the school district on variety of initiatives including a Dept. of Justice Secure Our Schools (SOS) grant for surveillance cameras at the middle school, Safe Routes to School grants, property tax appeals, establishing TIF districts, and various infrastructure projects near or adjacent to district facilities to support student and commuter safety.

While it is not City government’s role to weigh in on matters of curriculum or instruction, we wholeheartedly support the district leadership, teachers, and support staff who work daily for the betterment of our students.

Further, I remain committed to ensuring that we have safe housing options for residents. I will expand the City’s HOMEownership Program to develop more opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents to achieve the dream of owning their own home. I will also continue to strengthen our Code Enforcement Department to hold landlords and property owners accountable for unsafe and unsightly properties that depress our property values."

Discuss your background and how it prepared you for this election:

"Prior to becoming Mayor, I was a small business owner who saw how the unintended consequences of government bureaucracy was stifling Alton’s growth and how the interests of some political insiders were placed ahead of those of the city as a whole. As Mayor, I’ve used my skills from the private sector to work with community stakeholders to build consensus and ensure that the City works for everyone, not just insiders and special interests.

Because of COVID-19, this election is unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes. I’ve demonstrated the tested leadership necessary to guide Alton through this challenge, just as we’ve successfully overcome the challenge of five of the top ten floods in our city’s history. Alton can ill-afford to return to the old ways of doing business that left far too many behind, nor can we wait on a new administration to develop a plan when we have to be prepared to hit the ground running as we emerge from this pandemic.

From historic floods to this once in a century pandemic, Alton has faced its fair share of adversity in recent years, but working together, I have no doubt that we’ll emerge from this latest challenge stronger than ever. If I’ve learned one thing since becoming Mayor, it’s that no one should bet against the people of Alton. We always come together, we always rally, and we always succeed."

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