THE MOST important question Quincy residents must ask as they prepare to cast their ballots for mayor April 9th is this: Who has the best vision for the future of Quincy.
Voters will choose between Mayor John Spring, a Democrat who is completing his second term, and Kyle Moore, who is completing his first term as 3rd Ward alderman and is co-owner of his family's business, Moore's Floors.
In making their choice, voters should carefully consider the record each has established as an elected official — perhaps the best indicator of the path they would chart going forward.
With that in mind, Spring is clearly the best choice and has earned the opportunity to lead the city for another four years.
During his first term, Spring led successful efforts to expand Amtrak service to Quincy, upgrade Maine Street from Fourth to 10th and implement a multi-year infrastructure plan. In more recent years, he has led the city in weathering the recession far better than most communities, placing Quincy in a strong position to take advantage of improving economic conditions.
Quincy has seen expansion and job growth in the South Quincy Industrial District and at other major employers and maintained a strong commercial base including a vibrant downtown.
Unemployment remains low compared with state and national averages.
Importantly, Quincy has seen a dramatic improvement in airline service and economic activity at Quincy Regional Airport through its partnership since 2009 with Cape Air. More than 10,000 passengers boarded outbound Cape Air flights last year, qualifying Quincy for $1 million in federal airport maintenance funds for the first time since 2002. Cape Air also has made a significant investment in Quincy, establishing a fleet maintenance facility at the airport and a downtown ticket office. Spring has worked closely with Sen. Dick Durbin, a tireless advocate for air service at all levels, to support the airport and Cape Air, and in particular to bring the maintenance facility to Quincy.
With Spring's leadership, the city has balanced its budget eight times, reduced the local tax rate seven times and established a healthy reserve.
A key factor in that success was an early retirement initiative proposed by Spring that reduced city labor costs by $3.27 million over the last three years and is on track to save $5.18 million over five years. The number of city employees has fallen from 348 in 2009 to 316 in 2012.
Still, Quincy maintains a high quality of life for its residents and was singled out in 2010 by Forbes magazine as the eighth-best place to raise a family.
Spring has been a solid partner in regional efforts that have benefited Quincy through his support of the Great River Economic Development Foundation — the economic development agency for Quincy and Adams County — and the Tri-State Development Summit, which speaks with one voice on economic issues for 35 counties in West Central Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa.
Spring, to the benefit of Quincy and the region, has developed strong ties to key decision-makers at the state and national level through his involvement in organizations like the Illinois Municipal League and National League of Cities, and to top elected officials in Springfield and Washington. Those ties, for example, enabled Spring to succeed in securing a second Amtrak train for Quincy.
By contrast, Moore's actions as an alderman reveal a vision focused too narrowly on fiscal restraint and limited government and shows that he does not always recognize the difference between unnecessary spending and investing in Quincy's future.
He voted against issuing bonds to finance major improvements to the Quincy Public Library, against extending the tax that helps fund the Historic Quincy Business District and supported cuts in funding for GREDF and other non-profit organizations.
He opposed paying for a feasibility study of a proposed intermodal transportation hub in Quincy, effectively stalling the project, even though the city has $13 million available in state and federal funds for the work. Those funds, earmarked specifically for such purposes, will be awarded to other communities if Quincy does not move forward with the hub.
Moore also opposed putting a proposal on the ballot that has led to lower utility rates. The measure authorized the city to retain a broker to negotiate with electric suppliers on behalf of the city's homeowners and small businesses. Spring supported the measure, which the City Council agreed to place on the ballot and which voters overwhelmingly approved, leading to rates that are 23 percent lower.
Moore also cast a vote that spelled an end to the city's fix-or-flatten program until aldermen took steps months later to revive it. The long-standing program is one of the city's most effective tools in targeting dilapidated buildings, structural eyesores and neighborhood blight.
Moore has been a strong critic of the city's failed effort to secure a license to develop a hydroelectric plant but cast a vote that thwarted efforts to take legal action to recover money spent on the project.
Moore has offered explanations for each of these votes, some of which have a degree of validity, but together they reveal an extremely narrow vision of economic development and the important role government plays in fostering growth and quality of life.
That is not to say that proposals Moore has advanced as a candidate for mayor are totally without merit. He has proposed tax incentives for local businesses that recruit suppliers to locate in Quincy; establishing a rental assistance program for start-up businesses downtown; developing a long-range infrastructure plan and multi-year budget, and creating a scorecard to measure the effectiveness of city departments and programs. He has proposed greater openness in government and forums for community input.
The ideas he proposes now, however, must be weighed against his actions as an alderman. Those actions jeopardized the future of GREDF, the Historic Quincy Business District, the public library, the fix-or-flatten program, lower utility rates and closed the door to even studying the feasibility of a transportation hub or seeking to recover money spent on the hydroelectric initiative.
Spring will not be successful in advancing a more progressive agenda, however, unless he communicates more openly and engages more fully with the City Council, now with a solid Republican majority.City government has come perilously close to the kind of gridlock we have seen in Washington, and this must be avoided at all costs. It is Spring's responsibility as mayor to take the initiative, to reach out to aldermen and others in the community, to broaden his circle of advisors and to keep an open mind in order to find common ground.
Spring has forged valuable relationships with political and civic leaders at the regional, state and federal level to help advance Quincy's interests. He has a proven track record that demonstrates he has the vision and experience to continue moving the city forward.
We urge voters to re-elect Mayor John Spring.