Urbana is a city with a heart and a unique personality. It's a wonderful community in which to live, work, learn, and raise a family. I believe it's important to focus on providing essential services with clear goals and high standards. We capitalize on community strengths to attract new residents, encourage business growth, and bring jobs to the community.
For the past three years, we have systematically fixed fundamental problems that threatened our city's ability to provide core services to residents, businesses, and visitors. We eliminated a $2.5 million structural budget deficit, restored pension funding so future taxpayers wouldn't be saddled with the burden of catch-up, rebuilt the city's emergency reserves to required levels and expanded our tax base through several major developments. We currently are building or renovating 161 units of affordable housing and have removed barriers that stood in the way of building more.
We addressed neglected public infrastructure by first assessing the condition of every city-owned facility, every mile of pavement, and the entire storm water system and recently launched a re-write of the Comprehensive Plan. In short, we have built a strong financial foundation for the future and have acquired the data we need to plan for maintenance, repair, or replacement of city streets, facilities, and other critical systems.
We now are at a crossroads in history as we navigate the pandemic. Our top priority for the foreseeable future is to continue to provide essential city services, reduce spread of the coronavirus, protect our healthcare system, and work with community partners to provide food, housing, and other services to the most vulnerable among us.
We also are in a profound time of reckoning with our history of systemic racism and the social and economic inequities resulting from it. We must examine the role of policing in our communities and ask ourselves how we can create a community that supports mental and physical health; ensures clean, safe, and decent housing; and provides education and job training opportunities that result in living wages.
This work is underway in Urbana. I believe that we need to restructure our emergency response system to one that better meets the needs of the people who are calling for help. I see this effort as one that complements a traditional policing response, because there will be a need for both. This restructuring will require the same disciplined and honest approach that we applied to our financial and infrastructure challenges. It will require collaboration with many community partners.
As a first step, I've directed staff to focus on our response to calls for service involving people in mental health crises. These calls often require intense effort from multiple police officers, who have limited options for resolving the problem. A better approach is for mental health professionals to respond and a place for people to go for case management and treatment. Plans currently are in the works for this model of emergency response. We have begun to strengthen police oversight and accountability by renovating the Civilian Police Review Board. Board members began this hard work in June and will bring recommendations to the Urbana City Council over the next year. I am also committed to reducing racial disparities in traffic stops by focusing squarely on the policies and practices that create them.
We will build a better, safer, healthier, more welcoming Urbana on our journey toward racial, social, and economic justice.
Facebook: Diane Marlin for Mayor
Photo: Della Perrone Photography