As the Edwardsville Ward 6 City Council election approaches, SIUE professors discuss how the election could affect the future of Edwardsville.
Trish Oberweis, professor of criminal justice studies, said city council members plan how a town will look.
“The city council plans for the allocation of services around the city, stuff like paving roads and fixing sidewalks and putting in stop signs and speed bumps and all of those kinds of things, but they also plan for the use of space in the future,” Oberweis said. “Because Edwardsville is growing, they make lots of decisions about what kind of a personality the town will have.”
Oberweis said Edwardsville is currently facing questions about its future, such as whether to have lots of chain restaurants like Fairview Heights, Illinois, as well as social issues.
“There’s lots of pedestrian paths that are proposed or partially underway. There’s lots of parking questions. There’s questions about the unique vibe, particularly of Main Street, but of the town more generally. Should we invite more chain-type restaurants into Edwardsville?” Oberweis said. “There’s also some more sensitive issues that are on the table, things like the relocation of the statue of Ninian Edwards, [and] support or opposition to the anti-racism task force that the mayor has put together.”
Andrew Theising, professor of political science, said since city council candidates do not campaign on a party platform, they must focus on more local issues, although they may speak out on issues that align with a larger party platform.
“Even though these individuals may have some kind of Democratic or Republican preference, they don’t campaign as members of a political party, and they just campaign on their positions. And that’s good, at a level, because it keeps the tone and the debate a bit more localized and a bit more issue-focused, but it also keeps a lot of that political party money out,” Theising said.
Oberweis said just because candidates aren’t officially affiliated with a political party doesn’t mean their worldview won’t influence their decisions.
“That doesn’t mean that people who are more conservative in their orientation won’t bring those same conservative principles to city governments. Things like support for businesses … for example, whether we could have more parking for businesses versus using space for a bike path or using funds to build a park,” Oberweis said. “A conservative person will see that question differently than a liberal person might see the same question.”
Theising said young people tend to have a lower voter turnout in local elections, which he said makes sense because their economic situations disconnect them from certain local issues.
“I think having more voters is always a good thing. But at the same time, young people are not homeowners yet in large numbers, and so they’re not seeing their mortgage payments go up with every new bond issue. Young people, a lot of them, are not starting their families yet, and so they’re not paying attention to school quality like others might be,” Theising said.
Dylan Gossett, a junior political science major from Carterville, Illinois, said he was not aware there was an upcoming election in Edwardsville, but has recently started paying more attention to local politics in his hometown.
“With everything that was going on during the summer, when it was COVID and the height of the George Floyd, Breonna Taylor protests, there was a lot more attention towards what can be done in local communities like Carbondale, which is extremely close to Carterville,” Gossett said.
Gossett said more young people may take an interest in local politics if candidates had a greater social media presence.
“I think it would be more helpful for local [politicians] in general to kind of get their word out on things, like [elections] would be more of a focus on social media. I don’t know how much of a presence local policy or local elections really have … on social media, but I think that would help people like me especially be more involved,” Gossett said.
The Ward 6 election is to take place April 6. Early voting begins at the Madison County Clerk’s Office in Edwardsville Feb. 25.