Candidates disagree on issues at forum


Two of the three candidates running for the 6th Ward alderman seat clashed Wednesday night in a forum at DeKalb High School.

NIU students Kevin “K.O.” Johnson and Brad Strauss are competing for the seat held currently by Jamie Pennington, who decided earlier not to run for re-election. The student-dominated 6th Ward includes Lincoln, Neptune and

Gilbert Residence Halls.

The third candidate, Robbie Arrington, a general manager for Mason Properties, was not at the debate.

During the forum, sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Strauss said there has been a sense of animosity between NIU students and DeKalb residents for too long.

“The student body is a valuable resource, and their interests cannot be ignored, as well as other residents’ (interests),” Strauss said.

Johnson said he was a better candidate because his long-term interests are in DeKalb. “I have criticized my opponent for being a transient,” Johnson said. “Where my interests are is in this city. I will do what’s best for the city, including what’s best for students.”

Strauss took offense to Johnson’s statement. “It’s presumptuous for my opponent to try and get into my head and figure out my motives,” he said.

Johnson also said Strauss’s background in political science was a negative trait. Strauss is a political science major at NIU and plans to go into NIU’s public administration. “I am running because everyone feels and is affected by the political system,” he said. “In general, the feeling is that it (the system) shouldn’t be so political.”

Johnson said he has refused all cash contributions to his campaign to try and remove politics from the race.

“If you like the way the political system works, you owe it to yourself to vote for Strauss,” Johnson said. “If you want someone who’s not political, vote for me. I don’t have a political resume and I’m proud of it.”

Strauss, however, defended his political studies. “It is important to deal with what is meant by political,” he said. “The word can get a negative context, and my opponent knows that. I take people at face value and don’t try to guess motivations behind (their actions).”

Tenant’s rights was an issue both candidates said was important.

“Tenant/landlord relations’ complaints usually come from students,” Strauss said. “Landlords are often found in people’s rooms without permission. There is no ordinance to stop that.”

Strauss said he favors an ordinance similar to one in Chicago, which states that a landlord only can enter an apartment in a legitimate emergency or with two days notice.

Johnson said the landlord/tenant relationship is very adversarial. He said problems range from theft to sexual abuse. “People are afraid to go to the police because they haven’t responded well enough in the past,” Johnson said.

A new fire station in DeKalb also was discussed. “A west side fire station is going to happen, and we must make sure this is near Ward 6 and residents are able to get adequate service,” Strauss said.

“The problem with the fire station is how to pay for it,” Johnson said.

Economic development, a big issue on the mayoral front, came up at the forum. “Economic development takes active lobbying by councilmen to get businesses to DeKalb,” Strauss said.

Johnson agreed that economic development was important, but questioned Strauss’s call for action. “Economic development has been a prime concern of the council for over 10 years,” he said.

The candidates both said they had good contact with the students they would represent. “I feel that I have an in with both the community and the students,” Strauss said. “As a student, I see the problems of students, but I also have a view of the other side.”

Johnson said he wanted to make the general population feel that they are important as individuals. “I would like to have something similar to a 6th Ward meeting about once a month,” he said. “I want everyone to know who their representative is and make them feel like they can come to me.”