Mayoral candidates tackle area issues


A full house watched DeKalb’s mayoral candidates address the issues and attack each other in Wednesdays’s debate at DeKalb High School.

While DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow stressed his accomplishments over the last 12 years and his expectations for continued success, his opponent, 2nd Ward Ald. Michael Welsh, said DeKalb needs a change in leadership.

“In my time of tenure as mayor, we have laid a foundation for this community,” Sparrow said. “We are now seeing the fruits of our labor paying off. Nestle is one example, with more to


Welsh said he thought differently. “DeKalb desperately needs a change in leadership,” he said. “I will lead with energy balanced by common sense. (If elected), I will be a mayor of simple substance, who believes in hard work.”

The candidates differed on how to handle the downtown area and its problem of keeping business there. “The downtown is a problem area for us, but not for a lack of the city trying,” Sparrow said.

Many families are two-income, with both parents working late, and when the stores close at 5 p.m., it makes it difficult for these people to get downtown to shop before closing, he said.

Welsh, however, saw it as a leadership problem. “We have invested a great deal of money in keeping the physical appearance up to snuff,” Welsh said. “One thing we don’t have is a single leader but a lot of people going in a lot of different directions. We need someone who will go into downtown, roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to tackle the problems.”

An issue they discussed that hits close to home for NIU students is a proposal to have 2 or 3 at-large aldermanic districts. It has been said this is an effort by some to take aldermen seats from NIU students and student-dominated wards because they don’t turn out to vote.

“An at-large system, with some representatives from wards, would tend to bring different representation,” Welsh said. “I don’t know if it would be any better, but I would be very supportive of any system the people want.”

Sparrow defended the students who have served as aldermen in the past. “The system has worked quite fine as is,” he said. “Most student (aldermen) have been very progressive and for the most part (representation has) been decent.”

Travel was a hot topic, stemming from Welsh’s repeated charges that Sparrow travels much more often than necessary.

“Being realistic, to provide services and bring back dollars to DeKalb, you can’t sit here at home and use the fax and telephone,” Sparrow said. “You have to be in Springfield to keep services and bring ideas back to save taxpayers money.”

Welsh said Sparrow used Springfield as an example of his travels a lot, but failed to mention other places, including New Jersey, Houston and San Diego. “These are the kind of travels I’m alluding to,” Welsh said. “Yes, I will fight in Springfield and Chicago to see we get our fair share.”

The growth of the community was commented on by both candidates.

“We need to control and balance growth,” Welsh said.

Sparrow said whether or not citizens like it, the city will grow. How it is managed is the key, he said. “In the last 12 years we have been laying the groundwork for that type of development,” Sparrow said.