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Kilquist, Bryant go on attack, sort of

Geoffrey Ritter
Weekend Times

CARBONDALE — The candidates vying to replace Mike Bost as the area’s representative in the Illinois Legislature sparred with each other Thursday over their respective party affiliations, but they generally agreed with each other on many other points.

During a debate at the Carbondale Civic Center sponsored in part by the League of Women Voters of Jackson County, Republican Terri Bryant and Democrat Bill Kilquist worked through a range of issues facing the state and in particular the 115th Legislative District.

Kilquist is a former Jackson County sheriff and warden of the Illinois Youth Center in Murphysboro. Bryant has worked for the Illinois Department of Corrections since 1994.

One of the two likely will replace Bost, a Republican who has served since 1995 but now is challenging U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart this fall for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 115th District covers most of Carbondale, most of Jackson County, all of Mt. Vernon and Jefferson County and parts of Perry County.

Also running for the job is the Green Party’s Gary Shepherd, whose name will not appear on the November ballot. He is running as a write-in candidate. Shepherd was given three minutes to address the audience at the debate’s conclusion and used much of his time questioning the rule of the two-party system.

During about an hour of questioning, Bryant and Kilquist agreed with each other on a host of issues, among them allowing the temporary income tax increase to expire and the shortsightedness of closing the super-maximum-security prison at Tamms.

They both also expressed strong support for Second Amendment rights, specifically in places where alcohol is served, and the economic importance of SIU to the region. They also drew similar lines on the controversial practice of horizontal fracturing, or fracking, saying the economic benefits are promising but that care should be taken in the process to protect the environment.

Most real debate during the event centered on political connections, with Bryant attacking Kilquist over support his campaign has received from Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan.

“I know [Kilquist]’s said he wouldn’t be owned by anyone … but you can’t have Mike Madigan pour (money) into your race and not have to do something about that later on,” Bryant said. “Mike Madigan is the pied piper of this state. At some point you have to pay the piper.”

Kilquist responded, saying he has publicly opposed Madigan on pension overhauls and extending the temporary income tax increase. He said Bryant’s attack ignored her own political connections.

“Terri, let’s be realistic. You and I are both receiving support from our respective party organizations,” Kilquist said.

When it came to that income tax increase, both candidates opposed its extension, saying that when the temporary bump was passed in 2011, lawmakers promised it would expire. Both said leaders needed to stay true to their word.

“[Voters] want the state to live within its means, just as they do,” Kilquist said, adding that lawmakers should look into cutting waste and mismanagement before extending any tax increase. “Lawmakers must prioritize funding.”

Bryant said the tax is scaring businesses away from Illinois, and the economy can’t afford that.

“Illinois needs more jobs, not more taxes,” she said. “The temporary tax that only partially expires in January was designed to be just that, a temporary tax. It has run businesses out of the state faster than any other state in the country.”

On the topic of business, Bryant implored voters to consider her record as a previous restaurant owner — an experience she said gives her an understanding of the challenges faced by small business owners.

“In many cases, I’ve been in their shoes,” Bryant said. “I know what it was like to try to make a payroll, to have to pay my workman’s comp, to have to pay Social Security. I have lived and walked in the same steps they’re walking in.”

Kilquist, whose career has been spent in the public sector, said his door always would be open to business owners and leaders.

He said his experience managing million-dollar budgets as a sheriff and prison warden gives him an understanding of critical budget issues faced by many.

“I will be open to them, to listen to their ideas and their concerns,” he said of business leaders.

With both candidates having worked within the correctional system, they both were highly critical of the state’s decision to close the super-maximum-security prison at Tamms in 2013. Both said the decision led to dangerous criminals being housed in other state facilities not equipped to handle them.

“It endangers the communities around those prisons,” Bryant said. “It endangers the inmates who are locked up and endangers the staff that are working there. It was not well thought out to close that. I believe it was a political decision.”

Kilquist spoke from a similar perspective.

“That institution was meant for the worst of the worst,” he said. “It’s not until you’ve worked in the system and seen what’s in the system …. There are people in our prison system who have earned their way into Tamms. It was meant for a special group of people. It’s a behavior-oriented system.”

On the contentious issue of allowing fracking in Southern Illinois, both said a delicate balance exists between creating jobs and addressing environmental concerns. Kilquist said fracking should be part of a larger overall energy policy.

“Southern Illinois needs good, long-term, sustainable jobs,” Kilquist said. “While fracking may promise to bring jobs to our region, I do have a lot of concern about the damage that it may cause.”

Bryant said the promise of jobs can’t be ignored, but not at the expense of other potential costs.

“That can’t be approached as a minor thing,” she said of the jobs. “However, it can’t be our only reason to bring fracking into the area. The last thing I want to do is have my name on something that is going to endanger 30 years down the road water my grandchildren are going to be drinking.”

On the issue of working with upstate legislators, the candidates took somewhat different approaches. Again, Bryant criticized what she characterized as House Speaker Madigan’s political ownership of Kilquist.

“One-party rule damages the state,” Bryant said of the Democratic-controlled legislature and governor’s office. “Right now, because Mike Madigan has a super-majority, he doesn’t even have to sit down and talk to anyone.”

Kilquist refuted that.

“Illinois needs leaders who are willing to work on both sides of the aisle to find solutions,” he said. “I have stood up to those people. I’ve stood up to people like Mike Madigan. I do not believe in the pension bill that he wanted passed. I believe it’s unconstitutional.”

In one of the evening’s more interesting questions, the candidates were asked about an advisory referendum appearing on the November ballot asking voters if prescription birth control should be covered by health insurance plans with prescription drug coverage.

Kilquist said he was not in a position to make decisions on that personal of a level.

“Who am I to deny anyone health care methods and what they believe they need for themselves?” he asked.

Bryant framed the issue as the addition of yet another unnecessary regulation.

“This would cause a private business to be regulated to be offering something that maybe other members of that group or other members of that insurance purchaser didn’t necessarily need,” she said. “To require a health care provider to provide that particular prescription drug is again a regulation.”

Thursday’s debate was co-sponsored by the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce and the American Association of University Women, Carbondale Branch.

New issues arise following fights, assaults

Geoffrey Ritter
Carbondale Times

CARBONDALE — City and campus organizations are denouncing last weekend’s lawless disturbance on South Illinois Avenue, and a handful of locals now face charges in the wake of the incident that terrorized the Strip early Sept. 20.

Carbondale Interim Police Chief Jeff Grubbs called the incident “sickening,” adding that such behavior is unacceptable for both students and other members of the community.

“Conditions like that cannot be tolerated in this community,” Grubbs said.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, SIU student government leaders took a hard stance against the unrest that broke out a little after 2:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, as well as a pair of sexual assaults that took place earlier this month at campus residence halls.

SIU Student Trustee Adrian Miller said he and other student government leaders are working together to form the “It’s On Us” student task force, which will explore issues that have led to the recent incidents and search for solutions to the problems.

“We believe a student-driven response to this is critical,” Miller said.

Miller also stressed that the recent incidents are not representative of SIU’s student body as a whole.

“To suggest this campus and community is overwhelmed with violence is nonsense,” he said.

Disturbance on the Strip
Six people — Danny S. Garner, Justin Haney, Joshua Jordan, Robin Kyles, Jalan Davis and Juwan Davis — were arrested in the wake of Saturday morning’s unrest, and police continue to investigate the situation.

The tumult began shortly after the 2 a.m. bar closure, when police began responding to reports of numerous disturbances on South Illinois Avenue. When police arrived, they witnessed several fights occurring in the middle of South Illinois Avenue, including one captured on video that has been widely shared on social media.

Police dispatch recordings painted a picture of chaos making its way down the street to the south, with one officer observing 50 to 100 people running southbound, hollering that people to the north had guns.

Grubbs said that while “there were statements and inferences at the scene that said there may have been other” guns involved, those reports remain unsubstantiated by evidence, and only one weapon was recovered.

Grubbs said that gun, seen in the video lying on the ground between the Hangar 9 and Pagliai’s, was connected with 32-year-old Danny S. Garner of Murphysboro, who fought with officers and fled on foot before being captured. Garner is now due in court Oct. 9 on charges of felony possession of a firearm and aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Police made a host of other arrests in connection with the fights. Two SIU students, Justin Haney and Joshua Jordan, both 18, were arrested and charged with resisting a peace officer. Jordan is due in court Nov. 7; online court records showed no formal proceedings for Haney as of Tuesday morning.

Non-SIU students also arrested on resisting charges were Robin Kyles, Jalan Davis and Juwan Owens. All of them were taken to the Carbondale Police Department and later released on bond.

Grubbs: Carbondale Police response was ‘swift, calm’
Interim Chief Grubbs commended his officers’ actions Saturday morning, saying they did “a remarkable job” in the face of a difficult situation.

Despite some concerns expressed by officers on dispatch recordings that the night’s events were “kind of becoming a riot situation,” Grubbs said he didn’t want to classify the situation that way. He said officers did not deploy tear gas or any other crowd dispersion tools during the course of the evening.

Grubbs added that officers, some of them seen on video being antagonized and with members of the public wagging fingers at them, demonstrated commendable restraint.

The interim chief also discredited widely circulated rumors that an officer’s squad car had been stolen, saying that report was unfounded. While dispatch recordings detail a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle in front of Dairy Queen, Grubbs said he was unaware of the situation and doubted it was too serious. He said no serious injuries were reported as a result of the night’s events.

Police are seeking any other videos of the fights taken by members of the public. Those with information to share can call 618-457-3200.

Assaults have SIU on edge
The fights on the Strip occurred in the wake of unrelated reports of multiple sexual assaults in SIU residence halls.

Four suspects — Dequante W. Daniels, Teon L. Slaughter, Conner D. Mayweather and Damiyon L. Griffin, all 18 — were arrested early Sept. 14 following an incident at Schneider Hall.

The second incident, reported later that evening, allegedly occurred at Wall and Grand Apartments building 1. Taken to the Jackson County Jail were Devon R. Williams, 18, and Deandre L. Downey, 20.

In both alleged assaults, the victims were taken to Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and released.

At Tuesday’s student government press conference, Graduate Professional Student Council President Matt Ryg pointed to statistics showing the surprising number of women who will experience sexual assault on a college campus. He said SIU’s student body does not condone such alarming behavior and that a solution must be found.

“We want to be good citizens and neighbors,” he said.

Ben Smith, a prevention educator at the Women’s Center, also appeared at the press conference and said the issue of sexual assault has been wrongly categorized as a women’s issue. He said the campus community needs to begin seeing it as an “everybody issue.”