A group of robbers armed with guns, hammers and crowbars burst into an Auckland bar, then marched a staff member to a back office, forced her to her knees and demanded she open a time-delayed safe while pointing a firearm at her head.
The bar manager says he is grateful none of his staff were physically harmed during the early-morning aggravated robbery, which left staff terrified and fearful to return to work.
It is the latest in a string of armed robberies which police believe may be linked.
Anton Rogers-Williams, manager of the Wapiti Sports Bar in Pt Chevalier, says he hasn’t been able to sleep since hearing news of the robbery in the early hours of Saturday.
He was not present during the armed incident, but five staff had just cleaned up for the night and turned off all lights in the bar.
“Eight guys wielding guns, hammers and crowbars just rushed through the doors and went straight for the staff members that were inside,” he told the Herald.
Rogers-Williams said the robbers escorted the duty manager to the bar’s office and instructed her to open the time-delayed safe while pointing a gun at her head.
“They had her on her knees and were getting more and more aggressive while the safe was on a three-minute timer before it could be opened,” he said.
Once the safe was opened, the armed criminals grabbed a rubbish bin from behind the bar and loaded bundles of cash into it.
“It took them about 30 seconds to leave our safe completely bare and leave,” said Rogers-Williams.
The robbers loaded up the bar float, gaming float, banking for the past few days, petty cash and numerous amounts of alcohol before fleeing in two vehicles.
A pub patron who witnessed the robbery said the group didn’t seem to care about anyone at the bar.
“One had a gun, it was scary.”
Staff could be seen hugging each other and being supported by police shortly after the robbery, with one breaking down crying while on the phone.
Detectives had gathered statements from witnesses, while armed officers stood guard.
Rogers-Williams said it was a miracle none of his staff were physically harmed, but the emotional damage would linger every time they returned.
“In my previous experiences with other employment, after ram raids and robberies, staff don’t feel safe coming back to work. It can take anywhere from a day to almost two weeks before a staff member feels comfortable coming back to work,” he said.
The bar is now offering free counselling sessions to all staff who were present during the robbery and has told them to take as much time off as needed.
Along with all the cash stolen, Rogers-Williams said the event also disrupted income as the bar was forced to close ahead of the New Zealand Warriors’ biggest match of their season.
“We had spent weeks getting our sound system upgraded, creating new bar menus and organising food specials in anticipation of the game, but instead we have taken a massive hit.
“But above everything, I’m just glad that no one here was touched. You can replace money but you can’t replace a person,” he said.
The robbery was the fourth in three nights involving armed criminals hitting late-night businesses in the area.
Just 24 hours earlier and less than 400 metres up the road, the Harlequin Bar and Restaurant was targeted by multiple people armed with hammers and a firearm.
Rogers-Williams says he had the Harlequins staff in the Wapiti Sports Bar on Friday night, hearing more about what had happened.
He had then talked to his own staff about what to do if this situation ever happened at their venue.
“I’ve caught up with a number of other bar owners in the area and they are all questioning whether or not to open,” he said.
As of Sunday evening, the Wapiti Sports Bar had been cleaned up and was once again ready for business, but Rogers-Williams said “emotionally and mentally” he didn’t feel ready to open the doors just yet.
One of the witnesses said the robbers “knew what they were doing for sure”, and seemed to be operating in a similar fashion to three other recent robberies.
Police have confirmed they are looking into a possible connection between Saturday morning’s robbery and two others earlier this week.
Yesterday, CCTV footage was released in the hunt for multiple armed robbers, including one with a gun, who burst into an Auckland bar after it closed to steal cash.
Detective Senior Sergeant Martin Friend, Auckland City Criminal Investigation Branch, said enquiries were continuing to try to identify and locate the persons responsible.
“Last night there was an increased police presence in the area. Members of the public can assist us in responding to crime by reporting suspicious behaviour in their neighbourhoods and places of work.”
Friend said police would continue to respond to any unlawful or suspicious behaviour.
“We have no tolerance for violence or unlawful activities taking place in our communities,” he said.
Police have singled out one of the alleged offenders, who was caught on CCTV.
The footage shows him wearing a white shirt and jacket and a black cap.
“Inquiries continue to try and identify and locate the persons responsible, of particular [sic] we are keen to identify the second man pictured in the colour image provided,” Friend said.
A silver Toyota Mark X with the registration HTU397 is also sought, along with another man, who was captured on CCTV.
Overnight Thursday: two robberies in two hours
In those attacks, multiple people launched armed robberies on premises in Pt Chevalier and Mt Albert.
That included two robberies in the early hours of Friday morning.
In the first incident, multiple people armed with hammers and a firearm robbed staff of Harlequin Bar & Restaurant at 1am.
“One person has fired a shot inside the premises which has struck a TV on a wall behind the bar,” Friend said.
“The offenders have taken money from the tills and gaming machines before fleeing. It’s incredibly lucky no [one] was physically injured during this incident.”
A photographer at the scene could see a smashed register lying on the ground afterwards.
Later on Friday morning at 2.21am, police were called to the GC VapeShop 247, on New North Rd in Mt Albert, less than 1km from Harlequin Bar.
Police said a large group of people were also involved.
“Up to seven offenders armed with hammers have entered the building on New North Rd, which at the time had a staff member and four customers inside.
“Two offenders have threatened the victims inside the store while the other offenders have taken a number of items before fleeing.”
Police said no one was injured but all were left shaken afterwards.
Friend said the group left in a stolen vehicle which police found a short distance away in a neighbouring suburb on Holbrook St, Blockhouse Bay.
Overnight Wednesday: Mt Albert robbery
Police now say they believe the same group of offenders involved in the Harlequin Bar & Restaurant robbery are also responsible for an aggravated robbery at another commercial property in Mt Albert on Wednesday night.
In that incident, which happened just before midnight, four masked offenders with weapons including a firearm smashed their way into the Mt Albert Sports Bar and stole the contents of the cash register.
Police said a staff member was inside at the time. They were uninjured but shaken and were being supported.
“We believe these two incidents are linked and are following positive lines of inquiry,” Friend said.
Authorities are appealing to the public for any information that may help find those responsible.
“This type of violent behaviour is unacceptable,” said Friend.
“We are now working hard to identify and locate those involved so we can hold them accountable.
Police have asked anyone with information to get in touch by calling 105, or if they wish to give information anonymously, call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.
The public can quote the following file numbers in relation to these events when reporting information: 230914/9893 for the Mt Albert Sports Bar robbery on Thursday, September 14; 230915/4397 for the Harlequin Sports Bar on Friday, September 15; and 230916/8450 for the Wapiti Sports Bar on Saturday, September 16.
Construction of new six-star rated offices for around 1400 Beca staff leaving Pitt St for the downtown waterfront Wynyard Quayside has reached level four of eight levels.
Scott Pritchard, chief executive of Precinct Properties –
Upstart real estate brokerage Properly Inc. has hired an investment bank to consider options including a sale, just a few years after rapidly expanding in Ontario.
Properly is the second real estate entrant that has been forced to change course after the country’s housing market slowed when the Bank of Canada aggressively hiked interest rates.
Properly cofounder Anshul Ruparell confirmed to The Globe and Mail that his brokerage hired investment bank Raymond James to help with the process.
“We received inbound acquisition interest, and have hired Raymond James to help us evaluate,” Mr. Ruparell said in an e-mail.
He declined to respond to questions on who had expressed interest; what price he would be willing to accept; why he wanted to sell; and whether he would remain in the real estate sector if he sold his company.
It is unknown how much the brokerage is worth. Properly had positioned itself as a tech company with online analytics to help determine valuation, as well as a real estate firm with innovative products that were not offered by the traditional players like Royal LePage and Re/Max.
Its main feature, called sales assurance, offered home sellers a guaranteed sale and price. It was designed to act as a backstop for home sellers by providing them with a firm purchase agreement to buy their property at a set price.
But earlier this year Properly paused sales assurance citing “unprecedented volatility in the Canadian housing market.”
It once had ambitious plans to triple its staff and expand across Ontario and other major Canadian cities. Properly now has 79 employees, which is about half the staff it had in mid-2021, according to LinkedIn. Late last year, the company axed 71 jobs citing the rapid slowdown in the housing market. At the time, Mr. Ruparell apologized to his staff and said conditions had “deteriorated much faster” than anticipated and that he could not predict when the market would recover.
His company is among the many in the tech space that have suffered from cooling demand from customers who sought out their services during the pandemic lockdowns and low interest rate era. Over the past year and a half, tech companies have cut more than 360,000 jobs in a bid to slash costs as borrowing costs have soared, cooling investor interest in early-stage tech companies. Valuations of public and private technology companies have crashed and venture capital investment has dropped sharply, echoing past downturns.
Earlier this year, financial services firm Desjardins Group shut down its real estate brokerage FairSquare Group Realty and blamed the housing slowdown. It had bought FairSquare, which was previously called Purplebricks, in the first year of the pandemic but failed to gain any traction outside of Quebec.
With the Bank of Canada resuming interest rate hikes in June, it is unclear whether the four-month rebound in home sales and prices will continue. Activity had quickly picked up after the central bank said in January that it would take a break from raising interest rates. Now, the bank is warning that the housing recovery along with a tight job market and robust demand for goods and services are signs of persistent inflation.
Mr. Ruparell started Properly in 2018 in Calgary where he grew up. He expanded to Ottawa and Toronto in 2020 as the real estate market boomed with interest rates near zero.
Properly had attracted high profile financiers and well known investors such as Bain Capital LP’s venture financing arm, as well as a $100-million credit facility from Silicon Valley Bank to help fund any purchases that were needed through its sales assurance.
Silicon Valley Bank has since failed after a run on deposits. Its Canadian loan business is now being auctioned off and it’s not certain what if any appetite a new owner would have for financing Properly’s business model.
OAKWOOD — Oakwood’s Aspiring Substitute Teacher Academy led to 20 part-time substitute signups.
The plan of action meeting at the Oakwood Grade School library was to address the teacher shortage crisis.
The school district invited interested persons with at least 60 hours of college credit to sign up.
“That was a phenomenal night for us,” Oakwood Superintendent Larry Maynard said.
There were 23 guests and 15 Oakwood school district staff, administrators and board members in attendance. Junior high student council members also helped at the event.
Finding substitute teachers is a systemic problem, Maynard said.
There are fewer young people going into education careers in terms of pipelines, he said.
Maynard said that creates problems initially.
For instance, the school district couldn’t fill four full-time staff positions this school year with licensed persons and had to hire full-time substitutes.
“They’re doing a great job,” he said of the substitutes.
When the school district pulls those people up from the possible substitute teachers, that lessens the other pool of people for aides and other positions.
The district is thin with resources.
The substitute teacher shortage crisis meeting Wednesday night has helped with short-term solutions.
“They answered that call,” Maynard said, but added, “Long-term problems are not going away soon.”
However, he said, “It was just a positive night.”
He said it was great having so many people in the room, asking how they can help our schools. It was basically a recruitment night.
“It was really an encouraging night for all of us,” Maynard said.
Long-term plans will continue to be looked at, but “that was a great start. I can see us doing this annually,” he added.
Cafe operator Desley Ralph wanted a lifestyle change when she put Townsville’s bustling, heritage-listed tea rooms up for sale and intrigued buyers from across Australia.
- The oldest wooden hotel from Townsville’s cart and bull days is still for sale despite being listed a year ago
- The Herveys Range Heritage Tea Rooms began as the Eureka Hotel in 1865
- Confidence is weak across Queensland’s business sector
She did not expect that 12 months later, the tea rooms wouldn’t have sold.
“We knew that it was difficult times, but we had shown the resilience of the business, and we had such positive feedback from everybody,” she said.
“I actually thought it would be snapped up.”
The almost 160-year-old building is one of the last standing slab-sided inns from north Queensland’s cart and bull days.
It began its life as the Eureka Hotel, a rest stop for those transporting gold and livestock to the Townsville port.
Today, residents know the wooden cottage as the Herveys Range Tea Rooms, where fresh scones are served underneath the shadows of gum trees.
But Ms Ralph said buyers intrigued by the property were growing reluctant with economic pressures and workforce shortages increasingly of concern.
“We had a lot of interest in the latter part of last year and the first quarter of this year,” she said.
“But then, of course, interest rates started to move.
“That complicated things, and with hospitality, people are aware of the staff shortages that are around.”
Hospitality, retail unattractive
While business sales within the region were strong, Townsville-based broker Danny Leet said buyers were most confident within sectors like manufacturing. However, retail and hospitality inquiries were slow.
“Staff has been a problem for some time; buyers can see that during the sale process. They witness it firsthand.
“A lot of them also want to see what the figures were through COVID.
“If something like that happens again, then they know they can get through it.”
Businesses say confidence is low
Across Queensland’s business sector, confidence is weak.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland September Pulse data survey showed business confidence in the next 12 months was weaker than last year’s forecast.
More than 70 per cent of businesses said operating costs had increased, 52 per cent reported a decrease in profits, and 69 per cent had higher labour costs.
Chamber spokesperson Emma Clarke said interest rates and inflation, coupled with the uncertainty brought by global conflicts, were deteriorating certainty.
“Weak business confidence in future state and national economies really impacts businesses’ ability to look forward, prepare and plan for future opportunities,” she said.
Despite low confidence, operating levels from the September quarter were now mirroring pre-COVID data.
“General business conditions and sales and revenue are at satisfactory levels,” Ms Clarke said.
“We know the ongoing skilled labour crisis is impacting businesses of all sizes.
“We are seeing some interesting and innovative solutions to the crisis among Queensland businesses, looking to cohorts which they wouldn’t normally to hire to bring in a diverse and wide range of skills.”
While offers for the Herveys Range Tea Rooms had slowed, Desley Ralph said she was rewarded with a busy winter season and a consistent staffing roster.
She is now planning to “relaunch” her business over summer after some cosmetic changes intended to attract new buyers.
“My vision here is having a family or a multi-generational coming in living on site running the business,” Ms Ralph said.
“If somebody just wanted to buy the house and the property, that’s an option.
“But I think, realistically, you’d want to take on the business as well.”
The Morganton City Council’s agenda for its Monday night meeting may be light, but it’s not without potential development in the city.
The city received an offer from Norvell Management LLC and AMICUS Partners PLLC for three plots of land, totaling about a half-acre, at the corner of East Union and White streets.
City leaders and the companies agreed on a purchase price of $115,000 for the land, and it was advertised in The News Herald for upset bids.
No upset bids were made, and now council members will decide whether to sell the property and enter a development agreement.
If they decide to move forward with development on the property, the half-acre being sold would be combined with an adjacent lot owned by Norvell Management.
Developers are planning to build a commercial space of about 5,000 square feet with up to 40 market-rate residential apartments on the lot, according to information from the city. Off-street parking also would be developed, and construction would begin within six months of closing on the property.
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City staff believe the development would stimulate economic development for downtown, and described the offer as “a good and fair one.”
Other items on Monday night’s agenda are fairly run-of-the-mill, with a couple of appointments to local boards and commissions and a short-stack of consent agenda items.
The city received state grant funds to help cover the cost of the gym restoration at Mountain View Recreation Center. An $80,000 budget amendment is on the table to receive the grant funds, which would be paired with $80,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for the restoration.
Also on the agenda is approval of an ordinance to establish a no parking zone along a portion of Robey Street and Circle Court.
City staff say the streets’ narrowness prohibits larger vehicles, like the ones driven by public works and emergency services, from entering the street and performing their duties. It also creates a visibility hazard for drivers, according to information from the city.
If the council approves the ordinance, which is on the consent agenda, Robey Street would be a no parking zone for a distance of 100 feet from its intersection with Circle Court. The north side of Circle Court would be a no parking 50 feet west and 85 feet east of the Robey Street intersection.
Council members will meet an hour earlier than normal at 5 p.m. for this month’s meeting because of an event scheduled at CoMMA later in the evening.
DANVILLE — When a Mark Denman Elementary School student was mad earlier this month, Gateway Family Service’s Michael Remole had him talk to Bandit, a miniature horse, about what was bothering him.
The boy was able to think about what the horses need from people and what other people need from him. Talking to the horse can help students recognize how their behavior affects another person, Remole explained.
The horses Bandit, 4 years old, and Mr. Buttons, 6, were at the school that day for equine-assisted psychotherapy with particular students.
Gateway Family Services of Illinois, a non-profit mental health agency based in Potomac, already has been providing services at North Ridge Middle School in Danville.
Now counselors and staff have been going to Mark Denman Elementary School.
Remole said Gateway is in 11 school districts now.
Gateway provides one-on-one sessions on site to improve students’ mental health by providing individual psychotherapy through science-based experiential forms of therapy to assist students in addressing the symptoms of trauma. Improve mood regulation and impulse control, as well as improve overall academic performance and reduce negative behaviors.
There are calming strategies for students with autism, ways to create calming spaces, training and a regulation station for staff. Other strategies: animal-assisted groups, clinical consultation for tricky classroom behaviors and one-on-one sessions.
Remole said “right now we’re kind of in a place where we’re trying to stabilize some of these kiddos that are really struggling.”
Gateway works with students who are struggling for various reasons. Some students might not be behaviorally escalating as often or as intensely, so they are in group with two to three other students with staff and the horses, Remole said.
He said they also are providing support for teachers.
“These teachers have been doing hard work and we think about what our students have been through over the last few years. (The students have) experienced a lot of trauma, they’ve experienced a lot of hard stuff, and so have the teachers. Very rarely do we have to go through the exact same things our students are going through,” Remole said. “And it’s impacted all of our stress responses. So, the teachers are trying to navigate all of this stuff and then our kids are behind, and the expectations haven’t changed. So, there’s a lot of pieces of this puzzle that make it a little tricky.”
The heroes are in the schools, Remole said.
The equine-assisted psychotherapy can help in a variety of ways.
Remole said when somebody has experienced relational trauma, there are associations someone can have based on past experiences.
“Physiologically, (the horse’s) heart rate helps ours settle down,” he said. “Just by being around Bandit, a child came down to a more calming state.”
There is a relational connection with the horses.
Remole said a child having a rough day has to make decisions and get it together to help the horses.
Remole said Gateway staff go to the schools to work with the students and staff. They want to work with the staff on building a room for them.
“Our kindergarteners, first- and second-graders, we’re seeing across the board that they’re really struggling because during their core development time, they had periods there, they were in Covid in quarantine and parents were teaching them or having to do work online or teach other kids during that time,” Remole said. “So, a lot of these kids are struggling because they’re still functioning in the sense like a toddler and they’re in the body of a 7- or 8-year-old.”
Students would have instant gratification through online learning from technology. Now some are struggling paying attention in classes.
In working with the miniature horses, part of this work is teaching the students how to take care of another being.
Based on previous experiences, a child may think someone doesn’t like them or they are not good enough, because there are pathways in their brain that makes them think this, having been told this based off their upbringing, Remole said.
Gateway staff challenges some of those beliefs using the horses.
One child said he was a loser because he wasn’t good at math.
“He was talking to Bandit about that,” Remole said.
Helping students across the area
Gateway has six miniature horses, 20 equines total, with all horses and one donkey.
They had an original grant that helped get things started with going into schools. They now have a contract with Danville School District 118.
Gateway also works with students including in Rantoul, Georgetown-Ridge Farm, Chrisman, Westville, Salt Fork, Armstrong and Potomac.
They have about 10 staff members, from equine professionals to licensed mental health clinicians.
North Ridge has 10 hours of clinical sessions three times a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Gateway also is working on supportive teachings and online workshops for parents such as eliminating stress and self-destructive behavior.
At Mark Denman, Gateway is there five days a week, between two employees.
“The age group that I think has really struggled the most is kindergarten through second grade,” Remole said. “And when you get a lot of kiddos that were kind of dysregulated, that can impact a whole school really fast.”
With junior high, those students had a foundation, he added.
“They’re struggling for sure, but different kinds of struggle,” Remole said.
At Mark Denman, Gateway is still working on building a consistent caseload.
Some therapy sessions are performed in groups, where students rotate with one therapist.
Remole said 24 students will rotate in more small group sessions. They’re working to expand to two large classes. The plan is to grow the numbers.
A space for teachers in the school also would let them recharge.
The therapy focuses include seeing the students learn appropriate social skills to be successful, not just in the classroom, but in the community as well.
“Overall, learning how do we navigate stress and the way that our body responds to it in a way that is healthy for myself and the people around me,” Remole said.
In Potomac, Gateway also works with the schools with its clinical session and sees about 100 families a week on site. Gateway has a wait list.
Working in the schools allows for broader-reaching services.
“This allows us to provide services to a few more people faster, and hopefully prevent people that may not even be on our waiting list from ever having to get on our waiting list,” Remole said.
“We joke that we want to work ourselves out of a job. If we can address larger groups and give them the tools to be successful, then that’s fantastic,” Remole said.
In Potomac, Gateway has a classroom, office space, and they’re working on a play therapy room and sensory room.
“We’re in our parent’s basement right now. We will move staff out to the barn,” he said.
Mark Denman School Social Worker Chelsea Mehegan has been with the school for four years.
Mehegan said they’re glad to have Gateway in the school.
“We’re really excited and it’s just nice to have them here,” she said.
In the 600-student school building, there are many high-need students and it’s great to have the additional support, she added.
“I think we’ve seen a higher need in most of the students behaviorally and academically,” Mehegan said.
If students struggle with academics, then they get frustrated and struggle behaviorally as well, according to Mehegan.
“So, we’ve really seen an uptick in both of those areas,” she said. “We’ve kind of had to spread ourselves more thin this year to cover the needs.”
Gateway coming in to help, helps them cover some of those gaps.
School officials are seeing kindergarteners and first graders struggling more this year. They were at home and many skipped pre-kindergarten. They weren’t socializing and didn’t go to daycare, Mehegan said.
“They were unfortunately just at home with mom and dad, a lot of times living in high poverty, not getting any services at all,” she said.
Now schools are receiving those kindergartners and first graders, and the students are way behind in where they need to be, Mehegan added.
“So, we’re putting some high expectations on them which can lead to some frustration and some struggles there,” she said.
She added that sometimes it’s hard for parents to understand too, and a lot of times they don’t have the answer with a student’s behavior. Parents may say the child acts that way at home too and they don’t know what to do.
Mehegan said sometimes the school staff even don’t know what to do. They have tried everything and they have to branch out and get more help, such as in contracting with Gateway Family Services, to reach all of the students.
“It is a cycle, right, so we can teach them all these things here at school, but it also has to be enforced at home for us to be able to work with them,” Mehegan said.
She said one of the cool things Michael does is offer parent sessions to bridge the gap and help make that connection full circle and see the behavior improve at home and school. Everyone’s on the same team, she added.
“If nothing else, we’ve at least seen a morale change in our staff because we were spread so thin,” Mehegan said. “To have the support coming in has really helped us. Then in turn, that helps the students because we’re in a better spot, we’re less escalated, we have more patience because we have support coming in. So, it really does all come full circle and we’re very grateful to have them in. And we have seen a difference already in just the kids looking forward to seeing (Gateway staff).”
The Nov. 8 election has some returning faces and some new ones for representative races.
Vermilion County was divided in the redistricting of congressional districts last year due to census population changes.
Vermilion County was split south of Interstate 74 in Illinois’ new congressional district map. Residents will be represented by two different members of Congress.
For Vermilion County voters, the northern part of the county, including Danville, Tilton to Westville, is now in the 2nd Congressional District. The rest of the southern part of the county remains in 15th District.
Due to the state’s declining population, Illinois will have only 17 congressional seats after the 2022 elections, one fewer than it’s had.
Due to most of the state’s population loss occurring in southern Illinois, the new congressional map combined what had been the 12th and 15th Districts.
Republican Mary Miller is running again in the newly-drawn 15th District, which stretches from west-central Illinois eastward across the state, curling around the city of Champaign and stretching back west and south to an area just west of Collinsville. Her opponent is Democrat Paul J. Lange.
Among the issues Miller works on: advocates for small businesses in downstate Illinois that are being crushed by harmful labor regulations that are forcing jobs overseas.
According to Lange: I’m running to represent the people of the new Illinois 15th Congressional District. I want to give people in this new district a choice and a real voice by fighting for economic opportunity, voting rights and health care.
Congresswoman Robin Kelly, a Democrat from Matteson, which is south of Chicago, was elected to serve the 2nd Congressional District in 2013. The 2nd Congressional District now includes Danville and goes south to Westville. It extends north to include Kankakee to some southeast Chicago suburbs.
Her opponent is Republican Thomas Lynch. Lynch of Cissna Park is an Illinois Department of Agriculture meat and poultry inspector.
“I want a second amendment that is not infringed upon. I want freedom of speech that isn’t stifled by private companies with monopoly power over information. I want to see government officials behind bars when it is found they broke the law. I want a balanced fiscal policy. I want lower taxes. I want a secure immigration policy that works. But most importantly I want freedom, a transparent government, and one held accountable for its actions,” according to Lynch.
Kelly last month met with Danville Mayor Rickey Williams Jr., farmers and others in the area. Kelly says she’ll have an office here for her constituents.
With the population loss, she said representatives need to make sure Illinois doesn’t lose more money. She also supports programs to highlight the positives of communities and encourage students to come back to their hometowns after college.
“We have to give them something to come back for,” she said.
She added that towns have to be creative for businesses, in attracting employees and marketing themselves.
Questions constituents come to her with include gun violence issues, social security, visas, passports, immigration, grants and business issues.
Kelly said she and her staff might not have all the answers, but they can direct constituents to the right people. She said they closed 525 cases and brought in almost $1 million through refund assistance/other issues for constituents.
She too said she and her office are very in tune with veterans’ issues.
“They will not be ignored,” Kelly said of Vermilion County constituents.
She said whether someone votes for her or not, they’re her constituents.
“That’s my attitude, that I’m here to serve,” she said. “And I feel like we all do better when we all do better.”
Other issues she focuses on include: less crime and healthy communities, assistance on housing, job fairs and other programs, such as a fun reading program.
Kelly said there’s been more women running for political offices, but still not enough.
“We get along better than people think we do,” she said about a lot of bipartisan bills.
Kelly said her background is in social service and counseling. She feels like she was put here to be a public servant.
“I think I have a great track record of things that I pass. It’s not always easy to pass legislation… But I’ve done lots of programming around housing.”
She said she’s dependable, respectful and responsive.
“Our door is always open,” she said, adding that she and her staff are willing to learn and listen. “We’re a very active office.”
She’s most proud of, professionally, “all the times that I’ve run for office, I’ve never been the leader,” she said. “And oftentimes, really, everyday people have put me in office. And that’s a beautiful thing.”
When she was first asked to run for office, she said when all her titles are gone, she’ll have to be able to look in the mirror and be proud. After 20 years of being elected or appointed to offices, she can do that and she’s proud of that and that she has her integrity.
“That’s very important to me,” she added.
Personally, she said she is proud she made it through her PhD being a single mom working full-time and then being a state representative. It took many years, but she did it.
In other races, Mike Marron is seeking re-election against Cindy Cunningham. They faced off four years ago.
Marron is owner/operator of Marron Farms and has been state representative in the 104th district since 2018. He also was previously Vermilion County Board chairman for four years.
Marron said he’s running again because, “I feel like I’ve done a good job representing the values of the 104th district. My staff and I have worked very hard to provide top notch constituent service to people in the district that have needed help. I think I bring a reasonable, problem solving, and practical approach to governing in Springfield that is lacking in all levels of politics these days.”
He said the most important issues concerning the office are, “Economic development has always been a priority for me, but the most pressing issue right now is crime. We can’t build the economy of the future and renew our community if people have to fear for their safety. I will continue to push for repeal of the SAFE-T Act, which provides for the elimination of cash bail. Criminals should not get a ‘get out of bail free’ card.”
Cunningham’s priorities are:
1. Lowering Taxes, Adding Quality Jobs and Building a Stronger Economy. Everyone willing to work hard should have opportunities to gain quality employment and contribute to a stronger local economy. As a member of the General Assembly, she will fight to lower taxes while closing tax loopholes to ensure large corporations pay their fair share. A stronger local economy also means investing to build and improve roads, bridges, waterways, and other projects in Central Illinois, bringing the 104th District modern infrastructure and additional quality jobs.
2. Protecting Seniors and Improving Health Care Affordability. “(I) will fight to make sure that senior citizens have every opportunity to age in their homes rather than nursing homes, and (I) will work hard to shift funding to increase opportunities for senior home care. In addition, (I) will protect important programs like Medicare and Social Security, which people have paid into throughout their careers. As a part of the General Assembly, (I) will lead the charge in people born with or who have developed conditions that require ongoing care, while also focusing on positive health care options for everyone.”
3. Investing in Public Education and Expanding Vocational Programs. She will work to enact legislation that provides equal funding for schools across the state, improving our broken system that abundantly funds some districts, while leaving others behind. Funding also needs to be increased for technical programs and vocational programs, and partnerships between trade unions and schools must be created and enhanced to better connect people with skills needed for the workforce. She will also work to make college more affordable, provide debt relief for student loans, and protect funding for public universities.
4. Ending “Politics as Usual.” It’s time to end big money and corruption in politics. While in office, Cindy will work to create leadership term limits to end insider-politics and corruption. In addition, Cindy will fight to put forth legislation to end big money’s grip on the political process, and she will not take any money from corporate PACs. Finally, Cindy will put residents of the 104th District before her party and work across the aisle to pass meaningful legislation built on goodwill and compromise.
For state senator seats, Scott Bennett in the 52nd legislative district and Chapin Rose in the 51st legislative district have no opponents.