BLOOMINGTON — McLean County Board member Josh Barnett announced Tuesday he is running in the April 2 election to succeed Diana Hauman on the City Council.
Barnett, who currently represents Bloomington's east-side District 10 on the County Board, announced his candidacy for Ward 8 at a news conference Tuesday night at Rollingbrook Park in east Bloomington.
The 37-year-old executive director of the Illinois Property Assessment Institute spoke on the need for economic growth and private investment to grow the tax base while cutting unnecessary spending.
"Large employers are not growing locally in leaps and bounds as they once did," he told the audience of about 80 people that included several local leaders. "Tax revenues are down and demands on local governments for services are up.
"And the uncertainty hangs in the air so thick you can taste it," he added. "You see struggles at Eastland Mall. You see challenges facing downtown, the potholes on your streets."
But the city's best days are "in front of us, not behind us," he added. "In the midst of a divided nation we believe we can unite as a community and turn the page to a new chapter of transparency.
“When city finances are tight as they are now, we need to be smart about spending and investment," said Barnett. "We need to limit dollars spent on consultants and stop developing plans that sit on shelves and collect dust."
Developers using economic development incentives like tax increment financing districts, tax rebates or the enterprise zone should be required to use local labor and local materials to build their projects, he said.
The park is the proposed site of the Harmony Park Project being led by a group of private nonprofit organizations "to build a fully inclusive playground right here so that adults and children of all abilities can enjoy the outdoors in one of Bloomington's best parks," he said.
The city has pledged $85,000, which was the amount that had been allocated to replace the park's aging playground equipment. The other remaining share, which is about 75 percent, is coming from private donors.
"Harmony Park is not only a great example of a public-private partnership, but it's a great example of the type of collaboration we need happening at all levels of government," he said. "And there is no better partner for our city to collaborate with than the town of Normal."
Beyond his work with the philanthropic arm of Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital, Barnett serves on the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation board of directors and other committees for a variety of community organizations.
He and his wife, Jenny, are parents of a 6-month-old boy, Joseph.
His public service began in 2011 when he was appointed to the Bloomington Beautification Committee by then-Mayor Steve Stockton. Barnett was then appointed to the Bloomington Planning Commission by Mayor Tari Renner.
He was appointed by the County Board in August 2016 to fill the seat vacated two months earlier by Ben Owens, who resigned after Barnett defeated him in the March 2016 Republican primary. Barnett then ran unopposed in November 2016 for the four-year term.
Among those at the event were Aldermen Jamie Mathy of Ward 1 and Scott Black of Ward 7, neither of whom are up for re-election in April.
Incumbent Aldermen Amelia Buragas of Ward 4, Karen Schmidt of Ward 6 and David Sage of Ward 2 also face re-election, but have not said whether they will run.