Bean wins third term as Urbana Mayor

Incumbent Urbana Mayor Bill Bean won his bid for a third term with roughly 55 percent of the vote. The Champaign County Board of Elections posted its final, but unofficial election results Tuesday evening.

He faced one challenger on the ballot. His opponent Justin Weller ran as an Independent in his first bid for political office. The City of Urbana has a little over 11,000 residents.

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“We don’t do anything else but provide services to our community,” Bean said the role of city council.

“There is a lot that we are looking forward to doing,” he added.

Bean, who was first elected to the position in 2012, said that Urbana has shown steady growth in the past few years. He said sizable investments have been made to the downtown area. That includes a $1.8 million project, that is currently in the works, to make a roundabout in the center of the city more pedestrian friendly and a multi-phase project that aims to replace aging water and sewer lines in the city. That project is scheduled for next year.

In addition to that the city is working on redoing South High Street, adding sidewalks and a bike path to the busy street. Bean said $1.3 million has been awarded to the city from ODOT for the project and the city is looking to raise an additional $800,000 for it. He said construction is slated for 2023.

Weller along with two other Independents running for Urbana City Council campaigned under the banner of “Urbana Wins.” They ran on a platform, if elected, that they would address and seek solutions to curb a growing poverty rate in the city and a declining population.

The city has an estimated poverty rate of around 20 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. That data also showed the population of Urbana declining from 11,868 people in 2010 to 11,372 in 2018.

However, Weller said he still plans on raising awareness for those issues despite his election lost.

“We do not know what the next step is. The movement that we started does not end tonight,” he said of “Urbana Wins.”

Weller said, if elected, he wanted look at creating two city positions, with one focusing on helping businesses though the process of obtaining permits, licensing and filing taxes. The other would facilitate a new career placement and training program geared towards local students.

He said the latter position would also help current workers transition between jobs. To help pay for those efforts, Weller stated that he would have encouraged city council to look at eliminating at least $500,000 in city spending that he described as “governmental waste.”

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Bean said that the Champaign Economic Partnership is already working hard to drive up economic development in the city. He said employers are having trouble finding employees and cited a low unemployment rate in Champaign County, as of September it was 3.8 percent.

“Working with the CEP we are going to try to bring more housing in the city and we are looking to grow up. In downtown we have all these lofts planned by property owners. We want to put in more lofts and apartments in downtown Urbana and grow our population,” he said.

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