In the April 5 city election, Kimbell will face four-term incumbent Mark Schwiebert, who stressed continuity of leadership in advocating for his re-election.
Kimbell, who has run unsuccessfully for alderman and county board and also plans to run for Congress, said the city should hire more police officers, repeal the food and beverage tax enacted by the city council last year, and cut water and sewer rates as well as property taxes. To accomplish that, he said, he wants to hack between $1 million and $3 million from the city budget.
And he wants to hire between three and five police officers, he told the River Cities' Reader, so that more police could walk the streets, particularly near schools and in high-burglary areas.
But Kimbell's plan isn't specific in terms of from where those cuts would come. He said he would cut nonessential jobs without specifying which ones, and cited a few expenditures he wouldn't have supported, such as a 2-percent raise for the city manager and $200,000 for a children's garden. He added that having more police officers actually walking their beats would reduce the cost of maintaining the city's squad cars. "I would cut the city down to the bare needs," he said.
The problem as Kimbell sees it is that the food and beverage tax was enacted without cuts to city government. "Not one job was cut from city," he said. "They want the people to sacrifice, but they don't want to."
Although formal education is outside of the purview of municipal government, Kimbell said the city needs to market the city's schools.
Kimbell has planned a small campaign, spending between $1,000 and $5,000 of his own money.
Schwiebert said that Kimbell doesn't offer any way to pay for what he wants to do, and said he has a long track record voters can use to assess his effectiveness. "What does Mr. Kimbell have but empty promises?" he said. "I've got a proven track record of success."
The mayor said that since he took office in 1989, the city's property-tax rate has dropped from $4.13 (1990) per $100 of assessed valuation to $2.54 (2005). The city's fiscal management, he noted, led to Rock Island's bond rating being upgraded last year.
He also said it's important to have continuity of leadership right now because of a number of critical issues facing the city: the fate of the Rock Island Arsenal, the River Vision plan, the relocation of Casino Rock Island, and the Columbia Park plan to transform what is now the Quad City Industrial Center.
Schwiebert has been one of the point people on the Arsenal and is chair of the Arsenal task force. With a new list of base closings due May 16, he said it's important that he be available to get the Arsenal off the base-closing list, or keep it off if it isn't on the list. The mayor said that while the Arsenal should fare well on the base-closing committee's objective criteria, the Pentagon has been pushing for privatization, which doesn't bode well for the area's second-largest employer.
The casino, River Vision, and Columbia Park are all in the plan stages and need to be shepherded to completion. "To have a change in leadership right now wouldn't be advantageous," Schwiebert said.
As for the food and beverage tax, Schwiebert said the city took that avenue because, unlike Moline, it doesn't have much retail. "You just use what you have available," he said. He added that he hasn't gotten any complaints from bar or restaurant owners since the tax was implemented that it's been detrimental to their business.
Schwiebert also said the city has an appropriate number of police at this time. "I think we are where we need to be," he said. "This is what we can afford."
He added that violent crime in Rock Island continues to drop, although property crime has risen somewhat. In addition, Rock Island has more police officers per-capita than other Quad Cities.
In addition to the mayor's race, three city-council seats are also contested in Tuesday's election. In Ward 1, Glen J. Evans will face Terry M.A. Brooks I; Dennis E. Pauley and Dianne Jordan are running in Ward 3; and Charles Austin III and David A. Levin are squaring off in Ward 7.