By RICK HAYES
---- — MT. VERNON — City council, treasurer, township trustee, and township supervisor candidates were given an opportunity to voice their platforms for the upcoming April 9 election during a candidates' forum held Tuesday night at the Rolland W. Lewis Community Building.Additionally, a representatives of Affordable Gas and Electric discussed the referendum on the issue of electric aggregation.The forum was co-sponsored by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and the Business Women's Club.The city will elect two councilmen from a pool of five candidates, including incumbents Dennis McEnaney and Todd Piper. The remaining candidates are David Morgan, Donte Moore and Steve Casper, who did not attend the forum. Mayor Mary Jane Chesley is running unopposed, as well as Clerk Jerri Hopkins.McEnaney said in his opening statement he has served on the Rend Lake College Board of Trustees and was a county appointee to the Mt. Vernon Airport Board. City appointments include the Minority Affairs and Human Relations Council, Planning Commission, Vision 2008 Team, and the Jefferson County Development Corporation."Currently, I am retired and serve with the Downtown Development Corp., member of noon Rotary Club, project co-chairman of the Rotary's STRIVE program at the high school, trustee at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts, and member of the Chamber of Commerce Past President's Council," he said. "I know that attracting business and jobs, while working to support and grow jobs we have, is the key to our continuing success. We have a plan in place to guide us to an even more prosperous future and I want to see this plan advanced."Piper pointed to the city's comprehensive plan as the "chief tool for enabling growth." He said, "The comprehensive plan ensures economic stability and protects our resources. My goal is to improve Mt. Vernon's competitiveness, and I look forward to the next four years."Moore pointed to his military and law enforcement career as a lynchpin for the position of councilman. He also pointed out he is the co-founder of Family Fall Day, he is a member of the Mt. Vernon Parks and Recreation Department Board, and he and his wife Angela established DNA — Developing New Attitudes — a program for at-risk youth. Moore said he would bring transparency and accountability, as well as professionalism to the council.Morgan blasted the current form of city government, noting, "The current administration is built on a party of five. The current administration is breaking the city under the stiff arm of City Manager Ron Neibert. We're 16,000 strong. I promise if elected there will be agendas on the second and fourth Mondays of the month in time for the people to know the agenda before the first and third Mondays when the Council meets, and the power will be given back to you."He continued later, "When the city manager says jump, the council asks how high? I will give people the opportunity to vote on issues."Following opening questions, council candidates were asked a wide range of questions to TIFF funding, fire department staffing, law enforcement staffing, increasing the size of the council, and the vacant Armory building, among others.In his closing, Moore said the recent rental ordinance approved by Council has caused financial difficulties for several families, and while he personally supports the Shop It Here program, he disagrees with the Council's action to go on an out of town retreat, spending taxpayers' dollars outside the city. He added, "I can personally promise you I will never have my name in the newspaper for forgery."McEnaney said the current Council has been aggressive in successfully bringing in new businesses and helping existing businesses expand."We have done this by establishing new TIF districts, ramped up our revolving loan and Enterprise Zone programs, utilized our Home Rule abilities, improved the permitting process, and brought in millions of dollars in federal and state grants," he said. "In these four years, the city has realized over $688 million of investment and and addition of about 1,200 jobs."Piper remained on that theme, pointing to the growth and potential growth to the downtown area."In the next four years I want to focus on the downtown area and help develop an exit plan for Mt. Vernon Township High School. We will continue to work on expansions of Lincoln Park, Reservoir Park and Woodglen Acres," he said.Morgan concluded, "Where is the rule of the city manager system that doesn't even know his own math. Under me, you will have a different kind of leadership. In the end, we are elected by you and for you, and I will be elected by and for you at all times."