Voters to Select New Danville Government
DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) _ A large turnout was expected Tuesday as voters select leaders for a new form of city government, a key element in the settlement of a black voting- rights lawsuit.
″We are predicting a 60 to 70 percent voter turnout, which could be a record for a city election,″ Barb Young of the Danville Election Commission said Monday.
The election will establish a mayor-aldermanic form of government, with 14 alderman elected from seven wards. The new system guarantees black representation on the city council.
No black ever won a council seat under the form of government Danville used for 60 years, in which a mayor and three commissioners were elected at large.
There are four black aldermanic candidates in Tuesday’s race - Lloyd Randle in the Fourth Ward, and Eugene Thompson, Lester Brown and Jerry Collier in the First Ward. Gayle Brandon, a black, is a candidate in the city-wide race for treasurer.
Sixteen percent of the city’s 39,000 residents are black.
The election is part of the settlement of a voting-rights suit filed by black residents in January. The plaintiffs argued that the at-large system diluted minority voting strength.
Springfield had just lost a similar case when the Danville settlement was approved by U.S. District Judge Harold Baker in February.
But the settlement stirred controversy because it included a provision allowing Mayor Wilbur Scharlau and commissioners Ray Randall, Jerry Brown and Ernie Cox to remain on the payroll as executive department heads for three years.
Their attorney said that would ensure a smooth transition to the new form of government. Others, including mayoral candidate Bob Jones, criticized the plan.
″Ninety days is ample time for them to right their wrongs and correct things,″ said Jones.
The other candidate for mayor, Gerry Arnholt, said he knows all four men and could work with them in the new city administration.
″If they aren’t doing their jobs, they could be dismissed,″ said Arnholt.
Scharlau and the commissioners, along with city attorney Wendell Wright, were indicted on criminal charges stemming from the settlement of the lawsuit by Vermilion County State’s Attorney Craig DeArmond, who contends the way they negotiated the job guarantee provision was illegal.
Baker issued an injunction last month blocking prosecution. DeArmond says he will appeal.