Politics & Government

Live updates: Eckert, Cook make closing statements

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and City Clerk are facing off in debate at Lindenwood University Belleville.

8:10 pm update

In his closing statement Cook said he would want term limits for mayor and city council members at two terms each.

Cook also commented on heckling that came from the crowd.

“This a good example of the rudeness and bullying,” Cook said. “It’s sad that a 31-year-old has to tell you that.

“I will work for the people,” Cook continued. “I don’t want any perks with this job. I know we could do so much better and we will.”

Eckert said he has accomplished a lot during his 12 years as mayor, such as upgrades to the waste water treatment plant which could help attract businesses.

“We have made a great deal of progress,” Eckert said. “I”m proud of what we’ve done together to move this city forward.”

7:50 p.m. update

The sometimes heated debate also has touched upon the upcoming sales tax referendums in St. Clair County for public safety and school facilities.

Cook said there should be no more new taxes, as voting ‘no’ on the referendums is needed to avoid scaring away business from Belleville.

“When is our government going to figure out, we don’t want to give you any more money,” Cook said.

Eckert pointed out every municipalities’ sales tax rate would go up if the referendums are approved.

“It’s a county wide implement everybody’s taxes in O’Fallon, Shiloh … will have higher taxes,” Eckert said. “If you want to run to Missouri that’s your (choice).”

Eckert said if there is going to be additional officers in town, there needs to be revenue.

“It has to come from somewhere,” Eckert said. “You can’t just wish for new officers. You have to pay for them.”

7:37 p.m. update

Moderator Beth Hundsdorfer asked the candidates about what would they do with St. Elizabeth’s Hospital campus, as the hospital opens a replacement location in O’Fallon.

Eckert said the city fought hard to keep St. Elizabeth’s in town. He said redevelopment is possible citing Lindenwood University now at the former Belleville West site.

“I’m really optimistic about redeveloping the St. Elizabeth campus,” Eckert said.

Cook said good infrastructure is key to attracting businesses in town, and said money should go toward public safety, sidewalks and streets.

“That’s where your money should go and business will come after that,” Cook said.

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At the beginning of Tuesday’s debate, Cook addressed concerns about whether he felt safe in Belleville.

Cook said he believe the officers in the department do an “amazing job,” but wants the department to be proactive.

“We have fine men and women in the police department,” Cook said. “I don’t want to see us react to crime. I would like to see us stop crime.”

During Eckert’s opening statement he touted the new shopping centers that have opened in town and there are renovations taking place at other shopping centers.

“We’ve revitalized our downtown,” Eckert said. “Took a blighted downtown and amde it a destination.”

During his opening statement, Eckert defended the police department but said there is always room to improve.

“I think the Belleville Police Department has does a fabulous job,” Eckert said. “My job as mayor is to support them. We have to give them the tools and get behind them.”