Rock Island Alderman Terry Brooks is being challenged by Ivory Deaon Clark in the 1st Ward city council election on April 9.
Mr. Brooks was first elected to the city council in 1997 and is the council's longest-serving member.
Mr. Clark, a first-time candidate, owns a number of rental properties in the 1st Ward and said he was motivated to run partly by declining property values. He also said Mr. Brooks was not communicating effectively with his constituents.
Mr. Brooks said his work for numerous community organizations, including positions on the board of the Martin Luther King Center and the Rock Island Housing Authority, shows he's active in the community and open to constituents.
During his time on the council, Mr. Brooks said he has worked to promote affordable housing programs in the 1st Ward and has been a proponent of investment in the city's parks.
In the coming months, a new park adjacent to the Martin Luther King Center will open. Mr. Brooks said the park will be a new venue for the community to enjoy music and cultural events.
However, Mr. Clark said there has been too much focus on housing and parks at the expense of working to make the 1st Ward more business friendly.
He said he would push for more business recruitment in the 1st Ward and also would try to develop new educational programs for young people in the ward.
"I see a lot of parks and houses being built but no new businesses," Mr. Clark said.
Mr. Brooks responds to the criticism by saying that modern and affordable housing is a precursor to broader economic development.
The 1st Ward, Mr. Brooks said, has been particularly badly hit by economic downturns, and the council has been steadily working to regenerate the area.
He points to new houses being built by the Rock Island Economic Growth Corporation and the project to bring Walmart to Watch Tower Plaza, which could spur growth along the 11th Street corridor, as evidence.
Mr. Brooks said he'd like to work with Walmart to see if they could partner with the Martin Luther King Center to help unemployed 1st Ward residents secure jobs at the new retail center.
"What I've learned is that if you want to effect change, you have to have a plan," Mr. Brooks said.
The city council seats in the 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th wards are up for election on April 9, but there are only contested races in the 1st and 5th wards.