Burnett Shifting Focus to Bigger Issues, Positive Politics in 2016

Feb 26, 2016

Critics of Springfield Zone 2 Councilman Justin Burnett had some positive remarks following a community meeting he hosted Thursday night, which focused on new ideas and a new direction towards addressing city issues.

“I’m super impressed, honestly. This is a side of Justin that we haven’t seen in the past,” said Webb.

Katie Webb is the manager for the Recall Justin Burnett campaign that she started last year following Burnett’s views on the indecent exposure ordinance and support of putting “In God We Trust” inside City Council chambers. Webb described how in the past it seemed to her that Burnett had a “puppet master” of sorts. Now, she feels he’s focusing on bigger issues now.

“In 2016, I’d say (my vision) summarized quickly would be live, love, and lead with positive politics,” Burnett told the crowd of roughly 60 on Thursday.  

Justin Burnett, center, addresses the crowd at Thursday's meeting.
Credit Claire Kidwell / KSMU

The first term councilman nearly resigned office earlier this year, rescinding a resignation the day after announcing he would step down. He said the change of heart came in part from the strong support of his constituents to remain on City Council.

At one point in the meeting, Burnett opened the floor to questions, which ranged from waste water to Syrian Refugees coming to Springfield. Webb was one of the questioners who brought up many key points regarding the citizens of Springfield.

“He seems to have done a 180,” said Webb. “I don’t even know what happened, but whatever happened it’s good, and I think that the recall people are going to be very pleased, and it’s the same I’ve been saying, do your job, Justin, and we won’t be able to recall you! If the people are happy, no one is going to want to get you out of your seat.”

She concluded that with the way he addressed the big issues and answered questions last night, the people of Zone 2 will be very happy about his new attitude moving forward.

Thursday’s meeting including updates on various city leaders on local projects. Springfield Director of Public Works Dan Smith discussed construction projects completed and pending within Zone 2, while Police Chief Paul Williams addressed the area’s crime statistics. Interim Economic Development Director Sarah Kerner says new contracts with KraftHeinz for an expansion in the city district which could possibly bring with it 100 new jobs.

Burnett says he’s excited about these new jobs, “Especially since we lost the good paying jobs at Regal-Beloit, this is especially meaningful.”

The city’s Cora Scott spoke of the possibility of turning a landfill into a Community garden for citizens to work in, which Burnett says will bring neighbors together and the food provided will help reduce poverty.

Additionally, City Manager Greg Burris offered an updated on the Zone Blitz efforts that started last May.

Burris said “we tallied the results, and from those tallied results now we’re trying to develop solutions and pilot projects. We’re going to go back into the northwest quadrant, and we’re going to try pilot projects for the next 18 months…from that, we’ll develop more long term solutions that are scalable.”

Councilman Burnett said afterward that he believes the talk went well, adding “We had a lot of people out with a variety of ideas and we had a sense of community, and that’s what it’s all about.”