CHAMPAIGN – Three candidates are running in the Champaign mayoral election on April Fourth — one incumbent (Deborah Frank Feinen), one former mayor (Don Gerard), and a challenger making his second bid for the office. Our third report on the Champaign mayor’s race, looks at the challenger, Azark David Cobbs.
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In an interview with Illinois Newsroom, Cobbs says crime is a major problem that hurts all of Champaign, but especially poor and historically Black areas like the Garden Hills neighborhood where he lives. He describes the level of crime and gun violence in such areas as having reached “big city” proportions and says the impact in those neighborhoods may not be understood by residents of more affluent areas like Southwest Champaign.
“You can see speckles of crime and violence that’s affected Southwest Champaign”, said Cobbs. “But we’re hearing gunshots every night in Garden Hills, the Black neighborhoods and everything. We don’t get the attention. When you’re living out in Southwest, you don’t hear gunshots.”
Cobbs says poorer neighborhoods on Champaign’s north end are last in line for infrastructure improvements and other services, because of a city administration that doesn’t listen to neighborhood leaders. He says as mayor, he would be more attentive to community needs, not just listening to the same people that he says have held the same posts in city government for too long.
“The last 20 years, we’re pretty much looking at the same core people that are in control in running things, as far as the city government,” said Cobbs. “And that’s why change needs to happen. We need to get people moving around, because one thing about public office, you can’t get change if people sit in there for two or three cycles of elections. And that’s not change, and the city doesn’t grow like that.”
Cobbs is a native of Champaign, and says his background in business, sales and technology would help him as mayor. As examples, he points to his time as a computer operator/programmer at DHL Aviation, a general manager at Bally’s Total Fitness, and a job recruiter at the Chicago Manufacturing Institute. Cobbs has donated his time to several civic and non-profit organizations, and currently serves on the board of DREAAM, a Champaign-based organization dedicated to supporting the achievement of Black boys and young men
Cobbs ran for mayor of Champaign in 2019, losing to incumbent Deborah Frank Feinen. He has also run unsuccessfully for seats on the Champaign City Council and Unit 4 School Board.
Feinen is running for a third term in the April 4th consolidated election, against Cobbs and former mayor Don Gerard. Champaign voters will select a mayor and city council members on a non-partisan basis. However, Cobbs and Gerard have made no secret of their Democratic affiliations, while Feinen has previously run for office as a Republican.