By Bob Balgemann


The Ward 2 seat on the Belvidere City Council will have a new occupant after the April 6 consolidated election.

Independent Catherine Rose Barnes is opposing Republican Natalie Mulhall for the four-year term previously held by Republican Daniel Arevalo. The Feb. 23 primary election between Arevalo and Mulhall ended in a 104 tie, requiring a coin flip that was won by Mulhall.

Barnes and Mulhall were asked by the Belvidere Republican to discuss the top priority facing the city and how it could achieved, along with why voters should select them.

Catherine Barnes

Barnes is 28 years old and described herself as a person who lives with autism spectrum disorder Ehlers Danlos syndrome Tourette to provide insight into the complex disabilities she has lived with all her life.

She said she is an internationally recognized ambassador and self-advocate, a Partners in Policymaking graduate, and the LGBTQ + Ambassador for the Illinois chapter of TASH (an organization for people with disabilities). She also was the state and national Miss division Queen for Miss Amazing (a pageant for girls and women with disabilities), a global messenger and athlete leader for Special Olympics Illinois, and an athlete for NASR, which is part of the Belvidere Park District. And she has participated in many events with the Belvidere and Boone County fire departments, along with the Belvidere Police Department. Those events included the Special Olympics Torch Run and accepting Giant cardboard checks as donations for NASR.

All that, she said, points to her advocacy for disability rights as being very important to her. Unfortunately, she added, there is nobody with a developmental disability representing the disabled population on a city or county board. “And I hope to change that,” she said. 

As a candidate for the Ward 2 council seat, she said she makes only one promise. That is “the promise to try my best,” she said. “I am not in this for the money, the fame, or the power. I’m running for every single person who feels unheard in our community, because I know all too well what it’s like to have your needs and pleads fall on deaf ears.

“Let me be your ears. I give you my word that we will grow together. I am uniquely myself and that is the best way for me to be. I am cheery and polite, but I assure you I can be loud and am not afraid to vote against the majority if I believe it is in your best interest.”

As for the top priority facing the city, she said it was a need to focus on repairing residential roads.

“Completely resurfacing the roads rather than numerous patch jobs will greatly benefit the community as a whole,” she said. “The costs of road resurfacing could be covered by securing government grants, as well as the current Motor Fuel Tax.

“Unfortunately, the patch jobs are a ‘Band-Aid’ fix to a long-term problem. Patch jobs will end up costing the taxpayers more money in the long run. The current use of Motor Fuel Tax funds could be paired with the grants in order to not ask the taxpayers for the additional funds needed for the resurfacing.”

She said that complete resurfacing of city roads would help the community in numerous ways. Among them are less wear and tear on city maintenance, police, EMS, and fire department vehicles; helping make roads safer during inclement weather; and prevent unnecessary vehicle damage caused by potholes or other road hazards.

Natalie Mulhall

While walking and door-knocking to meet her Ward 2 neighbors, Mulhall said she found most people expressing concern about their property taxes.

“Our levy has remained flat for the past few years, but my constituents realize that the city has growing maintenance obligations and mandated contract costs; they are aware that the cost of operating the City of Belvidere increases yearly. The city will need to address those financial challenges.”

She continued: “One option is smart growth, through new residential construction and business development. They create long-term property tax and sales tax revenues. We often hear from businesses that are considering locating in Belvidere, that they are looking at the quality of life and economic diversity. A key component to that quality of life is housing availability and affordability for workers from the CEO level to a talented, skilled, entry-level workforce.

“I believe in order to support long-term revenue through sales tax and property taxes, we must collaborate with private developers and the community to promote smart growth and economic development to broaden the tax base.”

As to why she’s running and why voters should select her, Mulhall began by saying she believed that “in order to be a positive impact in your community, you must be involved. My love for Belvidere and Boone County and my passion for civic betterment have led me to run for Belvidere City Council Alderman of Ward 2.”

As a longtime resident who not only has raised a family here but also works as a Realtor in the community, “I truly recognize what a unique city Belvidere is,” she said. “I know first-hand the importance of our parks and recreation, our schools, the amenities and programs available to our citizens, community-sponsored events, and the restaurant and retail establishments.

“I understand the value or preserving agriculture and land conservation as much as the importance of revitalizing properties and building new developments through a smart growth plan.”

She said she is civic minded and has found great pleasure over the past 20 years, serving the city and county.

“I have civic experience along with a record of consistent volunteerism in our community,” she added. “I believe smart growth and development are keys to Belvidere’s vibrant future. I make it a priority to stay in contact and have open conversations with our community members, local leaders, and legislators.

“Through this collaboration, we can find ways to lessen the tax burden so all of our residents benefit. Communication and collaboration will be my foundation to achieve sought-after goals of our community, and it will be an honor to serve Belvidere in this capacity.”

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