Note: Answers provided have not been edited for grammar, misspellings or typos. In some instances, candidate claims that could not be immediately verified have been omitted.
Office sought: Aurora City council
Family: Married for almost 18 years. Wife Bethann.
Son, Thomas- 16 YOA.
Daughter, Hannah- 13 YOA.
Occupation: Law enforcement, Deputy Chief of Police- Village of Itasca.
Education: B.S. in Criminal Justice Sciences, Illinois State University 1987.
M.A. Political Science- Northen Illinois University 2003.
Civic involvement: Knights of Columbus
Former Board member Autism Society- Ilinois
Elected offices held: None
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Reduction of discretionary spending must be reduced until the econmy improves. With less tax revenue coming in, the City must prioritize spending. It would be beneficial for the City to ask for the input of citizens in what they value and how much of the City's budget they are willing to spend on the things they want. I think there were a lot of projects going on that were worthwhile. City parks improve the quality of life for residents. Festivals, parades and special events offer an opportunity for the City to showcase its people, places, businesses and events. Green projects show the City's commitment to reducing energy expenses as well as being good stewards of the environment. However, in times of fiscal pressure, we all must ask two questions regarding spending. What do we want? And more importantly, what do we need?
Some areas are of the most importance. Public safety, both police and fire protection must not be harmed. All of us want to be able to dial 9-1-1 and receive a quick police response. We all want enough police so that calls are not "stacked" resulting in delayed responses. Aurora's crime problem of the mid 1990s was addressed and reduced due to good, proactive policing. The City also needs prompt, quality ambulance and fire responses in an emergency.
Another important function of any city is to provide clean water and to safely remove wastewater. Water and sewer systems need constant maintenance. There are also breaks and backups in systems that require attention. It's not high profile work, but trust me, we will all notice if something goes wrong with either the water or wastewater system.
A last major priority to be met is in regard to street maintenance. No one wants their car damaged due to potholes. This was really common on state roads a couple of years ago when the state was running low on road funds. We do not need a similar occurrence in Aurora. Snow plowing is necessary to prevent or reduce traffic crashes caused by ice and snow that isn't removed in a timely manner.
These are not the only functions handled by our City. They are, however, those that must be prioritized as most important when Aurora is suffering economic problems.
Key Issue 2
The poor economy has resulted in many government employees taking concessions. Others have been fired. I truly understand that government workers are not alone in being hurt by this great recession. Many of my neighbors and even family members who work in the private sector have seen pay and benefits cut.
If I am fortunate enough to be elected to represent the 5th ward, I've promised those who I've talked to that until there is real and long-term improvement in Illinois' economy, 50% of my alderman pay would be donated to a food pantry, homeless shelter and organizations that help those with developmental disabilities. These organizations provide immediate and direct assistance to those affected by this bad economy.
My career outside of the City provides me with a pension. Although Aurora's ordinance allows for it, I do not expect the taxpayers of Aurora to provide me with a second pension. I refuse to ever apply for an IMRF pension resulting from a position as alderman.
Key Issue 3
Restarting development/growth in the 5th ward, particularly the Orchard Road corridor is important. The benefits of new business in the 5th ward include: increased revenues to the city; increased job opportunities; increasing the quality of life in the 5th ward with more shopping and dining options.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I am committed to trying to improve conditions for people. I've worked to better the services we deliver at my department. I've worked to try and help improve the safety and opportunities for those with autism or developmental disabilities during my time at the Autism Society, through my work with legislators and by volunteering with the Knights of Columbus. I'd bring this same commitment to the position of alderman.
I have always been a proponent open government. I've demonstrated this commitment in my job. I aim to make decisions made on behalf of the 5th ward as transparent as possible. I am open to both suggestions and even criticism from residents in all neighborhoods of the 5th ward. I'd actively seek input.
I've been accountable for creating and managing a multi-million dollar budget for my employer. I've had to come up with options to reduce spending. Because of this, I am familiar with government budgeting.
In light of Aurora's declining revenues, and some past decisions, I'd like to offer a new voice and fresh perspective on City spending, projects and priorities.
When I moved to Aurora 15 years ago, friends and coworkers questioned that decision. Aurora had a bad reputation. In too many instances, unfairly, it still does. I believe our City offers affordable, quality housing; good schools; and many other great amenities. I'd like to work to improve the image of the Aurora so that it becomes a place where people want to live and come for shopping, entertainment and dining.
Given the delicate balance between the need for revenue and over-taxing local businesses, what is your opinion of your community's present level of local sales taxes? Is the tax just right, too low or too high? Explain.
I actually think that sales taxes are a pass through tax. The customer bears the cost of sales taxes. However, if customers want to avoid higher sales taxes, stores in high sales tax communities could lose business. Both the City and business lose out.
The Illinois Department of Revenue put out a publication of locally (City and Village) imposed sales taxes as of January 1, 2011. Aurora's local sales tax was listed as 1.25%. On the list, 1.25% is on the higher end of rates. More importantly, a number of surrounding towns had lower locally imposed sales tax rates: Oswego, Batavia, Geneva and North Aurora .5%; Sugar Grove, Plainfield and St. Charles 1%. I do not want Aurora's home rule sales tax going any higher.
I'd worry that if it was increased any further, shoppers could be chased from our City particularly when shopping for high cost, big ticket items where sales taxes could add up. The home-rule sales tax is an important source of revenue for the City, so I could not recommmend lowering it either during this weak economy.
Talking with your friends and neighbors, what seems to be their biggest public safety concern? Explain the concern as you see it, and discuss how you think it should be addressed.
It was split between two items. Gang violence was cited a lot. Back in the 1990s, it seemed like it was out of control. In the 5th ward a young man was killed while he sat in his car on Constitution Drive. Back in the early 2000s, a few shots were even fired in front of a house across the street on my own block. Some worried that with the cuts, these gang problems could increase.
Others had issues with traffic. Many cited the lack of signs or traffic signals in certain locations. Other had complaints about autos speeding through neighborhoods. They did not want to wait until a child or pedestrian was hurt until these were addressed.
Public safety, the police, is one of my budget priorities. Proactive police work with the necessary resources, and adequate personnel to address crime issues is extremely important to keep the gang violence down from the levels it reached in the past. As for the traffic problems, a combination of resources is needed. Monitoring and enforcement by police is one component. Traffic signs or signals, and possible some traffic calming measures could be provided by streets departments would be helpful. Streets would be another priority in budgeting.
In these tight economic times, municipal budgets have to be prioritized. Where, if anywhere, could the current budget be trimmed, and conversely, are there areas the budget does not give enough money to?
My budget priorities are the core services of any municipality These include: Water/Sewer; Streets and Public safety- Police and Fire. People want the police and fire to respond quickly when they dial 9-1-1. They want proactive policing to eliminate the gang problems.
They want reliable access to clean drinking water. They want wastewater removed safely. Well maintained and plowed streets keep us from damaging are cars or crashing into each other. If funds for these core services are reduced too much, essential services suffer. Non-essential services bare greater scrutiny, but I'd want to see an updated organizational chart before making decisions. Also, as a courtesy and sign of respect, any department or personnel cuts should be discussed with the affected personnel before ever being made public.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
This idea doesn't pertain to the community as a whole, but is applicable to the 5th ward. A number of years ago, alderman were allowed to spend gambling revenues. When the economy was good, this amount was over $500,000 per ward! Ward committees were formed to help the alderman determine what projects in the ward are worth spending the riverboat money on. No one person even if he is helped by his family and friends can know all of the projects citizens of the 5th ward would like to see. A committee of residents from neighborhoods throughout the entire 5th can help the alderman with these decisions.
While walking the 5th and talking to people, I was very interested in the concerns that each neighborhood had. Every neighborhood had concerns that they feel the City had not addressed. Some stated their calls or e-mails went unanswered. Some said that they had never seen an alderman walking through their neighborhood asking about their concerns or for their vote. This is unacceptable.
If elected, I will form a ward committee. I would like the committee to be made up of residents from a number of neighborhoods. This would let me know the concerns or problems of all areas of the 5th ward. It would also allow for a more transparent process in determining where ward funds are spent.
A ward committee offers residents an opportunity to meet with their alderman face-to-face. No unanswered phone calls or e-mails. It would also allow for the alderman to advise residents of information on what the City is doing.