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updated: 3/4/2011 10:31 AM

James E. Beifuss, Ward 1: Candidate Profile

West Chicago Alderman, Ward 1

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  • James E. Beifuss, running for West Chicago Alderman, Ward 1

      James E. Beifuss, running for West Chicago Alderman, Ward 1

 

 

 

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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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: West Chicago

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: West Chicago Alderman, Ward 1

Age: 51

Family: Married, four children

Occupation: Intellectual Property Paralegal

Education: BA Political Science, Northern Illinois University

Civic involvement: Director West Chicago Historical Society

Elected offices held: City Council, West Chicago, 2001-2011

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Municipal government is tasked with specific key responsibilities, namely, public safety, infrastructure maintenance and reconstruction, provision of water utilities, code enforcement and economic development. While we may agree that taxes are unavoidable, I believe that people want to see that their resources are being put to good use and producing tangible results. That is why I have focused on infrastructure during my tenure and have advocated for dedicating specific revenues to road repair and reconstruction and have given special emphasis to our multi-year infrastructure plans. Today, all utility taxes and all of the home rule sales tax is dedicated to capital projects not diluted in general operations. This dedicated budgeting ensures that we can repair and rebuild our streets without borrowing and allows us to leverage our funds by being able to readily meet the local matching requirement needed to obtain state and federal grants. Recent examples of this principle include the expansion of Hawthorne Lane and the repaving of Arbor Avenue and Joliet Street. During my tenure, nearly every street in my ward has been repaved. This year Galena will be reconstructed and Washington Street will be reconditioned.

Key Issue 2

West Chicago City government has earned a reputation for strong fiscal responsibility and prudent administration. We have streamlined our departments and achieved six years of operating budget reductions while making no service cuts and indeed are providing services to an increased population. This despite a severe recession and a state government that is broke. We have achieved this through targeted budgeting that takes care of the essentials first and only then considers the extras while maintaining a prudent reserve. West Chicago has built a house of brick. It is essential that we continue, as before, to make sound budget decisions in good years to tide us through lean years. I am committed to budget policies that maintain a balanced budget, lower the tax burden and provide city services in the most effective and efficient manner.

Key Issue 3

Attracting quality commercial development must be a priority. West Chicago is home to more than 800 businesses. It is essential that we provide a healthy business climate to attract and retain quality businesses which in turn provide jobs and tax revenue to fund our schools, police and city services, Fire District, Park District and Library. And, by sharing the load, businesses lower the residential property tax burden. That is why I support development friendly efforts such as expedited permit review, pre-development concept review meetings, a competitive sales tax, responsive engineering staff and a full time marketing staff to broadcast that West Chicago is an excellent place to live, work and do business.

Questions & Answers

What makes you the best candidate for the job?

I request the voter's consideration as I believe that I provide the right mix of experience, judgment and leadership and a track record of effectiveness in good times and in difficult times. In addition, while independent minded, I have demonstrated an ability to work with others to successfully pursue and achieve important municipal and community goals. For example, during my service on the City's Infrastructure and Development Committees, West Chicago has achieved balanced budgets and yearly reductions in operating costs, built a new drinking water plant that provides West Chicago with one of the lowest water rates in Dupage, added quality residential and commercial development, an improved downtown, an accelerated street repaving program and a brightened City image. In addition, I have seen to it that nearly all of the streets in Ward One have been repaved -- two more will be completed this year. Most importantly, I believe that West Chicago is a great town and I will work hard to make it an even better place to live and raise a family.

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 believe West Chicago's sales tax rate is appropriate. West Chicago's 7.75 % local sales tax is competitive with that of neighboring towns such as Carol Stream (8%), Warrenville (8.5 %), Batavia (7.5%) and Wheaton (8.25%). 1.75 percent from the 7.75 total is the municipal share. A competitive rate is important for attracting and retaining retailers as well as manufacturers that have local sales offices. And, maintaining a moderate sales tax reduces the total tax burden on the residents. West Chicago, moreover, is notable in that the % home rule sales tax portion of the total sales tax is budgeted solely to capital projects such as road repair and local water projects, not to general operations. This targeted budgeting, which I have advocated, has allowed West Chicago to accelerate its street resurfacing projects, without borrowing, even during the recession.

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.

Traffic enforcement, speeding in residential areas, in particular, is the public safety issue on which I receive the most comments from residents. Speeding on local collector streets such as Washington, Arbor, Hillview and Joliet St. is of particular concern as it creates a hazard to children on their way to school. The answer to the problem is a combination of enhanced targeted enforcement on problem streets to provide a deterrent and education to change the behavior. This requires that the problem streets be made a priority and that officers are detailed to spend more time ticketing speeding infractions on those streets. The state has made grant money available to municipalities for targeted enforcement in school zones. We must seek those funds when they become available to supplement our efforts. To create a virtuous cycle, we should recognize our police for their strenuous efforts to reduce speeding. In addition to ticketing, the "speed trailer" should be deployed and yellow "caution children" signs may be installed to remind drivers to control their speed and to look out for pedestrians. Another valuable initiative to provide greater pedestrian safety is to fill in gaps in the sidewalk network at the same time that we reconstruct streets.

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?

Having cut operational costs for six years in a row, we have achieved a lean operation, and salaries being the largest part of operations, we must now look for savings through efficiencies in our capital projects. Areas for efficient capital spending include road repair and sewage treatment. To meet future growth, the sewage treatment plant needs to be expanded. Instead of a wholesale plant expansion project, the plant can be expanded, modularly, over time. This means we can employ newer process technology and stretch our costs over a period of years and avoid the need to take out a large bond issue. For road repair, we can adjust the mix of full street reconstruction and less intensive grind and overlay resurfacing. Grind and overlay resurfacing, accompanied by curb patching, is much more cost effective, renews the roadway and is much less disruptive. And, we can, accordingly, pave many more blocks of streets per year without spending more.

What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?

Downtown West Chicago needs more public parking and outdoor public gathering space. The council has decided to move City Hall to the recently acquired Jacobson's scrap yard site. Cleaning up and redeveloping the site provides an opportunity to install a public parking deck which will aid downtown commercial development yet leaves sufficient open land to create an approximately one acre public gathering space or public square in the heart of town. The public space could be actively programmed in conjunction with the Park District and used for downtown festivals and outdoor summer concerts.

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