Filling commercial vacancies, especially the former Dominick's site on Kirchoff Road and Sam's Club on Algonquin Road, are top priorities for Tom Rooney, the mayor elect of Rolling Meadows said Wednesday.
And since he's a teacher, the former alderman will be able to devote almost full time to the effort for three months starting May 25. He will take the gavel early in May.
Here is an edited transcript of his talk with the Daily Herald.
Q. How does Rolling Meadows compete with other municipalities for businesses? Do you need to offer incentives?
A. Some breaks and incentives such as TIFs and sales tax sharing hit the residents. I think there are a lot more subtle things that we can do. Getting established as a community that will help (business) people get through the red tape goes a long ways. It saves a lot of dollars if you don't have to keep paying people to come out to city council meetings.
Q. Rolling Meadows will have to do this with a bare-bones staff.
A. In the area of economic development things are a little more bare than we meant it to be. Our economic development was meant to be two people -- the community development director and the city manager, and they let the city manager go.
The staff needs a feeling of support from the council. The effort needs some of Barry (Krumstok, the new city manager), some of Valerie (Dehner, community development director) and little snippets of other people on the staff. We want these folks to understand we're bringing them into the effort, and they're not squatting or interloping. I want to go as far as we can with current staff and keep the consultants and extra bodies to a minimum until we can afford them.
Q. Why is business so important?
A. It relieves the tax base. It's also about taking a good livable area like downtown Rolling Meadows and making it more so. It's a lifestyle center. Keeping it vibrant can't be measured with a dollar figure.
Q. How do you feel about the city's budget?
A. It depends on our contract talks. I'm pretty sure police and fire contracts expire Dec. 31. If we get a stable deal, I'm not worried about the budget. We can't keep doing what we've done with the last two or three contracts where salaries have gone up 4 percent a year.
I think we can be pretty hard-hitting on the bottom line without doing it disagreeably and without antagonizing the people we're trying to keep at that table.
Q. What city services are you concerned about?
A. We need another police car or two on the streets per shift. And we need to provide animal control. I heard about a skunk and a raccoon, and people are told that someone will come out when they can.
Q. How do you get the council to show the united front you say is necessary to impress businesses and others?
A. There's not a single person sitting up there I don't call a friend. For example John D'Astice (Ward 6) and I don't always agree, but we always disagree well. He helps me refine my thinking, and hopefully I help him refine his as well.
The unhealthy kind of disagreement I think we can minimize with a little different approach from the chair. I need to step up to defend people in meetings and shut down unproductive conversation.
There's been too much acrimony -- not necessarily so much between council members but hard feeling between the council and staff. One of the things I offer personally is somebody who does have a relationship and a sense of integrity with staff folks. I can defend employees against alderman. On the other hand, when an alderman is asking a simple question and maybe does not get an answer, that needs to stop.
Part of what I'm going to be talking about is the difference between council meetings and committee of the whole. There's a higher level of formality and you really have to up your game at council meetings. Committee of the whole is a little bit more brainstorming or ragtagging.