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updated: 1/12/2013 10:15 PM

Elgin council candidates debate taxes, city's image

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Taxes, city spending and Elgin's business climate were the main topics debated at the first public forum for Elgin City Council candidates.

A majority of the 13 candidates who attended agreed Elgin's image is in need of rehabilitation.

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About 65 people attended the forum organized by Elgin OCTAVE Saturday night at New Covenant Fellowship in Elgin.

Councilman John Prigge was the lone incumbent present; councilmen Richard Dunne and Robert Gilliam refused to attend the forum, deeming Elgin OCTAVE too biased and focused on its own objectives.

OCTAVE -- Operant Conditioning to Achieve Voter Expectations -- advocates for no new taxes and eliminating the business license the city created in 2009.

The candidates in attendance were: Michael DeBrocke, Rosemarie Kahn, Toby Shaw, Roy Chapman III, Craig Dresang, Carol Rauschenberger, Jason Dusenberry, Thomas McCarthy, Andrew Cuming, Cody Holt, Terry Gavin and Larry Wegman.

Twenty-two total hopefuls are running in the April election,

Most of the candidates at the forum oppose a stormwater utility tax that the city plans to implement in 2014.

Cuming called it "a ridiculous extra expense," while DeBrocke said seniors on a fixed income just can't afford any new taxes.

Prigge agreed, saying he only supported sales and alcohol tax revenues because nonresidents help pay for those.

Rauschenberger and Wegman, on the other hand, said everyone should contribute to maintaining the city's stormwater system. Fees would be based on a property's amount of impervious surface and can be lowered if property owners engage in green initiatives.

Most of the candidates said the city just needs to spend less.

Elgin must stop funding the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, Dresang, Gavin and Rauschenberger all said; DeBrocke said the city should push the chamber to engage in new programs, such as internships for students in Elgin Area School District U-46.

The city should look at ways to reduce what it spends on union and nonunion wages, Shaw said.

McCarthy said the city council touted lowering property taxes last year, but also added garbage collection fees to residents' water bills. He also said the city shouldn't have contributed to funding a dog park in Hoffman Estates.

Gavin said the city should consider closing the Eastside Recreation Center, which is getting a city-funded rehab and upgrade, and consolidating its services with The Centre of Elgin downtown.

Many said Elgin needs to do more to entice new businesses to move in.

Shaw said the business license is detriment to the city's economic development. Dusenberry, who works as general manager at the Hampton Inn in Elgin, said the city's business climate is improving.

Elgin is mistakenly perceived to be a hotbed of gangs, Kahn and Chapman said. Both touted Elgin's decreasing crime rates.

Holt, who at 21 is the youngest of the group, said Elgin still has a gang problem although it has improved in the last few years.

Voters will be electing one candidate to a 2-year term, and four candidates to 4-year terms in the April election.

The next forum, organized by the League of Women Voters of the Elgin Area, will feature candidates for the 2-year term at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin.

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