Ruben Pineda: Candidate Profile
West Chicago Mayor (4-year Term)
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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.
City: West Chicago
Office sought: West Chicago Mayor (4-year Term)
Family: Wife Julie of 22 years and 2 Jack Russell's, Lucy & Vivian
Occupation: Sales Engineer for Cintas Fire Protection.
Education: Culinary Arts, Joliet Jr. College
Civic involvement: ?City Council 15 yearsFounding member of Stop UP. Prevented the Union Pacific from building an 8 degree spur on Washington St. and demolishing many homes.American Diabetes Association and Juvinile Diabetes Reaserch Foundation - Nine years as fundraising event organizer.Friend of the West Chicago City MuseumAffiliated with West Chicago Sister Cities and West Chicago Historical Society
Elected offices held: ?Alderman 3rd Ward City of West Chicago 1998 - PresentDeputy Mayor 2007 2012Acting Mayor May 2012 Present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Fiscal responsibility. I want to ensure that the City continues to operate in a fiscally responsible manner and provides the level of services to which our customers have grown accustomed. Over the last decade plus, this has been accomplished in a number of ways. West Chicago privatized both traditional (wastewater treatment) and non-traditional (code enforcement, IT, street sweeping and fleet maintenance) services ahead of the downturn in the economy, enabling it to meet today's fiscal challenges without missing a beat. This proactive planning has enabled the City to maintain our property tax rate for our residents and business customers over the last three years. We have reduced our operating budget in each of the last six years by directing our staff to examine every and all services we provide in an effort to optimize staffing and spending patterns, all to the benefit of our constituents. West Chicago's water rates are one of the lowest in the region, even after the EPA mandated we either build a water treatment plant or connect to Lake Michigan water; I am so proud of the fact that I led the City Council in choosing to control our own destiny and building our own Water Treatment Plant, allowing us to leave the DuPage Water Commission and no longer be under the control of the City of Chicago. Even more exceptional, West Chicago was able to pay back the bonds issued for our water treatment plant 10+ years early, resulting in $4.3 million dollars in savings for our customers. I am very proud of the strides we have made as a lean, responsible government over my 14+ years on the City Council, and I very much would like to continue to lead my community and diligently strive towards providing the highest quality services at one of the lowest costs.
Key Issue 2
Economic development. I have pledged to continue the City's focus on economic development. Over the last several years, West Chicago has amended regulations to become even more business friendly, and has also tasked our staff with not only ensuring that our development reviews are expeditious (time is money if you ask any developer), but that these reviews also protect our residential customers to ensure they are not adversely impacted. As Chairman of the Development Committee over the last 6 years, I will continue to partner with the DuPage Airport Authority/DuPage County to promote the DuPage Business Center (formerly the Tech Park). I was instrumental in advocating for zoning and licensing changes that would better ensure quality development comes to town, and now I want to ensure the plans that the City has for West Washington Street, Central Main Street and the Roosevelt Road Corridor come to fruition. I will continue to work with my fellow Aldermen and Staff to place regulations limiting lower quality development, which in turn should spur the types of development our customers are demanding. Notably, I was part of a team that drafted some groundbreaking legislation that paved the way for the City to control cash-for-gold and pawnbroker establishments, that not only limits their proliferation, but holds them to extremely high operating standards. We are now working on instituting a new law that would license junk dealers and junk peddlers, and I very much would like to shepherd that idea through the legislative process.
Key Issue 3
I am so proud of our police officers, code enforcement officers and our City Council, together we have made great team, the efforts of which have led to a higher quality of life for our residents. It is incumbent upon me to ensure that this symbiotic relationship continues. I have worked tirelessly during my tenure as an elected official to ensure that our Police Department was properly staffed and that the public safety services West Chicago provides were adequately funded. I, with my fellow Aldermen, fought to address the issues of over-occupancy, and have adopted policies and procedures that not only protect our residents, but also protect our neighborhoods. This may seem like rhetoric, but in West Chicago, we have results. Over the last three years, West Chicago's crime rate has decreased by approximately 35%, and is on par for a continued reduction. I will continue to make sure that our landlords remain accountable for ensuring that no more than the allowable number of residents inhabit their rental properties and that they rent to tenants that we all would want to have as neighbors. There is always room for improvement and, if elected, I will continue to assume a leading role in championing a properly staffed police force and advocating for laws that protect our strong family neighborhoods and support an enhanced quality of life for our residents.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I have lived in West Chicago for 52 years, and have been an active community member for nearly my entire adult life. I have seen where we started, am proud of our present, and want to work with our residents to make our future even better. My drive is evident. My track record as an elected official is clear. My commitment to this town is unmatched. But most importantly, I pledge to continue to work with and listen to our residents, business customers, fellow local taxing bodies and higher levels of government in an effort to provide West Chicago customers with a high quality of life together with the finest services at the lowest possible cost.
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.
West Chicago has a 7.75% sales tax rate, which is very competitive with the neighboring communities. A competitive rate is important in attracting and retaining retailers and manufactures. Only one percent of this rate goes to fund general operating expenses of the City, while another% is earmarked for infrastructure improvements that has allowed us to commit no less than two million annually for our streets, sidewalks & curbs.
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.
With our crime rate continuing to decrease, the largest public safety concerns of which I now hear have to do with the increased rail traffic in West Chicago and speeding in residential areas. The Canadian National Railroad is now a large presence in our community, and the number of trains and the length of these trains have increased tremendously over the last two years. Together with Mayor Kwasman, I helped negotiate an agreement with the Canadian National Railroad that provided funding for berms, fencing, closing dangerous at-grade crossings, a possible traffic light for Roosevelt and Town Roads and a pedestrian underpass for our students at George Street . In terms of traffic issues, we have recently established a new traffic unit in our Police Department to target not only speeding, but also stop sign violations and overweight vehicles, to ensure our streets and pedestrians remain safe.
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?
I have already been a part of the City Council that helped reduce the number of staff by about 20% as well as our operational costs over the last several years, and am quite satisfied of our present position. However, it is now time to turn to examining our capital programs, working to identify how they can be planned more effectively and constructed more efficiently. While West Chicago has done a tremendous job on the water side of our utility operations, that same focus should be directed to the sewer side. Some major capital improvements will soon be necessary at our wastewater plant and at some of our lift stations, and it is incumbent on all of the elected officials to make sure those get done, with as little impact to our customers as possible. West Chicago has saved its customers quite a bit of money by funding capital projects on apay-as-you-go? basis instead of issuing debt, and I hope to continue this prudent, fiscal planning.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
West Chicago and DuPage County have together invested heavily in our bicycle/pedestrian trails during my time on the City Council, including those that travel through our downtown. Downtown development has been a primary focus of mine, and I have advocated for the City taking an aggressive role in property acquisition there to control future development and ensure that a public gathering space is included in whatever plan is approved. Now that the trails are in place and the land has been assembled, it is now time to marry the two. A French or Farmers? Market in the Turner Court area would make for a perfect venue for the bicyclists that come through town and our walking pedestrians. Working with our Park District, we could program the public space to attract not only our residents, but intrigue out-of-towners to spend some time in our great City. More foot, bicycle and vehicular traffic downtown would spark new business and restaurants. It could be the boost to revitalize ourWest Washington Street Development Project?. Now that we are in phase two of the environmental assessment for our Municipal Campus, I feel the whole plan could come together.
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