2014 readers choice results
Article updated: 2/22/2013 6:32 PM

Scott Allen: Candidate Profile

Warrenville City Council Ward 3 (4-year Term)

Scott Allen, running for Warrenville City Council Ward 3 (4-year Term)

Scott Allen, running for Warrenville City Council Ward 3 (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.

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BioKey IssuesQ&A

 

Bio

City: Warrenville

Website: Candidate did not respond.

Office sought: Warrenville City Council Ward 3 (4-year Term)

Age: 51

Family: Candidate did not respond.

Occupation: Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps (Ret.)

Education: B.A, Economics, University of Virginia M.A, Acquisition & Contract Management, Naval Postgraduate School

Civic involvement: Commissioner, Bicyclists and Pedestrian Advisory Commission, City of Warrenville July 2010 - Jan 2012 (2 1/2 years) Grace Church of DuPage, 2003-present, AWANA 6 years (3 as "Commander"), softball "Commissioner" 5 years of league with approx. 8 different churches VFW, 1998-present (Life Member) Military Officer's Association, 1998-present (Life Member)

Elected offices held: None

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: None (excepting traffic tickets of a routine nature, i.e. no DUIs nor findings of fault in crashes, etc.)

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

TIF 3: Footprint is entirely within my Ward. I'm for it but details of the existing city plan, plus the psychology of "making something happen" make me wary. For both the Civic Center and Old Town we must maximize revenue generation. New government and non-profit activities always sound nice but are a danger to the city's fiscal posture and should not be actively promoted. Beyond that, citizen input should rule, not just be "under advisement" as is usually the case in city hearings. These are our neighborhoods and our own tax money should not be used to make them worse for current residents. Allow me to repeat that: it adds insult to injury to take our own money to make our neighborhood less pleasant to live in for Ward 3.

Key Issue 2

Taxes: Under TIF 1 (Cantera), a single large vacant property that was generating revenue was replaced with many successful businesses. The developer took all the risk. Nonetheless, the tax hit has kicked in and has strained city financing and produced several tax/fee increases. Conversely, TIF 3 includes many properties and could demolish revenue-generating buildings & residences. There will be no single developer. In fact, Warrenville's staff expert said on Jan 29th that "The city will borrow from itself." That means bonds. That means we will be assuming risk, how much depends on independent deals with developers. After that a tax hit will kick in, just like TIF 1. The Federal and State governments are near bankrupt, they will not bail us out. "Winfield" is a byword now for not being careful with accumulation of debt. We must examine our developer deals carefully under TIF 3 or "Warrenville" will become synonymous with financial failure, too.

Key Issue 3

Flooding: "Going along to get along" is a good idea most of the time. After all, society is built on compromise. The West Branch of the DuPage River, however, will not compromise. We cannot cut a deal with it. It must be viewed as a relentless threat. We trusted other governmental agencies to manage it: they failed. Yet, we have not pursued an aggressive legal strategy to protect Warrenville. We need additional engineering studies to provide proper legal notice to other agencies regarding probable damages based on the latest topographical changes (such as the river cleanup and expected berms and bridge upgrade). The city has worked with DuPage County, for example, on several projects and this is commendable. Nonetheless, the river will never go away and every action upstream threatens to make Warrenville a "Flood City." We must be prepared now with the proper engineering data and legal strategy to protect Warrenville as a whole and Ward 3 in particular.

Questions & Answers

What makes you the best candidate for the job?

22 years of preparing and executing government budgets. I was a career Marine Corps officer but not a "trigger puller." I was (and am) properly viewed as a "bean counter" as a supply officer, then contracting officer, and finally a general logistician as I was promoted through the ranks to Lieutenant Colonel. In the Marines we squeezed every penny and this was my daily life. Further, I've been inspected and audited, not only by DOD agencies but by the General Services Administration. I've also been an inspector and auditor for approximately half of my career. Further, as an additional duty I have been an "investigating officer" for allegations of fraud, physical abuse, theft, and lawsuits. In these cases even if the guilty party was known, I had to also determine negligence within my parent organization regarding who failed to prevent these incidents from happening. "Accountability." I had to determine who might be culpable and make sound legal findings. On such occasions I had to be unpopular but focused on my duty. Such incidents were always closely scrutinized by many parties in an adversarial process. I was promoted to the highest rank attainable in my 22 years in the service because I was persistent, fair in the application of law & regulation, and a clear thinker and writer. Finally, at various times I was a traffic court judge, a court-martial member, as well as senior officer on courts-martial. While I routinely had the responsibility of evaluating both civil servants and uniformed military, assuming the role of judgment can be extraordinarily stressful. When I see the city council sitting on the dais, I am reminded very much of that: sympathy toward defendants, then witnesses, etc. I have had the duty of going to homes and informing relatives that a loved one is dead. I know what heart-wrenching duty government service can be. Overall, why am I the best candidate for the job? Two reasons. One is the government service outlined above, which gives me a "sharp pencil" to trim budgets and check facts as well as know how every single law & regulation has a meaningful impact on our lives. With a Master's degree in contract management and as a former Certified Professional Contracts Manager, I can quickly recognize preferential specifications or when the city assumes inordinate risk in a deal with developers. The second is that I am an "Outsider." I am new to Warrenville, only here 6 years. I have no loyalties to anyone beyond my neighbors in Ward 3. My ambition is to represent them. I am not eager to disagree with the insider circle in Warrenville, but I am willing to do so to be an aggressive advocate for my neighbors. Context is king. What do we need for the challenges we face today? I have the professional experience and a fresh perspective to make sure we are doing the right thing with your money, not just doing something because we can.

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.

After the expiration of TIF 1 we had a "tax hit" and the finance committee did its best to spreadload a variety of fee and tax increases. Citizens noticed. When Federal and State governments are also increasing our tax burden there is no such thing as a meaningless increase. That said, the grim reality is in order to balance the budget in Warrenville our present taxes and fees must be viewed as "acceptable." This highlights why we are in danger under TIF 3 of falling in love with our own plan. We absolutely need to be wary of attractive artist conceptions and developer deals where the city takes on the preponderance of the risk incurring debt now ("The city borrowing from itself"). Further, while TIF expiration seems far, far away we know from TIF 1 that it does happen and TIF 3 embraces far greater risk. To be clear, I support TIF 3 for Ward 3. This is a one-time opportunity for success, though, so we must be skeptical about every expenditure and deal to get it right. Otherwise we will not only get hit with a debt burden, but be stuck with vacant properties in our civic center and old town districts. This is why an "Outsider" (like me) with 22 years of government experience in budgeting, auditing and contracting is needed now. I was not chosen for you, I am not a reliable insider whose vote could be caught up in groupthink that shuts down critical thinking. Neither the State nor Winfield, for example, intended to be in dire straits. Yet this occurred due to an insider mindset. In sum, taxes today are "acceptable" but we are on the brink of some make-or-break decisions with long-term impact on Warrenville's fiscal bottom line. The future of Ward 3 depends on us getting this right, right now.

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.

Ward 3 hugs the West Branch of the DuPage River. Not only were "river properties" damaged recently, there was extensive seepage in basements and garages that seemed far away in Ward 3. Further, an elementary school was damaged and major choke points like the Warrenville Rd and Butterfield Rd bridges were cut off. With our Fire Department station on the West side of the river, this meant that at least half of Ward 3 (geographically) was cut off from emergency services. Thankfully our daily criminal activity is negligible but the river is a public safety concern that is not going away. Every pebble that falls in the river changes its topography, development continues upstream. Cooperation with other government agencies is proper, but we relied on their expertise and were badly burned. It is human nature to take some quick measures and then forget about an "incident." This is a river, not an incident. The city paid for an engineering study and we must take it further, studying the impact of planned changes on the likely course of any flood damage and forward such studies to other government agencies that are responsible for river management. Only a full, determined legal strategy can protect us. In 2012 the Supreme Court of the United States (yes, "the" Supreme Court) determined that opening floodgates on a dam makes the government responsible for damage downstream. So for Warrenville to hope that the County opens the floodgates on the McDowell Grove dam is foolhardy, not only due to Naperville's political power but also the real monetary damages they would assume. We must be proactive in securing genuine and continuing action on local flooding or the property values (and in extreme scenarios, lives) are not endangered by Ward 3 becoming the County's favorite flood reservoir.

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?

Warrenville has an outstanding legacy due to former mayor Vivian Lund and current mayor David Brummel: a balanced budget. Further, it is the first government agency I've ever seen attempt a comprehensive Capital Maintenance Plan. So not only is the budget closely monitored today, but planning for the future is truly commendable. While interacting with city government while serving as a Commissioner and during several hearings, I've seen some minor discretionary spending that I would not have approved. Still, it would be irresponsible of me to say that "the current budget" should be trimmed entirely of any line item or project. There is a current budget issue, however, that will have a deep and lasting impact: TIF 3. The problem is "doing something just because you can." Our citizens are very familiar with TIF 1 (Cantera) and this is where differences with TIF 3 are critical. We are too small to make big mistakes. Under TIF 1, Cantera worked out because it was originally a single, vacant, non-revenue generating property where the developer assumed most of the risk. Contrast with TIF 3 enveloping many properties producing current revenue, and likely developer deals will feature the city shouldering the burden of issuing bonds to finance flattening and purchasing of buildings/acreage. Add to this that TIF 3 is not along the I-88 corridor like Cantera. Yet Cantera is juggling tenants today, often with vacancies. Do we expect the economy to improve enough to warrant development within Warrenville, and to what extent will such development merely shift revenue from existing businesses to the new ones? I back TIF 3 because the Civic Center and Old Town are clearly "underdeveloped" and the footprint lies entirely within Ward 3. So this is a proper way to prioritize the budget -- aiming a TIF at this target zone. This is "current" in the sense of decision-making. A TIF is just a legal framework, Warrenville's City Council will be challenged to continuously make budgetary and contractual decisions starting immediately after this election. If you are in Ward 3 and want us to spend scarce government funds wisely, this is a great opportunity but also dangerous. It's easy to "fall in love with your plan." Consultants have made alluring drawings of a traffic circle, for example, that has substantial engineering costs and a very large footprint compared to the current intersection. Is the supposed benefit -- better traffic flow -- reliable? Right now, for example, drivers can take a right-hand turn (by the gas station, heading West) on to Batavia Rd without stopping. No doubt "experts" believe a circle is better, but you have to stop before entering a traffic circle, correct? So in one direction at least (from the Warrenville Rd bridge to Batavia Rd) you can expect slower traffic. Moreover, how many people are skilled at handling such circles? What if there are acccidents in the circle, how much obstruction will we have then? Such incidents would cut off the Fire Department's most direct route to much of Ward 3, too. Simply put, are we honestly looking at costs vs. expected benefit? Another example within the current city plan is "villas" for Old Town, on the East side of the river. These were planned pre-Flood. The plan promises help with stormwater retention, as well as coordination with other government agencies, to any developer. Even if we can deliver these, has the Base Flood Elevation line shifted as far as insurance companies are concerned? Or will we find out too late that developers need berms or other special protection that will add expenses and/or require variations for the height of the villas (townhomes, really) to get enough square footage to make development profitable? What about parking and local traffic, how do the neighbors feel? Truly, the city has pushed meetings in recent years and is planning online surveys and such...but if you want to give genuine "feedback" with real power it's through an election. For the next critical four years Ward 3 needs an alderman who cares about the neighborhood, not someone with long-term loyalties to the inner political circle in Warrenville.

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

Ward 3 abuts a portion of St. James Farm that is south of Butterfield Rd. The Forest Preserve District took input regarding its plans but did not deal with local traffic. Along Galusha Rd the current scheme includes a parking lot to facilitate tour groups (probably from schools). The question for Ward 3 is whether we want a larger parking lot, meaning better access, to this property (currently a very large farm field) when it is developed? Or do we want a small lot to cut down on traffic, particularly since Hubble Middle School and Park District soccer matches have increased area traffic dramatically in just the past three years? The "good idea" is for us to aggressively coordinate with the Forest Preserve District now, prospectively, instead of reacting after-the-fact as we are to Forest Preserve facilities on Mack Rd. This is not just about the occasional tour: this parking lot entrance might end up being used by a surge of bicyclists. This is a foreseeable result of the Forest Preserve's plan for a multi-use, oval trail on the southern portion of St. James Farm. Yet the Forest Preserve District's goal, that is, its definition of "success" may be a detriment to motorists on Galusha Rd and Ward 3 residents in particular. We need to contact both the Forest Preserve and DuPage County's bicycle authority to put directions on their web sites that route traffic in the safest way practicable. We may even need to politely but persistently insist on a gate with openings/closings limited to tours so we are not inundated with bicyclists. Hey, I personally bike on area trails every week when there's no snow, and I do so recognizing the dangers of bicyclists and motorists "sharing" a road. If we have a closed gate along Galusha, most riders will opt for the existing gravel paths along the north and south sides of Butterfield Rd as entrances to the new St. James "south." This may inconvenience some recreational users, but may be safer for all concerned. The bottom line is we can either act now or react later. I have no desire to be disagreeable, nor to turn a public "good" such as recreational trails into a "bad." We need to have meetings within Ward 3 to reach a consensus on the parking lot entrance to St. James along Galusha and then communicate persistently and effectively with the Forest Preserve. I will not defer to the Forest Preserve due to personal friendships or connections because I have none. Instead, I will press hard to attain an optimal solution for both recreational users and my neighbors in Ward 3.

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