David Wentz: Candidate Profile
Naperville City Council (2-year Terms)
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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.
Office sought: Naperville City Council (2-year Terms)
Family: Lifelong DuPage County resident. Have lived in Naperville for most of the past 23 years. My grandparents lived in Naperville in the 1960s and early 70s. Married to wife Tonya for almost 22 years. Three children Haley (16), Luke (13) and Zach(11).
Occupation: Attorney at Law at Brooks, Tarulis & Tibble, LLC
Education: University College of Law Juris Doctor 1989 Augustana College Bachelors of Arts Political Science 1985 North Central College Leadership Academy 1999 Glenbard West High School 1981
Civic involvement: Citizens Appreciate Public Safety (CAPS) Board Member, Samaritan Interfaith Counseling Center Board Member, Naperville Healing Field of Honor Committee Chair, 2009 & Co-Chair, 2012, ADOPT Pet Shelter Board Member. Naperville Noon Rotary Club Harris Fellow Award Winner for Outstanding Community Service,Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Committee Chairman 1997-1999. Exchange Club of Naperville President 2001-2003, Lincolnland District Exchange Clubs State President 2007-2008, Indian Prairie School District 204 Referendume Committee May Watts Representative, 2004-2005, DuPage County Workforce Investment Board Member 1996-2003, Naperville Citizens Police and Fire Academy graduate, Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee, 2003-2004, Naperville Homeowners Confederation, Naperville Township Republican Precinct Oommitteeman 1992-2013
Elected offices held: Naperville Township Trustee, May 2009-April 2013
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Making sure Naperville remains fiscally responsible in a recovering financial market. As the economy continues to show signs of an economic recovery, Naperville needs to continue to promote sound financial policies to help non-property tax revenue sources to continue to grow while also looking at a further reduction of the City's property tax levy. Mayor Pradel and Naperville's Finance Director Karen DeAngelis have both recently reported that real estate transfer tax revenues are up 13%, sales tax revenues are up 7%, automobile sales are up 8% and restaurant retail sales tax revenues are up 10% from where they all were a year ago. There are also indications that Naperville's personal incomes may have risen as much as 10% from where they were a year ago. As personal and business incomes continue to rise, it is anticipated that barring a disaster, our residents will spend more of their disposable income in Naperville. If properly positioned, Naperville's business community should stand to prosper in the months and years ahead. The issue is making sure that the City of Naperville holds the line on any new spending initiatives does not see this recovery as an excuse to rapidly increase the timetable of any currently unfunded capital improvement programs. Perhaps it is this optimism, plus tightened budget restraints, that have lead to a budget surplus of $5.2 million dollars for fiscal year 2013-2014. In my opinion, this $5.2 million dollars should not be used for currently unfunded capital projects. Instead, the City should use half of it to pay down some of the $100,000 unfunded pension liabilities so we don't risk losing our AAA bond rating and abate the other half to the taxpayers of Naperville. One of the ongoing complaints about Naperville is that its property taxes are too high and as a result younger families and older families on fixed incomes are prohibited from owning homes in Naperville. While interest rates remain low and the property values remain somewhat undervalued, reducing the property tax levy at all levels of government and abating as much as possible back to the taxpayers should make the dream of owning a home in Naperville that much closer to a reality. Despite lowering our property tax levy at least 1% over the past 3 years, Naperville Township is also looking at a budget surplus. We anticipate abating a significant portion of the proposed 2013 property tax levy without drawing down too much of our reserves so that it doesn't impact any of the essential township services or programs.
Key Issue 2
Promoting balanced economic development. Naperville needs to continue proactively recruiting new businesses and development projects to Naperville without overburdening our current infrastructure. This is primarily achieved by developing a sound economic development plan, partnering with local, regional, national and international partners and working with the business and residential sectors in our community to encourage an environment that will attract new businesses to want to come to Naperville, build in Naperville and stay in Naperville. In recent years, the highly successful business development projects which have followed this formula include Freedom Commons and City Gate on the north end and Springbrook Prairie at 75th street and Rte. 59, which will soon include a new Walmart. All three of these projects were fiscally responsible projects in that they required the developers to pay substantial impact fees to support the infrastructure needs of these projects and built each of these projects in phases so as to keep these commercial projects at or near full occupancy. One example where this formula was not followed was the 95th Street Crossing area where despite the additional of a number of storefronts and restaurants and the Showcase Cinema theatres, there still remain a significant number of vacant or partially occupied commercial buildings. I applaud the efforts of the City of Naperville and our regional, state and federal legislators to obtain as much assistance as possible on any new roadway expansion projects including the Route 59 expansion project to relieve congestion at the toll way entranceway and exits and allow drivers better access to Route 59 in both directions. When large scale business development projects are proposed in the downtown business community, the level of scrutiny on the existing infrastructure, including traffic patterns and parking, becomes even greater. That is why the current focus of both the Water Street and the Main Street Promenade addition projects are upon anticipated traffic flows, roadway upgrades/maintenance and parking rather than height restrictions, shadow studies and aesthetic preferences. I believe this is also the main reason why the proposed McDonald's on Hillside and Washington was ultimately withdrawn after it was rightfully voted down 9-0 by the Naperville City Council after the Plan Commission unanimously approved it. Meaningful economic development is dependent upon a good working relationship amongst our governmental officials, staff, businesses, schools, churches and residents. The balancing of all of these sometimes competing interests where everyone's input is valued is what continues to make Naperville great. As an attorney in downtown Naperville for over 22 years and former member of the DuPage County Workforce Investment Board and member of Indian Prairie School District 204 Referendum Committee which built Metea Valley High School, I have attained a great deal of experience in understanding the need for public and private sector partnerships. Before the economy soured, I also spent roughly 6 years as a contract right of way negotiator for the DuPage County Division of Transportation and personally negotiated several land acquisition contracts with private owners and businesses on over half a dozen projects across DuPage County including west Ferry Road from Route 59 to Eola Road in unincorporated Naperville. Through these and other experiences I have learned how to treat taxpayers with respect and explain projects in a manner in which the public can understand. I hope to apply this experience and my familiarity with the Naperville community to the challenges facing Naperville for the next several years.
Key Issue 3
Proactively addressing public safety throughout all of Naperville. The recent headlines about public safety concerns in the downtown late night business district are over-exaggerated and formed a misperception in the public's eye that the downtown business community is not taking any actions to address this perception. This perception is fueled primarily by the media's failur to publish the positive improvements that have been made and the latest efforts the business owners and city have been taken to address the situation. A recent FBI study based on 2010 crime data indicates that of all communities over 100,000, Naperville still has the lowest violent crime rate in the State of Illinois by a substantial margin. The strong community policing by both the Police Department and the Park District are in large part to thank for this longstanding trend which has kept Naperville as one of the safest places to live in the United States and is partly why Money Magazine continues to rank Naperville as one of the top 100 places to live in the United States. The public safety sector of our police, fire and community watch programs have won national recognition awards every year and should be applauded for their efforts. In the recent months the Naperville Development Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce, the Restaurant Association of Naperville, Dine DuPage, Liquor Commission and leaders from the Police and Fire Departments have been meeting together to form a task force to address and examine safety issues and come up with meaningful solutions which have been outlined in articles published in Naperville Magazine and Positively Naperville. They all realize the importance of working together and sharing as much information as possible so that our downtown business community can continue to be safe and vibrant. What makes Naperville such a great place to work, raise a family, eat and drink is that we can do so in an environment that we consider to be safe. In addition to the efforts outlined above, our school districts have been working very closely with their public safety partners to not only address incidents while they are occurring but to also educate our teachers, parents and students to watch out for problem students or problem situations before they occur and use their best efforts to prevent potentially dangerous situations before they occur. Another avenue which has been addressing public safety in Naperville is the responsiveness of our not-for-profit organizations to the needs in our community. As the economy dipped in 2008-2011, we saw a rise in unemployment as well as an increase in the not for profit's responsiveness to our citizens needs which undoubtedly prevented a number of additional public safety issues from occurring. The not-for-profit and church community have banded together to helped keep public safety issues to a minimum by increased membership, increased counseling and increased outreach to collaboratively work together to share resources and solve problems within the social services network both with and without the use of tax dollars. As a current member of the Citizens Appreciate Public Safety (CAPS), Township Trustee, a 17 year member of the Exchange Club, board member of Samaritan Interfaith Family Services, past Chairman of the Healing Field and one of the original advisors to the Community Career Center, I have seen how important community support is for our residents in need including our unemployed, underemployed and residents dealing with mental health, depression, child and domestic violence issues. All of these components come into play in addressing public safety for the entire Naperville Community.
There are increasing concerns about safety in downtown Naperville, especially on weekend nights. Is the city doing enough to promote downtown safety and, if not, what other steps should it take?
Contrary to public perception, the City has been doing a great deal to promote public safety in the downtown restaurant sector. Over the past several months, a number of proactive efforts that have been put in place and continue to be developed to drastically reduce the potential for violent crime and insure a safe dining experience in downtown Naperville at all hours of operation. The City is leading the charge, along with the downtown late night business owners, the Naperville Development Partnership, the Restaurant Association of Naperville, the Liquor Commission and the Naperville Chamber of Commerce to eliminate the false perception that it is no longer safe to go downtown Naperville on weekends and that nothing is being done about it. Police Chief Marshall has placed a greater focus on preventing crimes from occurring rather than reacting after a crime has occurred. This has been done by increasing the police presence in the downtown area on weekends and weeknights. He has also worked closely with the Liquor Commission and downtown tavern owners to insure that the restaurant owners take ownership of this issue to proactively police their own patrons or they will pay the consequences. For the past 4 months, I have been making weekend patrols through downtown at various hours of the night and have sometimes taken along members of my family. Along the way, I have asked myself or whoever is with medo we feel safe?? The answer to that question has always been yes. Since late September, after the debate over this issue reached its peak and new policies started to become implemented, there have been significantly longer lines outside all of the downtown establishments. The door people have been taking a more attentive look at the identifications of those who were about to enter their establishments. I have also noticed a calmer and less congested atmosphere in the restaurants and taverns as well. On Black Wednesday, despite the appearance of thousands of patrons to downtown establishments, there was only one arrest I recall being reported. The City's greatest tool in promoting the downtown safety is limiting the number of liquor licenses. For the past 10 years, that number has remained relatively constant. The taverns themselves are working to improve their BASSET training compliance and understand the importance of not over serving any of their patrons. The police department has also assigned plain clothed investigators and worked with the tavern owners and the fire department to monitor capacity checks later in the evenings. While there is some discussion of the city increasing video cameras in the downtown region, the primary solution to the late night liquor consumption issues are dependent upon the tavern owners and employees themselves. Contrary to the media's perception, the downtown business community is taking ownership of this issue and has been looking into best practices not only amongst themselves but from other nearby business communities such as St. Charles and Chicago. The downtown restaurant/tavern owners and community leaders have been working on solutions to rapidly increase communication amongst the tavern owners if or when a patron is refused access or an emergency issue emerges. Discussions are in the works for voluntary programs such as ID scanners, walkie talkies and/or mobile texting devices. I support and applaud all of these efforts. I would also support a watch list to be privately shared amongst downtown businesses which would alert each of the establishments of a potentially disruptive patron. As the only candidate who has gone through both the Naperville Police and Fire Academy Citizens Academy training courses I have a good working knowledge of the public safety sector in Naperville. I have also been a member of the Citizens Appreciate Public Safety Board and Exchange Club's Americanism Committee which has been awarding Police and Firefighter of the year awards for over almost 12 years. I have developed a good working relationship with the public safety sector of our community and hope to put that experience to work as a councilman.
What is your vision for the continued development of downtown? Are there types of businesses you would like to see in the central business district or other parts of the city?
My vision for the continued development of downtown is to continue to insure a safe and vibrant downtown business community by making sure that any project which comes before the city council is in conformity with the existing 2030 development plan in that it is intended to include a healthy mix of uses of downtown businesses such as retail, restaurant and professional offices within the distinct downtown core, the surrounding businesses away from the core should reflect these same types of uses with more of the traditional service industries located in the transitional use areas. I would support the continued use of the SECA fund to continue to maintain the existing and future art displays which makes downtown Naperville so unique from most other communities. Any future development in the downtown sector should also value the current developments and not appear out of character with what is already in place nearby. Future developments should take input from the business community and existing residential neighborhoods that surround the downtown and include more frequent uses of open houses, social media and one on one or group meetings with the area stakeholders. The continued development of downtown should also continue to provide free parking and increased public walkway access over and under major roadways and bridges and a greater awareness of ADA compliance. This could be achieved by minimizing curbs and increasing the number of volume controlled traffic light crossings for visually impaired pedestrians. Naperville became a great community to live and raise a family because of the diversity of its development and its visionary leadership. With the proper plan in place, there is no reason those trends cannot continue indefinitely.
Has Naperville's image gotten better or worse over the past four years? What are two things the city needs to do better?
Over the last 4 years, due to the declining economic climate in Illinois, the image of Naperville has somewhat declined on a national scale. It is argued that Chicago is the economic engine that drives the State of Illinois. In reality, Chicago can't and never has been the sole piston in the economic engine that is the Chicagoland region. With the large corporations along the I-88 corridor and number of area CEO's who have selected Naperville as their chosen place to live and work, Naperville has always been seen as a leader in the business sector of DuPage County and the State of Illinois. We need to look at ways of getting ahead of some of the problems that have plagued Springfield over the past several years by starting to take the initiative ourselves rather than waiting on a bailout that will never come from Springfield and make sure that more of our state and federal tax dollars return to Naperville. Naperville needs to put a priority on funding its own unfunded pensions and should do so well before the anticipated date of 2033 so it can be an example to the State of Illinois and not threaten our AAA bond rating. On a smaller scale, Naperville's public image has become somewhat tarnished over the last 4 years in the way it sometimes treats its citizens who appear before the City Council with what appear to be unpopular positions. An engaged citizenry is vital to the continued development of the democratic process. Like a judge, a councilman should listen to the arguments on both sides before making an intelligent decision. Many times I have also seen one or two councilmen point out that a particular resident's or business owner's opinion made a difference in their decision. Sometimes it is better to show some restraint and agree to disagree rather than lob insults at one's opponents. I pledge to be respectful of those who come before the council to speak whether I agree with them or not. As an attorney we are taught to be civil at all times with our opponents regardless of whether we agree with them. As publicly elected officials, the council should be expected to live up to the same or similar standards.
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?
As a general rule, Naperville should look at what the private sector can do better or more appropriately, what other governmental entities in the area are doing and defer more of our services to the private sector or to other governmental entities with a greater access to the issue. The three funds which would appear to fall into these categories would be the Automobile Test Track Fund, the Millenium Carrillon Fund, and the Naper Settlement Fund. With a significant increase in auto sales projected for 2013 perhaps the Test Track fund should be cut even further or eliminated from the budget so that it is paid for solely by those auto dealerships who actually use it. There is currently $44,697 allocated for FY 2012-13, which was a slight decrease from the previous year, indicating a trend that perhaps it is time for the car dealers who use the test track to pay for it completely. Since the costs for operations and maintenance or shared by the member dealerships, the city should stop subsidizing the test track's operations. While the Carrillon is scheduled for a maintenance overhaul of its elevator in the not too distant future, I would suggest reducing its dependency on revenue from the City's Carrillon Fund to see if more of its expenses can be covered by the Park District through the revenues raised from Carrillon tours and public concerts and from funds raised by the Carrillon Foundation through benefit concerts at Rotary Hill so that it becomes less dependent on the taxpayers who might not be as inclined to use it as those who are willing to take tours or attend carillon concerts. Over the last two years, I have noticed a significant increase in the attendance at a number of Naper Settlement events. The Settlement should strive to be as self-sustaining and consider downsizing its paid employees by utilizing more volunteers and charging a small admission fee even for Naperville residents. There is a legion of retirees who would also enjoy the opportunity to become a volunteer staffer at the Settlement. The Settlement has also been using the Preemption House and church for more private events and could promote more for fee events at all of its facilities in an effort to offset its reliance on tax dollars and to expand its donor base.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
I would like to propose a program which provides rebates for the purchase and installation of a hot water recirculating system onto an existing homeowner?s, business owner's or rental property owner's water heater system. Instant hot water recirculating systems are available for sale at Menards for approximately $200. These devices instantly deliver hot water to fixtures, like a shower, without waiting for the water to get hot and as a result will save roughly 2-3 gallons of waste water per usage and save homeowners roughly 10 percent off of their monthly water bills. There are already similar rebate programs in Scottsdale and Peoria, Arizona, Albuquerque, New Mexico, San Antonio and Odessa, Texas, Williamsburg, Virginia and Sacramento, California. Each of these municipalities contains a link where you can pull up a rebate application online. A similar initiative appears to be in the planning stage with Naperville's Enviroteam and Home Energy Savings Program that is close to being launched through a grant program with Nicor Gas. Nicor's website describes a program forindirect water heaters? , which I presume would be a similar device. The concept would link Naperville to environmentally friendly energy use that could save taxpayers real money. Naperville could add an even further incentive to Nicor's program by providing an additional rebate to reimburse the property owner for the installation costs charged by a licensed contractor, installer or plumber. Another idea I would like to see explored is the possibility of bringing a regional traffic courthouse to Naperville along a main route like Ogden Avenue in the old Menards building. A feasibility study would have to be prepared and a return on investment report would need to be examined by the Naperville Police Department. It would also require significant input from DuPage County.
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