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updated: 2/22/2013 6:29 PM

Frank Soto: Candidate Profile

Bensenville Village President (4-year Term)

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  • Frank Soto, running for Bensenville Village President (4-year Term)

      Frank Soto, running for Bensenville Village President (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: Bensenville

Website: http:// changedbensenville.com

Office sought: Bensenville Village President (4-year Term)

Age: 47

Family: Seperated, three Children

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Eastern Illinois University (BA) Dean' List Major: Economics Minor: Business Administration. John Marshall Law School (JD) Juris Doctor

Civic involvement: -West O'Hare Corridor Implementation Team: co-chair -Governor Quinn's Elgin O'Hare Western Access Advisory Council -8th grade basket ball coach:Holy Family Catholic School -Youth baseball coach/manager for ages 5-12 -Youth basketball coach/manager for a

Elected offices held: President of the Village of Bensenville since 2009

Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Continue the progress Bensenville has made over the past 4 years. When I took office Forbes Magazine ranked Bensenville the #1 dying town in Americal and it is our goal to see Bensenville ranked as the #1 best place to live and operate a business. In 2012, Bensenville was ranked the second best place to raise a family in Illinois. These articles show the progress made during the past 4 years. The progress made is the result of the issues I raised 4 years ago when I ran for offices. Those issues are as follows: (1) Develop long-term strategic and economic plan (2) start customer service training for staff (3) make village government acessible and responsive to our citizens (4) restore financial stability and balance budgets (5) create transparency at Village (6) Direct funds to critical infrastructure needs, neglected by prior adminsiatrtion (7) reestablish positive relationships with school districts and park districts (8) stabilize water rates (9) settle law suits against Village including airport litigation (10) create clear standards for building and zoning (11) reduce attorney fees spent by Village (12) pay down debt and discipline spending to limit tax increases (13) Set spending priorities to expand police staffing and enhance Village programs. Each of these goals have been accomplished and it is important to continue the forward direction the Village has taken over the past four years. (1) We created a strategic plan with the help of the public that outlines our objectives until 2026. Each year we set objectives and refine the plan as objectives are reached. (2) We have customer service training for employees to insure positive experences when dealing with with the Village. (3) We send out customer servey cards to all people who have any interaction with staff to ensure the highest degree of professionism of our staff. The Village model is "we are here to help". We performed a Resident survey to also measure how well we are treating and servicing our residents and we conduct neighborhood meetings with our executive staff and the Village President so the residents have a comfort leval communicating with staff. (4) We have balanced our budget every year I have been in office. The Village has received 4 awards for excellence in budgeting and finance. The Village credit rating has increased to A+ (positive). (5) We have increased transparency. We first improved the Village website by placing all of the meetings on line and all of the minutes of those meetings on line going back to 2008. In 2012, we contacted the Illinois Policy Institute to make Bensenville a leader in transparency. As a result, all of the Village budgets, audits, contracts, salaries and other data is accdessible the Village website. (6) we started a street repaving and sewer replacement program and solved all but one of our flooding problems. The final area of flood releif is currently underway with the assistance of an water storage agreement with the help of one of school districts and was made possible by the building of a new school near the location of the flooding area. (7) We repaired the Village's relationship with the Park District and School Districts and we see them as our partners who helped us resolved two of our major flooding problems in town. (8)We stablized our water rates and we have not raised water rates in 4 years and we did not pass on the 35% water rate increase charged by the City of Chicago and the DuPage Water Commission. (9) We settled the litigation with the City of Chicago and the other 200 plus lawsuits against the Village. (10)We revised our building code and adopted the International 2006 Building Code, the most clear and universal building code used nationwide. (11) We reduced the legal fees paid by the Village from $1.7 million each year to below $500,000.00 per year. (12) We paid off over $30 million in debt. (13) We reduced our overall operating budget by finding ways to save money such as creating a consolidated police dispach center with Addision and Bloomingdale saving the Village over $160,000.00 per year and allowing the Village to increase the number of police officers. As a result, our crime rate has fallen each of the past 4 years for a total decrease since 2008 of 38.9%. Each issue I wanted to address was addressed and, as a result, Bensenville has been moving forward and this movement has been recognized by our awards, increase bond rating, the improvements completed in the Village and the 2012 Bloomburg and MSN News article ranking Bensenville as the 2nd best place to raise a family.

Key Issue 2

Continue to create an environment to attract more busnesses and comercial development into Bensenville. The more development and businesses will improve the quality of life to our residents by lowering property taxes, increasing the access to jobs, dining and shopping. The continued focus on The Elgin-O'Hare Expressway and Western Access into the airport will create significant opportunity for economic and commerical development in Bensenville.

Key Issue 3

To continue to develop an environment that attracts more businesses and investment and to attract more families to move into Bensenville. Over the years, due to the image created over the public fight with the City of Chicago, businesses and people believed Bensenville would not exist after the airport expansion. This was not true. Therefore, it is important to improve the image of the Village and re-brand the Village so people and businesses become aware that Bensenville is a great place to live and a great place to do business. Much of the ground work has been done with the building of our new schools, balancing our budgets, improving our infrastrucuture and business environment. But we need to re-brand Bensenville's image and communicate what Bensenville has to offer to businesses looking to locate or relocate into the area or families looking for a great place to live.

Questions & Answers

What makes you the best candidate for the job?

I am the only candidate who has a proven track record of success and accomplishments. We have had 4 years of accomplishments which can be measured objectivly. We can also look to the original endorsement I received from Daily Harald and the reason for that endorsement. Each of the objectives I outlined 4 years ago have become realities. Bensenville has been changed. Bensenville has moved forward. The other candidates offer no concrete ideas or solution. They do not offer a vision. The other candidates fail to provide their comprehensive plan for the Village. I laid out a plan 4 years ago and executed that plan. As a result, Bensenville came from the #1 dying city in Americal to the 2nd greatest place to raise a family. The other candidates offer also fail to provide short term objectives or any long term objectives for the Village. I am the only candidate who has a proven track record of success which can be objectively measured. During the past four years, the sales tax revenue has increased, commerical vacancy rates have decreased, new business licenses have increased, budgets have been balanced, water rates have not increased and crime rates have continued to decrease. Crime has decreased 38.9 % during the past 4 years. I am the only candidate who has a track record of successfull leadership, results and successes. The other canidates do not.

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.

The Village of Bensenville is Non-Home Rule and, therefore, doesn't have control over the local tax rate. Assuming Bensenville was Home Rule, I do not believe increasing the tax rate would provide long term benefits to the community and lowers the ability of local Businesses to compete in the market place. A higher tax rate requires Businesses, in most cases, to pass on the cost thus making their product more expensive than other similar products manufactured or sold in communities with lower tax rates. This would could cause the businesses to fail or relocate to avoid failing. For a community, this may increase revenue in the short term but not the long term. As businesses fail or relocate, the revenue created by the increase is lost over time. This causes the community to lose revenue. This cycle would continue to drive out businesses. I believe communities should take a two tier approach to addressing tax rates. First, the community should look to lower their operating costs. Next, the community should evaluate their rate compared to other communities and lower the rate to give the local businesses a tax rate advantage. The community should try to lower the rate and use the decreased operating costs to offset the short term loss. This concept would allow businesses to sell more of their products and, in the long term, generate more revenue then it did at the higher rate. In addition, other businesses would relocate to the community to benefit from the lower rate to be competitive. The more businesses relocating in the community would equate to additional product being sold thus creating additional sales tax revenue for the community. Therefore, I believe lowering tax rates to prove the local businesses an advatage over other communities would, in the long run, offset the revenue losted caused by the decreasing the present tax rate.

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.

The Village of Bensenville has a very low crime rate. The crime rate has decreased about 15% each year for the past 4 years. In 2012, the Village of Bensenville performed a community survey and 84% of our residents feel safe in the the community. In the past 4 years our neighborhood watch an our business watch group has increased from 9 people to over 400 people. The main areas of public safety concerns involve those who pray upon the elderly, idenity theft and drugs. On of the main keys of preventing crime is reducing the opportunity for criminals to commit crimes. Regarding the elderly, a number of these types of crimes go unreported because the elderly are embarrassed or have difficulty discovering the crime do to lack of comfort with technology. We are educating our seniors regarding how crimes are committed, what to look for and how to prevent these types of crimes. This is a key factor to reducing the opportunity for those seeking to commit such crimes. The concept of educating the community, on a regular basis, also reduces the opportunity of identity crimes as well. Regarding drugs, providing information to to the community is also helpful to reduce the existance of drugs in a community. Providing family members information of drug use allows the family the ability to address the situation. Providing the community information regarding the signs of drug making or drug selling provides the community the ability to identify the crime and report the crime. In our Neighborhood Watch meetings, we regularly provide this information to the community in presentations. In our Neighborhood Watch meetings we provided presentations to our residents regarding how to identify homes making or selling illegal druges. The information includes the types of smells created during the manufactoring process of certain types of illegal drugs and what would appear in the garbage. We hosted presentations for parents. We provided information to the parents regarding how to identify drug use including physical appearance, behavior and items used. Once the use of drugs is observed the situation can be addressed. We encourage the community to notify the police if they believe drugs are being sold or made in the neighborhood. We also provide families information regarding programs available to them if they believe a family member is using illegal drugs.

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?

When I took office the Village did not follow proper budget procedures and standards. In the year before I took office the Village had an eight million dollar deficit and our operating funds were depleted or improperly diverted into the general operating fund to offset the budget deficit. We reduced our staffing by ten percent and lowered our operating costs. Regarding certain operations, we used contractors rather than hiring more staff. We use contractors to maintain our computer systems, engineering, seasonal work and inspection services. We adopted procedures requiring the bidding of Village contracts rather than allowing contracts to be renewed. The use of the open bidding process and competitive bidding helps ensure vendors continue to provide high quality services at the lowest cost to the taxpayer. The primary area in which budgets could be trimmed involve shared services. The various local municipal taxing bodies duplicate various services and, therefore, sharing services could save additional money. The Village participates in joint purchasing of some items, such as paper, with the other taxing bodies. The Village is exploring sharing additional services with the other local taxing bodies such as computer technology. landscaping, building maintenance and insurance. Shared services and resources could allow all of the taxing bodies to reduce expenses.

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

Expanding the scope of shared services is one idea the Village could improve the community which has not been fully developed or addressed by the Village.

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