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City: Des Plaines
Office sought: Des Plaines Mayor (4-year Term)
Family: Matt is a lifelong resident of Des Plaines, Illinois. His family lives on Prairie Avenue and Matt owns a home in The Villas neighborhood. He is engaged to his college sweetheart Kate. The couple is set to wed in August of 2013.
Occupation: Advertising and media professional. Associate Director Starcom MediaVest Group
Education: Northwestern University BA, Political Science, International Studies, with a minor in Transportation & Logistics
Civic involvement: Northwest Municipal Conference Legislative Committee Member (2012-2013) Boy Scouts of America - Northwest Suburban Council Board of Directors (2012) Northwestern Alumni Association Board of Directors (2009)
Elected offices held: Alderman, 3rd Ward (2009-2013) Trustee, Des Plaines Public Library (2007-2009) Commissioner, Des Plaines Special Events Commission (2006-2007)
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Fiscal Responsibility - When Matt entered city government in 2009 he found an organization suffering from crushing debt, meager savings, ten years of property tax levy increases, and a lackluster credit rating. Elected by his fellow alderman to head the city's Finance and Administration Committee, Matt rolled up his sleeves and got to work. Since 2009, the city has paid down over $20 million in debt, increased savings from $1.7 million to over $18 million, maintained a 0% property tax levy increase for the past three years, and gained a strong A2 credit rating. Matt believes the city needs experienced financial leadership to continue this positive momentum. In the coming years, millions in debt will come callable and the city must continue to aggressively reduce this burden on the general fund. The savings (general fund reserve) must be maintained so that infrastructure projects can be completed with real cash instead of additional debt. And taxpayers deserve an efficient and prudent city that strives to do more with less.
Key Issue 2
Governing for Results - Across Des Plaines, families make informed decisions on what they need to spend money on and what they can live without. Matt believes that the city can define itself as a leader in municipal government and finance by beginning to live by this same principle. Matt pledges to Govern for Results. He?ll work with staff to define benchmarks, identify goals, and reward results across the organization, developing a high performance culture. We?ll keep what works, change what doesn't, and maximize the value delivered to the residents of Des Plaines.
Key Issue 3
Protecting Casino Revenue - The former administration signed a deal to win the 10th and final gaming license; this deal guaranteed revenue for the State of Illinois and placed all of the risk on the City of Des Plaines. Matt wrote and passed a resolution that protects our revenue, saving it for debt reduction and infrastructure investment. In 2013, Matt's resolution took effect and millions in debt was repaid early while initiating a 5-year, $10 million project to solve flooding problems throughout the city. Matt will continue to fight to protect our casino revenue, keeping it out of the general fund and away from pet projects.
There's been talk about using casino revenue to update the city's infrastructure. Where is that money most urgently needed?
Former administrations maxed out the city's credit card on infrastructure projects. In the 2013 budget, Matt was successful in paying down a debt issuance acquired to construct sidewalks, streets, and sewers in 2004. This backwards approach to capital investment makes it imperative that current and future City Councils invest the new casino revenue in infrastructure and debt reduction. Retiring debt that currently burdens the city's capital improvements fund will reduce our annual debt payment while allowing today's capital dollars to be spent on today's projects. Beyond debt, this new casino revenue will allow the city to proactively address flooding concerns across Des Plaines. Matt took a leadership position on this issue by writing and passing a resolution that protects our casino revenue, saving it for debt reduction and infrastructure investment.
What can be done to fill vacancies and draw new businesses to the downtown area? Be as specific as possible.
Des Plaines must do three things if it's going to attract and retain businesses in the downtown area: 1) Leadership by Example: Pragmatic business people look for stability and fiscal health before selecting a city to move to. In 2009, Des Plaines was nearly bankrupt. Today, Moody's has upgraded our credit rating, debt is down, savings is up, and our property tax levy hasn't increased in three years. Matt believes that Des Plaines needs to lead by example if we?re to attract healthy businesses to town. He knows that our new story of fiscal accountability and strength will help to attract the right business partners to Des Plaines. 2) Procedural Predictability: Business people require predictability so they can plan for the future. Whether through permits, economic incentives, or inspections, the city has a great many procedures that businesses need to manage. Matt believes that we should tear down the obstacles and ensure that all of our processes are well documented, reasonable, and consistent. 3) Competitive Environment: Matt knows that we?re actively competing with neighboring communities for new business. Investment in streetscape and commitment to economic incentives makes us competitive with other cities. In the 2013 budget, Matt supported improvements to the downtown business district and fully funded budgets for incentive programs designed to attract new businesses while retaining existing businesses.
What is the biggest issue facing Des Plaines at present, and what are your thoughts on it?
Debt - In 2003, Moody's downgraded Des Plaines? credit rating to A3 due to escalating debt. In 2009, Matt found our city's debt at $82 million. As Chairman of the Finance and Administration Committee, Matt has led the effort to pay down debt early. Today, our debt rests at $58 million and Moody's upgraded our rating to A2. While we have made significant progress, additional attention must be paid to our debt burden if we?re going to get aggressive about capital improvement or economic development.
Given the delicate balance between the need for revenue and over-taxing local businesses, what is your opinion of Des Plaines' present level of local sales taxes? Is the tax just right, too low or too high? Explain.
Matt believes that Des Plaines should attract and retain local businesses by demonstrating fiscal strength, instituting predictable procedures in City Hall, while continuing to offer competitive incentives. More business is the answer, not more taxes.
What are the city's biggest public safety concerns? Explain the concern as you see it, and discuss how you think it should be addressed.
Seasonal peaks in gang activity threaten the health and safety of our neighborhoods. Matt believes that effective community policing and a strong presence of patrol officers on the streets can provided a consistent layer of protection year-round. During the warm summer months, dynamic staffing and focused asset allocation can direct heat on problem spots and inhibit gang activity.