Jotham Stein: Candidate Profile
St. Charles 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: St. Charles
Office sought: St. Charles Mayor (4-year Term)
Family: Married to Victoria; one son, Gershon, who is a 5th grader at Richmond Intermediate School.
Education: A.B. Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 1984. J.D. Stanford Law School, 1991.
Civic involvement: Spoken many times before the City Council and Plan Commission to fight tax increases and advocate for reasonable development; Coached youth sports through Tri Cities Soccer and St. Charles Baseball; Play indoor and outdoor soccer for St. Charles teams. Sponsor (via my law firm) Scarecrow Fest, multiple St. Charles Chamber of Commerce events and Tri Cities Soccer.
Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
My top priority as Mayor will be to bring businesses to St. Charles. We have a fantastic community, but throughout our City, we have lost businesses and the jobs and tax revenue they represent. From Charlestown Mall in the East to Downtown to the old St. Charles Mall in the West, many of our storefronts and office complexes are empty. The more businesses we attract to St. Charles, the more jobs we will create, and since businesses pay taxes, the lower the taxes we residents will have to pay. For more than 20 years, my job has been to give business and legal advice to companies of all sizes, and to those who manage them. I want to bring the full weight of my experience to benefit our City. Instead of seeing businesses leave St. Charles or close altogether, as Mayor, I will actively recruit new business investment to St. Charles, nurture start-up businesses, and help businesses that are here but struggling. I am proud to have invested in downtown St. Charles by moving my business to a historic building on Third Street, and renovating it. As Mayor, when I go out to recruit companies to move to St. Charles, the businesses will see the commitment I have to our community and that I have done exactly what I am asking them to do invest in St. Charles.
Key Issue 2
I have a comprehensive approach to ensuring that St. Charles is a vibrant City, and for this reason I have a set of co-equal priorties, not a number two campain issue. My other priorities (after attracting businesses to St. Charles) are to make sure taxes don't go up, to make sure we continue to have high quality City services, to promote reasonable development and to make sure St. Charles is the most ethical municipal government in Illinois.
Key Issue 3
Strong ethics and a great business environment go hand-in-hand. As Mayor, I will make St. Charles the most ethical City in Illinois. Because it is an absolute conflict of interest for the Mayor to do any personal or private business with those doing business with the City, on my first day in office I will propose that the City Council pass an ordinance that provides: 'the Mayor shall do no business with anybody who does business with the City.?
Under what circumstances, if any, should financial incentives, including TIF districts, be used to lure residential and commercial development to the city?
As Mayor, I will actively recruit new business investment to St. Charles, nurture start-up businesses, and help businesses that are here but struggling. Offering financial incentives, when done correctly, can be a critical component of attracting certain businesses to our City. When I say "done correctly," I mean that the City negotiates a great deal with whatever business it is attracting. Negotiating good deals is something the City has repeatedly failed to do. I have negotiated business transactions of all types and sizes, from less than a $100,000 to more than $100 million, and I have written a book on business and employment negotiation. As Mayor, I will ensure that every deal we negotiate for our City is the best deal we can achieve for St. Charles and its citizens. At the current time, St. Charles should not be offering financial incentives to residential developers for at least two reasons. First, the City has a lot of vacant residences now which should be filled before residential incentives are even considered. Second, the City should focus on attracting businesses which will bring vitality to our community and raise property values for all of us.
What is the future of Charlestowne Mall as you see it? Would you support the use of eminent domain by the city to gain control of the property?
As Mayor, I, at my own expense, will go to San Jose, California to meet with the owners of the Charlestowne Mall. Lots of people write lots of things about what they want to see at the Mall, but most of this is meaningless unless you first speak with the landowners to see what they want to do. I will tell the landowners respectfully, but assertively, that they must rehabiliate the Mall and fill it with businesses or sell the Mall to another party interested in filling it with businesses. I would support eminent domain only as an absolute last resort. A skilled negotiater, as I am, would not rule out "eminent domain" because the possibility of emminent domain may be needed as leverage while negotiating with the owner of Charlestowne Mall.
Are you comfortable with the mix of taverns and the conduct of their patrons in downtown St. Charles?
Downtown is distressingly empty of businesses. Downtown is full of vacant storefronts (empty shops) and empty office space, and a half completed First Street Development; for this reason, I am not comfortable with the mix of businesses downtown. The answer, however, is not to shut down the taverns, but instead to work with those who own and manage the empty buildings downtown to recruit lots of new businesses to our downtown. By filling all of the downtown's retail and office vacancies, we will increase the vitality and economic health of downtown, and as a result, have a better mix of businesses there. Over time less successful bars will be replaced by more profitable businesses, such as shops or restaurants, because it will make sense for the new businesses to open in place of the less successful bars. Most of the taverns' patrons are law abiding citizens who pay good money for food and drink, and bring significant tax revenue to our City. I want these law abiding citizens to keep coming to downtown. We must, however, strictly enforce the law against those patrons and bar owners who break the law. As Mayor, I will ensure that the law is strictly enforced against those who break the law.
What aspects must a redevelopment of the old St. Charles Mall property include? Would you support any level of residential development on that property?
I actively fought the multiple ten story highrises Shodeen sought to build on the old St. Charles Mall property four-plus years ago because the megacomplex was not right for St. Charles and not in the best interest of our citizens. At the outset of the Shodeen fiasco, the City/City Staff did a terrible job setting Shodeen's expectations and then compounded their error by doing a terrible job negotiating the project with Shodeen. This resulted in Shodeen asking City Council to approve a megacomplex, and fortuntatey a solid "no" vote from City Council. The old St. Charles Mall property is in a heavily trafficked commercial zone and should be developed primarily as a commercial complex. By retaining the zoning as commercial, and hopefully, one day populating it with vibrant businesses, we will greatly increase business tax revenue, and thereby, enable us to lower our property taxes. As with the Charlestowne Mall, the specifics of any redevelopment plan, however, must begin with the landowner, in this case Shodeen. When Shodeen walks into City Hall with his next plan, I will ensure that the City negotiates a strong deal with Shodeen so that the developer makes money, but also that the development project is good for our community. I am open to some level of residential development (in the form of mixed use) for the property, but only if the development is in the best interests of all of the residents of St. Charles.
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.
I have a 5th grader and the biggest public safety concern our friends and neighbors voice is the safety of our children. This includes safety while walking/riding to school, safety from student bullying in our schools, and safety from those who may harm our children. I am committed to doing everything possible to keep our children safe inside and outside of school and I am committed to working with the School Board and the Police Department to ensure the safety of our children at all times.
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