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updated: 2/22/2013 6:02 PM

Michael (Mike) Bruno: Candidate Profile

Geneva City Council Ward 1 (4-year Term) (Independent)

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  • Michael (Mike) Bruno, running for Geneva City Council Ward 1 (4-year Term)

      Michael (Mike) Bruno, running for Geneva City Council Ward 1 (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: Geneva

Website: http://mikebrunogeneva.com/

Office sought: Geneva City Council Ward 1 (4-year Term)

Age: 53

Family: Married 25 years, one child

Occupation: Independent Technology Consultant

Education: Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987

Civic involvement: Geneva Historic Preservation Commissioner (11 years)

Elected offices held: Candidate did not respond.

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

Candidate's Key Issues

Key Issue 1

Economic vitality. Geneva can and does benefit from both retail and industrial interests residing in the city. Both need to be supported, nurtured and managed. Our historic downtown is a rare jewel that other communities are struggling to replicate. For as long as I can recall, though, the city has wrestled with getting that downtown vitality to make the jump across the river and spur investment in that East State Street corridor. Critically we must focus on the spaces immediately east and west of the river. We should focus on occupancy and tenant mix between First Street (Rt. 31) and the river to make it attractive for pedestrians/tourists. We also need to carefully oversee the evolution of the near-east side of the river involving properties such as Mill Race Inn, Riverside Sports and properties fronting State Street between the river and Crissey Ave.. There are already good ideas in the master plan and the efforts underway to improve East State Street are well aligned with invigorating that eastern corridor. Industrial tenants can greatly contribute to Geneva's tax base. We are beginning to put on-line an expanded industrial area south-east of Kirk Road and State Street. It will be important that we thoughtfully consider tenant mix and incentives to make the most of that area.

Key Issue 2

Historic Preservation. Community survey after community survey has shown that residents say historic preservation is what defines us as a community and that our historic downtown is our most treasured asset. Nearby communities don't even hide that they wish to recreate what Geneva has in its downtown. Geneva is a tourist town and we benefit both economically and in the general vitality and exuberance of our retail corridors. I can say with some authority that the downtown is what it is in large measure to historic preservation begun a generation ago. Having been on the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) for 11 years, I am familiar with what the streetscape MIGHT have looked like without regulations overseen by the appointed commission. Historic preservation is symbiotic with economic vitality. If we did not have our historic district, it would not be nearly as attractive for tourists. It would be easy to see how our downtown might have withered under pressure from Randall Road. I also will work to be sure that the greater public is aware of the myths and realities surrounding historic preservation. The community benefits in increased property values. Preservation techniques can yield significant savings for homeowners. The myth of onerous burdens on homeowners is generally forwarded by those unfamiliar with the process. With the HPC meetings being telecast on Comcast channel 10 beginning in the spring, I would hope that the greater public can then appreciate the thoughtfulness and pragmatism of our commission.

Key Issue 3

Fiscal Pragmatism. I am cautious not to use the term "conservative" because that term has been co-opted for partisan political purposes. There are times that the city has to spend money and there are times the city doesn't have to spend money. My focus will be on the long term costs and the value brought to citizens. In my estimation, the city has, in most cases, been a reasonably good steward of our tax dollars. I operate on the basic tenets of 1) that we spend money when the long-term cost of NOT spending (e.g. vehicles, infrastructure) is greater and 2) the community demands a new or expanded service (e.g. paperless billing and on-line access).

Questions & Answers

Does the city spend an appropriate amount of time and money related to its downtown? What is your opinion on allowing non-sales-tax-producing businesses on the first floor at State and Third streets?

The city has not spent frivolously nor have they been austere. City staff has generally been pragmatic on downtown investments (e.g. acquiring property between James St. and Campbell behind the History Center to expanded public parking). I would suggest that we are investing at an appropriate level here. The city presently has a limited matching fund grant for facade renovation is our downtown retail districts. I believe that this yields dividends by keeping our shopping corridors attractive for tourists. I am, though, open to arguments that this would be better implemented with low (or zero) interest loans in lieu of gifts. Such a loan program would also permit the city to expand the program beyond commercial interest to residential properties. I am VERY supportive of zoning changes disallowing non-sales-tax-producing businesses (e.g. banks) on the first floors of our pedestrian retail corridors. If our downtown is attractive and vital for anything, it is our pedestrian friendliness. Municipal planning practices recognize that a pedestrian will only walk so far between stores when shopping. When they encounter a stretch of sidewalk that offers no retail shopping appeal, they will often stop and turn around. With the allowance of the special use of the Pure Oil building as a bank drive-through, the city has placed a pretty effective pedestrian barrier at Fifth and State Streets with banks on both corners. This will make it hugely difficult to enhance the retail vitality east of Fifth Street for the foreseeable future. I argued publicly prior to the Plan Commission ruling allowing the drive-through that it was a bad idea for pedestrian continuity. In the most recent public discussion of the zoning amendment precluding banks/offices in retail districts, staff suggested limiting the implementation of that zoning change to First Street (Rt. 31) and points west. I would strongly oppose limiting that zoning change at that eastern boundary. The city is considering this zoning change because it will improve pedestrian attractiveness. If we wish to have any hope of spanning the river with pedestrian attractive retail, the eastern limit for this zoning change should be AT LEAST Crissey Ave. or Kane St.. I also take issue with the text that would grandfather the bank/office use in perpetuity. While, of course, we need to accommodate existing banks/offices I think we need to explore the possibility of "sunset clauses" on some aspects of the suggested text. I agree that an existing tenant must be grandfathered forever. I would suggest, though, that a sunset of, 10-15 years be included so that NEW bank/office tenants would be disallowed even if they are replacing an existing bank/office tenant. Currently suggested text would permit bank/office use forever if they replaced an existing bank/office use within several months of the previous tenant. This sunset would allow property owners to recoup investments while the city plays the long game with downtown zoning.

Does the city do a good job balancing the requirements of the Historic District with that of property owners? What changes, if any, would you make?

The city has, objectively, done and excellent job of balancing those requirements. If anything, I would promote more public education on the benefits to homeowners, how the community benefits and dispel the myth of the oppressive, overbearing city. 98% of those coming before HPC are approved.

Do you think Geneva City Hall needs more room? Is expanding in to the Geneva Library building next door the best option, or are there others?

City Hall is definitely crowded. In the event of the Library moving, expanding or re-locating to that space seems the obvious solution. The Library relocating is by no means a foregone conclusion. The Cetron property will very possibly not pass the environmental test contingency put in place by the library board. Moreover, the transition to electronic media has already given the Library more space than they have had in a long time (a great deal of the reference section is replaced with electronics). In the absence of the Library option, City Hall will need to consider expansion or relocation of some/all of their offices. The building is historic, iconic and highly visible. Proximity to the town center is important downtown vitality. On-site expansion options might be limited, but we would have to look at an architectural study. If adequate space cannot be created, then we would first look at moving some city functions to other locations. Options are varied and might included the vacant bank property on North Third Street or agreements with the Kane County Government Center or their Third Street courthouse.

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

Electronic access. I would like to explore an intergovernmental agreement that might provide free or subsidized Internet access such that the City might eliminate some/all of its paper mailings. It would have to be near revenue neutral. Given my experience in information technology, I could help vet the concept for viability

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.

If I hear anything in terms of public safety, it is crossing State Street. A protected crossing at Fourth or Fifth Street would help pedestrian safety (along with helping the retail interests). It is complicated in that State Street is under the control of the state of Illinois and the city cannot, on its own, create such a pedestrian crossing. If the community so desired, as they say they do in community surveys, I would do what was in my power to influence IDOT to get such a crossing in place. Crossing Third Street has been improved with the [nearly free] placement of pedestrian crosswalk signs. We might tweak their placement and signage to maximize pedestrian comfort and minimize driver confusion.

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