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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: Geneva Mayor (4-year Term)
Family: Married to Karen for 32 years. Three children: Tom (Jenny), Andrew & Kerrilyn. One grandchild: Alison
Occupation: Regional Sales Manager
Education: BS in Food Marketing, St. Joseph's College, 1978 MBA in Management, St. Joseph's University, 1984
Civic involvement: Founder GenevaTaxFACTS
Elected offices held: Republican Committeeman, Geneva Township 2012 - present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
The biggest issue that every form of local government faces is the property tax burden that is placed on homeowners. The recent real estate downturn has resulted in lower home assessments and higher property taxes. This is a direct result of taxing bodies continuing to increase their budget requests. Many Geneva homeowners have reached the point where they are struggling to pay the costs of living in Geneva. I believe that the city needs to have a goal to increase non-utility revenue 10% and reduce property taxes by 5%. This goal can be accomplished if the economic development plan is executed properly and city staff looks at every possible way to cut expenses. Since salary and benefits make up the majority of any city's budget, the taxpayers must be assured that we have the right employees in the right positions and that their compensation is reasonable.
Key Issue 2
The current mayor has served for 12 years and has been unopposed in the last two elections. In my opinion, this leads to a sense of entitlement which manifests itself in decisions that are not always in the best interest of the entire community. It is time for a change in leadership. During the last 4 years, the residents of Geneva have watched as their leader has unsuccessfully run for two different elected offices. In his last attempt, he didn't win the majority of the votes in his own town. This seems to indicate that the community has lost trust in him as their mayor. The residents deserve a mayor whose focus will be working for them and not on his next campaign. I will have set office hours so that the staff and residents know when and where they can find me. Of course, I will be available by phone and e-mail at other times.
Key Issue 3
Economic development will be the key measurement over the next 5-10 years. I believe our plan should be a dual approach where we join forces with St. Charles and Batavia to promote the entire Fox Valley. First, we need to create a marketing program that brings the current residents of downtown Chicago to see what we have to offer. The future residents of Geneva are currently living somewhere else. Many single, newly married and those starting a family reside in Chicago for a few years but then decide to move to the suburbs. The Fox Valley needs to attract these people to our area by letting them know the tri-cities is only an hour train ride from the city. They can jump on a train, bring their bikes along, and spend a weekend exploring the Fox River Bike Trails, the art galleries in Batavia, the shopping in Geneva, the dining in any of the three cities and the night life in St. Charles. Second, is to work with local businesses to make Geneva a business-friendly city. We need to make sure we meet the unique needs that local businesses have and that they are happy doing business in the city. Increased sales tax revenue will be a direct result of local business growth.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
First is my passion to do the best job possible to allow Geneva to have a bright future. I'm running for office to ensure that the wants and needs of the residents are listened to and acted upon. I don't have any personal agenda and don't owe anything to any special interest group. My only goal is to be open and honest with the taxpayers and explain the city's options in a way that they can understand. Second, I understand what it takes to do a good job. I have worked with budgets for over 30 years and know what it takes to address and resolve issues. I'm an average family man who has decided to step up and run for elected office because I'm unhappy with current leadership. My children are grown and I have the time to help Geneva continue to be a great and affordable place to call home.
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.
I believe the current sales tax level is manageable but it can't increase anytime in the near future. As property or sales taxes increase, residents have less disposable income to spend with local businesses. When that happens, businesses suffer, potentially close, and the city loses revenue by increasing taxes. The key for Geneva's growth will be to make the downtown area a destination shopping experience for out-of-town residents. Gaining revenue from these shoppers helps everyone. If we can accomplish these goals, the possibility of decreasing city property taxes exists. Residents would have more disposable income to spend money locally and increase sales tax revenues which will add to the strength of the entire community.
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 don't see crime as a problem in Geneva but I do see parents growing more and more concerned with the safety of their children based on the recent school shootings. Although no security plan is guaranteed to prevent all dangerous situations, I believe the Geneva School District has implemented very good security procedures. I don't believe banning guns solves the problem. I believe the solution lies somewhere with education on the signs of mental illness, knowledge on ways of getting help and making sure those in need receive help. While not a gun owner myself, I do strongly believe that gun ownership is a right protected by the United States Constitution. A second public safety concern is the increase in traffic that the city has seen over the last 10 years. The city needs to work with the county and state to maintain current roads and plan for improvements. Geneva, for the most part, is built out so new roads aren't the issue. One of the things I have noticed is that with more and more young people moving back home after college, there are more cars parked on the street.
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?
Not being an elected official that has been involved developing the city budget makes it difficult to answer this question. While it isn't popular to say, salaries and benefits are the largest chunk of most budgets. It is the mayor's responsibility to make sure the right people are in the right positions and that the total number of staff is correct. If the goal is to levy only the amount of new growth, the only way to survive is to cut expenses or find new sources of revenue. The quicker all taxing bodies realize this, the better chance we have of overcoming our problems. One solution I would like to explore is trying to find savings among the various taxing bodies. This would involve each taxing body working together to identify areas where there is duplication of services or efforts. It might even involve their sharing employees to eliminate waste.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
There is no one good idea that will solve our issues. Rather, it is a series of well thought-out plans that will keep us improving. This might mean 'thinking outside the box' and doing something that might not have been tried in the past. The idea of taxing bodies sharing resources is an example of doing something that will benefit the taxpayers. In Geneva, we have a historic restaurant, The Mill Race Inn, which has been closed for several years. While the city doesn't want to be and shouldn't be in the restaurant business, there should be some type of plan to market the building and get it reopened. A closed business means a loss of sales tax and property tax revenue.