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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: Elgin City Council (4-year Terms)
Family: Married to Britta Cuming with our first child due in late May this year.
Occupation: I am a Web Designer who owns my own company here in Elgin, www.ezmadeweb.com. I also do business consulting.
Education: I have a bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering from Northwestern University.
Civic involvement: PR/IT head at Zion Lutheran Church Treasurer Southwest Area Neighbors Regular Volunteer at Food for Greater Elgin Volunteer Tutor for Youth Leadership Academy in Elgin Go to almost all city council meetings Involved with our house in the 2012 Housewalk Occasionally help with things like the Gifford Park house salvages Participate in Neighbor-Works Day since I moved here
Elected offices held: None.
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No.
Key Issue 1
Bring more business to Elgin. Elgin needs more businesses to provide jobs, pay sales taxes, and pay property taxes, as well as improve the image of the city.
Key Issue 2
Reduce wasteful spending. This will help the town focus on the essentials, which will help keep Elgin great and improving. There is a lot of spending in Elgin that does not serve the people and is extremely wasteful. We need to work on that.
Key Issue 3
Reduce taxes. The key to reducing taxes is multi-faceted. Elgin cannot just reduce taxes without taking into account that we do have services which need to be paid for. To reduce taxes we can reduce wasteful spending and reduce superfluous programs, but we can also promote Elgin in such a way as to increase businesses and to increase the revenue of those businesses, which would increase the sales tax and property tax brought in and reduce burdens of individual citizens.
Should the city continue its opposition to allowing video gambling outside the grand Victoria?
No. We cannot restrict video gaming in Elgin when neighboring cities and towns will have it available. I would prefer that we not have it because that is what casinos are for, but, from a practical standpoint, the restriction only works if the same restrictions apply to everywhere reasonably close by. Ignoring the tax revenues to Elgin, our neighboring towns are allowing video gaming, which means that video gaming will be easily accessible and people will spend their resources on it. Instead of staying in Elgin, however, people will be driving to nearby places outside of Elgin, where they have to spend more to get there and are promoting those businesses over our own. Elgin would see a decrease in business revenue because local businesses would not be able to compete with us 10 to 15 minutes away. There are also the safety issues involved. If people who are going to game anyway are in Elgin, they can walk and not worry about designated drivers or being surrounded by strangers who may not care. Someone here in Elgin can have their family members or friends pick them up. Elgin is a friendly place and people will hopefully not feel the need to utilize the video gaming, but for our businesses and safety it is better that they be allowed. I would be lying if I said that the tax revenue was not also a great incentive. Even though I was not yet living in Elgin when the Casino opened, from everything I have heard, it really was what made the City able to recover and still helps a great deal. The estimated increase in tax revenue provided by the gaming could help fund some of the not-for-profit organizations in Elgin and could also help fund economic development. While the tax revenue from video gaming is merely a plus in my mind and not a reason to allow it of itself, video gaming is important to allow as an option for businesses that want to utilize it. If businesses decide that they don't want to or don't need to, that is great, but they need to be given the option.
What is your position on the city's plans to to implement a stormwater utility fee in 2014?
I am against this. The city can afford to do the stormwater needs over the next 25 years and does not need to charge massive amounts to our citizens and businesses - which many on fixed or low incomes cannot afford- in order to do it just a few years faster. The sewer separation is a very important issue but we cannot rush it at a prohibitive cost. Making more of the rain gardens will help reduce the problem in a cost effective way, while beautifying the city, and will make it so that we do not have to charge hundreds of dollars a year to cut off just a few years from this project. A tax or fee once implemented is almost impossible to get rid of, so let's block this now.
Do you support the city funding the $900,000 overhaul of the Eastside Recreation Center? What do you think of closing Eastside and consolidating operations with The Centre of Elgin?
I think that the ERC is a facility with potential but the city should not be spending those funds now. I think that more research needs to be done to see if we can keep the center open part of the year at low cost and use The Centre the rest of the year or if it would be easier to just consolidate all operations at once and overhaul the ERC when it becomes more feasible in future.
What is your view on the city's recent property tax levying history and imposition of other charges, such as the refuse fee?
The problem with the refuse fee is not the idea behind it but the double tax from the city not removing it from the property taxes. I like the policy of "pay for what you use." People who pay taxes but have separate garbage pickup should not have to subsidize the trash pickup of the rest of us. I think that there are better ways to do the refuse fee and to implement it, which I explain more fully on my website. Overall, this is a good idea gone wrong. The City has not reduced the property tax as much as promised and has increased too many other fees. We need to look through and reduce the property tax as much as possible without putting in other fees.
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra wants the city to resume its yearly disbursement of Riverboat funds to the ESO. Do you support this? Why or why not?
I do not support this. I believe that the ESO is a great resource to Elgin but it has borrowed too much from the City without payback. There must be better ways to support the ESO without massive taxpayer subsidies. I think that the idea to lease the Hemmens to the symphony fully every year for a low fee - say $1- and that they maintain it and earn all profits from renting it out would be the best option of the people of Elgin.