James Volk: Candidate Profile
Batavia City Council Ward 4 (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.
Website: Candidate did not respond.
Office sought: Batavia City Council Ward 4 (4-year Term)
Family: Married for 28 years to Hannah Volk. We have two grown children that are self supporting and live outside of Batavia.
Occupation: Physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Education: Associate in Science from Moraine Valley Community College 1972 Bachelor of Arts Elmhurst College 1975 major physics Master of Science University of Notre Dame du Lac 1977 Doctor of Philosophy The Ohio State University 1983
Civic involvement: Member of BATV Board Vice President Fermi Natural Areas Alderman City of Batavia
Elected offices held: Alderman 4th ward City of Batavia 1994 to present
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: No
Key Issue 1
Street scape and Downtown revitalization is the top issue for the community. The Council and Staff have been working on many ideas for the past ten years on how to make the downtown a destination. The City host fairs, shows, events such as the triathlon and half marathon to use the downtown and surrounding areas as a method to draw people to the downtown. The street scape project was initiated after many community meetings to improve the appearance and walkability of the downtown. The TIF districts were created to fund projects such as street scape and fa?ade improvement (more on that later). There is discussion and interest in the entire community regarding what is happening.
Key Issue 2
Keeping City Services at the current level without raising taxes. The citizens of Batavia expect high level of service for their tax dollar, things such as rapid response from the Police and Fire departments in emergencies, clearing the streets of snow in the winter, prompt and courteous service from all the city employees. With the economic and the reduction in property values the number of city employees has decreased, this makes it hard to deliver that small town friendly type of service. The taxpayer is not a bottomless well of funds. We have passed budgets that have been balanced but not without sacrifice by city employees and reduction of service. It will continue to be a fine line to walk into the foreseeable future.
Key Issue 3
The third (but not the least by any means) issue is how to keep the utilities (water, sewer, and electric) compliant with Federal and State regulations at an affordable cost. There are an ever increasing number of rules and regulations that come from the Federal and State governments that in many cases are unfunded mandates. While many of these are well intentioned, it does put pressure on the rates to pay for the many unfunded mandates. We have very reliable service at rates that are similar or less than comparable communities. Keeping this record will be a challenge in the future.
Does the city council spend the right amount ot time and attention on downtown issues? Explain.
We could always spend more time on any issue. The City schedules over 200 meetings a year for the council, committees, and commissions. These meetings cover a wide range of topics from the downtown to the electric utility. In addition there is a large amount of reading necessary to keep up with the various topics that the council has to deal with. The downtown has received major attention in the past several years with the streetscape program and the downtown grant programs. We could always spend more time but that would come at the expense of other topics. Batavia is fortunate in having a Council of 14alderman; this gives us the ability to spread the load allowing certain aldermen to delve into the details on particular topics such as streetscape, utilities, crime free housing and backyard chickens for instance. Their expertise is then shared with the entire Council helping us make better decisions for the community.
How should money collected in the city's tax increment financing districts be spent? Is it time to end the TIFs?
5. How should money collected in the city's TIF be spent? Is it time to end the TIFs? The two Downtown TIF districts were created to revitalize the downtown. The increase in property tax generated in those areas goes to a special fund administered by the City for use in the TIF districts. So far the money has gone to fa?ade improvement grants, assisting new and existing businesses to expand and improve their buildings, infrastructure improvements and streetscape improvements. A number of new businesses have moved into the downtown and many buildings have been improved. A prime example is the Batavia Enterprise building at 2 to 8 West Wilson where a fa?ade improvement grant allowed for the 1960's erare-muddelment? to be removed revealing a lovely brick exterior as well as the installation of fire sprinklers allowing the upstairs to be remodeled into apartments this work was partly supported by TIF funds. There is still much to be done. The streetscape plans are extensive and would improve the downtown accessibility for pedestrians. It is not time to end the TIFs with the work just starting to show results. In the end by continuing the program Batavia will have a better downtown and the other taxing bodies will receive more revenue in the future.
What is your view of the city's business incentive programs?
There is a need to support businesses in locating in the downtown and helping the property owners to maintain and improve their buildings. All of the incentive programs have detailed review processes and the staff does help applicants in improving their requests. We would have many more empty stores in the downtown if we did not have the incentive programs. The Council does review and discuss the directions of all the programs to ensure we are getting the most for the tax dollars we are passing out. These programs do need to continue to maintain a viable downtown.
Should the city's crime-free housing initiative, which imposed maintenance and crime prevention standards on apartments, be extended to single-family rentals as well?
I have always been a proponent of the crime free housing imitative. As the ordinance is written it covers lease agreements that allow for landlords to evict tenants that engage in criminal activity on their property. Maintenance is covered under other statutes that apply to all properties in Batavia. The person that rents one or two properties is most vulnerable to abuse by tenants that break the law. The crime free housing ordinance is a means to help them out of bad situations. So far it only applies to properties of ten or more units. That was what the council was willing to pass two years ago. It is the smaller operator that does not have the money or the expertise to evict the problem tenant. It should be expanded as a means to help the small landlord protect his investment and the investments of the surrounding property owners from drug dealers and people that break the law.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
Improve public transportation in Batavia. There are two north south bus routes, Batavia Avenue and Randall Road, but no east west bus routes. Even with the improvements by the county this year along Randall Road it is still hard to get to these bus routes on foot or by bike. Also a bus route along Wilson Street would aid in people getting across town. While this is a regional issue Batavia should be taking a lead in getting all the Kane County communities working on better mass transit. Another item that needs attention is the re-vitalization of Randall Road. There are a number of empty big box stores in Batavia. The City needs to help the property owners fill those spaces and generate more sales tax dollars for the City. Randall Road was created to provide sales tax dollars to the City thereby easing the burden of property tax. Empty stores do not help and need to be filled.
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