Jamie Saam: 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.
Office sought: Batavia City Council Ward 4 (4-year Term)
Family: Married, three children
Occupation: Owner of Bulldog Plumbing, Inc.
Education: Studied Sociology and Communications, University of Illinois at Chicago
Civic involvement: Batavia MainStreet, Batavia Mother's Club, Batavia Arts Council, Batavia Women in Business, Fox Valley Young Professionals, Art In Your Eye hospitality chair, River City Church launch team, founder and chair of Artisan Collective ~ a uniquely made market
Elected offices held: N/A
Have you ever been arrested for or convicted of a crime? If yes, please explain: N/A
Key Issue 1
Downtown redevelopment and economic growth remains a main issue in Batavia. With this I will include the attraction of business into our downtown. I believe that potential business owners view downtown Batavia as a beautiful location to open their business until they reach the point of having to work with the commissions, committees and City Council. I would love to see the City of Batavia be a bit more business friendly and particularly small business friendly. Our city offers some great grant and loan programs for current and new businesses which have benefited many moving into our downtown. I would love to see those continue and even expanded to keep up the momentum of growth. Batavia presents itself as development friendly, until the process begins. There have been too many situations where businesses needing city approval for construction have been put on hold for years upon years waiting, updating plans and waiting some more. It is important for historic preservation, zoning and planning to be part of the process but they should not be a deterrent for businesses.
Key Issue 2
Another main issue that will be facing Batavia and the City Council in the near future will be the creation of downtown SSAs or Special Service Areas. This is an issue that will be taking consideration from the area property owners to fund different projects throughout the city. I am very much in favor of the City Council partnering and sitting down with the involved property owners to discuss options and come up with the right choices for them since the property owners would be the ones affected by the SSA.
Key Issue 3
Downtown Streetscape is another main issue. Although beautiful, River Street did take more money from TIF funds than expected due to uncovered issues once construction began. TIF funds are usually used in projects that will have a greater return to the TIF then they use. I do not believe this project fits that description. With the added cost of the Streetscape project, there is also the issue of maintenance in the Streetscape areas. This cost was not factored in when creating the total for the project. The cost of maintenance will inevitably fall on the business, property and home owners throughout our community. Many businesses were negatively affected by the street closures and lengthy construction. Because of the change in layout of River Street, there is less parking for the business patrons then before. In the upcoming years, other areas of downtown are set to undergo construction for the Streetscape project. I am in support of beautifying our downtown to promote an increase in business and pedestrian traffic, but I also believe that TIF funds need to be used in the proper way.
Does the city council spend the right amount ot time and attention on downtown issues? Explain.
It is very important for city council and the various boards and commissions to be thorough in the decision making process and approvals. However, I feel it is equally important that the city help, not hinder potential business and community drawing events in our downtown. Many projects are time sensitive and need a decision voted upon, whether for or against, in a certain time frame in order for that project to be reasonably accomplished. I feel past examples of downtown issues, particularly when dealing in construction and new business, have been drawn out to exhausting lengths. This creates an image that Batavia is tough to work with and not as business friendly as other communities.
How should money collected in the city's tax increment financing districts be spent? Is it time to end the TIFs?
I support TIFs and the spending of TIF money in instances where the businesses paying into the TIF are benefiting from the spending. Other communities have used TIF money to bring more parking into a downtown area, therefore attracting new business because of the potential for more customers. In an instance such as this, the TIF spending creates a return by increasing business and customers who funnel money back into the TIF. I also believe that using TIF money for granting and loaning to new and current businesses to allow then to work on projects that will assist on growing their business and again, funneling an increased return back into the TIF, is the proper use of TIF funds.
What is your view of the city's business incentive programs?
Being on the MainStreet board, I have seen firsthand how the business incentives help to do just that, incent businesses to move into our downtown and throughout our city. I have seen current businesses be able to grow and enter a new level that would not have been possible without help from the Micro Loan program. This is a wonderful tool for the staff to use when approached or seeking out new business.
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 believe that the city's crime-free housing initiative currently covering multi-unit rental property is a good step in preventing absentee landlords and maintenance issues. The fourth ward holds a large number of rental properties, both single family and multi-unit. At this time, I do not believe that single family rentals tend to have the same issues with crime, absentee landlords or maintenance as larger scale rentals. However, this is an issue that would draw directly from the citizens and neighbors. I would like to hear more from neighboring property owners as well as see statistic about police or city involvement around single-family rental properties.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
Bridging community and government. In order to have a great community, we need our community members to be involved, concerned and knowledgeable about what is happening in our city government. Likewise, we need our government to be open and concerned to the opinions, thoughts and changes in our growing community. Our community, although larger in population than most small towns, is a close knit community. I think that those involved in the current happenings take for granted that the information is out there for everyone to find. Yes it is, but not everyone knows where to look. It is the responsibility of the city government to make sure that anyone who wants to know, everyone who wants to share their opinion, everyone who has a legitimate issue, is able to get a response. It is the one thing that has amazed me the most about running for City Council. When people find out I am running, I hear "I do not even know who my Alderman is." or "What does an Alderman do?" Yes, some people choose not to know and not to be involved, but we must carefully and purposefully make sure that the doors are open to those who choose to be informed and involved.
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