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updated: 3/25/2013 10:36 AM

Elgin candidates talk money, business licenses

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Editor's note: This story was changed to accurately reflect which candidates -- Carol Rauschenberger and Toby Shaw -- oppose video gambling in Elgin. The initial story mistakenly said Terry Gavin opposes video gambling, but he supports it.

Most candidates running for seats on the Elgin City Council support video gambling, but they are split on whether they approve of requiring businesses to obtain a license to operate in the city.

Roughly 150 people attended a forum Sunday afternoon organized by the League of Women Voters of the Elgin Area at the Gail Borden Public Library.

Incumbents John Prigge, Richard Dunne and Robert Gilliam, and 10 challengers -- Grace Richard, Jerri McCue, Andrew Cuming, Mitchell Esterino, Cody Holt, Terry Gavin, Stephen Knight, Rosemarie Kahn, Thomas Armstrong and Carol Rauschenberger -- are running for four, 4-year seats.

Toby Shaw and Craig Dresang are running for one, 2-year seat.

All the candidates attended the forum except Gilliam, who was hospitalized after an asthma attack.

The candidates were asked to give yes/no answers regarding their support for video gambling and business licenses.

Gavin, Rauschenberger, Shaw, Holt, Kahn and Cuming said they oppose business licenses, which were created in late 2009 and whose costs vary for businesses based on square footage; Dunne, Armstrong, Knight, Dresang, McCue, Richard, Prigge, Esterino said they are OK with it.

Only two candidates -- Rauschenberger and Shaw -- said they oppose video gambling in Elgin. Earlier this week, the city council approved an ordinance allowing video gambling to come to town.

The forum touched on a wide range of topics and included questions submitted by the audience. Many of the candidates circled back to the issue of taxes and fees in Elgin.

Shaw said residents are paying too much and the city should look at spending some of its surplus. Kahn said diversification of revenues works when done properly, but that's not the case in Elgin.

Gavin also said Elgin has an excessive surplus and decried a proposed stormwater utility tax that might go into effect in 2014.

Dresang, on the other hand, touted Elgin's AAA bond rating as an example that the city's fiscal policy is on the right track.

Esterino also said the city is doing well financially.

"I believe Elgin is on the cusp of becoming the number one city in the northwest (suburbs)," Esterino said.

Prigge, who voted against the 2013 budget, said he supports diversification of revenues only when nonresidents are chipping in.

"We need to apologize to you. We overcharge you for taxes," Prigge said.

Elgin must reduce taxes and fees to attract more businesses, Cuming said. He also said funding the Downtown Neighborhood Association doesn't bring enough in return.

Rauschenberger, on the other hand, said she supports funding the "homegrown" DNA, but not the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce, which "has a national agenda at times."

Holt said government needs to be more transparent.

"I'll sit down at city hall all night scanning documents, if that's what it takes," Holt said.

Dunne said he believes the budget process is transparent, though the city could work on getting residents more involved. He also pointed out that the city council's decision to lower property taxes in the last two years is enticing to new businesses.

Elgin's sprinkling system requirements for commercial structures hinders development, Richard said, adding she wants to focus on redeveloping downtown.

City government has to "get out of the way of business" while promoting sustainability, McCue said. She also believes Elgin does a good job of promoting diversity, as exemplified by last year's first International Festival, or iFest.

Knight said he supports funding the Eastside Recreation Center, even if it is loses money.

"Lower-income families get a huge benefit from that," Knight said.

Kahn, however, said the recreation center should be closed, and that money spent on busing kids to The Centre, which offers better facilities.

Rauschenberger said the city must work collaboratively with Elgin Area School District U-46 and neighboring school districts.

"We need to support the schools in a positive, forward, vocal way," she said.

Dresang said the city needs to hire someone in a marketing and communications position to recruit more homebuyers.

• To see all our coverage of the Elgin City Council race, including candidate bios, go to

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