John Laesch: 2023 candidate for Aurora City Council (At Large)


Town: Aurora

Age on Election Day: 49

Occupation: Union carpenter

Employer: Self-employed

Previous offices held: East Aurora District 131 (2015-19)


Q: What is the most serious issue your community will face in the coming years and how should the city council respond to it?

A: Most economists agree that a potential deep recession is likely to happen during the next four years. The climate crisis as the long-term threat to all humanity. I believe that every level of government should be preparing for both of these serious issues.

Finally, Aurora has an ethics problem in which the top Irvin donors all have lucrative city contracts, sweetheart development deals, or benefit from taxpayer-funded incentives. A recession would require city officials finding ways to cut back on spending to deal with reduced revenue. I would start by pushing to remove unnecessary city staff who have political connections to Mayor Irvin, but do not produce anything tangible for the Aurora taxpayers.

To address the climate crisis, I will be an advocate for developing programs that allow Aurora residents to more easily tap into state and federal funding to make their homes more energy efficient and move to alternative energy.

Q: How would you describe the state of your community's finances?

A: According to former Alderman O'Conner who served on the Aurora City Council since 1985 (36 years), the City of Aurora is in deeper debt than it ever has been. The Irvin Administration even borrowed $50M in municipal bonds to subsidize a casino construction project.

The debt will become a more serious issue should we go into a recession. A recession would force elected officials to look at a number of options to include cutting back on city spending, refinancing, and cutting subsidies to developers.

As an elected official representing the entire city, I will weigh in on these decisions.

Q: What should be the three top priorities for spending in your community during the next four years?

A: 1.) Public safety and crime preventative youth services that give young people a positive place to go after school. I also want to work toward addressing the speeding and blown stop signs in countless residential neighborhoods. I have been keeping detailed notes where residents want better traffic controls, or enforcement of neighborhood speed limits.

2.) I want to bring in state and federal dollars to have an aggressive green building program and make it easier for people to access the resources, training, and contractors to make their homes climate resilient. We will need competent staff to implement these programs.

3.) If there is enough community support and we have staff competency, I would invest in publicly owned high-speed fiber optic broadband modeled after Chattanooga Tennessee's incredibly successful public utility. Chattanooga has the fastest broadband in the world, and it has attracted numerous tech companies. It is more affordable than Comcast or AT&T.

Q: Are there areas of spending that need to be curtailed? If so, what are they?

A: I calculate that the Irvin Administration has doled out over $110 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies to politically-connected developers or contractors who donate to his campaign. We have been addressing these issues in the community, and at council meetings. Most recently, the council put together a development deal that included $68M in taxpayer-incentives to subsidize Penn Entertainment's move to the outlet mall.

There was no Ward 1 meeting and no traffic study before rushing the deal through in three short weeks. Developers like Fox Valley Developers have donated a combined $110,675 to Richard Irvin's campaign (this does not include amounts to aldermanic candidates) and they have received free buildings and close to $19 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies, not including TIF incentives.

Other Aurora business owners have to buy their buildings and pay taxes. One of the owners of Fox Valley Developers, Ron Woerman, is an Alderman-at-Large in Aurora. This is unethical.

Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project the community must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what project(s) can be put on the back burner?

A: There are numerous infrastructure needs, but we need to stop the corporate handouts first. We need to build an adequate sound barrier between residential homes and Orchard Road. The retention pond where a driver drowned last week needs to have speed controls put in on what residents describe as a "long blind curve."

We still have lead pipes all over the city that need replacement. Over the short-term I am interested in seeing the City of Aurora pause on the hyper-development that sucks money out of the budget and instead pay down debt. We need to continue to meet the needs of residents with regular street repairs, water repairs and regular maintenance.

I talk about investing in high-speed broadband that is similar to Chattanooga, Tennessee's public utility, but I would want to make sure that we are in good state of fiscal health before going in this direction.

Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage local government? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your city council.

A: My style is both collaborative and courageous. If I feel that things are wrong, or unethical, I have the courage to call people out and the ability to work together toward a better plan.

My role on the East Aurora school board was confrontational when other board members wanted to keep two interim superintendents in place for a second school year after a disruptive dismissal of a superintendent. It took our magnet school falling apart for the other board members to come around.

We worked collaboratively to find a new superintendent. An example of collaborative leadership comes from my time as co-chair of Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice. A group of about 20 men trying to form a union in their workplace at ATMI pre-cast in Aurora met in a public space. We worked together to plan a march to the owners' home, a west-side mansion. The workers saw who was making all of the money from their labor and voted almost unanimously voted to form a union.

Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?

A: I am not bought and paid for. Every level of government, from Congress and Springfield, to Aurora, IL, is infected with deep-pocketed interests driving the agendas of those governing bodies. I'm running a strong campaign without corporate PAC money, and without donations from people who have contracts with the city of Aurora.

The only way to change the system and build a system that works for everyone is to elect people who are not beholden to big money. My experience on the East Aurora school board prepared me to deal with difficult personalities and how to handle confrontation.

My experience as an intelligence analyst in the military taught me how to research issues and dig through financial paper trails, and discover who is paying who, for what. I have the courage it takes to confront and expose corruption of my colleagues on the board. I offer the Aurora voters, ethical behavior, intelligent, well-researched ideas, and the courage to lead.

Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?

A: I'm the only person talking about climate. Specifically, I want to bring state (CEJA) and federal (IRA) tax incentives into the community with robust green building/rehab and solar programs to address the climate crisis.

Will County and Kane County have effectively started constructing programs to put these state and federal dollars to work, saving residents money on their heating and cooling bills. These two counties have elected officials who are climate-concerned.

The city of Aurora needs someone who is knowledgeable about climate policy and someone who will prioritize it legislatively.

I hope the Daily Herald considers Jodi Trendler for an endorsement in Naperville. She would be the same level of knowledge, experience and passion to that council.

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