The two candidates remaining on the April 9 ballot for Ward 9 alderman in Aurora both are focused on economic development, but Edward Bugg and Marge Linnane approach the issue from different perspectives.
Bugg and Linnane were the top two vote-getters in the Feb. 26 primary and now are squaring off in the general election to represent the region on Aurora's far southeast side.
Bugg, a 46-year-old operating manager of a real estate firm, approaches economic development from the micro level and says a community art project he started has made progress toward filling vacancies in the ward's main commercial area on Eola Road.
Linnane, a 60-year-old assistant planning and zoning administrator for the village of Glendale Heights, said her job has given her understanding of economic development from a municipal point of view -- expertise she is ready to put to work in Aurora when she retires in the next few months.
Almost all of Ward 9 is residential neighborhoods, but a four-block strip on Eola Road houses a small business community.
Bugg said there are 13 vacant storefronts in the area, a number he says is too high.
"The drag on our property values from all these empty spaces is unquestionable," he said.
Working with local schools, property owners and real estate companies trying to lease the vacant spaces, Bugg started the South Eola Road Art Project about six months ago, he said. The project displays student artwork in empty storefronts in an effort to create interest in the spaces.
Bugg said he hopes Ward 9 residents who run home-based businesses will consider setting up shop along Eola Road, especially after seeing the storefronts spiced up with handmade art. A few people already have contacted him with such inquiries, and he said he's connected them with those in charge of leasing the spaces.
"It's going to just take people seeing the spaces, really getting a buzz and really trying to help out our economic base in the ward," Bugg said. "That is really a key thing in moving forward."
Linnane said business retention should be the city's first focus, and yearly meetings with businesses to discuss any obstacles they may face would be a good start. City officials also could use such meetings to encourage expansion and business growth.
"I think the most important thing is to retain the existing businesses that we have," Linnane said. "I also think we need to attract new businesses and I think we can do that by ... assisting the property owners with high-quality marketing information and showing business prospects that the city is committed to economic development."
In the ward, Linnane said she would identify specific shops residents would like to see and then work to entice them with demographic information about surrounding neighborhoods and Aurora as a whole.
"We need to balance good planning, quality development and increased tax revenues," she said. "I think that should be our goal."
The winner of the April 9 election will earn a 4-year term on the city council, following Alderman Al Lewandowski, who was appointed in 2011 and is not seeking re-election.
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