Batavia candidates discuss One North Washington, sanctuary city status

  • From left, Batavia school board candidates Bob Baty-Barr, Tina Bleakley, Jon Gaspar, Sue Locke and Bill McGrail prepare to answer questions at a League of Women Voters forum Thursday.

      From left, Batavia school board candidates Bob Baty-Barr, Tina Bleakley, Jon Gaspar, Sue Locke and Bill McGrail prepare to answer questions at a League of Women Voters forum Thursday. Susan Sarkauskas | Staff Photographer

 
 

Is Batavia right in approving the One North Washington Place development? What are the top challenges it will face in the next five years? Should it become a sanctuary city?

Candidates for 1st Ward alderman and mayor fielded the audience queries Thursday night at a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Central Kane County.

Mayor Jeff Schielke is opposed by Jason Stoops, who is a school board member. Alderman Scott Salvati is running against Carl Dinwiddie.

Salvati and Dinwiddie are seeking a 2-year term. The mayoral term is four years.

Dinwiddie repeated his strong opposition to the One North Washington development deal the city has with a private builder, saying the city can't afford the incentives it has agreed to give. "It is going to be terrible for the city," he said. "It just can't pay for itself. The margins aren't there."

Salvati disagreed. "I'm pretty confident going forward," he said, and he defended his vote to overrule the plan commission, which recommended rejecting the design for the apartment-and-commercial building. "We put an SSA (special service area tax district) in to place in the event something happens with the builder, and it is transferable."

Schielke, who has been mayor since 1981 and has written books on Batavia's history, noted that the city started redevelopment in that neighborhood in the 1950s when it bought land at State and River streets.

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Stoops said if it elected, one of his top priorities will be concentrating on the status of infrastructure, such as sewers and streets.

"We can't just have a great-looking skin and (be) rotting from within." he said.

Dinwiddie said the money the city has spent toward One North Washington could have been used for sewer and drainage improvements instead.

Asked if Batavia should become a sanctuary city for undocumented immigrants, Stoops said "yes."

"We should not only be focusing on our residents, but we should be looking out for one another. Who are we to start rounding them up from a government initiative that some of our residents may not agree with?" he said.

Schielke did not answer the question directly, speaking instead about how Batavia's immigrant history and how it adopted a fair housing ordinance decades ago and is an integrated community. Dinwiddie said the city should not become a sanctuary city because it would put a burden on police, and Salvati said he didn't know if he would "put the onus" on police to "be out there looking proactively."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The three people running for two 6-year Batavia park board terms and the five people running for four 4-year Batavia school board seats also participated.

More than 60 people attended, including candidates, their supporters, other local officials and members of the League of Women Voters.

The forum was recorded by Batavia's public-access television channel, BATV. It will be broadcast on cable television at a to-be-determined date, as well as on BATV's YouTube channel.

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