Endorsements: Krummen, White, Chakka, Chang Evans for Naperville City Council
Like most communities, Naperville has navigated the COVID-19 crisis under extremely trying circumstances. But it is a testament to strong leadership and fiscal responsibility that the city continues to thrive.
Recovering from the pandemic is top of mind for the 11 candidates -- Jennifer Bruzan Taylor, Vasavi Chakka, Lucy Chang Evans, James Haselhorst, Ian Holzhauer, John Krummen, Paul Leong, Allison Longenbaugh, Vincent Ory, Mark V. Urda and Benjamin White -- vying for four 4-year seats on the City Council. And luckily for Naperville, the ballot contains many well-qualified hopefuls.
First elected in 2015, incumbent John Krummen, an engineer and professor at North Central College, has demonstrated his leadership skills in a variety of ways, most recently initiating Naperville's sustainability task force (N.E.S.T.) and securing the first full-time sustainability manager for the city. He's put strong fiscal principles to work by championing balanced budgets and reduced city debt, which has stabilized the city's finances -- critical during the economic downturn. Besides pushing for new grants for mental health initiatives and crisis intervention training for the police, Krummen's future goals include establishing attainable housing and finding new sources of electrical power (notably, rooftop and community solar).
Elected to the council in 2017, incumbent Dr. Benjamin (Benny) White, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, has used values-driven leadership skills to help celebrate diversity while also strengthening inclusion in the city. As the founder of Naperville Neighbors United in 2018, White has brought together residents from all backgrounds to discuss race, religion, culture, sexual orientation and more to seek positive paths forward. NNU will host its first Juneteenth Celebration this summer. White feels community engagement by supporting social service agencies and youth, encouraging the city's financial stability, and supporting public safety personnel are of upmost importance. White is committed to increasing attainable/affordable housing and sustainable development as well as creating a public health crisis action plan, stockpiling PPE and pushing for improvements to road networks to ease traffic congestion.
With their strong leadership and commitment to moving Naperville into the future, Krummen and White are endorsed.
Choosing only two from the nine newcomers is more difficult.
• Lucy Chang Evans, a former Secret Service agent, civil engineer for DuPage County and current MBA candidate, proposes building a sustainable city by focusing on three central tenets: people, planet and prosperity. Among her core concerns are flood mitigation, transitioning to renewable energy, smart budget management, adding attainable housing options, creating a small business incubator to encourage new businesses to open, creating a pandemic playbook that includes guidance for phased closures and an effective way to communicate updates with residents, stockpiling PPE, creating a public education program about cannabis, supporting law enforcement, and preserving wildlife and green space. Chang Evans wants to address the 5th Avenue Project, which could provide opportunities for inclusionary housing, additional parking and green infrastructure initiatives.
• Vasavi Chakka, a small-business owner of ARAALA Inc. (a professional consulting services firm) and an IT professional, boasts an impressive array of civic involvement including the Naperville Sister Cities Commission (appointed by the mayor), Indian Community Outreach Organization Board, former Chamber of Commerce Board and more. Her goals are to promote smart economic development, find ways to incentivize small businesses to reopen, improve infrastructure with a focus on the Downtown Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project, promote safe behaviors to reduce the risk of communicable disease spread, and fully support first responders and public safety officials with necessary resources. Chakka would like to establish Naperville as a business and technology incubator so the city can become "the Silicon Valley of the Midwest." She's currently working on a "We Youth" outreach program to engage youth in economic development.
• Ian Holzhauer, a lawyer in Naperville and chairman of the Board of Directors for the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce, proposes a three-pronged approach to recovering from the pandemic that includes a temporary mask mandate, continuing sidewalk seating and outdoor liquor service at restaurants and lobbying for county grants. Holzhauer views the increase in remote work as an opportunity for the city to save money by re-imagining the scope of parking deck construction at 5th Avenue Station. He would make revitalizing the city's underground infrastructure, including replacing over 700 miles of water mains, as well as promoting Naperville as a regional shopping destination and restoring respect in the community as top priorities.
• Allison Longenbaugh, a Vice President in Clearing Operations at J.P. Morgan, says clear, fact-based communication from city council and support for small businesses are key to Naperville's recovery from the pandemic. She proposes closing some downtown streets to traffic so restaurants could set up shared outdoor dining space. She's also concerned about development, evaluating the city's technology infrastructure, affordable/attainable housing, the 5th Avenue Project and its potential impact on the surrounding neighborhoods, and moving forward with the Downtown Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project.
• Jennifer Bruzan Taylor, a former Cook County Assistant State's Attorney, proposes a plan to help struggling small businesses that would include the city partnering with local area banks to offer low-interest loans to assist them weather the economic downturn. She's also a proponent of making Naperville a "smart connected city" by expanding the optical fiber network, the groundwork for which has already been laid.
• Mark Urda, a Control System Integrator at Synergy Systems Inc., proposes to restore balance to the council through leadership by listening to residents' concerns and actively encouraging civic engagement and community involvement. As a member of the Naperville Historic Preservation Commission, he cites responsible development and finding affordable housing options as his top concerns.
• Paul Leong, a District 203 school board member and network consultant, cites fiscal responsibility as one of his core values, especially when it comes to spending taxpayers money. Regarding the Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project, he would seek out additional aid from the county, state and federal level to further reduce the cost to Naperville taxpayers.
• James Haselhorst, a leader of Opt In Naperville, says allowing adult use dispensaries in Naperville has been the only "bright spot" during the pandemic as it has brought in more financial support than expected. In the affordable housing discussion, he supports a mix of housing and suggests the city look to Habitat for Humanity for guidance.
• Vincent Ory, the semiretired owner of Ory Realty Inc. who helped form the city's historic district, feels that transparency and honesty are needed on the city council. He would like to restructure council meetings to allow more participation from residents especially when it comes to addressing overdevelopment, affordable housing and traffic.
All these candidates have individual strengths that would make them effective additions to the City Council. We are most swayed by the multiple innovative ideas and willingness to take action, Chang Evans and Chakka bring to the picture, and we endorse them along with Krummen and White.