Joe Szafran: Candidate profile
Name: Joe Szafran
City: Rolling Meadows
Office Sought: Alderman Ward 5
Occupation: Building Maintenance -- Rolling Meadows Park District
Education: Graduate of Rolling Meadows High School -- 1984, Lincoln Technical Institute -- Certified Auto/Diesel Mechanic 1985
Civic Involvement: Volunteer Firefighter/Mechanic -- Kirkland Fire Dept.
Previous Offices: None
What are the most important issues facing your community and how do you intend to address them?
The community lacks trust in the current council along with being upset with runaway finances. Residents I have talked to feel individual aldermen are not representing the residents in matters that directly affect them. It will be a difficult challenge to rebuild trust, integrity and communication throughout the community, but I feel it can be done. With open communication I would attempt to keep my ward residents aware of issues to get their feedback and use this to guide decisions. I would also encourage my ward to contact me so they can understand issues and hear discussions. Too often residents learn about issues after the council has made its decisions or from reading about it in the newspapers. I want to listen to their concerns. My ward needs to know who their alderman is and who is representing them.
What makes you the best candidate for the job?
I'm aware of the candidates running against me in ward 5 and feel both are respected individuals in the community. Both have served well in the past in other Rolling Meadows committees. However, I don't feel for the long time they've served anything memorable can be attributed to their individual efforts worthy to serve ward 5 at this time. They had their time but little changes happened on their watch. We need to move forward with new people serving who might have new ideas and insights. I feel I'm a new voice to represent my ward and have no affiliations or connections to other community groups. I'm totally independent willing to represent my ward. Furthermore, I'm a lifetime resident. I remember a community where we had fun things to do and great local places to shop. Our city boosted of so many innovative new achievements. We were acclaimed nationwide for many unique firsts of its kind. It was a time of great leadership and a council with foresight that made wise decisions and our financial situation was strong because of major corporations that settled in Rolling Meadows. I would hope my participation as an alderman could help regain some of that notoriety once again.
Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing results and decisions with your city council.
While never having the opportunity to hold an elected role, my style would be best described as hands-on. I am not a leader; I'm a listener. I have been in the position of training co-workers and other employees and find this to be the most effective. I was an instructor at a technical school and along with lecture and assigning tasks, students learned more when I was guiding them rather than showing them what to do. As an alderman I believe it would serve me well to do my due diligence in learning as much as I can about various topics that would come before the council. Research is as important to evaluate an issue rather than going along with how others vote. I'm an independent thinker and will vote my conscious based on the message of my ward. I'm also a believer of thinking outside the box finding solutions sometimes in unique ways. I believe discussions bring up starting points and ideas that are useful in finding solutions.
How would you describe the condition of your community's budget, and what are the most important specific actions the town should take to assure providing the level of services people want?
The financial situation is worrisome in Rolling Meadows due in large to economic situations in the State as well as worldwide. As such, Rolling Meadows needs to move cautiously into the future. Residents are worried about property taxes escalating as huge bond issues are added to the budget. Residents feel city provided services of fire, police, public works and library are all very good. Efficiencies and cost savings could be achieved by utilizing in-house expertise instead of outsourcing to outside contractors on various projects. When improvements are needed to services we need to hold down adding expenses to the budget. Overall, the budget is well prepared and presented and sufficiently funded, however since a large portion of the budget depends on the business growth of the community, it's strength is a major concern. The business community responded to a survey sometime ago wherein they expressed a lack of communication between the city and businesses. The council needs to put more effort into bringing major corporations into the area. Additionally, they need to stay focused to improve communications with the current business community to ensure their longevity.
What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
Rolling Meadows needs to address the "wants" of the older residents while focusing on those of the younger generation as well. Our older residents want to be able to remain in their homes as long as they are healthy but they're facing increasing costs in property taxes, utilities, food, medical costs and food. While most of this is out of the hands of the city itself, seeing millions in expenditures for 2 fire houses and losing commercial development on the former Dominick's property causes great concern. I would like to establish a committee with our older residents so that they could be represented as a group. In this way we can communicate with the group to hear their concerns, represent them in issues and provide them with accurate information as well as provide a resource center for assistance that may be of help to them. Secondly, we need to build a stronger bond with our large corporations, reach out and include them into the community, and encourage major business to establish themselves in the city. The city lost Weber Grill because they wouldn't allow them to put up their trademark large Weber grill. They are now located in Palatine. Rolling Meadows lies in such a unique location to draw major corporations. There are 4 exits off 53 leading directly into the business districts of Rolling Meadows. With Golf Road east, Algonquin Road east and west, Kirchoff east and west, and Euclid east and west, our city lies in an ideal location This should be the city's marketing tool to entice new business. With the majority of events being put on by the Community Events Foundation, major corporations like Gallagher, Northrop, etc. should be persuaded to underwrite the cost of some of these events. After the business survey a Business Advocate was hired to connect with our business community. The first Business Showcase hosted mostly small "mom/pop" businesses rather than our major corporations. The bridge with our major businesses needs to be built and built quickly. Many businesses are closing due to the economy. A reflection of a weak economy is slowing our city's economic growth. We need to do more work with major companies to keep them in Rolling Meadows which will keep the budget strong. Further, I would expect the city to reach out to the major Rolling Meadows businesses to partner with the city with more than an address. Finally, it seems that money is often wasted on programs, ideas or polices that seemed to work out on paper. I would propose pilot programs in one or two wards at a time be tried for effectiveness or improvements. Then once modified or found to be acceptable, then they can be initiated citywide, dropped or postponed.