Elgin mayor offers his State of the City via video
Highlighting Elgin's response to a challenging year featuring a pandemic and widespread social unrest, Mayor David Kaptain released his annual State of the City address via a video recording Wednesday.
Kaptain was interviewed by Elgin Today host Jeff Myers about 2020 events, policing, transparency, city services, finances, capital improvement projects and new and expanding businesses. The video is available at the city's website, Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Kaptain said COVID and the social unrest after the shooting of George Floyd created issues for virtually every community in the country, but that his city was in good shape to handle them.
"We had years ago set aside money and we have a reserve fund," he said. "We also have diversified revenues to help pay our bills."
The city's handling of the social unrest stemmed from years of work with the community, Kaptain said.
Five years ago, the city started conversations with pastors and members of the Black community about social issues, bias, racism and policing, and that "really cushioned the social unrest in Elgin," Kaptain said.
He pointed out the city's crime rate is at a nearly 50-year low, highlighted establishment of the Community Advisory Board and noted the police department's efforts with transparency and bias.
"Bias goes two ways," Kaptain said. "I think that there's bias among the police department and they admit that and they're working to try to resolve that, but there's also a bias from residents toward policing and toward police officers and police departments."
"Not all police officers are the same, not all police departments are the same and Elgin has one of the finest police departments in the country and they deserve the respect that they've earned for that," he added.
On the financial front, Kaptain highlighted the city's ability to keep property taxes flat and maintain a AAA bond rating, but acknowledged some painful cuts.
"We did things this past year that were not pleasant for everybody," he said, including event cancellations and employee furloughs.
Despite COVID, "we did better than hold our own" on the economic development front, Kaptain said, citing retail occupancy about 96% and the addition of 2 million square feet of new industrial space.
He was optimistic about the future, predicting there's going to be a greater move to the suburbs as the business world evolves with more work from home and Zoom meetings.
"Elgin's future is bright," Kaptain said. "Businesses and the people that move here look for a stable government, they look for a safe community, they look for a progressive community that continues to move forward, and Elgin offers all those things."
This is the first time the mayor's State of the City address is presented via video. Kaptain normally makes his annual presentation to the business community at the Elgin Area Chamber's breakfast event at Elgin Community College.