Steve Thoren: 2021 candidate for Elgin City Council
Steve Thoren is one of 11 candidates running for four, 4-year seats on the Elgin City Council in the April 6, 2021, election. One candidate, Marcus Banner, declined to participate in the questionnaire.
The Daily Herald asked the candidates several questions about issues facing the city.
Below are Thoren's responses.
In-person early voting begins March 10 only at the Kane County Clerk's Office, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Bldg. B, in Geneva and the Aurora satellite office, 5 E. Downer Place, Suite F. In-person early voting at locations throughout the county begins March 22. Learn more at www.kanecountyclerk.org/Elections.
Occupation: HECM (reverse mortgage) representative for seniors
Employer: The Federal Savings Bank
Civic involvement: Elgin Heritage Commissioner; President of the Elgin Patriotic Memorial Association; Volunteer for City of Elgin and DNA; Santa for Elgin children (17 years), emcee for Nightmare on Chicago Street; Volunteer for Senior Services Associates Inc. and past board member; manages and maintains the defibrillators in Elgin social clubs (American Legion, Elks, Moose, Turners, Owls, Riverside, Eagles); and on-air host of two community-oriented radio programs on WRMN
Q. How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state and federal authorities?
A. I am a good communicator, especially with the senior population. I am connected with many sites, giving vaccines and sharing the steps and procedures already in place, as I am able. I am an extremely positive individual who strives to be positive, and to get along with everyone in the community. If you have received the vaccine, don't argue with store employees about wearing your mask, just accept the situation and be polite and respectful to the store employees and all others. The pandemic has affected all of us, encourage others to do for others and be understanding.
Q. Did your town continue to adequately serve its constituents during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better.
A. Elgin was smart enough to have built a "reserve fund" (which Councilman Baldamar Lopez opposed and wanted spent). At any rate, the reserves are there. Also, city management spent time reviewing certain areas of government that were affected and hence was forced to execute some layoffs; i.e. parks and rec positions where there was no activity, city employees took a 10% wage cut, positions trimmed and more. Frankly, I commend our city management on the handling of the crisis that happened so unexpectedly.
Q. In light of our experiences with COVID-19, what safeguards/guidelines should you put in place to address any future public health crises?
A. Indoor public places need temperature checks to enter, and masks worn. This needs to be monitored, possibly by an individual who could alternate job roles so as to remain full-time, sanitizing and keeping the parking decks clean, as well as the need to keep police downtown for proper enforcement of protocol, including Elgin's homeless population.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. At this moment, I am disappointed with the Elgin Fire Department for not understanding the need to adjust, given what we are all faced with.
I support the fire department very strongly. In fact, at the conclusion of my longtime local radio program, I say every week, "thank a veteran every day and thank a policeman and a fireman, too." So, give up the raise for one-year firefighters. It's the thing to do for the community.
I applaud the city manager for his reviews and due-diligence regarding recommendations of areas and departments that are affected more by the pandemic and if those departments have a decreased workload, cutbacks are initiated. While it will be tough on certain people and families, certain steps need to be addressed. If we all work together to help each other through this, we will get to the end of the tunnel.
Q. What do you see as the most important infrastructure project you must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what infrastructure project can be put on the back burner?
A. Currently the city infrastructure projects are all being addressed properly and are being completed as scheduled. The civic center renovation has just some landscaping to finish the project. As COVID-19 guidelines loosen, I like the fact that the outdoor plaza will be completed and available. As far as new projects, I would welcome being involved with a detailed review of the need and expense including the funding source. Undoubtedly, situations and project proposals will arise that might need to be put off to a later date.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. I agree with the stance. While many older folks are against it, I am again a good communicator about the subject matter. All towns that voted against it are changing to accepting it. It has proved to be a huge tax benefit for the state. If Elgin said no, then Dundee, South Elgin, St. Charles, Schaumburg, etc., would not only benefit from the taxes, many Elgin residents would go there to spend their money, including other stores. Yes, times have changed and I will be happy to explain that to people who are opposed.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I want to meet with and learn about all the departments within the city, find out what the department heads go through, what are their challenges, establish empathy! I want to walk in their shoes for a day. As a councilman who better understands from within, I will be in a better position to address situations as they arise as well as build respect from the employees. Again, I want to be a communicator for all. In addition, I'd like to establish better communication with the Elgin Township offices.