Thomas Simonian: 2021 candidate for Geneva mayor
Occupation: Founder/CEO/President of two companies; owner of two franchises
Employer: Array Enterprises Inc., Ultimate Choice Inc., Hang In There Inc., UCCM, Inc.
Civic involvement: Former board member Geneva Community Chest; volunteer and contributor to many Geneva and Kane County charities and not-for-profits
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. We need to take a balanced and thoughtful approach to governing as we move out of the pandemic, one where we respect the science but do not strangle our small business with overregulation.
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. I believe the constituents were adequately served under the circumstances. I absolutely believe that the small businesses and restaurants were generally ignored other than some minor concessions. I would have worked directly with the small businesses and restaurants to float a bond or provide loans that could be repaid through a "places for eating tax" and "surplus tax" in 3-5 years following the pandemic. This way Geneva could leverage its "municipal muscle" to help the struggling businesses when it is needed and recouping the funds at a later date putting a zero burden on the tax payers.
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. Unfortunately Geneva does not have a health department at the municipal level and we need to rely on the expertise at the County Level through the Kane County Health Department. In the future, while I am Mayor, I will make it a priority to work directly with the Kane County Health Department to address any future public health crises.
Q. What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A. Government first needs to identify those taxpayers who have been impacted by the pandemic which has resulted in a burden financially, emotionally and economically. Government should work with its own resources, county and state resources as well as charities and nonprofits to assist those burdened during the pandemic. I also believe that local government can inspire the private sector to get involved in helping those burdened by the pandemic.
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. The most critical infrastructure projects plaguing Geneva is underground water/sewer/stormwater management. Another infrastructure project that I believe is important is burying underground the power/utility/cable lines that are currently being handled by telephone poles. These projects can be funded by county, state and federal grants, low interest loans and bonds. The projects can also be funded by borrowing from our enterprise funds at a rate that benefits both Geneva taxpayers as well as the enterprise fund. The projects can also be funded by a small increase in utility (water/sewer/electric). If I had to put one of these projects on hold it would be the burying of the power/utility/cable lines.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community?
A. I disagree with the current Mayor making the deciding vote to allow recreational marijuana in our community. Mayor stated "Politics is about the future, and these kids came over to show their support in me to provide for their future. A task I couldn't find a more pleasure in pursuing." According to Dr. Phil and many other well renown doctors "marijuana erodes your IQ and erodes your motivation" I don't think this vote by the Mayor in any way is looking out for the future of the kids of Geneva.
Q. What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A. The current Mayor stated in the past that he would not make a tiebreaking vote that changed the current status quo, yet he did on this vote and a number of other votes recently. If I were Mayor and I had to make the tie breaking vote regarding this matter I would have voted against it.
Q. What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A. I don't think that we take enough economic advantage of the train to help the small businesses, restaurants and hotels in downtown and around Geneva. One idea would be to encourage a multipurpose (750 -- 1,200 seat) entertainment center that could support theater, concerts, plays, conventions, meetings, etc. within walking distance to the train. The economic impact to the businesses of Geneva as well as the revenue stream to the City of Geneva would tremendously help both the businesses and taxpayers.
Q. What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A. I know it's time for new leadership and I know I'm up to the task. The job of Mayor is the job of a lifetime NOT for a lifetime. Our current 20-year mayor has been in public office since 1989 and that's long enough. Research shows that once an elected official is in office more than 2 years they begin to lose their effectiveness. They are no longer the solution but the problem. In these challenging economic times, we need to end the current "tax and spend" mentality and rein in spending and install a new sense of fiscal discipline at the city hall. Under our current mayor our budget has increased over 80% in the last 10 years, from $60 million to almost $110 million. Yet our population in that same period has increased less than 5%. As a Certified Financial Planner, with a degree in Finance and founder of four successful companies along with being a job creator hundreds of jobs, I have the knowledge and experience to get the job done. We also need to take a balanced and thoughtful approach to governing as we move out of the pandemic, one where we respect the science but do not strangle our small business with overregulation.