Judd Lofchie: 2021 candidate for Aurora mayor
In the April 6 consolidated election, incumbent Richard Irvin, Alderman Judd Lofchie and former East Aurora Unit District 131 board member John Laesch are vying for a 4-year term as Aurora mayor.
Occupation: Self-employed attorney and commercial real estate broker
Civic involvement: Alderman, 10th Ward; member of Rotary Service Club (past president); founder of Aurora Business United (2,500 member, free networking group); Chamber of Commerce (past president); pro bono legal assistance for Simply Destinee and Rita's Ministry; regular volunteer commitments at Hesed House and Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry, West Suburban Friends Group of Chicago Sinfonietta
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: Regarding public health and safety, we follow the guidance of experts in our state and federal agencies, such as the NIH and CDC. Local officials should be providing residents with continuous communication regarding county and state-level efforts combating COVID-19 such as testing sites and the vaccination process. It is our job to guarantee that all of our residents are aware of COVID services. I would collaborate with the County Boards to ensure Aurora receives as many vaccines as possible. We should utilize CARES funding to collaborate with our county health departments, prepare adequate vaccine sites, and implement comprehensive communications to residents as more vaccines become available. Finally, as a community leader, it is critical to set a positive example for the residents of Aurora.
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: Aurora should have responded sooner with relief to our local businesses. The administration established a 1.4 million dollar STABLE fund to assist businesses last summer. However, they closed the program with $400,000 still available yet not distributed to needy businesses. The application process was only open for 2 weeks in May. Now, in February 2021, after enduring business limitations for over 10 months, the current administration has established the C.E.R.F. fund, available to businesses on a first-come, first-served basis -- but not communicated to our business owners in any comprehensive way. This administration has repeatedly used the phrase -- "We are building the airplane as we fly." Ten months into this pandemic? We can, -- and we should do better for our local businesses. Let us reopen the fund, streamline the application, and make the distribution equitable. Finally, City Hall is currently only open 2 days per week. Our service hours should be restored to normal at this point, following appropriate public health guidelines.
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: Although we have not reached the end of our current emergency, the City Emergency Management Agency needs to begin the review of our response thus far, to examine the ways we can ensure a better response to future emergencies. I would immediately review our communication plan. The current administration relies solely on social media and email -- This is not enough, especially for our seniors and low income residents. I am repeatedly asked by residents what the current plan is, and how to access services. Our emergency communication plan must be comprehensive and include methods to reach all of our residents, including automated telephone calls, texts, and US mail.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: First and foremost, we can cut the wasteful spending such as the proposed new $35 million garage. Furthermore, why should Aurora taxpayers pay $50 million to move the Casino, as the current administration is proposing? Moving forward, for new hires to our city, we should not be paying out a 15-week (3.5 month) severance upon retirement or allow the accrual of 6 months of vacation pay -- or the accrual of 21 weeks of sick pay -- which are current policies. These policies are costly to our taxpayers and not required to attract quality candidates. Finally, we need to be bidding out professional services, and discontinue the use of dated national pricing plans (currently we use pricing from 2018). Improving our financial oversight should allow Aurora to reduce any potential burden of the pandemic on taxpayers.
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: I would meet with our department heads to best understand the priorities of our infrastructure needs, and the urgency and projected costs of such projects. I would immediately and permanently shelve the $35 million plan proposed by the current administration for the unified city garage.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: Thankfully it looks like those days are behind us and hopefully permanently so. However, the city's attorney has informed the Aldermen that this issue rests with Kane County 's Health Department and Sheriff.
Q: Do you agree or disagree with the stance your board/council has taken on permitting recreational marijuana sales in the community? What would you change about that stance, if you could?
A: Aurora is $1.1 billion in debt and we need additional revenue sources. Since surrounding cities of Naperville and North Aurora have allowed the sale of marijuana, Aurora residents that wish to purchase it, will. During City Council discussion on the matter, I argued that Aurora should tax the sales at 3% just as Naperville and North Aurora do, but the Mayor insisted on charging only 2%. Estimated sales in year one are 60 million dollars, meaning we left $600,000 on the table!
Q: Describe your leadership style and explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your village board or city council.
A: I have successfully operated my own business for most of my career, and my colleagues and employees would describe me as an inclusive leader that values the participation others. I have worked hard over the years to continuously improve my leadership skills through business coaching, reading, and educational seminars. I can listen to, and appreciate the viewpoints of people I may not agree with. As an attorney, I have learned to be solution-oriented and understand that compromise is often necessary to solve issues. I will establish regularly scheduled meetings between our city leaders, residents, neighborhood groups, community organizers, church leaders, and police. All of these stakeholders will have input into these meeting agendas. Alderman will no longer feel the need to be an echo chamber for the Mayor, but rather have a partner in me for assisting businesses, fueling economic development, creating jobs, and solving problems for our residents.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Ensuring all of our residents have reliable internet. I have spoken to several companies about providing very low-cost internet service to those who are unable to afford the rates. With Aurora's 40-mile double redundant fiber ring (high speed internet) we can accomplish this with little effort and with great benefit to our residents. With so many of our children in remote learning situations, a reliable internet connection is more critical than ever.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: I am a successful business and community leader that has served the Aurora community in various roles for the last 25 years. As an elected member of the Aurora City Council since 2017, I have an informed awareness and knowledge of the issues facing our city and I am ready to propose solutions. I have brought more than 30 new businesses to Aurora. In 1992, I founded a successful nonprofit, Streetwise, an organization that works to help Chicago's homeless population. Over 13,000 people have gained employment and attained self-sufficiency because of this organization, and it still helps people to this day. These are examples of the bold leadership, sound management skills, unwavering commitment and strong passion that I will bring to the office of Mayor. The most critical difference between my opponents and me is my plan for city finances.