Richard Irvin: 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.
Age: 51 (on March 29)
Occupation: Mayor of Aurora; owner, Richard C. Irvin & Associates
Civic involvement: As a small-business owner, former alderman and current mayor, I have always put community first. Leading Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, a statewide initiative led by state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago).
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: During the pandemic, the City has worked in collaboration with City Council, community groups and the public and private sectors. At my suggestion, we launched the S.T.A.B.L.E Fund, which designated $1.4 million along with CERF and other programs have led to a total of $3.5 million in relief assistance. Investing in these small businesses are the heart of Aurora and that is why we continue to work closely with our county, state and Federal officials to ensure Aurora businesses receive every dollar of aid possible.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we launched a campaign called "Mask Up Aurora!" and held many events distributing over 120,000 masks. We also were able to partner with the Northern Illinois Food Bank to distribute food to over 10,000 families in need since May 2020. We also brought 1,000 meals to 250 Aurora Housing Authority families.
We need to vaccinate people as quickly as possible, but then we need to make a conscious effort to revitalize our economy. That's why we are working with neighborhood organizations, faith leaders and City Council to locate neighborhood vaccination sites in our community.
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 am proud of the work our City was able to do during the most difficult year in its history. We faced many challenges, but in the end we were able to adjust quickly and continue serving residents.
But the most important work is happening now. A year into the pandemic we still have many businesses barely holding on. We need to ensure that Aurora is ready to embrace the post-pandemic economy. We must ensure that Aurora receives and uses every CARE Act dollar allotted to us. 2021 will be the most important year in the history of Aurora.
The City was able to adjust quickly to this new way of life. We were able to continue serving citizens with virtual City Hall services. We continue to have a hiring freeze at the City with an exception of public safety positions. Our administration and the City Council also created the S.T.A.B.L.E. fund which provided $1.2 million to small business and rental assistance during the pandemic.
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: We need to continue to create city services, be accessible virtually and invest in technology that is equally accessed by all of Aurora. We must continue to support small businesses in the community.
If COVID-19 taught us anything, it taught us that we must do a better job investing in technology, infrastructure and our workforce. It took COVID-19 to demonstrate how many Americans lack basic internet access. We saw how close we were to having hospitals overwhelmed. We saw how extreme inequality can be. Government in 2021 must be focused on the lessons we all learned in 2020.
Q: What cuts can local government make to reduce the burden of the pandemic on taxpayers?
A: As far as cuts, the City of Aurora already cut 5% or approximately $3M as a decrement from the 2021 budget while being mindful of our ability to maintain critical public services to constituents. We will continue to monitor all non-priority programs and cut or defer where we can based on the ongoing pandemic and its impact on revenues and expenses. We have to proceed cautiously with any further budget cuts as we continue to prioritize economic development, public safety and public works as services vital to our coming out of the pandemic strongly.
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: Like many cities across Illinois, Aurora serves over 40,000 households, neighborhoods and small businesses who depend on clean water supply. We need to replace these old lead service lines, which need to be replaced, and could be used as a model for other cities across the state. With an estimated cost of over $200M, however, the city will not be able to undertake this program on its own, and we have pushed to create a statewide funding mechanism through state bonding to create a fund that cities like Aurora could participate in without unduly burdening the city's water fund or taxpayers.
With much economic uncertainty post COVID-19, we must continue to monitor, prioritize, and possibly postpone Public Work projects as we are currently doing during the pandemic.
Q: Do you plan to address businesses that don't adhere to the governor's order to close or restrict business?
A: Yes, I think all citizens and our business community must adhere to Governor Pritizker's and the state of Illinois guidelines. I hope to continue to work closely with the Governor and our business owners to continue to operate their business responsibly for public health and focus on their economic recovery in the coming months and years.
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: Agree, Aurora approved the sale of recreational marijuana in 2019 and went into effect in July 2020.
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 am a combination of visionary and participative leader. I am persistent and bold, willing to take risks, inspirational, optimistic, innovative, and democratic leader who seeks input/feedback, promotes idea sharing, creativity, problem solving, teamwork.That method of leadership has given us the ability to accomplish more in the last four years in Aurora, than has been accomplished in the last four decades. Furthermore, my leadership style is also to build coalitions with other government agencies and business entities on every level. That has opened up lines of communication that has greatly benefited the City of Aurora.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The consistent themes of recent demonstrations in Aurora -- and across the globe -- revolve around racial injustice, social equity, police accountability and substantive changes. Collectively, we must work together to ensure justice and equity for all while recognizing the humanity and dignity of all. We announced the CHANGE Reform Initiative. CHANGE is an acronym for the (C)community (H)helping (A)urora's (N)necessary (G)growth and (E)mpowerment. True change must come from the community working together.
While this is just the beginning and much more work will be done, the attention to these initial areas is a direct result of listening to and engaging with our community.
• Body Camera
• Civilian Review Board
• Use of Force Policy
• Training Policy
In October 2020, the Aurora City Council unanimously approved $2 million plus for body cameras for the Aurora Police Department -- with a pilot period of late 2020/early 2021 and full implementation in the second half of 2021.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: In the last 4 years the City of Aurora has been through historically challenging times. Between the Henry Pratt shootings, the pandemic, increased crime, we have been able to come out stronger.
I have been able to work the last four years with the City Council to: Create more economic development throughout the City, invest in small businesses, create more housing and assist those hit most by the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to look to Aurora's future and recovery of our economy and build a sustainable and equitable future for everyone. This includes focusing on education, public safety, technology and economic development.
Frankly I am the only candidate in this race that is ready to lead Aurora over the next 4 years.