Patty Smith: 2023 candidate for Aurora City Council Ward 8
Age on Election Day: 63
Occupation: City of Aurora Alderwoman and real estate agent
Employer: The residents of Ward 8 for the City of Aurora; and the real estate employer is Baird Warner
Previous offices held: Alderwoman Ward 8 since 2019
Q: What is the most serious issue your community will face in the coming years and how should the city council respond to it?
A: One very serious issue lingering over the City of Aurora is the extreme undercount of residents in the 2020 census results. The City of Aurora strongly disagrees with the 2020 census outcome and the Census Bureau has acknowledged errors in the process.
With a loss of population of approximately 17,500, the City of Aurora will lose around $35 million per year in taxes or $350 million over the next 10 years. This is a huge loss in revenue for our city.
Some of the programs census funding supports are local prevention programs such as child abuse prevention and mental health. Funding for our hospitals, roads, bridges, public works, our schools, public transportation, wildlife, and housing assistance for the elderly and disabled are all tied to census data. I support and advocate executing a special census for Aurora so that we can reclaim those tax dollars to continue to offer the necessary community services needed in the City of Aurora.
Q: How would you describe the state of your community's finances?
A: In my four years serving as Alderman, the City of Aurora has had a balanced budget. The city's tax rate has decreased during the last several years while the tax base and the equalized assessed value has increased. Each year during the budget process, each department produces their department budget based on its operational needs and the needs of our residents.
It is our responsibility to balance the services our residents require at the same time being fiscally conservative to respect our residents' economic reality.
Maintaining the City of Aurora's fiscally sound budget is especially critical coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. As alderman, I will continue to support reasonable and appropriate economic development to increase revenue, add to our tax base, grow our city, and maintain a high level of community service.
Q: What should be the three top priorities for spending in your community during the next four years?
A: Economic development, public safety, and mental health are priorities.
In Ward 8, there are several store fronts that sit empty & land that remains undeveloped. Many new businesses have opened however we much more work to do. I will continue to work with the economic development team to fill the empty storefronts & identify a developer for vacant land.
In the city, I will continue to support appropriate, responsible economic development project to increase our revenue, bring in good paying jobs, increase our home values, and grow our city.
Public safety is importance to our residents & to the success of our city. I support our first responders, Aurora Police Department and Aurora Fire Department, and the equipment and technology they need to stay safe as they perform their duties to keep us safe.
I will continue to support all aspects of mental health services in the City of Aurora. I will advocate to obtain more mental health training for our police officers and social workers so they can better protect our community.
Q: Are there areas of spending that need to be curtailed? If so, what are they?
A: During the pandemic we responsibly cut back without cutting out. We lost staff members mostly due to retirements and have never replaced them. All city departments were operating but they were lightly staffed. We have maintained a balanced budget even through the tough times during the pandemic. We did everything within our governmental power to keep our restaurants and businesses operating and our residential services in place.
As a result, we are just now getting caught up to being fully staffed. Because we made good budget decisions during the pandemic, our budget is on solid footing. We are always mindful of making sure our budget is fiscally responsible but at this time there is no need to make wholesale budget reductions.
Q: What do you see as the most important infrastructure project the community must address? Why and how should it be paid for? Conversely, during these uncertain economic times, what project(s) can be put on the back burner?
A: As alderman of the 8th Ward, I have focused on the safety of my ward and residents. With my support and advocacy, Ward 8 has had several important infrastructure projects such as restoration of the Montgomery Road bridge and replacement of the McCoy pedestrian bridge. Both projects were done under the Highway Bridge Program in conjunction with the federal funding. We also have added two new traffic lights with two more recently approved.
Citywide, one of the most important infrastructure projects is the yearly resurfacing of our roads. The cost is more than $8 million per year and is paid for with the motor vehicle tax and capital funds. To keep costs curtailed, our streets are evaluated and resurfaced on a rotational plan. Two additional large infrastructure projects in the city are the control plan project and lead service line removal. Both projects are unfunded mandates by the U.S. EPA.
Q: Describe your experience working in a group setting to determine policy. What is your style in such a setting to reach agreement and manage local government? Explain how you think that will be effective in producing effective actions and decisions with your city council.
A: "Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much." ~ Helen Keller.
As the incumbent, I have had experience working with a group to determine policy as I serve on two legislative committees. In my previous career as a paralegal, I learned how to be thorough and how to pay attention to detail. I research policy and I ask questions.
Is this ordinance new or a revised version of previous initiative? Why is it coming forward? How will it affect the 8th Ward?
I seek to partner and collaborate with those effected by the decisions being made. I enter the discussion with an open mind, collaborate and find common ground. Once a decision needs to be made, I do so quickly and decisively, I believe the only side that should be taken is the side that is best for the constituents.
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the job?
A: My journey to becoming an alderman started with my advocacy for my oldest daughter with Down syndrome. To assist her growth and development I became involved in our community. Through that journey I developed a passion for the City of Aurora.
In 2008, I was honored by Mayor Weisner with the Volunteer of the Year award from the city. Mayor Weisner was quoted to say, "Patty Smith through her devotion to the welfare of our community, literally defines the meaning of the term community leader."
Today as alderman, I serve with the same passion. I listen to my constituents and respond. I provide ongoing communication. I keep a presence in the neighborhoods by utilizing social media, attend HOA meetings, and I provide regular community meetings. I discovered there was a food need in my ward and developed ongoing food pantries to help families with food. Every decision I make at the city level as alderman begins with how it will affect my constituents. I listen to my ward's needs and I serve with passion.
Q: What's one good idea you have to better the community that no one is talking about yet?
A: Term limits. I believe in term limits. In my opinion, elected positions are not meant to be in the hands of one person as a lifetime career. As a city grows, develops, and prospers -- things change. New ideas and new perspectives are needed. I would support having a conversation about term limits to see where my colleagues were on the matter.