1) If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
As Mayor, Blue Island continues to seek out new grant applications that benefit the City with its existing workforce. Basically, everybody has pitched in this effort from Police, Fire, and Zoning.
The City hired over the last eight years a new Fire Chief, Police Chief, Building Official, Building Inspector, Health Inspector, Finance Director, Human Resource Manager, and Community Development Manager who are qualified and “real” individuals that have experience in their respected fields and these people truly care about making Blue Island a better place to live and work. No more political appointed people have been hired to fill City positions; this stopped with this administration.
The City has made a conscious effort in hiring more accountable professionals in their respected fields without blowing up the City’s budget. New salaries have been properly reviewed and evaluated with each new person being hired that is both respectful to the City’s existing revenue stream and realistic expectations for a new job. The City still needs to hire people to maintain a good “quality of service,” which this administration has done in a cost-saving manner.
2) What are your top priorities for investment in and revitalization of our business district? What is the status of the Western Avenue Business Development District Fund? Going forward, would you provide accounting and periodic statements of how much has been collected and what has been spent?
Mayor Vargas has improved the “quality of life” issues in the last four years when it comes to requesting better building permit reviews and approvals, better code enforcement, and better property maintenance.
The City has been able to increase its “overall” property value by requiring residents and business owners to apply for more building permits, while also enforcing its building ordinance on building and property maintenance. No more illegal building-related activities are taking place over the weekends without proper adjudication court action and building enforcement.
A reduction of signage pollution. There are no more illegal signs being propped up without a proper sign permit, while temporary banner signs that have been used as permanent signs have been taken down, and LED lights that have been used on building edges, windows, and doors have been curtailed. The City is enforcing its existing sign code.
Planning and Zoning applications have increased for new development applications within the City. More special use and variance applications have been applied for within the last three years. This means new development applications are being properly reviewed and vetted by the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the City Council.
Parking accountability for newer zoning uses and higher density uses are being properly reviewed, evaluated, and approved with the caveat that parking will be mitigated in a fair and more equitable manner. Ophelia’s Banquets is a good example where this new business applicant applied for a text amendment, special use, and a parking variance.
Blue Island’s zoning ordinance is being rewritten within this year. This task is being done in-house to save taxpayers money instead of hiring a consultant to perform the same task. The new City zoning ordinance will be more reflective of today’s zoning uses parking allocations, and special considerations in regards to new development, drainage, landscaping, lighting, signage, and fencing.
The status of the Business District Fund is going very well. Mayor Vargas would provide for accounting and periodic statements of how much has been collected, what has been spent, and post the statements on the City’s website under the Community Development’s tab.
3) With the 1% tax imposed on the business district, a board of business representatives was formed to have input on expenditures of tax district funds. Some monies have been used from the fund without that input. Going forward, how do you plan to involve the business community in the decision-making process in Blue Island?
Mayor Vargas does not control nor is it his jurisdiction to control the Community Development Committee. His office has met with many business representatives with the understanding that a substantial amount of revenue collected is to be used to improve the streetscape infrastructure in an orderly and timely manner, and not in a haphazard manner. Moving forward, I would call for quarterly meetings with the Chamber of Commerce along with the business community to receive suggestions and feedback, and ultimately, have the streetscape plan implemented accordingly.