- If elected, what three steps would you take to put our city on a firmer financial footing?
First and foremost, I will work with the City Council to ensure our next budget and appropriation is realistic, in-line with available funds and correctly prioritizes the spending needs in Blue Island. As a member of the Finance Committee, I can attest that the current Council passed an appropriation attempting to get our spending priorities in place. But the current administration refused follow those priorities and instead has blown through the appropriated money for things like legal and contractual services while allowing line items like street repairs to go underfunded. If elected, I will not only work with the council to get those spending priorities right, but I will actually follow the appropriation.
I will hire qualified administrators who can guide the day-to-day business of the City, be responsive to residents and business owners, and ensure we are operating in accordance with our spending priorities. The City has not had a qualified or competent lead administrator in almost four years. Other qualified and well-intended professionals, including the most recent Finance Director, have quit in frustration. I will stabilize the situation at City Hall and install qualified people who are clearly communicating between departments and to the public. Under my administration, city staff will seek to work with businesses to help them succeed.
I believe intergovernmental and corporate communication is vital in accessing more revenue and attracting new business and I intend to be more active than the current administration in both arenas. Our city leaders do not communicate with our state and federal officials and they do not actively pursue new business opportunities. I will change that. I intend to work closely with our legislators and Congressman’s office to access much-needed federal recovery dollars as well as infrastructure dollars in the future. We have significant infrastructure needs with the most visibly pressing being the condition of our streets city-wide. It is not realistic to think we can pay the $20+ million it would take to do the full job with our current tax base alone. We need state and federal dollars, and they will not just fall from the sky, we need strong relationships with our lawmakers to maximize our access to that revenue.
When it comes to attracting new business and helping existing businesses, we have serious challenges ahead. In addition to infrastructure, we must rebuild our local economy after the pandemic. This will require serious leadership that actively works to attract new investors while not losing sight of the fact that we are a city with deep roots and traditions including our local businesses.
- 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 an accounting and periodic statements of how much has been collected and what has been spent?
I have been and continue to be a champion of the Western Avenue Business Development District Fund. I have personally helped multiple businesses apply for grants and have kept in frequent communication with the business community about how to best develop Western Ave. I believe Western is our “front porch” and that a more focused effort is required to ensure we look our best. Beautification is an often-overlooked part of a broader economic development plan, but I believe it is vital if we want to attract and retain quality businesses.
Like so many other problems we face, communication is often at the core. I will not only commit to providing more transparency on how the Fund is being utilized, but I will also seek partnership with the Chamber and others to make better use of the Fund moving forward.
- 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?
I believe in order to be successful; City Hall and the business community need to have a collaborative relationship. I would propose to formalize the board of businesses representatives as an Advisory Council to the Mayor and have it provide quarterly reports to the Mayor and City Council on the revenue and expenditures related to the Western Avenue Business Development District Fund. Furthermore, the Advisory Board would serve as a vehicle for increased communication and collaboration between the city and businesses and all matters of city governance.