The following questionnaire was sent to all council candidates on 1/1/2017. All of their answers will be published on a different page of this website. Their answers will be posted without any editing or any commentary. In addition, the Elgin OCTAVE will not endorse any candidates in this election cycle. _________________________________________________________________________________________________
2017 Elgin City Council Candidate Questionnaire
1) The City of Elgin deals with the matter of leaf collection in different ways in different parts of the City. In some areas the residents must bag their own leafs. In other areas the homeowners must rake the leafs out into the street, where City workers will collect them. The costs to residents vary depending upon what their area's leaf pick up policy happens to be. And in 2011, the budget task force estimated that the City spends about $450,000 per year to collect leafs. (That does not include the cost of specialized capital equipment.)
Question 1: What are your thoughts on the City's current leaf policies? ________________________________________________________________________________________________ 2) With the understanding that "Economic Development" means the effort to attract new businesses to move to Elgin, and to induce existing businesses to stay here or even expand:
Question 2: What are your views on Elgin's current "Economic Development" policies and methods? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 3) The City of Elgin owns hundreds of properties. Many are empty lots, and many of them have buildings. Some of these properties are vital, such as City Hall, while other properties are of no value to the City. Because these properties are owned by the City, they do not generate any tax revenue, while also presenting ongoing maintenance and liability expenses. Over the last few years, city staff has compiled a complete inventory of all the City of Elgin's properties.
Question 3a: Do you think that the City of Elgin should create a strategic plan for its properties that would identify which properties have no present or future value to the city and which should be sold? Question 3b: Should the plan also create a process for how properties should be sold? Question 3c: Should the City create a temporary task force to draft a proposed plan for the city's property holdings? (The Council would have final approval authority on the plan.) Question 3d: Do you have other thoughts on the City's property inventory? _________________________________________________________________________________________________ 4) Under Elgin's "revenue diversification" policy which was adopted in 2011, the residents are taxed and charged in multiple ways that are difficult to keep track of. Some of these expenses are the trash fee, natural gas tax, electrical utility tax, sales tax, increased sales tax, leaf rake out fee, yard waste stickers, liquor tax, property tax and Elgin's Telecommunications tax.
Question 4a: Do you believe the City should post "true tax" figures on its website that would clearly show a breakdown of all the typical taxes and fees paid to the City of Elgin by a typical Elgin household? Question 4b: Do you believe that the City of Elgin should post "true tax" figures going back for at least 10 years so that the taxpayers of Elgin could effectively judge the long term effects of Elgin's taxing policies?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 5) Over the last 20 years, the City Council has approved millions of dollars in aesthetic and cultural enhancements in its effort to revitalize the downtown. The beautification of Walton Island, building the Rec Centre, installing brick pavers and planters downtown, creating the Kimball Street median planting, building Artspace, and the recently completed Riverside Drive are the major examples of where the City has sought to improve the downtown. And last year, the City granted about $6.35 million to rescue downtown Elgin's Tower Building.
Question 5a: What are your thoughts on the City's efforts to revitalize the downtown? Question 5b: What are your thoughts on the City's investment in the Tower Building project? Question 5c: Do see building a performance pavilion at Festival Park as being an important component in revitalizing the downtown? Question 5d: Should the City spearhead the effort to upgrade Festival Park? Question 5e: How does the Hemmens fit into your vision for revitalizing downtown Elgin? Question 5f: What do you see as the best way forward in improving downtown Elgin?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 6) The Downtown Neighborhood Association (DNA) gets $135,000 from the City of Elgin. The City is currently funding the DNA with proceeds from the downtown TIF district. But the most recent plan to fund the DNA is to create a “special service area” aka "SSA" which is a dedicated taxing district, in the downtown which would be used to fund the DNA. Please see the Daily Herald articles dated: 5/8/2016 and 8/18/2016.
Question 6a: Do you support the creation of a special taxing district to fund the DNA DNA? Question 6b: Do you support the City's current use of the downtown TIF district to fund the DNA? Question 6c: Do you support the City funding the DNA through any means?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 7) Concerning your campaign....
Question 7a: How much money do you think you will spend on your campaign? Question 7b: How much of that money will be your own?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 8) Over the last 4 years, there have been debates within the City Council about the "Responsible Bidder" Ordinance and "Prevailing Wage" laws. Please read the attached Daily Herald article dated 3/20/2015
Question 8: Please provide your views on what you read in the article.
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 9) In 2013, the Illinois Tollway Authority gave the buildings and the associated land from the former Fox River Country Day School to the City of Elgin. The City of Elgin has discussed repairing the facility, with original estimates at $5 million, and then leasing the property. The City has also explored selling the property. But as of 1/1/2017, the City still owns this property, and it is not being used.
Question 9a: Would you support leasing this property and its buildings to any organization under any conditions, where the City would not at least "break even" on the transaction? Question 9b: Would you want to sell the property to raise money for the City? Question 9c: Would you want to sell the property to avoid incurring repair and maintenance expenses? Question 9d: Would you want to sell the property to put the property back on the tax rolls? Question 9e: Do you have any other thoughts about this property? _________________________________________________________________________________________________
10) The City of Elgin has sent recruiters to places as far away as Puerto Rico.
Question 10: What are your views on such recruiting efforts?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ 11) In January of 2014, the City Council in a 6 to 3 vote, gave final approval to a $25million project by the Housing Authority of Elgin to rehabilitate the existing apartment building at 120 S. State, and to construct a new apartment building on the site of the recently demolished 132 S. State building.
In order for this project to proceed, the council had to approve multiple variances to City regulations. (A set of images related to this question will be emailed to you on 1/2/2017)
But long before the City Council ever saw this project, City Staff, under former City Manager Stegall told the "HAE" that their originally proposed building was not acceptable. Staff said the building was too tall, and that it's appearance was too conventional. So the HAE had to go back to their architects and come up with a completely new design that would please Manager Stegall and his staff. Months later, after the design was finally approved by City Staff, the plan moved through zoning, then to the council.
When the public and the council saw this building, there was widespread criticism of the design and the variations which it required. Some cosmetic changes were made to satisfy the council, but supposedly there was no time left to make significant changes.
The trend for subsidized housing for decades has been to move toward LOW density. It has been determined to be best for the project residents, and for the surrounding community. But with the expansion of the public housing project at 120 S. State, the City Elgin approved a high-density project.
Question 11a: Should city staff be allowed to wield such power to completely rework the design on such a public project without FIRST getting public input or council input? Question 11b: Do you believe that the City should form a policy for the density and location of future public housing projects before another project can be started? Question 11c: Should the City over-look multiple zoning/code violations in approving future building proposals?
________________________________________________________________________________________________ 12) Advocates for a locally owned food coop have been lobbying for about 4 years to create such a grocery store here in Elgin. That store is to be called "Shared Harvest". Please read the attached Daily Herald article, dated 5/28/2016.
Question 12: What are your views on the "Shared Harvest" food coop?
________________________________________________________________________________________________ 13) The City Council is comprised of many types of people. As with any organization, there are many rolls to fill, and many skills sets required for the council to function effectively.
Question 13a: What do you see as your roll on the Elgin City Council? Question 13b: What unique values do you bring to the council?
________________________________________________________________________________________________ 14) Over the years as revenues from the Riverboat have declined from their historic highs of almost $30 million per year, down to the present levels of about $10 million per year, it has made it much harder for Elgin to provide funding to its many "not-for-profit" organizations.
Question 14: What are your thoughts on the City providing funding to its "not-for-profit" organizations?
________________________________________________________________________________________________ 15) In the past couple of years, there have been questions raised about Elgin's Tourism Bureau connected with accountability issues, and concerns that there is not a sufficient return on the money spent by that group. Please read the attached Daily Herald article, dated 3/26/2016.
Question 15: What are your views on the Elgin Tourism Bureau?
_________________________________________________________________________________________________ This is the end of the questionnaire................................
Here are the instructions which were given to the candidates when they got the questionnaire. ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Hello Elgin City Council Candidates: 1/1/2017
Following is the Elgin OCTAVE City Council Candidate Questionnaire. Please carefully answer this questionnaire and return it to me by email, no later than January 18th. (That is later than previously announced.) That will give you two and a half weeks to work on this, and it will give us one week to compile everyone's answers (without editing) and get them ready for the forum on January 26th.
You may have up to 500 words to answer a question, and we will reprint your entire answers without any editing. Though shorter answers will of course be easier on everyone! Just save a copy of this Word document, and type your answers in the appropriate places.
We will disseminate the questionnaire results as widely as possible, and we will give you full privilege to distribute the survey results however you would like.
Please answer freely and honestly, so that the voters can gain insight into where you stand on these issues. In other words, please answer in such a way that it will let the voters know how you would vote, should the matter come before you on a council agenda.
This is not a closed book test! You have more than two weeks, so please do not simply answer a question by saying you don't know.