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John Steffen: City Council Candidate [2011]

1 March 2011 RS 9 Comments

Councilman John Steffen at Rakow Branch Library, Elgin, IL Councilman John Steffen at Rakow Branch Library, Elgin, IL (Photo by The Elginite).

The questionnaire below was completed by city council candidate Councilman John Steffen.

First off, can you tell us a bit about your background, both personally and professionally?

I am a lawyer with my office in downtown Elgin. I handle mostly personal injury, workers compensation, contract and family law issues. I am married with four school-aged children. I am a third-generation Elginite who grew up in Eagle Heights, lived for several years in the far west area, and now live on Elgin’s near east side. I have been and continue to be involved in the community. I co-founded the Downtown Neighborhood Association, was graduated from the 1998 Elgin Leadership Academy, and have participated in committees at ECN, NENA, GPA, DNA, the United Way, Kiwanis, and Chamber of Commerce. I have contributed my time and talent to many annual events such as the GPA Housewalk, the Elgin Historical Society’s Cemetery Walk, Nena’s Homes for the Holidays, DNA’s Fourth of July Parade, Winter Wonderland, and Elgin Cycling Classic Bike Races, and the Elgin Kiwanis Club’s BBQ and Peanut Day.

What spurred your decision to run for Elgin City Council?

Running for City Council 4 years ago and for reelection now allows me to continue to contribute to the betterment of Elgin on a higher level. I enjoy discussing city issues and working with people to solve problems. Having young children, I want to help Elgin to improve so my kids and their generation can take leadership of a city that is sustainable at all levels–financially, environmentally, and economically.

In your opinion, what are some major issues facing Elgin going forward?

a. to continue to deliver City services and programs in the face of decreasing revenues by increasing efficiencies, fostering innovation and creating public-private partnerships;
b. to reduce the high unemployment and underemployment of Elgin citizens by creating new jobs, attracting new businesses, and retaining existing businesses and jobs;
c. to overcome the perceived and real shortcomings of our schools by partnering with local school districts and supporting their efforts to change and improve;
d. to implement sustainable practices publicly and privately;
e. to assist social service agencies in their efforts to provide the services City Government cannot and should not, particularly in the face of decreasing and delayed State funding.

How do you feel about the direction that the Council has taken Elgin in the past and the direction they aim to take it in the future?

I am mostly supportive of the last 15 years of Council governance, as prior Councils have taken this city from one of the worst positions in its history in the early 1990’s and steadily improved Elgin in almost all areas–in finances, the delivery of basic services, public safety, arts and recreation, and quality of life. As for the future, we need to address not only the issues identified in my answer to question 3, but also the need to find alternatives to the decreasing Riverboat revenues–by creating TIF and SSA districts, partnerships with the private sector, and refocusing the reduced income from the boat to improving our local economy and thus our revenue sources.

Would you agree that your views mostly coincide with those of Mayor Schock? If not, how do they differ?

While our views often coincide, the Mayor and I have had many conversations on issues where we disagree, and where our emphases and priorities differ. For example, I recently supported a property maintenance program for vacant commercial properties to ensure they do not fall into disrepair, while the Mayor wanted to limit this program to residential properties only. I also was in favor of a non-binding referendum on the proposal for a modified ward system of electing Council members (point of clarification–While I am in favor of the referendum for input of citizens on this issue, I am not in favor of the proposal), while the Mayor was against it. While I agree with the Mayor that we need to continue to expand westward (something that the collapse of the real estate market has delayed for 3-5 years), I differ from him in that I feel we need to shift the balance with more energy and resources on improving the livability of existing neighborhoods.

Once elected, what do you expect to accomplish during your time on the council?

a. Making the City’s money go farther to get more done with less, so that the level and quality of service does not diminish;
b. Continuing my work with the Chamber and on the Workforce Development Committee to bring jobs, job skills, and the ability to fill jobs to Elginites;
c. Starting programs and projects to implement sustainability;
d. increasing the involvement and engagement of citizens and neighborhoods in government, including a 311 system;
e. completion of the downtown streetscape project, followed by a renewed focus on programs directed at attracting and keeping businesses in the downtown and in our older strip malls and shopping centers.

What sets you apart from the other candidates?

I have been involved in many organizations and events in this community. I have lived here my entire life on the west-side, east-side and the far west area, and have come to understand the interests of residents in all areas of town. I am a good listener and able to consider numerous views and opinions in addressing issues. As an avid reader I consume the voluminous amount of material a City Council member is provided by staff and citizens. By professional training I have learned how to advocate for a position, accept opposition and criticism without taking it personally, all the while working to achieve solutions.

Why should Elginites vote for you?

I have the skills and experience needed to lead at the council. My home, work, church and most activities are in town, giving me the ability to stay involved and participate in groups, meetings and city work as needed.

What’s the best way for people to find out more about your campaign or ask you a question?

I am building a facebook page at “Councilman John Steffen” with my additional information and platform, and I can be reached via email at jsteffen@steffenlaw.net.

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9 Responses to “John Steffen: City Council Candidate [2011]”

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  1. Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:

    Councilman Steffen,

    Above in your questionairre it says -

    I want to help Elgin to improve so my kids and their generation can take leadership of a city that is sustainable at all levels–financially, environmentally, and economically.

    Clarence is saying immediately below -

    The U46 class action lawsuit because of the 8.6 million dollar cost has caused a loss of teacher jobs and I believe staff. The new boundaries in 2004 would save more money on busing and help eliminate some carbon spewing diesel. With the cost of a Futterman lawsuit prior to Elgin’s in Rockford that cost them 250 million before all was said and done. That is a big economic hit to the city’s school district if it goes as high as Rockford at 250 million that could have been researched in google by any common sense person.

    Back in 2004 I wrote in the local paper how the new boundary plan made common sense for parents. The mayor had his letter above mine why he was doing what he was doing.

    A neighborhood school is much better because of less travel time for after school activities and less carbon spewing diesel.

    Your OWN wife, lawyer Kerry Kelly was quoted back in 2004 in a Daily Herald article called Elgin Won’t Sue U46 as saying -


    “It’s great if the city is on board, but we’re still here if they’re not on board,” said Elgin resident and U-46 parent Kerry Kelly, who is not a potential litigant but supports the parents’ efforts.”

    Clarence is saying -

    In your wife’s quote above when she refers to “we’re still here if they’re not on board,”

    Were you part of the “we’re still here” your wife refers too?

    I will be asking the two question below questions of all the candidates running for City Councilman or City Councilwoman.

    1. In 2004 when the city was informally proposing to hire Futterman were you for that or against that? Yes or NO please.

    2. In 2004 were you for the parents group suing OUR OWN SCHOOL DISTRICT ? Yes or No please

    Clarence’s comment below -

    In my opinion we need people on the council who can use common sense and realize the gravity of a situation. There should not have been even a whisper of litigation talk especially if when doing lawyer research on google a common sense person without a law degree can see this type of talk has the potential to cost the taxpayers and school district 250 million dollars like in Rockford.

    I think Futterman Law Firm were perfect chess masters. They were holding in their hands the local pawns in a game of chess.

    Now with 8.6 million dollars of our tax payer dollars in the lawyers pockets all the voters can do is go to the polls and hope Mayor Schock and any others that supported this get CHECKMATEED out of office.

    The three informal majority in the last election, Walters, Figueroa, and Rodgers all lost their election in spite of having a total of about 33 years on the council. The voters checkmated them out of office so to speak.

    A small consolation but an important one because as local citizens if we hold our politicians and candidates accountable for costly poor judgments they will hopefully think twice in the future or their replacements will think twice in the future.

    Common Sense Clarence Hayward
    “The Taxpayer’s Watchdog”

    Voter’s, you too can do some barking at the polls regarding this issue with your votes.

    • John Steffen says:

      Your comments and questions imply the group Kerry was involved with is somehow responsible for the resulting litigation and therefore the attorney fees that the District has incurred so far. Not true. The train wreck that has resulted in the ongoing trial was already occurring and continued way beyond the actions of a couple of parents.

      Question one: Were you part of the “we’re still here” your wife refers too?
      Kerry was part of a group of parents that were angered by the process used and the decisions made by the District in redrawing school boundaries. They were seeking an injunction to stop the process to allow more deliberation and information to be presented, and discussed that with the Futterman Law firm to see if the firm would obtain the injunction. When told the process was already beyond that point, the group dropped litigation as an avenue and objected in other ways. I was involved as a supportive spouse and sat in on a couple of the group’s meetings but was not active (believe it or not, spouses are allowed their own opinions). Kerry and her group were passengers for a short while on one of the trains involved in the wreck, but they were never driving it.

      2. In 2004 when the city was informally proposing to hire Futterman were you for that or against that? Yes or NO please.
      NO. As I was not on City Council in 2004 I was not taking part in the decisions of the City at that time. I assume that since the City never hired the Futterman law firm that it reached the same or similar conclusion the group of parents did.

      3. In 2004 were you for the parents group suing OUR OWN SCHOOL DISTRICT ? Yes or No please
      NO, as explained above. The group Kerry was involved in pulled back and did not sue, but other parents and families did. I agreed.

      • Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:


        Your wife as a lawyer I would imagine knows how litigation talk can blaze out of control. Because of Futterman causing burning of Rockford tax payer dollars to the tune of 250 million dollars I don’t think she should have said what she is quoted as saying below or in the article Elgin Won’t Sue U46 back in 2004 at the address below.


        “It’s great if the city is on board, but we’re still here if they’re not on board,” said Elgin resident and U-46 parent Kerry Kelly, who is not a potential litigant but supports the parents’ efforts.”

        (Kerry Kelly is Councilman Steffen’s lawyer wife)

        Why would you want her to support the efforts of the parents who ultimately hired Futterman?

        Because of your professions you both should have known what was at stake and you should have counseled your wife to stay out of it. Don’t fan the fires of litigation as it will only hurt everyone in the school district.

        If she were a stay at home Mom perhaps I could go easier but not when she is a trained lawyer.

        Common Sense Clarence Hayward
        “The Taxpayer’s Watchdog”

  2. Dave Reinert says:

    Hayward, i think you worry to much about things other people could care less about. You need something constructive in your life.

    • Alan says:

      Reinert, at least he doesn’t worry TOO much about things other people COULDN’T care less about.

    • Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:


      Years ago I wish you would have worried more about our tax payer dollars.

      Based on the past it sounds as if you could care less back then.

      The reason I worry so much is I am sending a message to who ever is on the council in the future to watch what you say and do because the average person with common sense and the ability to type on a blog can help voters remember what was done or said in the past.

      These are real hard earned tax payer dollars we are talking about. It isn’t a game being played with play money.

      Our teacher’s work to hard and went to school too long to be laid off becasue the district is short 8.6 million dollars and if it ends up like Rockford did the cost will go to 250 million before all is said and done.

      RS - Based on Dave’s comment above I think I was civil responding to him.

      Common Sense Clarence Hayward
      “The Tax Payer’s Watchdog”

      • Dave Reinert says:

        Once again you go on and on with your senseless remarks. Get a life! Did Boca Jump throw you off their boards?

      • paul says:

        Good for you, Clarence. Keep their feet to the fire. You aren’t doing any harm and might even do some good. That convicted felon Dave Reinert doesn’t want to hear might indicate you are on the right track.

  3. Common Sense Clarence Hayward says:

    Voters of Elgin,

    Ever since 2004, with the city, the parents, and their relationship with the Futterman Law Firm driving up the cost of a lawsuit into the millions of dollars with no end in sight; it has been my goal to see the principal players voted out of office that I contend should not have been talking litigation. I wanted them out of office to send a message to future possible litigation advocates on future issues to think twice before they say something else foolish that would cause some future issues to burn out of control with our tax payer dollars through litigation.

    At the candidates forum 3-2-11 it looked to me like Mayor Schock is aging quite a bit, perhaps because of this issue, perhaps not. It also must be hard for the lawyer wife of Councilman Steffen named Kerry Kelly, to always be reminded of the foolish quote she used to support the parents back in 2004 especially since she is a trained lawyer.

    One last time I will share a Daily Herald news story from 2004 so that people not familiar with this will realize what I am referring to. The article is titled – Elgin Wont Sue U46


    So last night I was reflecting on all this. I was also reflecting on how possibly we lost an ex councilman years ago perhaps partly because of the way he left office over another foolish issue he was involved in.

    I was going to be persistent in my writing on this issue clear up to Election Day but I have decided I am not going to write anymore on it. It will be up to the voters to educate themselves on who they want in office after April 5 without my input as to why they should not vote for some who had foolish litigation talk or had a trained lawyer wife with foolish litigation talk.

    I just wish someone or some group could end this class action lawsuit as easily as I am going to stop my blogging or writing on this issue.

    How about it Futterman?

    Common Sense Clarence Hayward