Tom Armstrong: City Council Candidate
The questionnaire below was completed by city council candidate Tom Armstrong. Mr. Armstrong will be a candidate in the city council election on April 9th.
Seat for which you are running:
4 year city council
Can you tell us a bit about your background, both personally and professionally?
I am the father of two adult children, Kelsey and Patrick, who both now live out of state. I came to Elgin in 1981 for employment opportunity. During my 30 year residency in Elgin, I have lived in the Near West, SW, SE, NW, Far West and NE areas of Elgin. My current residence is the Shoe Factory Lofts.
I am an experienced public administrator with close to 28 years in local government. My employment history in Elgin began in 1981 with an intern position in the City of Elgin’s Planning Department. That start, led to full-time employment as an Elgin city planner in 1983. Twenty-six years later, in 2009, I accepted an offer to retire from my position as Senior Planner. During my planning career, I administered Elgin’s zoning, subdivision and property maintenance codes, served as a liaison to numerous boards and commissions, and engaged with Elgin residents and businesses. I was named Kane County “Planner of the Year” in 2006.
Since my retirement, I have worked with organizations engaged in active transportation planning and advocacy (bicycling, walking, access to transit) in the Chicagoland region, and have filled many volunteer positions here in Elgin.
My current volunteer positions include:
• Elgin Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, Chair
• Elgin Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Member
• Elgin Sustainability Action Plan/Urban Design Work Group, Chair
• Elgin Community Network, President
• Downtown Neighborhood Association Design Committee, Chair
• Shoe Factory Condominium Association, President
I am a regular volunteer for NeighborWorks Day, Gifford Park Association Historic House Walk, Homes for the Holidays, YWCA Y-Walk Y-Ride, and the U-46 Science Fair.
Why are you running for Elgin City Council?
I love Elgin! I love its people, its neighborhoods, its special places, its spirit and its vibe. I believe in its potential. I’ve spent most of my adult life serving the people of Elgin as a city employee and as a community volunteer. Now I want to help Elgin meet its current challenges and keep an eye on the future, as a decision- and policy-maker..
The author, Peter Kageyama, writes in For the Love of Cities, “The mutual love affair between people and their place is one of the most powerful influences in our lives, yet we rarely think of it in terms of a relationship. As cities begin thinking of themselves as engaged in a relationship with their citizens, and the citizens begin to consider their emotional connections with their places, we open up new possibilities in community, social and economic development by including the most powerful of motivators – the human heart – in our tool-kit of city making.”
Elgin is a community blessed with many citizens, businesses and agencies who either work on their own or partner to do extraordinary things. Together, we … the people, businesses, agencies and government … can all continue to work together to make Elgin a better place.
What do you view as the major issues facing Elgin in the next few years?
There are a number of challenges facing Elgin. They include providing greater support for “”local”" business to startup and gain a firm foothold in the community, job creation and job readiness, continuing to maintain and improve our neighborhoods, reaffirming our vision for long-term growth and development of the community (including a review of our development codes and ordinances), and engaging our citizenry in a community discussion concerning major issues and policy decisions.
Studies consistently show that locally-owned businesses provide their local economies with tremendous returns compared to franchise and big box retailers. This includes recycling a larger share of revenue back into the local economy, supporting a wide range of jobs, and enriching the whole community. Elgin can stimulate sustainable economic development by focusing on local business growth. Through incentives, risk mitigation, and improved service delivery from the City, we can maximize local businesses in new developments and on commercial properties needing redevelopment.
I believe that Elgin is holding its own when it comes to job creation. Where more focus is needed is in the area of job readiness. Our primary and secondary schools are showing improvement, but there is a need to perform much better. New jobs are requiring skills possessed by a smaller percent of the workforce. The National Career Readiness Certificate program supported by the Elgin Development Group, ECC and District U-46 is a step in the right direction. The program helps employers to understand the workplace skills of a prospective employee. In order to attract business to the community, we need to continue to support our schools and organizations working to improve the skills of our available workforce.
Elgin has many beautiful neighborhoods. We need to continue to focus on maintaining and improving the public infrastructure in our neighborhoods - streets, sidewalks, utilities, parks and trees. We need to grow community involvement by increasing the number and diversity of people who are involved and volunteer in their neighborhoods; to strengthen neighborhood and community capacity to build identity, skills, relationships and partnerships within and between our neighborhoods; and make residents more aware of the tools and resources available to improve neighborhood and community livability and safety.
This year, the City will begin the process of updating the comprehensive plan. There are important policy decisions to be made in light of changed municipal boundaries, redevelopment and growth opportunities, economic development, transportation systems, public services, neighborhood design, historic resources, parks and open space, and natural systems. My vision is of an Elgin that is more urban, more connected, and more natural.
Finally, we can do a much better job of encouraging community and neighborhood participation in discussions surrounding important issues and policy decisions. Like the author, Peter Kageyama, says, “As cities begin thinking of themselves as engaged in a relationship with their citizens, and the citizens begin to consider their emotional connections with their places, we open up new possibilities in community, social and economic development by including the most powerful of motivators – the human heart – in our tool-kit of city making.”
Are you generally in agreement with decisions the city council has made in the past few years? Please describe any measures with which you particularly agreed or disagreed.
I am in general agreement with most of the decisions the City Council has made in recent years. One area where I have concerns is the business license program. While I understand the general premise behind implementing a licensure program, I’m not convinced that the information received warrants this added burden on businesses and organizations.
If elected, what do you expect to accomplish during your time on the council?
I would like to work on the issues that I outlined above … support local business growth and development; promote job creation and job readiness; maintain and improve neighborhood livability; foster urban growth and development, connectivity, and a healthy parks and open space network; and engage the community in major policy decisions.
From a crowded field of candidates, why should voters choose you to represent them on the city council?
During my career as a city planner and as a 30 year resident of Elgin, I have developed a deep love and commitment to this community. Through my work experience, I believe that I have a more complete knowledge and understanding of the issues and the opportunities that exist in Elgin’s neighborhoods, along its corridors, and in its business parks. I believe that I offer experience and a background that is absolutely unique compared to any of my challengers.
While in the employ of the City of Elgin, I was recognized as someone who could be contacted and one who would listen. I always put myself in the shoes of the person making contact and would try to find a positive solution for their want or need. I worked for the citizens and businesses of Elgin. I want to continue to do so as a member of the Elgin City Council.
What’s the best way for voters to find out more about your campaign?
The following is a link to my facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TA4ElginCC
My web-page is under construction and will go live shortly.