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City Council Candidate Forum Videos (OCTAVE)

25 March 2015 Elgin Illinois 36 Comments

Here are videos of the city council candidates forum held by Elgin OCTAVE. Please post your comments/response to a specific video underneath that video.

The election will be held on April 7th.

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36 Responses to “City Council Candidate Forum Videos (OCTAVE)”

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  1. RS says:

    Opening Statements

    • Chuck Keysor says:

      Pretty good opening statements from all candidates. Sorry for the fact that each candidate was only given 30 seconds for an opening statement, but all candidates were notified long in advance, and so had carefully prepared for that limitation. Chuck

  2. RS says:

    Question 1 Responsible Bidder Ordinance

    • Zreebs says:

      The Responsible Bidder Ordinance would raise the cost of contracts. Great example of regulatory dysfunction.

  3. RS says:

    Question 2 State Budget Cuts

  4. RS says:

    Question 3 Top 3 Accomplishments

  5. RS says:

    Question 4 Privatization

  6. RS says:

    Question 5 Top 3 Issues for City

    • Zreebs says:

      Elgin should support the arts. Many educated and high income people would ultimately leave Elgin if we ignored the arts. Therefore the arts is a good investment for all people of Elgin - even those who don’t value the arts.

      With that said, “balance” is a key concept that everyone must consider. I can’t think of any good reason for rent subsidies to artists.

      • Margaret Miller says:

        Amen!

      • RS says:

        All downtown housing is subsidized in one form or another. Remember all those incentives? So why shouldn’t artists also benefit from them and not just people like Bob Gilliam?

        • Chuck Keysor says:

          Who says it was right that Bob Gilliam and others had housing that was subsidized? Because Bob Gilliam and others got subsidies, does that mean everyone should get subsidies? Not in my book.

          Elgin has cheap rent, because it is not Wheaton or Naperville. It is not Oak Park or any other high-end community. So let that be its free market subsidy, of low rents because low rents (relatively speaking) are what it commands in the free market place. Chuck

        • Zreebs says:

          I agree with Chuck on this one. I don’t support housing subsidies for anyone in Elgin. Why should some people get housing subsidies, but everyone else gave to pay full price? If the objective is to help low-income people, there are more effective ways to do it.

          • RS says:

            The objective is to put housing in the downtown. This has been policy for years. That was the rationale behind all of the developments down there–Fountain Square, River Park Place, etc. All of those residents have been subsidized in the same way that the artists have been subsidized. If you want a subsidy buy a condo in one of those developments or the one across from the rec center, or in the new Tower Building development. All of that has been made possible by incentives. Not saying I agree with it or not, but I’m saying it’s all the same and you shouldn’t single out ArtSpace for disapprobation.

            And these subsidies/incentives are not limited to the downtown either. Even creepy heeby jeeby Keith Farnham got city money to rehab a dairy building somewhere into condos. I don’t think that was in the downtown. In any case, there are generous grants available to homeowners all over the historic districts etc.

          • Zreebs says:

            I don’t agree with the objective of putting housing downtown. The objective should be to put businesses downtown. We already have a disproportional amount of housing downtown.

          • RS says:

            They tried to put businesses downtown since forever. That model failed everywhere. For at least a few decades now the consensus among urban development professionals is that you have to put housing in these old downtowns. This is established literature. Everybody has a right to an opinion but the city is following a policy that has been well thought-out and discussed for many years among people dedicated to the question of downtown revitalization throughout the United States.

          • Zreebs says:

            As a trained economist, I know that mass subsidization of housing downtown would NOT be viewed as a desirable solution by almost any economist. Subsidizing housing downtown could only make sense if it encourages businesses to come downtown. If we don’t think that the subsidization is working (as you imply), then we need to stop it immediately and cut our losses.

            How long do you think these tax benefits to live downtown should be in place? Until it stops, all we are doing is transferring wealth from those who don’t live downtown to those who do.

          • RS says:

            It’s not that simple to say incentives/subsidies are always good or always bad. Projects need to be looked at on a case by case basis. If a project would be built regardless then a subsidy is not necessary. But if a project would not be built, then a subsidy could in the long run result in a net benefit to the city for many reasons. If a project takes a money-losing property off of city hands and puts it onto the tax roll, then it probably saves taxpayer money in the long run. You can have an empty city-owned lot doing nothing or you can have a 50-unit building paying taxes. Even if it means an upfront investment/subsidy/incentive from the city, in the long run it makes sense. It also means more people living downtown which has all sorts of benefits for everybody.

            As I said this is established literature. You don’t need to hear it from me. Just google “downtown revitalization” and you will find plenty of material if it interests you.

          • Chuck Keysor says:

            Interesting discussion, but I am siding with Zreebs. Early on in the “let’s put housing in downtown” phase, it was emphasized that there weren’t enough people downtown to sustain businesses, and that putting residential units downtown would raise the immediate population to the critical mass needed to sustain businesses. Now, if that was the objective of the studies RS refers to, I don’t know. But that is what we were told about Elgin. I wonder how many people think that the downtown business environment has been resuscitated by the infusion of all the residential units? I don’t see it myself. Chuck

          • RS says:

            Chuck as an engineer you know we can’t always rely on subjective impressions or anecdotes. The only real way to know is for somebody to do a study and tally all the businesses that have opened. See what the situation was like before housing was built and what it has been like afterwards. My own subjective impression is that the situation is significantly improved.

            Anecdotally I know from reading the newspaper over the years that entrepreneurs have repeatedly cited downtown housing as a reason they thought it was a good idea to invest in opening a restaurant or whatever downtown. Do many of these businesses fail? Yes, they sure do. Abe Froeman’s failed before it even opened. But frequently it has more to do with inept management, a wrong product/service, etc. Businesses even in great locations fail at great frequency and we cannot expect every restaurant that opens downtown to survive. What we should expect is slow and steady progress and I think we’re seeing that.

          • What were they thinking says:

            I have never been in favor of public subsidies for private residences. It has been my opinion that if it is public money, the public should be able to benefit. So rather than build private homes, subsidize the businesses. We want retail and entertainment downtown, then rebate the city portion of the sales tax to those businesses. The more successful a business, the more sales tax it collects then the bigger the rebate. Do this for a limited time (say three years). Having residences downtown on the upper levels is fine, but those people need to realize they are living downtown. And that means lots of people and lots of noise. Making bars turn down the volume because it disturbs the neighbors is ridiculous. Ideally, the downtown would be a loud, vibrant place until the early morning hours. If you want to sleep, don’t live downtown.

          • RS says:

            I agree with you that there is going to be noise and people shouldn’t complain about it.

            The matter with the tax rebates is that it can only be of marginal help. The problem is the top line not the bottom line. If there aren’t sufficient customers and sufficient revenue for these restaurants, it doesn’t matter what kind of tax rebates you give them. They’re still not going to survive. It is probably helpful to encourage restaurants to choose a downtown location but it’s not going to help them much to stay in business.

            The problem is still that there are not enough customers. Having residents down there helps ensure that there are more customers, not just directly but also indirectly. For example, people visiting friends and family downtown are more likely to go to a nearby restaurant. The presence of people living downtown makes the whole area look safer and more lively and encourages other people to visit. There are a lot of benefits to having residents downtown.

            But downtown residents are not enough to sustain a large number of businesses. The core problem is that not enough of the surrounding Elgin population is going downtown. I’m talking about the Mexican/Hispanic population. There should be a concerted effort to recruit businesses that have the potential to be patronized by both immigrants and anglos. Shutting down La Quebrada was a huge step backwards. We need businesses down there like that, businesses that give Mexicans a place to spend their money. Another good business would be La Michoacana, an ice cream shop with Mexican flavors but with broad enough appeal to attract customers from all groups. They already have 3 locations at least in Elgin, and they should be encouraged to open a location in the downtown.

            The downtown needs to become more culturally mixed. You cannot have a downtown with businesses, restaurants and bars that do not cater to the needs of the surrounding population.

            Of course there are many reasons that businesses choose NOT to locate downtown and those issues need to be addressed. Lack of convenient parking, for example, one way streets, etc.

            There are lots of spaces downtown being wasted on things like an ugly fountain nobody cares about. There are lots of opportunities to carve out pocket parking spaces that will make a big difference for any business located in the downtown. That should be a priority for DNA to identify the spots and work towards eventually converting these to parking.

          • What were they thinking says:

            RS, I agree with you, especially about needing more multi-cultural opportunities. Right now, the only businesses that are surviving are destination businesses. And most bars and restaurants don’t qualify. But if there were a large number of bars and restaurants within walking distance, people would make that a destination area. Not a Bourbon St with the spring break atmosphere, but more like a Frenchman St., with blues and jazz bars serving decent food.

            I don’t think our present city council has the inclination to truly make the downtown an entertainment district. They seem more likely to find reasons to inhibit success (Gasthaus, Anthonys, the Mission, LaCabrera, Mad Maggies, Prairie Rock concerts, etc) than to help them flourish.

            Until city hall has an attitude of “how can we make this work” the downtown will continue to struggle.

          • paul says:

            Come on, now. The housing subsidies to get low income (also subsidized) renters at Artspace has resulted in 2 new tattoo shops in downtown Elgin. And Kaptain touts that as a success for his business development credentials!!!

  7. RS says:

    Question 6 Funding the arts

    • One Vote says:

      The incumbents handily avoided talking about backing the ESO as a loser. If they love the arts why did they give millions to the symphony and $50K to all the rest combined. Hypocrites! As for the Artspace, it’s just another ESO in the making. As long as the tax money flows, it’ll be reported as a big success for Elgin. And the folks paying 50 cents on the dollar to live there aren’t going to complain as long as the hot water keeps flowing.

      There are some awesome core services candidates who suggest that we stay out of funding the arts. A case could be made for that. But there are some other categories as well, like Little League, gym subsidies and Boys/Girls Club.

      Some people don’t realize there is an entire industry of grant-writing that goes along with the city handing out a few thousand bucks to local organizations. Part of it is being a good steward of the money the city give away; part of it is make-work that benefits no one.

      All in all, groups like ESO and Artspace get the bulk of the money and other groups go begging.

      • James Madison says:

        One Vote:

        How much money does ArtSpace and the ESO receive from the City of Elgin?

        • One Vote says:

          None. It’s all funded by rainbows and unicorn farts.
          Why are you so worried about money?

        • RS says:

          I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about ArtSpace and the city’s involvement. As I understand it the city’s involvement with the project was the same as with other real estate projects subsidized/incentivized in the downtown. The project received from the city a package of TIF funds, tax credits, property, etc to get the project built. And the city’s involvement financially ended there. The building is owned and operated by ArtSpace.

          It’s a good-looking building and a good project that boosts the value of the downtown. And if ArtSpace wanted to build another project, we should all be for it.

          • One Vote says:

            So, it’s free. Awesome!
            We should do a couple more then. The Day School, The Tower Building, Mad Maggies…most of downtown.
            Heck, we could turn the police station into an Artspace and build another one. The date code on the present one is expired, you know.
            I get it. You’re saying the city isn’t paying for it, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t.

          • RS says:

            Another point to add is that ArtSpace is now on the city’s taxroll whereas before that property was in government hands and was not contributing to tax revenues.

            ArtSpace has been one of the best investments the city has made and it was only possible because of generous financing from the federal government . This is money that would have been spent somewhere regardless, so it’s just a good thing that it was spent in Elgin rather than elsewhere.

            It was a huge win for Elgin. Yes, I would like more projects like this in Elgin but unfortunately I think it will be hard to get funds for a second ArtSpace project in the same city.

        • RS says:

          I will add that ArtSpace may actually have saved the city money. If the project wasn’t built, there would be another property in city hands (or ECC’s–we’re still talking about taxpayer money) falling apart with no foreseeable use on the horizon. A property that would require maintenance and potentially eventual demolition, which doesn’t come cheap. Remind you of anything? How about the Fox River Country Day School?

  8. RS says:

    Question 7 Economic Development

  9. RS says:

    Closing Statements

    • Zreebs says:

      Good job with the questions Chuck.

      • Chuck Keysor says:

        Why thank you Zreebs. I am glad the event is long over. I am also glad we recorded it. But it doesn’t seem as though many people have watched the videos on YouTube.

        I sent a letter to the Editor of the Daily Herald announcing that the videos were up for viewing, and where they could be found. But it seems as though that letter never ran. I emailed it on March 14th, so I must have blown it by emailing it so late.

        Two years ago, I sent a similar letter to the editor, to promote our 2013 forum and it really boosted the viewership. We had about 80 people at that forum, and one of the video segments was watched by over 200 people.

        Well, maybe 2 years from now, I will get things right. Thanks again, Chuck

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