- The City Council must consider both the economic well-being of the city and the quality of life in its residential neighborhoods. How do you see that balance being achieved, or not? Please use a specific Naperville project as an example.
As a current city councilman and a past Planning and Zoning commissioner, I have found our master plans typically need to be updated about every 5-7 years depending on the building trends. As we all know, we were in a recession the last 5 years so development has slowed down a bit.
We are now beginning to see developers getting back into developing properties that went unattended for those recession years and new areas which are now on the radar. That being said, we just took another look at our 2030 downtown plan and updated the northern section of downtown which includes the blocks boarder’s by Washington St. to the east, Franklin Ave. to the North, Webster St. to the West and Benton Ave. to the South. It’s a separate overlay district that promotes a balance of height, density, uses (residential and commercial), parking and the neighborhood character. This area would achieve these goals by utilizing lower intensive uses within the development.
As the plan currently sits, development will continue to feed the economic engine that exists in the downtown area and also continue to provide the quality of life that makes downtown Naperville so desirable to those that live nearby. The Main St. Promenade and the Main St. Promenade East projects have been a good example of the Downtown Plan and the most recent 2030 Plans’ goals.
- Should the purpose and criteria for awarding Special Events and Cultural Amenities (SECA) funds be re-examined to clarify and ensure fair and consistent distribution of the available money?
Yes. However, that is easier said than done. Since I’ve been on the City Council (6 years), this has always been a concern for me because year after year, it seems that the process becomes more and more vague, to the point that everything seems to somehow be considered a “special event” or “culture”. I have tried to come up with solutions to this problem but always seem to be stopped in my tracks because as soon as you figure out a way that might work towards some, it won’t work for others.
For example, it would be nice to say you can only come in for funding for 5 years and you have to find ways within that time to become self-sustainable. Though that might work for some, it won’t work for others like Ribfest or the Last Fling for instance, which is the reason SECA was developed. As a council, we continually stress the importance of organizations to wean themselves off of SECA funding. To date, I only know of the Rotary- Soups On and the Naperville Film Festival events that have initiated this mindset.
SECA is a wonderful and unique tool that we have here in Naperville. It’s funded by more than 50% by people that live outside of Naperville and is a great way to fund things that would normally not exist in our town or would have to come from property taxes to fund. What would Naperville be without all the non- profits that made our community what it is today, without all the amenities that SECA has provided us?
The time has come to take another look at the rules because it seems there isn’t any funding available for new requests and the ones that come in year after year seem to be grandfathered in and use up all the funding that would allow fresh ideas into the program.
- Should Naperville follow the lead of other communities and require rental housing registration, inspection, and use of the crime-free lease addendum by landlords?
The City of Naperville is currently taking a look at this. Right now we have a voluntary program that has had some success in some of our rental complexes around town. At our last council meeting, we moved to send it to our Fair Housing Commission to do all the studies to determine the validity of putting a program in place. They’ll do all the due diligence involved and come back with a recommendation.
Personally, in apartment complexes it makes sense, but in single family cases I want to learn more about the program when we get more information from the Fair housing Commission. The reason I say this is we as a city can take care of most issues that come with single family rentals through our code enforcement officers. Examples being, peeling paint, falling gutters, bad roofs, fences, parking habits, noise, etc. For the most part, we have good landlords out there that don’t want to rent to people that might disrupt a neighborhood.
In my opinion, I don’t like a government with a heavy hand, but if there is a continued problem with a rental property, then I would prefer a mandatory program be put in place for that property in question. I don’t want to force a landlord who has done his part to provide a safe home for one to live and maintain the quality of life for those that live around it. As long as there are no problems presently or in the future, then I think the landlord has proven themselves to be an asset to the neighborhood.
Let’s also not forget that we likely just went through the worst financial time most of us will ever see. There are many good families that had to down size or lost their homes and now have become renters. I look forward to the reports from our Fair Housing Commission.
- Currently, services for Naperville seniors, disabled populations and children with special needs are primarily provided in the private sector. Do you believe this is sufficient, or should the City of Naperville provide a greater level of direct service? If not, why not? If so, what?
Since I was elected 6 years ago, I have been an advocate for our seniors. It took me 5 years to finally get together a Senior Task Force through the City of Naperville with the help from Bev Frier, Karen Courney and fellow councilman Steve Chirico and Dave Wentz.
As a lifelong resident, I see the need approaching soon for our baby boomers coming to an age where they may need services whether it be housing or everyday needs. It’s important that we as a city continue to work with other governmental bodies that offer services to our seniors and special needs citizens as we move forward with providing services to them. From what I have heard in the past from our effected residents is that communication is the biggest hurdle right now for them. I hope with the formation of the new Senior Task Force, we can take care of any disconnect that may exist and move forward with getting the information to the people that seek it.
Naperville continues to provide essential services to seniors, special needs and disabled people through our ride DuPage busing service program, which allows disabled people to ride at a reduced rate. And our Community Development block Grants and Social Services Grants where grants are given to organizations to help the needs of our seniors, special needs and disabled persons. Between the two grants, we gave out over $1 million to various organizations and I believe we need to continue our support of these programs for our seniors, special needs and disabled persons.