All personal information will be removed from questions prior to publishing a response, unless directed otherwise by the submitter.
Q: Mayor Kownick's recent mailing states: "Mr No" - Voted against senior housing with an additional meeting place for seniors, a childcare center, and economic development efforts including downtown improvements." Did you vote no and if so, would you kindly share your rationale for doing so. Also, is senior housing planned? If so where? Why is the Senior Center (already there) not being rehabilitated? This question was raised by a Cary senior resident during the recent Board meeting. I appreciate your assistance.
A: I had numerous reasons to vote “no” on the senior low income housing project. Among these were the fact the builder made repeated false statements to the Board and would not follow our zoning ordinances. In fact, large portions of our zoning code were changed to accommodate “senior housing” within business districts. Additionally, I was not supportive of the “community room” that the builder is putting in the development instead of paying a $250,000 impact fee which could have been used to remodel our current Kraus Senior Center. Without that fee toward renovations, some Board members are now suggesting demolition of the Kraus Center.
I also voted against Kids R Kids, as a new locally owned childcare center “Cary Early Learning Center” opened a few months prior to this application and was not near capacity. Furthermore, it is troubling that the Cary Early Learning center has been blocked from business grant programs while other businesses are singled out for assistance. Nonetheless, I wish the Kids R Kids daycare much success and support them in their dealings moving forward.
As for downtown beautification efforts, we don’t have the projected $1.8 million dollars. Even if we did, there are more important projects to consider.
Q: During the Mayoral election 4 years ago, the topic of conflicts of interest were center stage. Do you have any conflicts of interest in Cary?
A: No, my primary career does not interact with any business or governmental bodies in our area. I call on the incumbent to be transparent with his client list in order for the residents to be reassured he is free of conflicts.
Q: One of your objectives was to add staff for marketing (Cary). Can you give me your 2 cents there? I was wondering how many, where they would sit (is there even room for more staff?) What would their salaries be? Wouldn't we the taxpayers be on the hook for paying those increases? And when would you expect those increases to be paid back? Thanks.
A: I am in favor of adding staff to assist our Director of Community Development. This can be achieved in many ways and with minimal impact on total budget and finances. As someone who urged the establishment of Cary’s Economic Development Task Force, I am always looking for new ways to encourage quality development in our community. The volunteers we have on the team have begun a process which can ultimately have a huge positive impact on our community. I am appreciative of their commitment and volunteer work.
With that thought in mind I feel it is very important to market our community properly. Crystal Lake has been extremely successful in their marketing efforts and that is why their number one source of revenues is sales taxes. Yet, Cary’s sales tax revenue has barely increased in the last four years even though the incumbent made this a focal piece of his campaign. We cannot hamstring a person hired to work in community and economic development by assigning them an unrealistic workload and then reassign them without filling the gap in this area. This type of thinking leaves Cary in a revolving world of status quo.
That is why it is necessary to consider all the options available to provide the best services for the village while giving it the best opportunity to attract more businesses. This may include options which are available to hire part time workers up to certain hour restrictions before the Village must contribute to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (pension). Ultimately, the decision would be up to the Village Board and their direction to our Administrator who oversees day to day operations. The addition of someone to take on this responsibility is not the tragic calamity projected. There has been rampant spending in our budget which needs to be cut. The addition of someone who can facilitate business growth will pay back to the community many times over. That is why I have set the goal of increasing sales tax revenue 10% year over year during my term. A 10% increase in those revenues amounts to over $130,000 per year. Furthermore, in the subsequent years it pays back to the village.
You expressed concerns about where a person would sit, not sure how or why you think that is a concern as staffing levels at Village Hall are below previous years. Additionally, you asked about wages and that would hinge on a vote from the Board of Trustees. As for concerns about expenses being passed down to the taxpayers, I have voted down every proposed tax increase in my term. This is opposed to the incumbent who supported every tax increase as a Trustee and as Mayor, except for the last one running up to this election.
Q: Can you please explain the handling of Mayor Kownick business, specifically why is it that a member of your campaign thought it acceptable to buy out the corporations name to try and prove a point, do you approve of this action?
A: I personally run my campaign. You are referring to actions taken by a private resident that were fully legal and within her rights. However, had the Mayor handled his business in accordance to the laws of the State of Illinois, any member of the public would not have been able to file Articles of Incorporation.
Q: How are you going to attract more businesses? There is so much industrial potential not to mention retail and specialty stores but no plan. The Chamber is a white collar business round table that really misses so many blue collar business owners. I've been thinking of trying to do my own for the trades type businesses. We've lived here 20 years, we voted for Bruce Kaplan last round. I would like to know your plan to welcome new businesses, and if you are considering those who've been here and would like to grow and get more entrenched in the community. Also I want to thank you for being Transparent! I hope it starts a new trend.
A: To keep repetition to a minimum in these answers, please reference some of the other questions on my detailed plan to attract more businesses. Additionally, I understand your point in regards to CG Chamber of Commerce and its relevance to your type of business. The current Economic Development Plan, here: http://www.caryillinois.com/
Q: As a college student, I left Cary just before the current Mayor was elected, and I am now returning to my hometown just as this term is ending. As a resident who is not involved in the processes of government, but rather observes the changes to the Village, what are your tangible goals to improve our community?
A: I am happy you recognize the need for improvement in our community. In a prior submitted question, I explained my goals to improve procedures, transparency, ethics, economic development, and cooperation with other Districts. Through improvement in these areas my tangible goals will be:
10% increase in sales tax revenue year over year – Offset rising expenses and projected deficits. This represents the addition of 2-5 new businesses per year which collect sales taxes.
100% of Cary businesses visited or contacted once per year - This compares to current goals of 10-15 Total wellbeing visits per year.
Adding staff directed at marketing and economic development – Solves short staffing in the Community Development department.
Limit expense increases below 2.5%. – Considering next year’s Village Budget, expenses have increased over 12.6% in the past 4 years. Frivolous expenses must be kept in check and taxpayer money must be used wisely.
Adding activities/businesses for young adults and teens – Currently this segment of the population must travel to neighboring communities for any leisure activity. It is important to give this group choice in their own town. In so doing, our kids stay close to home, they are kept busy and out of trouble, and money stays in our community.
Q: Our property taxes are as high or higher than other towns whose schools are rated higher and who have more businesses/infrastructure for the residents to shop or dine etc. Our real estate has suffered greater because of these factors. How do you propose to shift this in Cary if we don't grow, but without increasing our taxes? I have seen and heard frequently that Cary lacks diversity. How will you work to be more inclusive?
A: Your question covers a wide swath of issues. First, Village revenues are primarily composed of four sources, property taxes, state income taxes, sales taxes, and revenues from village services. If one of those four sources fall short, there is a necessity to rely on the other three to make up the shortfall. Since Cary has far fewer sales tax generating businesses per capita than average communities, we have a history which must make up that revenue in one of the other three ways. That is why I believe we must bring in more businesses which generate sales taxes to ease the pressure on property taxes. This is urgently needed growth in Cary and it would not directly increase your taxes.
As for how this is all interconnected to real estate values, each person will probably draw their own conclusions. There are many surrounding communities whose property taxes are equally high, yet their property values are doing much better.
As for diversity, Cary is progressively accelerating its diversity. I have always welcomed anyone who moves into our village.
Q: This question pertains to entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has become a very popular option for you young adults. The "9-5" career is no longer the only option for many. What can you do to encourage our young entrepreneurs to remain in Cary and open a business here? I own a successful small business myself, and don't think I'd take the leap to open a storefront in Cary presently. I just don't see the support needed for me to "put it all on the line".
A: As a past entrepreneur myself, I can appreciate the nerve it take to “put it all on the line”. There are many cities around the country which are openly fostering brilliant young minds by promoting incubators for entrepreneurs. I would promote this concept as it allows a business to gain footing before the business is self-sustaining. This concept is beneficial in more than one way. It helps the entrepreneur establish a business while also helping to fill open space in office or industrial areas. In other words, it is mutually beneficial to the town.
Additionally, I would like to see a SCORE mentoring location established in our community. SCORE was previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, but is now recognized as SCORE, "Counselors to America's Small Business." It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides free business mentoring services to entrepreneurs in the United States. By partnering with SCORE Fox Valley, https://foxvalley.score.org , Cary could become part of a network of entrepreneur locations throughout Illinois.
As Mayor, I will ensure that each budding business gets a fair shake in our community and the support it needs if a choice is made to “put it all on the line” in Cary.
Q: What do you plan to do to support existing Cary business and to bring in new?
A: The key to good business support and increased development rests with a well structured program which is staffed by sufficient personnel. The current situation relies on a variety of programs which scatter assistance and outreach. I would restructure current financial aid programs to ensure fair assistance while dedicating staff to promote Cary to business. We need a culture shift which brings our efforts above the surrounding communities who have been far more successful in attracting quality development.
Q: Were you for or against the Sage Expansion? And why?
A: There were many factors to consider with the Sage expansion and the decision on the project was difficult. I voted yes to the project, as did the entire Village Board. My initial concerns on the project related to the size/scope of the addition and its effects on the community, positive and negative. I pushed for changes in the original concept which addressed concerns about truck traffic and noise issues in the neighboring town homes. Sage cooperated by moving the loading dock entryway from its location on New Haven Dr. to Georgetown Dr. Additionally, they moved the building further north which increased the setback beyond requirements and have agreed to extensive landscaping which improves aesthetics and blocks noise. Sage has been very accommodating on the changes and I would not have voted yes without these changes.
Q: As Mayor: What are the 5 most pressing things you want to spearhead and see established or changed in Cary?
1.) Improved processes and procedures – Establishing a culture which embraces community participation on a day-to-day basis. Increased communication and knowledge of decisions will erase negative perceptions and create trust in our government.
2.) Transparency – My efforts in the last two years as Trustee have begun to increase transparency. I would continue down this path with an improved video streaming service which would make it easier for residents to learn about any topic of concern without multitudes of searching. I would also establish a system in which votes on Resolutions and Ordinances are readily displayed online, as they do at the State and Federal level. Most importantly, I would utilize Mayor’s Reports in the way they were intended. In the past two years, over 85% of the Mayor’s Reports are devoid of any statement about meetings, staff guidance, or actions the incumbent has taken in the proceeding weeks. I would reverse this transgression and establish a system of written Mayor’s reports to communicate with the Village Board and people of the community.
3.) Ethics – As Mayor I would insist on proper adherence to “best practices” in leading our government. Current standards are loose and allow for things such as personal email use for village dealings. There must be a set standard which is adhered to by the Mayor, Board, and village staff.
4.) Economic Development – There must be an increased focus on attracting quality businesses into the village. I would emphasize a need to attract those which can collect sales taxes which would increase village revenues and help offset the need for higher property taxes. We also need to be smart about marketing our village to businesses and using incentives to draw businesses in to our town. Devoting more staff time to marketing efforts has paid off for surrounding communities like Crystal Lake, it’s time we stop settling.
5.) Increased Cooperation with other Districts and Boards – There must be better communication and cooperation with other taxing bodies. Since the Village only directly controls Village Hall, Police, and Public Works, we must begin a larger cooperation with other Districts and Boards. I would reach out to each entity to establish better trust and cooperation so our community will benefit in the long run. Proposals of State funding cuts makes intergovernmental cooperation a necessity in the coming years. As Mayor, I will make it a priority!
Q: Your opponent’s website claims you have missed 20% of meetings as a Trustee, is this true?
A: This claim is absolutely false. The attendance record of all Board members is a matter of record and recorded in the minutes of each meeting. Per the minutes, I have missed less than 5% of meetings and have 100% attendance at special board meetings which were sometimes purposely called on dates where I was unavailable.
Q: What is your stance and what do you plan to do to improve public safety in Cary?
A: It is important for the Cary Police Department to show a presence which deters criminal activity. Since the department has been short staffed for some time, I view the addition of officers as necessary to maintaining and improving public safety in Cary. I would like to see the Cary PD continue and expand its police programs like the Citizens Police Academy which engages residents. It is important to establish trust between the people and police so everyone is will feel comfortable reporting suspicious incidents. The residents can be the police departments best set of eyes and ears.
Q: We love living in Cary and especially love the small-town atmosphere. What are your thoughts on maintaining this type of style in Cary and avoiding over expansion via residential and/or commercial additions?
A: Cary’s small town feel is a portion of its success and part of the reason I moved to Cary over 14 years ago. Our residential market has not recovered since the real estate downturn and that type of development is tax neutral at best. The amount of vacant land in Cary is dwindling. We must focus on quality developments when considering any residential or commercial additions, not quantity.
Q: I am very concerned about openness and transparency. Are Board members required to use the village email system?
A: I am not aware of a law which requires use of village email systems. However, I am a proponent of transparency and made a formal request at the beginning of my term that all Board members use the village email server due to concerns relating to Illinois Open Meetings Act. Unfortunately there are members of the Board, including the Mayor, who still use personal email accounts.
Q: My taxes are too high, what is your stance on taxes?
A: I am a fiscal conservative who has held the line on tax increases. During my term as Trustee I fought hard on my stance of zero increase in the tax levy, which resulted in two years of zero levy increase. On the other hand, the incumbent lobbied hard for tax increases at every opportunity and only recently changed his stance on the issue when the election drew near.
Q: What are your thoughts on working with the D26 School Board on the Maplewood property?
A: I served as a member of the joint Maplewood Committee whose purpose was to gain a better understanding of the best use of Maplewood, so this topic is very important to me. I feel it is essential to find a common ground in the solution for this property. There are many parties who have very large interests in what is at stake and they all need to have a say in the final outcome. By fostering cooperation between all groups, it is possible to get inclusive input which can lead to a master planned concept which benefits everyone.