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Previewing the spring election

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

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DeKALB – Jennifer Groce believes DeKalb’s time for great change is now.

“There is no better time. ... This is our moment,” said Groce, a candidate for DeKalb mayor. “We need to take full advantage of that. We must embrace that we are a university community and that has great opportunities.”

Groce, the former head of Re:New DeKalb, will face off against School District 428 board member Mike Verbic, former DeKalb Ag/Monsanto employee John Rey, and 1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson in a four-way race for mayor.

Each of the candidates has expressed similar campaign platforms: a greater emphasis on public safety, more economic development in the city, and a stronger partnership with Northern Illinois University.

The mayoral race is one of six contested races DeKalb voters will decide on April 9. With no challenges filed against any petition, the ballot for the DeKalb City Council, the DeKalb Park District and DeKalb School District 428 appear to be set. The ballot for all local races will be finalized Jan. 31.

The new mayor, along with two new aldermen, will be able to weigh in on the creation of new tax increment financing districts. These districts divert money from local governments like school districts to a special fund that is used to renovate a blighted area.

Rey, Groce and Verbic each expressed support for the idea of using tax increment financing to rehabilitate the city’s blighted areas, although Groce said she wanted to see how they would impact other taxing bodies that would have to forgo the revenue.

Jacobson could not be reached for comment. A message on his voicemail said he is traveling outside the country until Sunday. In the past, he has been critical of how the city has used tax increment funds.

How they feel about rental housing in the city could be an issue, too. Jim Morel, the president of DeKalb Area Rental Association, said his organization will quiz the candidates on their thoughts about rental housing, and the housing ordinances the city passed to upgrade it in 2012. Morel said the meeting will be for members only.

Finances also will be an issue for District 428 board candidates. The district entered the 2012-2013 school year with a $2.3 million deficit.

The board will hear different recommendations Tuesday from one of their committees on how the district could further save money. A partner at J.P. Faivre Partnership, Vickie Hernan-Faivre, said her business experience will be an asset to the school board if elected.

“There are ways to maximize the resources the district probably has,” Hernan-Faivre said. She is one of five candidates competing for three seats on the board.

Another candidate, Mary Hess said she was motivated to run by a desire to see students succeed. Hess said she has been involved with the school district in a variety of capacities, including serving on a number of committees and with the parent-teacher association.

“It seemed like this would be a way for me to have a stronger impact,” Hess said. Hess is an asset specialist with DeKalb County Keep Encouraging Youth to Succeed Initiative and the Ben Gordon Center.

The renovation of the Hopkins Pool will be the overarching issue for park board candidates. The new pool is supposed to open in 2015 without additional financial help for the park district.

Board President Joan Berkes-Hanson, who is seeking re-election for a six-year term, described the pool as the gem of the DeKalb Park District.

“Having an aquatic center [in the] community is consistently ranked high among the people,” Berkes-Hanson said.

Park board candidates Keith Nyquist and Per Faivre expressed concerned that Hopkins Pool could be scaled down in future renovations. The park board has hired PHN Architects of Aurora to oversee the $5 million construction project. So far, nothing is set in stone on the project, but the two are worried.

“In my eyes, a pool that’s two-thirds of its current size is not going to fit the community now or what it might be in the future,” Faivre said. He is a project manager at Area Erectors in Rochelle.

Area candidates

Mayor of DeKalb: Mike Verbic John Rey Jennifer Groce David Jacobson

2nd Ward Alderman: Bill Finucane Stephen Clark

4th Ward Alderman: Robert Snow James Mitchell

6th Ward Alderman: Dave Baker

City Clerk: No candidates

DeKalb School District 428 (vote for three): Vickie Hernan-Faivre Marilyn Parker Victoria Newport George “Joe” Mitchell Mary Hess

DeKalb Park Commissioner (two-year unexpired term); Mario Fontana Don Irving

DeKalb Park Commissioner (vote for two): Joan Berkes-Hanson Per Faivre Dean Holliday Bryant C. Irving Keith Nyquist

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