DeKalb Mayoral candidate and incumbent mayor John Rey submitted this questionnaire, answering the Daily Chronicle's questions in the 2017 DeKalb Mayoral race.
Name: John A Rey
Town: Gary, Indiana
Office sought: Mayor City of DeKalb
1) Why are you the best candidate?
I am the incumbent mayor. I know what it takes to serve effectively. I’m a proven, strong leader with a cooperative style. I am a good listener who has delivered results. Under my administration, we have a new era in city government, staffed with professionals who are team players dedicated to improving DeKalb. They have a sincere focus on making this a better community, as do I.
Economic development is happening – 3M committed to expansion on DeKalb’s campus, Target has expanded as an Upstream Distribution Center, adding new 400 jobs of various skills. Business growth has occurred downtown and on Sycamore Road. We see consistently applied locally approved code for building/housing maintenance.
Under my leadership, we see new and expanding business in DeKalb – bookstores have returned, transformational projects are making an impact toward community improvement.
Road conditions – too little has been spent to improve roads. Priority is given to long-term solutions to improve the roads.
Public safety – a high priority is given to police presence through hot spot, proactive patrols. Co-policing with other departments does help. I promote dealing strongly with criminal behaviors.
2) What can the city government do to reduce crime?
We have seen a higher incidence of criminal activity. This is true in college communities throughout the state. The police chief has convened a summit of chiefs from such communities across the state. The intent is to build a coalition of law enforcement agencies to share tactics in fighting crime.
Co-policing with other agencies – state police, county and neighboring communities is helping us combat crime. A collective effort with agencies, neighbors and judicial system (judges and States’ Attorney) is required.
I support taking effective measures toward response and prevention – hot-spot policing, placing patrols where crime is likely to occur. We work to create awareness in the community, telling the facts and executing collective response to the criminal behaviors.
I support the police chief’s 20-20 plan, phase two.
3) Both of the city’s tax-increment financing districts and the millions of dollars they generate each year will end during the next four years. How should the city prepare for this?
Consider the most productive investments to raise the value of properties in the districts. Prioritize and commit to those investments before the end of the TIF’s. Transfer TIF 2 funds into TIF 1 to give maximum flexibility to invest in those transformational projects.
Review the greatest potential for creating positive growth in property values to create long-term benefit to the community.
4) How should city and Northern Illinois University officials work together to improve the community?
City should collaborate with colleges within NIU and students to provide programs and business opportunities that are attractive to students. Keep dialogue open in front of state and federal officials, addressing the needs of higher education in Illinois. Keep communications open with administrators.
City officials must be attentive to:
• Understand the big picture
• Correct any misunderstandings
• Participate in “Growing Together” summit and other collaborations
• Support NIU PLUS with engaged learning opportunities – Progressive Learning in Undergraduate Studies
• Make students feel welcome – Move-In Day, Orientation Bus Tour Guides, Welcoming Community task force, invite/host students visiting downtown venues
• Support student and family attractions
• Include NIU in City planning activities
We must realistically anticipate long-term rebuild of enrollment at NIU includes students who are diverse, older and global in their perspective. Providing incubator, start-up business collaborative space will be helpful.
Retention of students in the community, upon graduation, should be our goal.
City staff and council should work with president, deans, and board of trustees to support recruitment and retention initiatives.
5) A recent study called for the city to take over operation of the Egyptian Theatre, renovate the venue and contribute to its operating budget. Is this a good idea? Why or why not?
The City should only take ownership of the Egyptian Theatre and its development as a performance arts center if community support has been established. The theatre is a contributing asset to the attractiveness of downtown, which must be preserved. A public-private partnership must be sought for renovation and ongoing operation of the theatre.
City ownership should only be considered after assurance of financial viability and structural success of the theatre has been established.
6. Under what conditions would you support development of a STEAM learning center in downtown DeKalb? Do you think the city should contribute $4 million in TIF funding toward the project?
I can support the engagement of public-private partnership for investment in the STEAM Learning Center. The City’s contribution of $4 million TIF funding will assist the Arts-Culture triangle of the DeKalb Public Library, Egyptian Theatre and the STEAM Learning Center.
The STEAM Learning Center will attract people throughout the region into DeKalb. It will position NIU in a positive way – among all family members, supporting recruitment and retention of students. The economic activity in the community will be stimulated by the operation of the Learning Center. Yes, investment of TIF funds should be contributed to the project, having established a base of community support with investment by a private partner.
7. What is one thing the city spends money on now that should be reduced or eliminated?
Non-core services must constantly be under review to assure the efficient, effective use of the money. Those activities found to be duplicative and more expensive than those available in the private sector should be eliminated from City operations and expense.
8. The city government sometimes is criticized as not being “business friendly.” Is this fair? What changes can be made, if any?
This community is attractive to business. Accomplishments of growth prove success in growing, expanding business in the City of DeKalb.
Compliments of help provided by the city’s Community Development staff come from many of those investors. Locally approved codes provide the framework and define clear, consistent expectations.
Successful projects have been delivered, resulting in the addition of revenues to the City.
Recent expansion of business by 3M and Target have secured commitments from those Fortune 500 companies to this community. These expanded operations add/retain jobs for our skilled workforce.
Recent new business projects, completed with assistance from Community Development efforts by the City – i.e. planning, permitting and inspections, include: Sonic, Casey’s (new and expansion), Common Grounds, Book World, Oak Crest Retirement Center – The Oaks, Puri Development (Aspen Dental and ATI Physical Therapy), Subway and Marco’s Pizza, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Fargo Skateboarding, Community Christian Church, Burger King, Rosati’s, Wendy’s, Manning Ford Renovation, the House, Culvers, Fatty’s, Los Rancheros and Muslim Mosque.
The City constantly debriefs projects and seeks to improve the process. Positive business climate is important to maintain an open and clearly defined process – with no surprises.