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Local Election

2017 Election Questionnaire: Misty Haji-Sheikh, candidate for DeKalb Mayor

Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com
DeKalb mayoral candidate Misty Haji-Sheikh responds to a question during a League of Women Voters forum for the all four mayoral candidates on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at City Hall in DeKalb.  All four candidates for mayor, including Misty-Haji-Sheikh, Mike Embrey, Jerry Smith, and incumbent mayor John Rey were in attendance for the forum, which was open to the public.
Matthew Apgar - mapgar@shawmedia.com DeKalb mayoral candidate Misty Haji-Sheikh responds to a question during a League of Women Voters forum for the all four mayoral candidates on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 at City Hall in DeKalb. All four candidates for mayor, including Misty-Haji-Sheikh, Mike Embrey, Jerry Smith, and incumbent mayor John Rey were in attendance for the forum, which was open to the public.

DeKalb Mayoral candidate Misty Haji-Sheikh submitted this questionnaire, answering the Daily Chronicle's questions in the 2017 DeKalb Mayoral race.

Name: Misty Haji-Sheikh

Age: 57

Town: DeKalb

Office sought: Mayor

Questions:

1. Why are you the best candidate?

I am a proven leader with fresh ideas. I am serving in my second four year term on the County Board, I am the one candidate that has a plan to bring jobs to the city. My plan is to work to bring in companies from the counties to our east that are running out of water. (For a full explanation go to the FAQ section at CitizensforMisty.com) I am the only candidate that has cut a budget this year.

The current city spending is unsustainable. My plan includes a freeze on the city budget through 2019. I have an excellent record of helping citizens. I helped create: The Business Incubator, Zero Waste Policy, relocating the residents of Evergreen Village and creating Sycamore Forest Preserve and bringing Whiskey Acres to the area.  Finally, All of my opponents have said that the problems with the city will take a long time to fix, but when asked how much time they would spend in the Mayor’s office each week, I was the only one that is willing to work full time to solve the city’s problems.

2. What can the city government do to reduce crime?

We have the ability to use technology to help the Police. Many businesses use cameras in their businesses. If we can work with these businesses so that the police can also see what their cameras see, it extends the ability of the Police to make the best use of the officers on the street. Additionally, using (trained) citizen policing to take over some of the duties that officers now do like traffic control and booking. We should be on the lookout for grants  that can be awarded to reduce crime - the citizen volunteers can help with this as well. Other ideas include: Many cities have a voluntary gun take back program. This is one way to get some of the guns off of the streets. 

Another way to reduce crime is to work with the school district and the YMCA so that kids have more after school programs. Cities where they have good after school programs have less juvenile crime.

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?

The City should take a realistic look at shifting the focus from a TIF based budget to working to get businesses using the Enterprize Zone. Businesses that build or remodel in the Enterprize Zone get tax breaks. We need to have additional revenue. My plan to bring jobs is a good way to grow the local economy.  Additionally, the City’s budget needs to begin to be trimmed in anticipation of the end of TIF.

4. How should city and Northern Illinois University officials work together to improve the community?

My plan incorporates internships from NIU to benefit both the City with extra help and NIU by giving students work experience. There also needs to be better communication (perhaps on the website) so that when students want opportunities to volunteer or when the city and or businesses need volunteers that these opportunities don’t slip by.

This year the thing that brought the  most students to downtown was Pokemon Go. Having something that the students want to do and something that they can afford brings students downtown. We need to work with the downtown businesses and market to the students so they know what is available and work with our businesses to increase the number of businesses that offer student discounts. As far as the two governmental bodies, NIU and the City we need to look for places where overlap occurs and have an intergovernmental agreement to share some of the resources {ex. combining the emergency dispatch duties.)

The City and NIU need to continually work on traffic matters so that when a big event occurs eg Homecoming/Football games, Concerts, Corn Fest, etc.  traffic moves as smoothly as possible.  

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 Egyptian Theatre is my favorite building in DeKalb. I want the Egyptian to succeed. The study did a survey of users, but never asked the majority of people that had never been to the theatre why it was that they hadn’t.

The study wants the City to give $250,000 every year to run the theatre. The City does not have the staff to take on this responsibility which would involve another additional cost. So the cost per year would need to include all city personnel, training, their benefits and pensions. The City is not the best entity to take over the operation of the Egyptian Theatre. I support using TIF to help the Egyptian with maintaining the building, air conditioning, etc, but I do think that the Egyptian needs to work on fund raising  - perhaps as a matching fund.  The Egyptian could hire a booking agent whose salary comes from the booking that are made.

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?

The STEAM Center needs a grassroots group  that will support it and fundraiser for it. I have not seen a grassroots  group to date. The City Manager said that among things that are needed would include a foundation.

Having a solid long term way to run and fund the STEAM Center  grassroots, foundation etc. will make or break the Center. Until there is a method to fund and run the Center, the City should hold off on spending $4 million on this project.

7. What is one thing the city spends money on now that should be reduced or eliminated?

The largest cost for any city is labor. The amount of city staff has continued to rise in the last four years. I have made cuts to the current county budget  to keep from raising your taxes. I will work to lower staff and to lower your taxes as is possible.

Additionally, I think that there have been costly consultants and studies. The taxpayers tell me that they  have not seen results  or value  from these consultants and studies. Any study or consultant needs to have data driven results and the City needs to communicate those results to the public. Better use of the website is one way to reach out to citizens.

8. The city government sometimes is criticized as not being “business friendly.” Is this fair? What changes can be made, if any?

When there are complaints about not being business friendly these should be investigated to see if  something can be done better. It is important to make sure that when  businesses that come to DeKalb, that the entire  process of building permits, code inspections are a smooth, quick process and that the municipal code encourages both existing and new businesses without undue burden.  The City’s website can be used to facilitate a speedy process by listing procedures, requirements, and contact information.

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