DeKalb Alderman Ward 2 candidate Bill Finucane submitted this questionnaire, answering the Daily Chronicle's questions in the 2017 DeKalb Alderman Ward 2 race.
Name: Bill Finucane
Office Sought: DeKalb Alderman Ward 2
1) Why are you the best candidate?
With experience balancing and operating a public budget (I oversaw a $1.5 million budget as the manager of Transportation Services at NIU), a Masters of Public Administration, and long time community volunteer involvement I bring a broad sense of understanding the DeKalb community and local government. Transportation Services was a sales and service operation, with no appropriated money as a part of the budget, operating with only revenue generated, very similar to a commercial enterprise. My experience in working with a diverse campus community will assist the city as the population of DeKalb Dist 428 has become a majority minority.
2) What can the city government do to reduce crime?
As Police Chief Lowery reported, this past year saw an uptick in crimes. For several years prior to 2016, the City had seen a downward trend. The question then is: was 2016 an aberration or is it the first step of the trend back up? Either way, the perception of crime in DeKalb is hurting both the city and the university. Community policing efforts, such as Camp Power and residential officer program, as well as the co-policing effort with the NIU Police must be ongoing and expanded upon where possible. Juvenile crime in particular was an issue and the driving force in the increase of crime this past year. Educational programs, for both adults and youth, should be used within the school system and the neighborhoods to reinforce how to help reduce crime and for individuals to protect themselves.
3) Both city 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?
City staff is systematically reviewing the use of TIF dollars for infrastructure and what other revenues might be used in place of those dollars as the TIFs expire. As we move closer to the end of the TIFs, City Council must set priorities in the expenditures of the last of the TIF dollars as well as establish protocols for further incentive programs to attract and keep commercial development growing within the City. Council must also construct a reasonable steady, identifiable revenue stream to address infrastructure, capital, and equipment expenditures that will continue to face the City.
4) What is one issue that is important for your ward?
With the size and shape of the second ward, issues will differ on the location within the ward. In the southwest corner of the ward, public safety is and will continue to be a primary topic of concern. Moving to the east and north, while public safety is a concern, levels of taxation (particularly from the school board), improvement of infrastructure, the need for new residential construction in existing vacant property, and the number of existing properties that are “underwater” will be of a greater importance to the residents.
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 Theater is an important piece of the downtown DeKalb landscape. It attracts visitors to DeKalb who not only visit the theater, but also purchase meals, fuel, and shop at the stores in the vicinity of the theater. For a number of years, the City has provided significant dollars for capital improvements at the theater. However, I believe to take over ownership and provide operating funding for the theater would be a mistake. While theaters such as the Paramount (Aurora), the Arcadia (St Charles), and the Raue Center (Crystal Lake) have flourished, they are closer to the population center of Chicago and the suburbs, affording those theaters a larger base of potential customers to draw upon. Private fundraising should be undertaken by P.E.T. to bring the facility up to the standards that are seemingly required to make the theater a year round venue that can attract and support a wider variety of performances.
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?
A STEAM learning center should fall under the auspices of an educational institution, such as District 428 or NIU’s P-20 process. While the City should be involved in the site selection, it should not be involved in the operation or funding. The city should contribute through aiding in grant applications, as it does with the local public transportation funding with various state and federal sources. As with the Egyptian Theater, the hope is that it would draw visitors to DeKalb, but I foresee that the largest segment of visitors to a STEAM center would be those on class field trips, and thus are unlikely to spend any significant amounts of time or money in local businesses.
7) What is one thing the city spends money on now that should be reduced or eliminated?
The city should enter into discussions with the other local government agencies, including NIU, a discussion as to the advantages of cost sharing on services that each provides. Snowplowing, landscaping, heavy equipment are items that come to mind quickly. These could be co-ordinated in a manner similar to the mutual aid system used by the various local fire departments. Currently being discussed is the consolidation of emergency service dispatch. DeKalb, for example, could provide dispatch for some of the smaller towns in county and to NIU.
8) The city government sometimes is criticized as not being “business friendly.” Is this fair? What changes can be made, if any?
There has been a period during the past several years where the city certainly deserved that reputation. Under the current city manager, and with changes that have been made, particularly over the past 12 months, the city has improved its relationship with developers. The 3M new construction that opened last year and the Cornerstone Project just approved are indicators of the improvement towards being business friendly. Changes in ordinances and staff have helped bring a more business friendly attitude regarding existing and potential new businesses within the community.