DeKALB – Though the candidate filing period hasn't yet opened for the April 2021 Consolidated Election, JJ Wett, 35, said he's running for DeKalb's Ward 2 Alderman seat.
"I've really been watching the city council, and the last five year, I've really just kind of noticed this overall idea to go with the status quo," Wett said Friday. "I think with the way everything is run, I think they need new ideas. And it's nothing personal against Bill Finucane or anything, but I think when you get in that mindset of just going through the motions, you don't tend to implement new ideas."
The current alderman, Bill Finucane, has not yet announced whether he'll seek re-election. Finucane is the senior most member of the city council.
Wett, clinical director at the DeKalb County Youth Services Bureau who's run two separate, unsuccessful DeKalb County Board campaigns when he lived in Genoa in 2016 and 2018, said he's running to ensure the council has new ideas at the table.
Wett said Ward 2 residents would back an ordinance supporting backyard chicken ownership, a topic which divided council Monday enough to suggest instead the issue be placed on the April ballot as a referendum for the voters to decide. He referenced when he lived in Genoa for eight years, where the ordinance is legal.
"I'm not going to put chickens in my backyard, however, I don't see why somebody who wants to do it and do it responsibly can't do it," Wett said. "When the chickens are kept in a pen, you didn't even notice it [in Genoa] with your neighbor."
He said he also wants to ensure minority residents and people of color get the same opportunities for economic development from the city as others do.
"I'm carrying over my same ideas from the county board races, to really support small businesses and particularly small businesses or people of color and minorities," Wett said. "I really want to create an equitable plan for minorities and people of color to ensure they have the same options as we white men."
He said he knows the city will face heavy impact from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic side effects.
"We're going to have that rebuilding phase, and we need to think about making sure we help those businesses rebuild," he said, emphasizing downtown businesses among others.
Wett, a therapist, said he supports reallocating the DeKalb Police Budget to ensure funding instead goes to social services offered by agencies such as Safe Passage, the Family Service Agency of DeKalb County and Youth Services Bureau, and said he doesn't support the police department's use of funds purchasing equipment like military-style riot gear.
He said when it comes to shaking the status quo, he's "very much against" tax increment financing in general, but if he supported a TIF proposal, he'd want to see TIF dollars offered to a larger variety of developers, and include a prevailing wage stipulation.
"For example, I've talked with a few people about building a jazz lounge where the House Cafe is, and I think that has primarily been persons of color," Wett said. "I think that would be a huge draw for persons of color and the minority communities within DeKalb to come spend their money to build the city up."