Normally, I would not write an article in response to something Jeff Ward has written, but this time he has a bit of a point. In case you missed it, Jeff wants to know exactly where I stand on the issues facing Geneva. This is a more-than-fair request, and I am happy to oblige. I will list out the some of the issues facing Geneva, and my views on each of them. I will do my best to be concise and to the point with the explanation of my views.
I do not believe in slashing the city’s budget just for the sake of doing so. We must always monitor costs and do whatever we can to keep them as low as possible. We must also be realistic about what it takes to keep Geneva “up and running.” Over the summer, I spent a shift with both the Geneva Police Department and the Geneva Fire Department in an effort to get a better handle on what the day-to-day challenges of the departments are. We have police and fire departments staffed with very dedicated men and women who strive to make Geneva a safe place. The vehicle replacement plans for these departments have somewhat fallen by the wayside. Both departments have done a very nice job on making do with what they have and prolonging the life of those tools. It is important that we equip these departments with the tools necessary to keep us safe. However, we must constantly examine the costs associated with these departments, especially issues like salaries and pensions. This is just one of many examples of costs that must be closely analyzed by the city staff, city officials, and citizens of Geneva. We must make our absolute best effort into keeping costs as low as possible, but must also be careful to not be (as Alderman Maladra would say) penny wise and dollar foolish.
During last Monday’s City Council meeting, a tax levy increase of .44% was approved, (having an impact of about $20 based on a homeowner with a home valued at $300,000). It was explained by City Administrator McKittrick that this increase was only to capture the growth that occurs in Geneva, and that’s only if Geneva’s EAV does not go down. A vote cast for anything other than this minimally impactful tax levy increase would have been irresponsible, and frankly unwarranted. I will not promise you that the tax levy will not go up while I am alderman, to do so would be irresponsible. However, I will promise you that I will not vote for a tax levy increase above the amount necessary to capture city growth, unless not doing so would negatively affect Geneva and its citizens drastically and all other options have been exhausted.
The Downtown Master Plan:
The DTMP is a vision plan that is the culmination of the collaboration of a variety of viewpoints on where the city should be in the future. The most important part of the DTMP is the fact that it is a vision plan. We must ensure that all current, and future, businesses in Geneva realizes that this vision is flexible. If we are able to accomplish everything laid out in the DTMP, great; if we accomplish nothing that is in the DTMP but see business grow and Geneva remain true to itself, that’s great too. The DTMP was without a doubt a worthwhile investment and is a valuable piece of Geneva’s planning efforts, and its significance should not be over or under estimated.
Geneva’s recent software purchase has been a high-priced, high profile investment that has drawn a significant amount of fire. The cost of this software is without a doubt a hard pill to swallow, but like an antibiotic prescribed for an infection, it does indeed need to be swallowed. While I will not compare the running of the city to the running of a corporation, using Geneva’s previous software to run the city is like trying to run an investment firm using Windows 95. Geneva avoided the cost, (perhaps unwisely) of a new software system for many years, leaving us with an archaic system unsuitable for the smallest of cities. No, this system did not render any staff members' jobs obsolete, but in my opinion that was not the reason for investing in new software. This software is a tool for the city staff to use to more efficiently do their jobs, much like a new type of wrench would be for a mechanic, or how a new cash register might make a local business more efficient. If we get even half of the life out of our new software that we did out of our old, we will have come out ahead.
City Credit Cards:
My view on this issue is simple, limit the number of city credit cards to the absolute bare minimum. I can reasonably see the need to have a very few number of cards that are extremely closely monitored, but the more cards you have in use the more chances you have for misuse. It’s not a matter of mistrust, just common sense.
City employees enjoy what can only be referred to as the Cadillac of benefits packages. While this is typically the norm for most government employees, the city must do everything it can to try and cut these costs. The fact that the city must negotiate with unions is a factor that complicates matters tremendously. It is very hard to find anyone whose benefit costs have not gone up in recent years; city employees should not be exempt from this.
We are very fortunate to live in a city where those who came before us had the sense of mind to preserve our history. We must continue this preservation, but also must be mindful of our future. Being mindful of what the needs of our businesses and residents are is crucial. We must continue to honor and preserve our history, but make sure we are not standing in the way of our own future.
There are undoubtedly issues that are not coming to my mind right now. If there are issues that you want to know my stance on, leave a comment below and I will update this article to include my views on that issue.