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A Tale of Two (Geneva) Candidates

Or better put, why I'm suddenly happy with Zac Ploppert and Bob McQuillan

Wow! I should’ve dared our young 1st Ward aldermanic candidate Zac Ploppert to give us a glimpse of his campaign platform ages ago. (And don’t worry Zac — despite the insistent internal goading — I generally don’t respond to me, either.)

His most recent Dec. 10 Patch blog entry titled, The Issues as I See Them has to be one of the best political responses to a column challenge I’ve ever had the pleasure to peruse. For what can be said in a thousand-word piece, our aspiring city councilman was clear, concise and generally to the point.

That doesn’t mean I agree with everything he said, but that’s not the point! Now, if we could only get the rest of those dais denizens to follow in his footsteps.

I’m not sure if Zac and challenger Mike Bruno are planning on any debates, but if they are, I’ll be happy to give Mr. Ploppert an opportunity to hone his rhetorical skills right here.

Yes! Deleting budget line items for its own sake can be a disastrous undertaking. Cutting off your nose to spite your face is rarely a worthwhile endeavor. Look no further for evidence of this kind of shortsightedness than Alabama, where an ill-advised anti-immigration law left crops rotting in the fields.

That said, I wouldn’t mind a little more Paul DesCouteaux coming from that council chamber, either.

As far as Zac’s thoughts on the tax levy, I can live with them. The current .44 increase means only $20 more a year on a $300,000 house. While I continue to believe that property taxes should go down when assessments go down, there’s a fluke in the law in which flat levy means letting new growth off the hook.

But the Geneva truth is, when you consider the state of the economy and the mature state of our fair city, there really isn’t any new growth to worry about. C’mon! Has there even been one new home-building permit issued in the last couple of years?

So that argument is fading, at best.

I also agree with Zac’s defense of our Downtown Master Plan in that it’s more of a theory than a blueprint. And while that investment certainly was a good one, considering our downtown challenges, I’d love to see the City Council become far more proactive in that regard.

The place where our paths did diverge was the city’s new $500,000 software program. As a former IT consultant, I clearly understand the need to stay current, and Zac rightfully cites improved staff efficiency as the impetus for the upgrade, but doesn’t that, by definition, mean we don’t need quite as many of them?

Ah! But when it came to his thoughts on keeping city credit cards to the “absolute bare minimum,” which in my book means no more than two or three of ‘em, I’m suddenly hoping to catch the young man under the mistletoe. As Zac aptly noted, “It’s not a matter of mistrust, just common sense.”

And it only got better when our potential alderman tackled pensions and benefits. Yes! These kind of things have been the norm for city and state employees, but the problem is some folks thought that neither the stock market nor interest rates would ever do down and now the chickens have come home to roost.

Making promises based on financial market expectations is worse than hiring Lindsay Lohan as your chauffeur.

As you might imagine, I loved the fact Zac embraced the notion that the council must do everything within their power to rein in these costs. And it may not be as hard as he thought. While he was certainly correct when he said that unions can complicate things, most municipal unions will agree to a provision that they’ll accept the same benefits that all the other city employees receive.

So once you start that process …

Folks! This is the kind of thing that can happen when the municipal mindset hasn’t quite taken hold.

And speaking of semi-flat property tax levies, there’s another candidate I’m pretty pleased with — mayoral challenger Bob McQuillan. I’ll pause for a second while you clean up all that coffee you just spit across the room.

Ain’t it funny how the city just happened to be asking for the maximum 3.91 percent tax levy increase on Oct 22, but shortly after Nov. 29, they shifted to a slim .44 percent? And what happened at the end of November?

That’s right! McQuillan threw his hat into the ring.

I’m not saying the higher figure would’ve made it past those 10 staunch fiscal stewards, but I can guarantee you, without mayoral competition, the lower number would not nearly have been a unanimous aldermanic thing.

So we got one candidate making his positions clear and another one, by his mere presence, keeping the other ones honest. And that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to be.

 

BobE December 12, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Are you dismissing Mike Bruno already? He has shown exceptional dedication and intelligence in years of service w. the historic preservation commission and can be expected to stay in town indefinitely. Where will Ploppert be in 4 years?
Jeff Ward December 12, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Bob, I ain't dismissing anyone! All I'm saying is Zac's response to my challenge was worth nothing. I've been hard on him in the past - politics ain't a game for sissies - so it's only fair to offer praise when it's due! Jeff
Mike Bruno December 12, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I certainly expect that Zac and myself will jointly attend a "meet the candidates" or "debate" event...though I expect it makes sense closer the March time-frame. If you are looking to distinguish the two of us on the matter of the city's ERP software purchase, you won't find much light between the two of us. I am presently an IT consultant and spent years building a multinational network for Burgess-Norton (the employer that brought me here as a resident). Importantly, I have in-the-trenches experience implementing ERP software and it is not a task for the faint of heart. It is so daunting a task, that most fail. The need to offer 21st century services to our residents is, to me, self-evident. What is important is that, over the *years* of implementation, we guide and advise our city staff to make sure that we deliver on the promise of that software.
Steven Andersson December 12, 2012 at 09:18 PM
A whole article of praise because he answered you? So is this about him, or about you? While his answers were “fine,” most of them could be characterized as “I’ll use good judgment, when faced with decisions…” or something to that effect. Who can disagree with that (except perhaps for Grover Norquist)? I’m just saying, it wasn't exactly groundbreaking material. Compare that to the thoughtful and considered blogs that Mike Bruno has regularly posted on Patch about religious liberty, historic preservation, socialism, etc and I think you will find a much deeper level of experience and careful reasoning than Mr. Ploppert’s survey of issues. No disrespect to Mr. Ploppert, but I’m looking for candidates with a breadth of life experience to draw upon. Someday Mr. Ploppert will no doubt have that, but for today, Mike’s the candidate for me.
Jack December 15, 2012 at 07:45 AM
You meant, "...worth noting" I believe.

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