Byline: Adam Kovac Daily Herald Staff Writer
A large and diverse slate of candidates indicates this year's Elgin City Council race could be one of the most contentious and issue-driven in recent city history.
With four council seats up for grabs, the Feb. 22 primary ballot offers a mix of 12 contenders, including incumbents, community figures and political newcomers who hail from nearly every slice of Elgin's population.
The primary will pare down the list of hopefuls for the April 5 consolidated election.
Of the seven people seeking three 4-year seats, six will make it to the April election. Of the five seeking the single 2-year term, which was left vacant by the death of Councilwoman Marie Yearman, two will make it to the April ballot.
At the top of concerns among the candidates is Elgin's plan for downtown redevelopment and growth on the far west side, and how those goals will affect city services, schools and economic stability.
Whatever their reasons for running, a recent meeting with the Daily Herald editorial board had some hopefuls sparring over what's right for the city. Here is a brief look at the candidates:
For three 4-year seats
- Jennifer Almanza works as director of external relations for Senior Services Associates and has a history of public service in the Fox Valley and in Ohio.
While she agrees that issues such as development on the far west side of town and downtown revitalization are important, Almanza, 54, says the council needs an advocate for the homeless and the elderly.
Almanza is a staunch supporter of including senior citizens in the city's future and also wants construction of a permanent homeless shelter.
"I can't understand why it's taken so long to find a solution," she said of the problems affecting Elgin's homeless. "Just like the elderly, they're not going away."
- Curtis Bryant is a DuPage County sheriff's deputy and a newcomer in Elgin politics.
At the top of Bryant's to-do list is holding city department heads more accountable.
For example, a recent study showed $30,000 of city overtime pay could have been avoided if officials had been more aware of how much time their employees spent on the job, he said.
Bryant, 32, is a lifelong Elgin resident who says the council needs to focus more on the needs of its existing residents than those who are expected to move into the city.
"Expansion shouldn't be the only measurement of success," he said.
- Juan Figueroa, 44, was first elected to the city council in 1999. He says he has offered an independent voice on several issues, such as the Elgin Area School District U-46 boundary map.
He says Elgin has done a good job inching police and fire protection into the western areas but more is needed to expand other city services for residents in the west.
Providing residents there more entertainment options and other services, such as improving traffic conditions on Randall Road is key to ensuring the west has a robust economic future, Figueroa said.
- Bob Gilliam points to his vision and nearly 32 years of city council experience as a reason he should be re-elected to a ninth term.
As the city continues to expand its borders west, he says, Elgin needs to attract developers interested in building upscale homes that would raise property values.
Gilliam, 59, said Elgin ranks low among Kane County communities in terms of home values, and it is high-end housing that draws lucrative business to the city.
"If we continue and stay within those numbers, we're going to be the stepchild of Kane County," Gilliam said. "We won't be able to attract retail ... and other sources of disposable income."
- Clarence Hayward says he would be the taxpayers' watchdog if elected.
When the city charged a fee for fall leaf collection, Hayward saved several bags of leaves from his yard until free collection resumed in the spring.
Self-anointed "Common Sense Clarence" says the city needs to end wasteful spending so residents receive the city services their taxes pay for.
"I'm tired of seeing those tax dollars go down the drain," he said.
Hayward also says more needs to be done to study the effect of development in the far west on schools. He wants builders to shell out more money to offset higher expenses for the schools.
- Michael Noland is making his second run for office in a year, after having lost in a close battle for a state representative race in November.
Noland, 44, is a longtime critic of the city council and says his campaign centers on the city's need for a solid plan for development.
One way to accomplish that is to balance the influx of residential and business development in the city and create tougher expectations for builders downtown and on the far west side.
"We need to make things more black and white," Noland said.
Noland also says Elgin's downtown needs a niche to draw crowds with deep pockets, possibly by encouraging construction of an entertainment venue in the city's hub.
- John Walters, who was first elected to the council in 1993, says growth on Elgin's west edge hinges on building the kind of neighborhoods where residents can easily walk to the store.
One of his chief concerns is Elgin's ability to extend its city services, such as police, fire and utilities into the far west neighborhoods.
Walters, 52, points to private water wells drying up in the Pingree Grove area as a reason Elgin - and its river-fed water system - is the right fit for the area.
But it's more than general city services on Walters' mind. He wants to see Elgin maintain its sales tax base, bolster its financial stability and build a permanent homeless shelter.
For one 2-year seat
- Susan Angell-Case is a real estate agent in Carpentersville and a frequent participant in Elgin government and community activities, such as the Duck Race, Fiesta Salsa and chamber of commerce.
A supporter of development on the far west side, she said her bid for a council seat is an extension of her community involvement.
Angell-Case, 49, said Elgin has the ability to maintain its infrastructure on the far west side but she wants to promote more involvement from schools, businesses and residents in planning for expansion of city services.
"The whole far west is an issue that can be debated and talked about depending on how you stand," she said. "With responsibility, I think we will reap the benefits of the development."
- William Hoecker retired last year as superintendent of Central Unit District 301 and says his experience as an educator would translate well to a seat on the city council.
He said Elgin has a lot of potential to be a great city, and he wants a role in making it better.
Hoecker, 55, said his background can help the city to encourage construction of more upscale housing to improve its image and also stay in control of far west development.
Hoecker said developers should be offered incentives to build in Elgin, but they should be held accountable to providing the benefits they've promised the city.
"Every incentive should have a quick and significant payback," he said. "And if it doesn't, then it should not take place."
- Dave Kaptain has been the chief chemist for the Fox River Water Reclamation District for 30 years. He also has served on Elgin's planning commission since 1999.
Kaptain, 57, said he's concerned about Elgin's overall efforts to grow, but he is focused on people moving to the far west side.
He says they will need a better connection with city hall to resolve their issues.
"I have a problem understanding how those people are going to become a part of the existing community," Kaptain said. "Most of the people who are going to be living out there don't have a link to the community, so I want to look into that."
- Joanne Renaghan acknowledges she is busy for a 57-year-old semi-retired nurse.
Renaghan does volunteer data entry for the Elgin police department and work at homeless shelters.
She also tutors nursing students at Elgin Community College.
But Renaghan says she wants to play a role in Elgin government, in part to help build a better city for her children and grandchildren.
She is concerned about water shortages in the far west side and wants to see the council communicate better with city department heads.
"I just feel things are happening too fast," Renaghan said of development in that area. "I know everyone is going to have growth, but I have children that are affected by what's going on," she said.
- Robert Tiballi, a physician who specializes in infectious diseases, made headlines last year during an unsuccessful Republican primary bid for Kane County coroner in which he was critical of incumbent Chuck West.
Tiballi, 46, maintained his background made him better suited to conduct death investigations as coroner and promote outreach programs to reduce high-risk behavior in children and teens.…