Far West Side Focus of Several Campaigns City Council Candidates Launched Spirited Race

Article excerpt

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. …