Looking where Naperville has been (budget challenges created by the recession & market crash of 2007 along with regulatory changes, downtown late night problems & resulting tragedies, growing heroin problem & lives lost) our community’s economics and public safety have been the dominant concerns. Naperville still faces public safety problems and if we want to keep property taxes down we need to strengthen our economy to generate more city revenue from sales taxes. Looking to the future I see addressing these weakness as Naperville’s next set of challenges. We can do so in the following ways.
Growing Naperville’s Small Business Community
Some of the most undeserved stakeholders in Naperville are its small business owners. Improvements in the resources and support provided by the city to these stakeholders would result in significant improvements to the city’s image and economy. Initiatives by the city to provide support for, and encourage the expansion of weekend markets like the farmer’s markets as well as the cart vendor program would provide quality of life improvements for residents while also serving as an incubator for developing local entrepreneurs that could one day become brick and mortar businesses and employers in our community. By growing more small merchants in our community the city would enhance customer choice, prompting residents to buy local. Keeping these dollars in Naperville strengthens city commerce and promotes economic growth.
Developing the South Side Project
Another underserved group of stakeholders are Naperville’s south residents. These southern residents were promised a walkable shopping/community area amenity analogous to the downtown/riverwalk area several years ago. Little progress has been made in this area and I believe it is time for the city to put more time and effort into making this happen. One of the main reasons for developing the downtown area was to create a walkable shopping area that would rival the Fox Valley Shopping Center and draw people to downtown, particularly Naperville residents. It was realized that every dollar spent by residents in neighboring communities was a loss in economic improvement for the city as well as lost city revenue. For most southern residents downtown Naperville is a longer drive than downtown Plainfield or even the shopping areas around Clow Airport. The present situation once again motivates Naperville residents to spend their dollars outside our community. This project would bring these dollars back to our community.
Concentrating on Heroin Dealers
The City Council, toward the end of last summer, passed a new ordinance to address the late night downtown problem. The late night downtown situation needs to be watched closely this summer to make sure this concern has been addressed. And southern residents are still distressed about street racer on 95th following the completion of the 95th street bridge. The city is using greater police presence to address this issue but because this is a multi-jurisdictional area further efforts maybe need to discourage and stop these racers. Finally, the biggest problem is heroin dealers moving into our community, setting up operations in Naperville apartment complexes. The City has adopted a Crime Free Housing program that worked well in other cities but it is presently voluntary. If problematic properties cannot be persuaded to participate it will become necessary for the city to make some parts of this program mandatory, by ordinance, as it did with the Best Practices Guidelines for downtown late night permit holders.
As your mayor I would provide the City Council and Staff with the leadership required to meet future challenges and find the solutions necessary to build a better and stronger Naperville.