BY JENNIFER BAILEY
DANVILLE — Ward 7 voters have a choice for alderman between a seasoned alderman who’s been on the city council for 20 years and a newcomer who says he wants to be an honest representative of the voters.
Ward 7 Alderman Steve Foster is being challenged by Al Reynolds. Reynolds ran unsuccessfully against state Sen. Mike Frerichs three years ago for the 52nd district seat.
The Commercial-News sent questionnaires to candidates running for alderman in the April 9 city election.
Foster said he’s running for alderman again because, “after my careful review (of comments, texts and videos on his website covering the past 20 years) I am proud to see I have obviously taken sound and insightful positions and votes on scores of issues. Beneficial progress has been made for the advancement of Danville and I am honored to have contributed. I know I can, and should, continue to work for our city’s great future with the same acumen.”
Reynolds said “the city council needs new and fresh ideas and solutions to current issues. (The council needs) to be open to new ideas that may be outside the box, but just might have validity in solving our economic mess. I am willing to listen to any ideas and plans from the public. There are a lot of intelligent citizens who have good ideas but just don’t want to get involved in the political arena.”
Foster said about the biggest issues facing the city council, “common issues of previous years are currently being addressed in a sound progressive manner. Considering national economic and unemployment crises, Danville is in healthier condition than many cities. Issues are always taxes, jobs, cost of living. Yet we’ve managed to continue without increases in property taxes and cost of living here is less than surrounding cities. Progress in attracting retail growth with new jobs has allowed minimum reduction of services and still meeting rising expenses. We should continue fiscally sound management while increasing our viability as a respectable and attractive place to live and work. I would cultivate this approach.”
Reynolds said the biggest issues facing the city council are: shortage of good-paying jobs, infrastructure and education.
He said there are very few manufacturing jobs that offer good pay and good benefits.
“I would spend more there on wooing manufacturers rather than retailers. Tax relief rather than cash incentives,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds said about infrastructure, “Roads, streets and vacant buildings should be one of the top priorities when it comes to budget spending. Prioritize.”
Reynolds also said the city needs to work with Danville Area Community College to provide curriculums that would benefit the group of students that would normally drop out of high school with no hope for employment.”
Concerning the city budget and if future cuts are needed, Foster said, “fortunately, with the strong multi-year financial planning we have implemented, it is possible to balance the budget without a reduction in personnel or services. However, since employee wages and benefits are 85 percent of our budget, this is where we should and do look first. Reorganization and consolidations often reduce employee numbers. Subsequently, some employees must then take on many more duties to make this approach work, and usually receive increased remuneration; but the net savings helps meet our objectives financially, and streamlining results in better public service as well.”
Reynolds said if city budget cuts are needed, “I would start with agencies that are duplicated with local county agencies. Control spending on major city equipment; review life spans of this equipment to see if they can be extended. (Also,) review cost of living wage increases and use figures that are relevant to Danville and not national figures. Quit using real estate and cash to entice new business.”
Foster said about giving retail incentives to businesses to locate here, “in reality, I know of no larger city that does not offer incentives to attract and retain businesses. Competition is very strong among cities and states. While it may be a form of corporate welfare, as many believe, we need to meet competition. Over my time on the council I have supported most incentive plans. Remember, a good incentive should include long-term commitment to stay, rebates only if meeting certain levels of sales or employment and the city sees a return on their investment within a reasonably short time period.”
Reynolds said about retail incentives, “tax relief incentives work as long as the term is in effect. Cash and real estate incentives are sustainable options for the city. Too many of these give-away incentives are dependent on outside agencies, and the economy has shown that reliability of payment from them is a roll of the dice. The state and the nation are both running in the red. There are just no guarantees. Lower worker’s comp. Lower corporate income tax. Lower corporate property tax.”
Another issue of late with the city council has been attendance by some alderman.
Foster said, “no one should run for any public office knowing they may not be able to meet the attendance requirements. It is understandable that occasionally someone may miss a meeting or leave early due to illness, unseen circumstance or other special obligations. Likewise health issues could cause missing several meetings during recuperation, but long extended periods for other causes can become problematic. People in all city wards should be represented.”
Foster continues, “Meeting attendance is an issue. I would support an ordinance that could, under defined circumstances, address continuous strings of missed meetings over a given period, or require a minimum number or minimum percentage of meetings to be attended in a given period in order to receive payment from the city for each month.”
Reynolds said he is retired and has few obligations that would prevent him from attending meetings.
“No show, no pay,” he said about wanting to see aldermen paid only for the meetings they attend.
Reynolds adds that he wants to see public announcements of city council agendas six days prior to meetings.
“There should be open discussion and input prior to decisions by committees,” Reynolds said.
Stephen E. Foster
Name: Stephen (Steve) E. Foster
Address: 126 Lakeside Drive
Family: wife, Marina Z. Foster
High School: graduated Carmel High School (Ind.)
College: Attended: Franklin College (Ind.), Elmhurst College (Ill.), DePaul University (Chicago), Danville Area Community College, BBN (Dallas, Texas). Received various certifications and licenses
Current Employment: BEAMSCO (Business E-commerce Applications & Marketing Services Company), CEO 1995-to present
Previous Political Experience: Ward 7 Alderman since 1993
Name: Al Reynolds
Address: 62 Thornhill Drive
Family: wife, Tracy Reynolds
High School: Johnson High School, Tokyo, Japan
College: East Los Angeles College, associate’s degree; California State University, School of Business
Current Employment: Retired
Previous Political Experience: 2010 Illinois candidate for State Senate 52nd district
Other Organization Involvement: Volunteer for Women’s Care Clinic and Habitat for Humanity