Question 1: What are your ideas or plans to help the downtown strip and town square stay alive?
Answer 1: Downtown as is also known as the strip, the town square, etc., is a very vital component of the Carbondale economy, and requires development on a priority basis. I have been an advocate of allowing building businesses along the “strip” and allow 1-3 storey buildings, which could allow business on the first floor, and residents above to permit paying for the buildings in itself. Also, in addition to giving monies to businesses to improve their facades, we should work with local (community) banks to provide subsidized loans to new and existing businesses for development as well as expansion. The subsidies could be funded by increased sales tax revenues, increased property tax revenues from these developments. Re-route U.S. Highway 51 northbound via Washington Street, and make the “strip” bike and pedestrian access only, as has been successfully done on State Street in Madison, WI. It will require cooperation from the Illinois Department of Transportation since the City does not own U.S. Hwy. 51. Build more parking space by building multi-level parking lots, as is the case in Paducah, Ky., and Evansville, IN. The parking lots could be then contracted out to a private firm through closed bidding process, thus allowing more shoppers to visit and do and do business downtown. For the Townsquare development, we need to improve parking. The Old Jeremiah lot is sitting empty, and could be developed into a small park where people could go and enjoy lunch hour, or have a quite enjoyment in the evenings. It could also be developed into a parking lot, where more parking could be accommodated. The current shelter in the square should be utilized moreand promoted through the Carbondale Convention & Tourism Bureau,which is being funded through the city dollars. The businesses could also help defray the costs of their clientele by validating their parking ticket if they (shoppers) have spent certain level of money at their business. The road could be developed with open seating along the road for cafe’s and restaurants, as is the case in Montreal, Canada and many places in Florida.
Question 2: How can the city show local business owners that Carbondale is a good place for their businesses?
Answer 2: Being a business owner for the past 24 years myself in Carbondale, I understand best the importance of business development and retention in Carbondale. We need to have a “Can-Do” attitude toward existing businesses as well as for attracting new businesses to all parts of Carbondale. Our business and neighborhood services department at the City Hall is less than friendly, and needs to be retrained to think like business owners who operate or would like to come to Carbondale.
Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism & Convention Bureau need to take a responsible role in welcoming and furthering the business interests of those existing businesses or would like to come to Carbondale, by promoting each and every business even when they might not be members of the Chamber. After realizing the worth of the Chamber, most businesses who would have seen the benefits of having an active Chamber of Commerce, they will be compelled to join the Chamber on their own.
Question 3: Do you have any ideas for the several empty lots downtown where old buildings were torn down?
Answer 3: My comments are reflected in answer to Questions #1 and 2.
Question 4: Do you have any ideas on how to resolve the differences between SIU’s population and our town’s population?
Answer 4: Education comes at a price for these students who come to Carbondale. More public input and involvement is needed at the Council level as well as the SIU level, whereby combined events welcoming students should be held in order to promote mutual understanding and appreciation of each other. An asymbiotic relationship is a must for both to co-exist. Open up the “strip” for Halloween on a trial basis (this idea came from several businesses who did or still do exist on the strip) for 3 years, and monitor the results closely, fine-tuning each year. If the idea works, there will be more students and visitors coming to Carbondale “Strip” and get to know not only the area, but the businesses that exist there. Our Police Department needs to be very sensative to the needs of the students who would like to enjoy a good celebration, and need to trained to have a compassionate and low-profile approach, instead of appearing in riot gear, thus inciting the already “drunk” crowds. By closing the strip during Halloween not only is punitive and unfair to those businesses since their “meter” is still running but no sales/income is there for the duration. It also is unfair to employees, be it students who supplement their tuition and board expenses, but also to those who depend on a paycheck to feed their families.
Question 5: What is your stance on animal control and the city’s often ignored leash law?
Answer 5: Leash law is as important as any other ordinances and laws that the city should be enforcing. A concerted effort should be made to meet with the Police Chief and make him aware of the lack of enforcement in this area.
Question 6: What is your opinion on community plastic bag bans or programs in which businesses implement a charge on plastic bags? Would you support such an effort in Carbondale? Why or why not?
Answer 6: As much as I hate the plastic bags littering our streets and landfills, I will not in favor of exacting a charge for plastic bag usage. Instead, I will like to see education through neighborhood organization to “Reduce, Re-Use and Recycle” such items as plastic bags. I don’t believe in government delving into our personal business. Therefore, education regarding reducing or even completely eliminating such use of plastic bags should be pursued. For instance, no one would appreciate the government at any level telling the citizens, what kind of a vehicle one should drive which will use less gas or emit fewer emissions thus reducing greenhouse gases. But a tax credit of some sort to buy a more energy-efficient, lower emissions vehicles has been successfully tried, as is the case with electric or hybrid vehicles.
Question 7: Do you support a strong lighting ordinance? Are you familiar with research that finds that more light does not necessarily equal less crime?
Answer 7: Again making more rules is not the answer, but enforcement of the existing ones is. I will ask the City Council to adopt the CPTED lighting standards, thus help reduce crime in our city, beginning with new developments and the high-crime areas, and then expanding the program to the rest of the city.
Question 8: The Northwest Carbondale Neighborhood Association board of directors has proposed creation of a Traditional Neighborhood District within our zoning code as a way to encourage reinvestment in our older neighborhoods. Would you support the creation of such a district, either as a stand-alone district or as an overlay on our existing districts? Why or why not?
Answer 8: I think instead of established just another District, I will support the development and improvement of our neighborhoods without radically changing the existing landscape and layout of the neighborhoods.
Question 9: Is there a role for the city government to play in Carbondale’s park system, or should the parks be left entirely to the Carbondale Park District? If you believe the city government has a role, please explain what the city government’s role should be.
Answer 9: Carbondale Park District is the entity to provide us with parks, and recreational facilities, and is an autonomous taxing body, set up according to the state statute. Having served two terms as the Commissioner of the Park District, I think inter-agency agreements and functions should be explored in order to avoid duplication of services. I also believe that we should demand and set aside open spaces in new developments, and exercise options to purchase open lands within the city, to provide parks and recreational areas. Working with the Park District on the Superblock and the new Splash Park are just a couple of examples of inter-agency workings to cut costs and do more with less, thus avoiding need of higher taxes.
Question 10: Is there a role for the city to play in improving Carbondale’s schools, or should the schools be left entirely to the school districts? If you believe the city government has a role, please explain what the city government’s role should be.
Answer 10: My answer to the above question should sum it up, how I think the city government should be involved in any other tax-funded autonomous bodies which operate or exist in Carbondale.
Question 11: Many streets within the Northwest Carbondale Neighborhood Association’s boundaries lack sidewalks, or curb and gutter storm water drainage, or both. Do you think investment in this infrastructure is a priority and, if so, how would you propose funding these expensive projects?
Answer 11: I have had personal experience of living in the northwest neighborhood on Short Street for over 2 years, and felt the greatest need of providing curbs and gutters, with underground storm drains (unlike the open ditches which now exist). I am on record to ask for funding through CIP (Capital Improvement Projects) when I was serving on the Carbondale Citizens Advisory Committee to Mayor Dillard. It will prevent propagation of disease, and improve the aesthetics of the neighborhood. Also, providing sidewalks is extremely important as is having bike lanes, for safety of pedestrians as well as the bicyclists. I will support these projects, and seek funding through fine-tuning our city budget, and eliminating waste and achieve efficiencies elsewhere. I will also support some sort of a limited-in-scope tax levy (like 1/4 cent sales tax or gas tax) as a last resort to fund such projects, and demand that such tax be nixed after the projects have been fully funded and completed. Either two of these taxes seem fairer because they will be paid by anyone shopping in Carbondale or purchasing gas in Carbondale. I will not support an increase in property taxes to fund these projects as I strongly believe that we are already pretty well taxed-out.
Question 12: The city recently created a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district on Oakland Avenue. How do you think the city should spend its share of the increment generated by successful redevelopment in that area? How would you approach possible rezoning within the city’s newly created Oakland Avenue TIF district, especially properties such as the old National Guard Armory, the old High School buildings, and the old Coca-Cola warehouse that now houses the Oakland Auto Shop? Please be as specific as possible.
Answer 12: Old High School and the National Guard Armory are institutions and do not really require a rezoning as long as we stay within the confines of their past intended use. A Museum would be a great place to have at either one of the two locations and could be funded by user fees and grants.
As for the Oakland Auto Repair Garage (you refer to it as the old Coca-Cola warehouse), it is located there illegally and should be moved. We cannot legalize illegal acts of certain city officials by sanctioning its existence. I have let my thoughts known on more than one occasion about the same, last one at the last City Council meeting. It was a legal, but non-conforming warehouse since the adoption of our Zoning Ordinances in 1974, and could be converted into a Climate-Controlled Storage, or used as a warehouse as had been used since 1974.