Saturday, March 10, 2007

Gieseke Winner Of Mayoral Debate - Mayor Will Say Anything To Win

By Phyllis Schaltenbrand

Last week there was a debate between the candidates for mayor of St. Charles. St. Charles City Councilman John Gieseke, Ward 8, is facing off against two term Mayor Patti York in the Tuesday, April 3, 2007 general election. All 10 City Council Wards are also up for grabs.

It was obvious from those in attendance and from those who have since watched the debate on the City Cable Channel 20, that Councilman John Gieseke successfully trounced Mayor York.

York came out swinging and made some comments against Gieseke. We offered him the opportunity to respond.

In her opening remarks the Mayor commented she was sharing the podium with a member of a college debate team. Some in the audience believed she made this remark to cover any of her inadequacies in the event she falters during the debate. Have you ever been a member of a college debate team?

JOHN GIESEKE: I looked around and thought is there someone else debating her this evening. I did have classes in which we debated issues, but I was never on a debate team. I do appreciate the thought though. 

The Mayor said, “Over the past eight years I have rolled back taxes 12 percent, while increasing city services and getting rid of nuisance taxes.”

My opponent has supported a tax increase as recent as six months ago.

JOHN GIESEKE: I did not support a tax increase; I supported placing a use tax on the ballot. Saying I supported a tax demonstrates that it’s easy to say anything to get elected. In this city the belief is if you say it enough it must be true. The tax would have been used to fund the operation of the community center and would have been only on items purchased on the Internet. The people would have been able to vote to decide if they wanted the tax. 

The Mayor said, “I have a history of bringing good businesses to our community such as Bass Pro, Coca Cola, our own Starbucks and I am so looking forward to having an Old Navy here in town.”

JOHN GIESEKE: All I can say to that is take a drive down First Capitol Drive. It takes diligent planning and hard work to achieve sustained economic development and it isn’t being done. The old K-Mart site is still vacant, Bally’s building is vacant, the old police headquarters, that she rushed to sell for less than the appraised value with a higher bid on the table, is vacant. We have many empty stores in shopping centers. Several former fast food restaurants are closed and the buildings allowed to deteriorate. Businesses are leaving Main Street at a record number. We are far from saying we have a successful economic development record. 

The Mayor said, “My opponent has shown a history of voting against economic development such as tourism which is an $11 million dollar industry right here in our community. He has also voted against the Convention Center, which is a $70 million project, which brought in hundreds of jobs.

JOHN GIESEKE: Once again she will say anything to get elected. To leap from voting against the convention center and saying I’m against tourism is a pretty big leap to make. I am very much in favor of tourism, but not the way we have been doing it. We have failed in marketing our city and growing the tourism industry. We do not need to be spending our tourism dollars in Canada, Europe, etc. We need to spend them in places where they will do us the most good. I pushed to get kiosks placed at the soccer fields so those who are here enjoying tournaments from out of town can see that we have more to offer. I believe tourism is important to our city if handled properly. But not at the expense of our residents. If you get right down to it, the condition of our streets and infrastructure has a direct affect on our abiltiy to convince people to visit. Once again the basics are ignored and the residents suffer because of lower tax revenues.

In regards to the Convention Center which was supposed to bring millions of dollars to our City with conventioneers spending at our hotels, restaurants, and other shops, well, it leaves a lot to be desired. It has been filled with gun and knife shows, craft fairs, bridal fairs and just recently it is being touted and advertised for wedding receptions. If not corrected it will be a big drain on our taxpayers.

The Mayor said, “I feel my opponent is truly a Johnny come lately when it comes to economic development.”

JOHN GIESEKE: Saying that spending your money to build a convention center is economic development is a little misguided. The private sector is who we should be depending to grow our economy. We wouldn’t have to build these buildings if the City would get back to basics and invest in our infrastructure. 

If being a Johnny come lately means getting over $1.3 billion in investment in my ward then I proudly say I’m a Johnny come lately.

The Mayor said, “I have been in the trenches for 8 years leading the growth by leaps and bounds while John has just recently started talking about economic development.”

JOHN GIESEKE: If we have been growing by leaps and bounds then why hasn’t the sales tax income to the city grown? Last year the city council had to adjust the budget in midyear to make up for poor sales tax results. That’s not growing by leaps and bounds. 

The Mayor said, “I know what it is to be the mayor. It’s commitment, it takes hard work but most importantly it takes sound decision-making. I stand by the tough decisions I have made in the past. We cannot afford to have a mayor who buys decorative stop signs rather than investing in our streets such as Elm Street. We cannot afford to have a mayor who gives away discretionary money to a private business rather than ensuring that our police are properly funded, that our streets are sound, that our parks are beautiful.

I am running for reelection because I am the best person for this job. I have a proven track record of lowering your taxes, increasing economic development and making those sound decisions that have made our city to live, work, and raise a family.

JOHN GIESEKE: I find her comment amusing. I voted against dividing the money 11 ways and somehow now spending that money on something the average resident wanted in their neighborhood it is wrong. The decorative signs are something the residents wanted. These signs cost about $4,000. Compare that to the Mayors plan to spend over a million dollars to make the overpass on Interstate 70 at Highway 94 look good for the people passing through. I think the taxpayers would agree they would rather see their tax dollars spent in the city neighborhoods and not on trying to impress the drivers passing through on Interstate 70. As far as paying a private company, that money was for a fuel surcharge for trash service. If we had not paid this, residents would be paying much more with the next contract for trash hauling. The city could pay the surcharge or the residents would have to pay more for trash. It wasn’t a difficult choice to make. 

When the new Mayor takes office in April we will have a much different form of government. The residents voted to have a strong Mayor form of government. This is much different from what we now have. My education, business background and experience makes me more qualified to lead St. Charles as it’s mayor. My business experience offers far more value to the taxpayers. 
The mayor has had eight years to present a budget that focused on the residents, it hasn’t happened. As far as her saying she lowered taxes that was a roll back based off the property values increasing and the state Hancock Amendment requiring the reduction. I was the first to get a lower utility tax for every household. I took Councilman Hoepfner’s senior tax relief proposal and made it a reality. 
I am not going to say just anything to get elected. This election is about what the residents want from their city. Do they want a city that puts their interests behind every special interest, or one that puts the residents first? 
I appreciate you calling to ask me about some of the issues that were brought up in the debate. It would have taken a lot more time that we were given in the debate to really set the record straight. I refuse to say just anything to get elected. When I make a promise I keep it.