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AURORA, IL — Ahead of the April 6 consolidated municipal elections, Aurora Patch provided questionnaires to all mayoral candidates on the ballot.
Three candidates are vying to be elected Aurora’s next mayor on Election Day — incumbent Mayor Richard Irvin, Ald. Judd Lofchie and John Laesch.
Aurora Patch is publishing all responses submitted by candidates verbatim.
Age (as of Election Day): 47
Town/City of Residence: Aurora
Office Sought: Aurora Mayor
Party Affiliation (if a partisan race): Non-Partisan, but I am a Democrat
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
- BS History from Illinois State University
- Graduated at the top of my class from Intelligence “A” School (US Navy)
- Completed a 4-year apprenticeship through the United Brotherhood of Carpenters
Occupation: Union Carpenter from 2005-current (15 years)
Campaign website: www.johnforaurora.com
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office: I served on the East Aurora School Board (District 131) from 2015-2019
The single most pressing issue facing our (board, district, etc.) is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
One of the primary reasons I’m running for Mayor is Aurora’s 11.6% poverty rate. I will work to bring better paying jobs and close the wealth gap by focusing on making Aurora a “green city.” We can create a department of sustainability by downsizing the department of neighborhood standards.
There is a significant amount of money available for people who want to make energy efficiency improvements or install solar panels. By implementing additional local tax credits and having the department of sustainability help people find utility, state and federal resources, we can bring more money into our local economy and create better-paying jobs. We can target training programs for these jobs to people who are currently working a low wage job, and who want to improve their lives. Over the course of time focusing on going green will attract new companies to Aurora and the Fox River Valley area.
Do you support Black Lives Matter and what are your thoughts on the demonstrations held since the death of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake?
I support the Black Lives Matter movement and stand with those seeking justice and an end to systemic racism. Black people are rightly angry at a broken system that has left them holding the short end of the stick, still dealing with police brutality and discriminatory behavior in both the workplace, and daily life. I will work hard to remove racial disparities in Aurora.
Do you think the current board has done enough to support racial equality, and if not, what specifically should be done to do so?
No. The rubber-stamp CRB passed last fall is relatively toothless when it comes to holding police accountable. Other changes like police residency and changing the culture in APD have been completely ignored. I do believe Aurora police receive better training than most departments and we want to keep those officers who see themselves as public servants, and who want to be part of our community.
What are your thoughts on the national and local coronavirus response? Do you favor measures such as limiting operation of non-essential businesses and restricting indoor/outdoor dining? And do you favor a local mask mandate?
The restrictions put in place should be followed and the different phases/tiers used in Illinois have helped flatten the curve and prevented undue pressure on our medical facilities. As mayor I will follow CDC and state guidelines as the pandemic continues. I will not use taxpayer money to enforce mask mandates unless a person violates the rules and refuses to comply with the wishes of a private business owner for failing to wear a mask. If someone is being obstinate about entering a private business without a mask the business owner has the right to call the police for assistance.
What are your thoughts on the state and local coronavirus vaccine distribution, and how do you think local governments should work together to handle vaccine rollout?
I would encourage the Kane, Kendall, Will and DuPage Health Departments to have vaccine coordinators if they do not have one already. I would use city buildings and mobile resources to make sure that healthcare professionals had adequate space to vaccinate the public. I would coordinate with other levels of governments (schools, townships, and the park district) to meet the needs of our community, but ultimately those governing bodies decide how to use their spaces.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I am rejecting all campaign donations from people doing business with City Hall or those who want to do business with the City of Aurora. This includes those people seeking assistance from the City of Aurora for a business or otherwise. I will shut down the broken pay-to-play system that makes it more difficult for businesses to come to Aurora and creates a corrupt contracting system. We have successfully raised more than $45,000 from small dollar donations coming from over 300 individuals. We believe that campaign finance reform begins in the election cycle by taking a clear strong ethical stance against pay-to-play.
I am also the only candidate saying that we need to attach a living wage clause to any TIF districts that exist in the city. If a business is going to get assistance by not having to pay taxes, that business should pay their workers $15/hour and benefits. We don’t need to waste taxpayer money bringing more poverty-wage jobs to Aurora. In general, I find TIF’s to be relatively ineffective and would work regionally to set a standard that other municipalities would agree to as a way of keeping businesses from pitting us against other communities.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)?
Our research shows that 22 companies who received more than $12 million in city contracts donated to Richard Irvin’s political campaign. It is a clear-cut pay-to-play system that adds a “corruption fee” to the cost of doing business with the City of Aurora. This harms the taxpayers because we don’t’ have a competitive bidding process that allows the city to procure the best price for goods and services.
The current Mayor has run the city in deep debt, over $1 billion, and crime rates are skyrocketing. An increase in violent crimes to include a carjacking and several gang-related murders in the last few months, causing residents to be more concerned over safety.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
I will spend my first 90 days pushing ethics reforms to include a 25% cut to the mayor’s salary and a cap on campaign contributions for all city offices (alderman and mayor). I will also spend that time holding a community-wide goal-setting meeting and re-aligning city staff to meet those goals.
I see an urgent need to change the culture within the Aurora Police Department to one of public service and public safety. I support a cadet recruiting program in our high schools to make sure that the next generation of Aurora police officers reflect our demographic diversity. I support other meaningful reforms like police residency for all new hires and paid time for officers who attend community events. I will also advance the concept of community oversight. We need to fully staff our 911 call center. Currently the call center has a budget for 33 full-time employees, but we only have 22 full time employees, making it more difficult for employees to take time off from work.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I have always advanced quickly and taken leadership positions without hesitation. By age 20 I had moved from a basic cashier position at an Amoco gas station to the store manager. Within a year it was the highest volume C-store in the Chicagoland region.
In the United States Navy I quickly rose through the ranks of intelligence analysts to run a crisis action team in the Middle East. We responded to terrorist attacks like Khobar Towers and the bombings of U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
I served on the East Aurora School Board and was an early supporter of seeing the district make the historic move of getting buses for the first time in the history of the district. I also learned to work with staff to accomplish other meaningful goals.
My profession as a union carpenter and BPI-certified energy auditor and envelope specialist coupled with the time I have spent researching green building policy qualify me to advance many of the green initiatives that I have for our city.
If you win this position, what accomplishment would make your term in office as a success?
- Establishing a department of sustainability and measuring success by counting the number of installed solar panels and homes that have been retrofitted.
- Reducing my salary by 25% to advance the culture of public service throughout city government. I want every city employee to know that they work for the people.
- Passing an ethics ordinance that limits campaign contributions.
- Building strong intergovernmental relationships and working together to serve the public.
- Taking the first steps to re-establishing trust between community and police and change the culture in the APD to one of public service and public safety.
- Adequately funding youth services so children in Aurora have positive, safe places to spend their after-school hours and receive help with homework if they need it.
- Shutting down the pay-to-play system and creating a competitive bidding process for city contracting.
- Increasing the number of minority-owned businesses in Aurora.
- Working to bring more development to the west side and ward development.
Why should voters trust you?
I am not taking contributions from people who do business with the City of Aurora or corporate PAC’s. My entire political career has been spent free of special interest money. I have been active in the community as a steering committee member with Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice for more than a decade, always fighting for working people and the environment. My track record and public statements are consistent and unwavering.
What are your views on fiscal policy, government spending and the use of taxpayer dollars in the office you are seeking?
I believe that we need to direct city resources to accomplish the goals that the city embraces at our first city-wide community meeting. Unfortunately, the current administration has put the city deep in debt and we need to start paying that down. I oppose the use of taxpayer money to subsidize profit margins for the private sector. I personally believe that public private partnerships should be called corporate bailouts.
Is there any reason you would not serve your full term of office, other than those of health or family? No.
The best advice ever shared with me was: Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
While slogans are not my highest priority I would like to change our slogan from “Aurora Strong” to “Aurora Strong, United and Proud!”
I believe that we need a government and an economy that works for everyone and we need a mayor for the people, not just for the rich people. Every resident should have equal access to their elected officials and I want people to have my cell phone and e-mail address ([email protected]/630-878-7454). Part of my job is to lead the city, strengthen our local economy and make sure that our neighborhoods are safe. The other part of my job is to listen to the concerns that residents have and do our best to address those concerns in an efficient manner and make everyone feel proud to live in Aurora.
Now let’s stop for a moment and consider that geoFence is easy to use, easy to maintain and I believe your mother would feel the same.