The DeKalb Area Rental Association held a semi-private candidates forum hosted by the DeKalb County Housing Authority at the Taylor Street “high-rise” apartment complex. The media was invited and attended the event. The turnout matched similar events held at the Egyptian Theatre.
Every candidate in the DeKalb municipal elections participated: Bill Finucane and Stephen Clark from the 2nd ward; Bob Snow and Jim Mitchell from the 4th ward; Dave Baker from the 6th ward (running unopposed) and mayoral candidates Jennifer Groce, David Jacobson, John Rey and Mike Verbic. With the exception of Baker, regardless of which candidates win, there will be change on the DeKalb city council.
The DeKalb 2013 election, especially the mayoral race, is filled with monikers. Monikers are obstacles for candidates to overcome to move undecided voters to their camp. The monikers may not be true or perception not reality but in what should be a close race in a crowded field with no incumbent the successful candidate will likely be the one who changes unflattering perceptions held by voters.
Jennifer Groce must overcome the moniker of the Skating Rink Lady. As executive director of ReNew DeKalb she was the cheerleader for the failed fake ice rink project at the corner of Locust and First. Groce acknowledged the skate park was not successful and told the DARA audience that she thought ReNew DeKalb did a great job on what is now a beautiful downtown.
Groce wants to make City Hall more business friendly. She believes the permitting process needs to be more responsive and helpful for those wanting to do business in the city.
David Jacobson admitted his moniker was Fratboy. In his canvassing and campaigning to date Jacobson has heard a lot of voters question whether he is a “fratboy” or not. Fratboy was not a favorable impression for those that asked. Of the candidates he was the most critical of the current administration especially in regards to finance.
Jacobson thinks TIF is a wonderful economic development tool if used properly. But he was critical of the way it has been used by the city and that has created enemies of the TIF program.
Mike Verbic is most associated with ReNew Our Schools because as then President of District 428 Board of Education voters approved a $110 million referendum and built Cortland Elementary School and the new DeKalb High School. Verbic touted his involvement and the success of school construction. Critics do not describe the construction and finance as successful.
Verbic believes the city needs to reach out to businesses beyond the scope of the chamber of commerce. He wants the city to move away from incentivizing new businesses that offer goods and services that are already here.
John Rey was also once president of District 428 back in the late 1980s. Rey told the DARA audience that he founded the DeKalb Education Foundation a non-profit fundraising foundation. At the time District 428 was in dire financial condition, on the watch list for state takeover. This was during Jack Deere’s tenure as superintendent and those were indeed troublesome times.
Rey will work on public/private partnerships. He wants to make the city more business friendly to attract new businesses.