Jake Wyatt’s call for informal, open house-formatted “meet-and-greets” between the mayor and residents was applauded Tuesday by one of his opponents in the St. Charles mayoral race, but both he and another said the suggestion either resembles their own policies or campaign proposals.
Wyatt issued his call for monthly resident forums on Monday, pointing to the complaints being expressed that the City Council ignored residents’ voices when it approved the controversial Lexington Club development earlier this month.
Third Ward Alderman Raymond Rogina, who earlier had called for greater advance public notice to residents of upcoming council votes on controversial developments, on Tuesday commended Wyatt’s proposal, saying it reflects his own policy as alderman, one he intends to continue as mayor.
“I applaud Col. Wyatt for suggesting a more transparent process, particularly as it relates to any policy or proposal where residents are directly affected,” Rogina said. He added that Wyatt’s call for “monthly (or as needed) open forums” reflects Rogina’s own policy, in his mayoral campaign and during his time as alderman, which is “based … upon the idea of open dialogue with citizens on a regular basis.
Mayoral candidate John Rabchuk, who has taken criticism for his support of the Lexington Club development, pointed to his own announcement in early January of the launch of his campaign website and his plans for a monthly Breakfast with the Mayor at restaurants around the city.
“My plan is to request the heads of various city departments join me on some type of rotating basis so that we can best address specific questions that may arise,” Rabchuk wrote in an email Tuesday. “Regularly scheduled mayoral forums that are open to the public have been utilized by previous mayors, such as Fred Norris, to encourage community dialogue.”
In his release in early January, Rabchuk said he is committed to keeping lines of communications with residents and businesses open as he announced he would begin his Breakfasts with the Mayor-to-Be in late January. He said then he intends to continue the practice if he is elected.
Mayoral contender Jotham Stein praised Wyatt proposal, but he said it is complete, failing to address the city’s other critical needs, such as economic development.
“Anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy talking with people about lots of things, including their
concerns and desires, and thus, I believe Col. Wyatt's suggestion is good one,” said Stein. “The only way city leaders can learn from residents is by meeting them and asking them about their concerns and thoughts.”
Rogina’s praise was similar, pointing out that as a seated alderman, he already makes himself accessible to residents.
“As mayor, with limited outside responsibilities as a college instructor, I will always be available to individuals or groups as needed,” Rogina said. “The view that a few vocal citizens are insignificant to any process is simply not good policy. The tone of government makes a difference in how people view and trust elected officials.”
Further, Rogina said, the role of an active alderman is crucial to transparent open government. “He or she is generally the person who initially dialogues about a major issue within the ward and in conjunction with the mayor and staff ensures that the citizenry is being heard,” he said.
“... Mr. Wyatt's proposal is incomplete because it does nothing to focus on many critical issues our City faces — including the critical need to recruit new businesses to our city,” Stein said. “From Charlestown Mall in the east to downtown to the old St. Charles Mall in the west, many of our storefronts, manufacturing facilities and office complexes are empty. Business tax revenue is the largest revenue source for our city.
“The more businesses we attract to St. Charles, the more jobs we will create, and since businesses
pay taxes, the lower the taxes we residents will have to pay,” Stein continued.
“As mayor, of course I will welcome everyone's comments and meet with every resident who wants to express an opinion,” Stein said. “Unlike the other candidates, it's always easy to find me — my business is on Third Street and my name is on a sign you can't miss.”
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