"What do you consider the top three issues facing Naperville right now?" That was one of the questions asked of City Council candidates during an interview a few months ago.
Planning for Future Development
I’ve talked quite a bit about planning for the future of Naperville and how we'll need to include continued work on commercial, retail, and residential development. In addition, I think we’ll have to tackle some of the changes that are coming to the American economy that will affect Naperville as well as the rest of the country. I'm thinking particularly about the changing nature of shopping patterns, internet sales and the sales tax question and how this will affect our brick and mortar stores which are already at a disadvantage.
I’m a supporter of the streamlined sales tax and would continue to work for that through our city’s lobbying as well as that of the our lobbying bodies, including the DuPage Mayors and Managers’ Conference, where I am on the Legislative Committee.
We have also seen that suburban corporate campuses will have to adapt to the 21st Century, especially in an era when corporations are moving to cities like Chicago as part of their downsizing and streamlining. It takes constant effort on the part of groups like the Naperville Development Partnership, where I am on the board, to attract these corporations and it takes organizations like the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce to nourish them.
Keeping Our Community Safe
Naperville is a remarkably safe city, and we work hard to maintain that status. Our police and fire departments put constant effort into keeping up with best practices around the country. This includes establishing a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) that can de-escalate dangerous situations that might involve people who are mentally ill and who threaten to harm themselves or others such as family members or co-workers.
Our 2016 Community Satisfaction Survey shows that 94% of our residents are happy with the way the city is being run and surely safety is a major factor in that assessment. Maintaining the work that keep us a safe city is crucial to the reputation we currently enjoy. Supporting efforts like the CIT and encouraging other innovations like those, is something I always encourage.
Fighting and Treating Drug Abuse
Related to our safety is the issue of alcohol, drug, and tobacco use among our youth. I’m a member of the Community Alliance for Prevention, an outgrowth of 360 Youth Services
, which includes representatives from the school districts, social service agencies, non-profit organizations, police department, and health providers.
The Power of Choice has been collecting data since 2003 and it actually shows that our middle school and high school students in Districts 203 and 204 have falling rates of alcohol, prescription drug, and heroin use. Even though we worry tremendously about heroin and other opioids and it was a shock several years ago to realize how cheap and available heroin is, the truth is that the vast majority of our students are not using drugs. The numbers of people who have overdosed and died from heroin has doubled, but it went from 4 people to 8, a terrible thing, but fortunately a small number.
What we need to realize that those who are using heroin or overdosing on prescription drugs are frequently older, sometimes much older. When the police department and schools realized heroin was becoming an issue, the city council almost immediately added $50,000 to our social service spending to get our non-profits working on prevention of drug use and on suicide prevention. Those efforts have continued, and I will continue to look for ways to help not just our youth but our older residents who become addicted to drugs.