Name: Michael Hagberg
Office seeking: Alderman Ward 5
Occupation: Computer programmer
Previous and current elected offices and terms served: Belleville Township Trustee - partial term
Why are you running? I enjoy local politics and have been attending City Council and committee meetings for the past few years. I understand the issues of Ward 5 and would like to bring these to the committee and council meetings.
What is the most important issue facing the city of Belleville? How would you approach it? Within the past 10 years the city has accrued debt in the multimillions of dollars for public projects and multimillions for the sewer expansion. Whereas the sewer rate increase of 8 percent year over year is going to cover a portion of the IEPA debt. The city also has a lot of debt that was used for street and public building improvements. I feel at some point in the near future we will be using all available funds to repay debt for old projects. At this point, no new projects can be funded without waiting until this debt is repaid or seriously increasing in tax revenue.
In 2013, the Belleville City Council approved a 0.25 percent sales tax increase that is set to expire this year. Explain whether you support or oppose the continuation of this tax and whether you support either or both of the 1 percent sales tax referendums on the April ballot in St. Clair County. This question cannot be answered until the aldermen (and public) become part of the budgeting process. We need to understand where the $1.2 million is being allocated. If at all possible I would like to see this tax eliminated at the end of this year. All to often the taxpayers have duped by promises that a new tax will replace an old tax. Many years ago we were told that allowing the state lottery was going to fund the schools and prevent increases in property taxes. Now we’re asked to believe that an additional 1 percent sales tax will fund school improvements and lower our property taxes. I personally will oppose this increase in sales tax, but should the tax be adopted, I would insist that an open accounting of funds be made available to the public. In March 2014, voters declined to support a tax that would have brought in $140 million over 25 years. I feel one of the major reasons was the lack of information about how that tax would be allocated. Using the same projection, this proposed 1 percent tax will bring in an estimated $260 million over 12 years. And still there is no information being presented as to exactly how this tax revenue will be spent and distributed to the local municipalities. I cannot support increasing the local sales tax without a specific plan for the additional revenue.
In recent years, the city has granted various tax incentives to businesses. Explain whether you would support or oppose tax incentives for businesses. Past incentives were typically between 5 percent and 7 percent of the project cost. Many of these incentives were less than $100,000 per project. The two shopping center projects on West Main were offered incentives of 50 percent and 100 percent of the project costs. Recently the council agreed to the largest ever incentive of $38 million to fast track the Shrine project. This is an estimated 38 percent incentive. Although I would review each project on its individual merit, I would like to see the incentive percentages reduced back to the 5 percent to 7 percent range. I would also like to see TIF incentives used to assist revitalizing the downtown and mid-town building stock.
What actions would you take to fight crime in Belleville? Explain whether you think the city can afford to hire more police officers. By utilize existing officers to “power patrol” problem areas we can address the root problems to many other crimes. Parking an officer in the neighborhood of a known drug house will prevent customers from making drug purchases. The dealer will eventually have to move to another town. Eliminating the drug dealers will eliminate the customers that are responsible for some of the home burglaries. Without changes in the city’s current spending patterns there aren’t available funds to hire additional officers.
Why should people vote for you? I have pride in our city. I have the time to devote to staying informed about the operation of the city and city projects. I have time to answer questions and assist residents in resolving issues in their neighborhoods.