Name: Robert B. “Bob” White
Immediate family members: Wife, Marian A. White
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Office seeking: Alderman, Ward 6
Occupation: Retired US Air Force & Lewis & Clark Community College
Previous and current elected offices and terms served: Alderman Ward 6 2013 - present
Why are you running? I am running because I have a sincere interest in Belleville governance and working on behalf of Ward 6 constituents. That is what I have done for the past nearly four years. My initial interest in representation derived from recognition that the mayoral and council decisions were not transparent and council minutes were not available for interested citizens. I video recorded council meetings and posted them on YouTube for two years before my election to foster transparency. Most recently, I, among others, strongly advocated for revised city ordinances to be placed online. This action is forthcoming. Additionally, I am running for a second term because of the satisfaction I derived from serving the past few years. The rewards may be limited at times but when you can help an individual or family with a problem, that is the reward of the work. Belleville citizens deserve to be represented by someone who sees himself/herself as an advocate. It may be as simple as providing contact information for a city representative or service, or be more complex. Representation of constituent concerns and ideas is my honor.
What is the most important issue facing the city of Belleville? How would you approach it? I believe the most important issue facing Belleville is citizen and property safety. Without these, a community deteriorates and growth is impeded. Because safety is addressed below, I am addressing the second highest priority I have heard from Ward 6 constituents – infrastructure deterioration. Our streets and sidewalks are in desperate need of attention. While it is beneficial to have a significantly improved downtown cityscape, it is equally important to maintain and upgrade neighborhood infrastructure. When you drive down our streets, you see a tremendous number of potholes which can cause vehicle damage and resultant avoidable repair costs. Some streets and sidewalks have so many holes, they pose a real threat to pedestrian and biker safety. Many homeowners have remodeled their homes and increased their property value. Unsightly deteriorated sidewalks and streets detract from a home’s appeal. Improving the infrastructure will vastly improve the neighborhood’s appearance which will foster greater community pride and property values. We must make the repair and replacement of our rapidly deteriorating streets and sidewalks a city priority.
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. As relates to the 0.25 percent sales tax expiration, I am in favor of the expiration. The tax was introduced to address the monies lost by the revocation of the wheel tax. At the time of the vote, I, among others, advocated for this money to be earmarked for the police department. This idea was rejected. We live in a city with one of the highest county and state tax burdens in the nation. If either or both of the 1 percent sales tax passes, these initiatives would raise our tax burden to over 10 percent. We would be placing an even greater burden on those citizens who are living paycheck to paycheck. Government at all levels must take initiatives to reduce spending and balance budgets without additional taxes. How can our citizens be asked to bear the burden of additional taxes when MidAmerica Airport is hemorrhaging millions of dollars annually and the director receives bonuses for doing his job - adding air traffic? Because the two 1 percent tax referendums are very controversial, I believe it is appropriate to place them on the ballot to establish the will of the taxpayers. I will not be supporting either of these tax increases.
In recent years, the city has granted various tax incentives to businesses. Explain whether you would support or oppose tax incentives for businesses. My support or opposition to tax incentives is based on the specific situation. Incentives must be judiciously scrutinized. There must be a clear return on the city’s investment. When granting sales tax rebates, repayment to the city by the business should be assured through an agreement. If terms are not met, it must reimburse the city (actually the taxpayers) for the difference between tax rebates used and city taxes collected. I sent a proposal to the Economic Development, Planning and Zoning Department Director explaining my perspective that a “Tax revenue, whether previously collected or collected in the future belongs to the citizens of Belleville. It is not a possession of the city or the council that can be given away without remedy for repayment.” Additionally, Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a tool that can easily be misused. When not used properly, TIF can have a very negative effect on the city’s general fund. For example, the city relies on funds from TIF 3 for projects outside the area of the TIF. Property values are frozen for those properties and the city receives money that should be going into the general fund but is diverted to TIF. Instead of using the TIF money for infrastructure improvement, the money is diverted and needed repairs are not made in the contributing TIF district. On the contrary, the Shrine TIF project did not have a negative effect because the city was not receiving any tax money from that undeveloped area
What actions would you take to fight crime in Belleville? Explain whether you think the city can afford to hire more police officers. I believe the primary actions required to fight crime in Belleville include: (1) reassessment of how the current force is deployed. The question is Can the current force be used any differently to provide better coverage? (2) more visible patrol around higher crime areas; (3) increased citizen involvement; (4) The city should also take actions to strengthen Crime-Free Housing laws and enforcement. Residents must partner with the police by observing and reporting criminal activity. There is strength in numbers. Citizens should consider joining a neighborhood watch or homeowners association, where available. Every citizen should take note of normal and abnormal activities and report those that are suspicious. I believe the city needs to set priorities to reflect our citizens’ concerns. If the reassessment of the Belleville Police Department reveals a need for more officers, I believe the city will provide the resources needed to protect our citizens. Resources are scarce but we have managed to renovate City Hall and provide a new Police Department building. I’m sure that, with some scrutiny, we can find the funds to protect our citizens. I will do everything possible to ensure the safety of all residents and visitors to our city.
Why should people vote for you? People should vote for me because I have worked hard to earn the confidence of Ward 6 constituents who have contacted me for help. Examples of concerns brought to me include neighborhood crime concerns, traffic safety issues, street repair matters and housing occupancy permit questions, to name a few. I have financial planning, management and supervision experience. I served on the Planning Committee to select a developer to invest in the “Meredith Home” located at the Belleville square. This action will save the city maintenance and demolition money as well as return the building to the tax rolls. I am truly an independent alderman candidate. By this I mean I am not partisan – I am objective and do my own research on issues brought before the City Council. I am not voting with or against anyone; I am voting for what I believe is best for constituents. I also attend committee meetings of which I am not a member to ensure I am informed and prepared to make a knowledgeable vote on council agenda items. Also, I can honestly say that I have read every word of the voluminous city ordinances and submitted change recommendations. I’m not sure all alderman can make that claim. I promise honest, responsive representation for all citizens.