Name: Mary Stiehl
Immediate family members: Husband: Bill Stiehl Jr.; daughters, Katie Frauenfelder and Chrissy Austin
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Office seeking: Sixth Ward alderman
Previous and current elected offices and terms served: None
Why are you running? I am running for alderman from the 6th Ward because I want to see the city of Belleville, where I grew up and where we have raised our family, prosper. It is vital to the growth and prosperity of the city that it be safe, that its infrastructure be maintained, that it be attractive to businesses and that it be operated in a fiscally responsible manner. I also want to raise the level of discourse in government. I want to see people debate the issues without name-calling and rancor. I want to see a city government that is responsive to its people and that spends money wisely, and that ensures that Belleville is a place where people want to live and work.
What is the most important issue facing the City of Belleville? How would you approach it? In my opinion there are two critical issues facing the City of Belleville and they are equally important. Safety is critical, because unless the people of Belleville feel safe, businesses will not locate or open here and people will not want to live here. We must maintain the police and fire departments at a level that ensures the safety of our citizens. I would work to find ways to adequately fund the police and fire departments and make sure that we have sufficient resources to hire enough police officers and firefighters. We also need to ensure that we offer competitive salaries so that we can retain good officers and firefighters. Equally important is economic development. We have seen what happens to cities that do not compete for business. Without economic development, the tax base erodes and it becomes impossible to adequately fund necessary city services. I would work with the city administration and local businesses to recruit new business, whether they be start-ups or existing businesses.
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. I support the extension of the .25 percent sales tax. The tax has been used to fund the hiring of police officers and there is nothing more important than the safety of our community. The tax is particularly necessary because of the unreliability of funding from the state of Illinois. I support the 1 percent sales tax to be used to fund capital projects for schools. Years of mismanagement at the state level have left Illinois without a budget and unable or unwilling to adequately fund education. We cannot allow our schools to deteriorate. The funds generated from the tax can only be used for school construction or improvement; they cannot be used to pay salaries of administrators or teachers, or to hire staff. I support the 1 percent sales tax for St. Clair County. The tax would not apply to groceries, medications, or motor vehicles. I would not support the sales tax if it were to be used to fund Mid-America Airport or other county departments. However, the funds generated from the tax can only be used for public safety. The tax will provide money for the sheriff to hire additional deputies to improve response time and to improve safety in the county.
In recent years, the city has granted various tax incentives to businesses. Explain whether you would support or oppose tax incentives for businesses. I would not support the use of tax increment financing to give tax breaks to the Wal-Marts of the world who often move from one community to the next, or within the same community, generating very few new jobs, and leaving behind empty structures which become depreciating assets. They can afford to build stores without taxpayer assistance. I do support the smart, limited use of tax incentives. The expansion of the 4204 Main Street Brewing Co., and the planned expansion of The EDGE, represent, in my opinion, the appropriate use of tax incentives. These are local businesses which will expand, creating more jobs, sales tax revenue and property tax revenue for the city.
What actions would you take to fight crime in Belleville? Explain whether you think the city can afford to hire more police officers. We must adequately fund our police department so that there is a sufficient number of police officers on the street. We must pay police officers a competitive wage so that we can recruit and keep the best officers. If more police officers are needed, we must find the funds to hire them. We must encourage neighborhood associations and watch groups to partner with the police and other city agencies. Neighborhoods have much to learn from law enforcement, but law enforcement has much to learn from the people who live in our neighborhoods. As an alderman, I would facilitate communication between the police and community associations. We must also enforce the crime free housing ordinance, which I believe is a useful tool in reducing crime.
Why should people vote for you? I grew up in Belleville and my husband and I have raised our family in Belleville. I know Belleville, and I know its strengths and weaknesses. I have volunteered my time in many ways over many years, including as a trustee on the Belleville Library Board of Trustees, as a member of the St. Clair County Board of Health (both of which I served as president of the Board), and Art on the Square. If I am fortunate enough to be elected alderman, I will work tirelessly to make sure that the taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely, that the citizens of Belleville are safe, and that Belleville is a place where people want to live and work. I will work with other aldermen and city officials to find ways to recruit entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, and to facilitate the expansion of existing businesses. I firmly believe that city officials have a duty to solicit the views of their constituents. I promise that if I am elected alderman, I will listen to and learn from the people who live in Ward 6, and I will be an effective advocate for them on the Belleville City Council.