Name: Trenton Aaron Galetti
Immediate family members: Sons, Chance, 5, and Rhys, 3
Office seeking: Ward 7 alderman
Occupation: Staff counsel, Dentons US LLP
Previous and current elected offices and terms served: Incumbent Ward 7 alderman, Belleville 2013 to present
Why are you running? I am running for re-election because I feel there is a lot more work to do to take Belleville to where it needs to be. Since I was elected in 2013, I think great progress has been made in terms of business development and infrastructure in certain areas of the city that benefit from TIF money. I believe the focus for the next administration needs to be putting together a long-term plan to address our city’s crumbling streets, sidewalks and infrastructure outside the TIF districts.
What is the most important issue facing the city of Belleville? How would you approach it? I would say crime is the most important issue the city is facing, but a close second is infrastructure. I think both issues require a more proactive city approach as well as a more proactive citizenry. I don’t believe paying whatever taxes we pay that fund government functions then sitting back and complaining that not enough is being done is helpful nor is it the answer. On the police end, I think more aggressive patrolling of problem areas of the city would be a good start. In addition, having intermittent shows of force teaming up with other state and county law enforcement agencies like what occurred on the east side of town a few years ago should happen more often. From an administrative perspective, strict code enforcement of problem and vacant properties as well as follow through in the courts should continue with more vigor. In addition, more neighborhood watch programs in all areas should be established by concerned citizens. As far as infrastructure is concerned, much needed repairs outside TIF districts create a unique problem for a state that is completely broke and a city whose general fund is almost entirely consumed by the payroll of city employees. Application for all local, state and federal funds should continue. The state also has a program whereby it will pay for half the improvements to local roads, curbs and sidewalks if the residents pay the other half. In areas where possible, I think residents should pool their resources together and take advantage of this. I realize it’s not the most popular idea, especially when we already sustain a heavy tax burden, but our state government has totally failed us so at some point if we want to have nice neighborhoods we can be proud of, we are going to need to take matters into our own hands.
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 would oppose all the proposed tax increases and the continuation of the .25 percent sales tax. Belleville has some of the highest sales taxes in the metro-east. The .25 percent sales tax was sold as a measure to build up the city’s reserves when the state of Illinois was not reimbursing the city for its portion of the sales taxes. The state is now regularly reimbursing the city. We were also told that the money would be used to hire more police officers as crime was as big of an issue in that election year as it is this one. It’s my understanding that the city may have one more full time police officer now than it did in 2013. This is typical of how all government works. Once these taxes are implemented, they are virtually impossible to get rid of despite the addition of toothless “sunset” clauses. Furthermore, the taxes hurt the citizens of Belleville the most because we are the ones paying most of it. If someone living in a neighboring town needs to go shopping, it makes little sense that they would come to our city and pay 9.1 percent when they could go to O’Fallon and pay under 8 percent. We may be talking about just nickels and dimes on most occasions, but it adds up. As for the county referendums I will be a “no” vote on each. This county has some of the highest property taxes in the area and they just went up again this past year. Houses nationwide are not getting more valuable, so how does the county justify higher assessments when the properties they are assessing are losing value or at best maintaining their current value. So if the county is now collecting more property taxes, what is the reasoning behind the sales tax increases? How about addressing the larger issue that being the super massive black hole money pit that is MidAmerica Airport?
In recent years, the city has granted various tax incentives to businesses. Explain whether you would support or oppose tax incentives for businesses. I am completely in support of tax incentives for the development of businesses in the city. The tax incentives currently provided really aren’t that significant. We provide sales tax reimbursement on building materials if those materials are purchased in Belleville, some percentage of property tax abatement for typically three to five years and façade improvements through TIF dollars. The city usually incentivizes approximately 4 percent to 8 percent of a project on the average. This to me is completely reasonable. Detractors say that the city picks winners and losers with the taxpayer’s money. I disagree. These incentives allow the prospective business developers to keep more of their OWN money to develop their business rather than having that money essentially stolen from them through the taxation process. When businesses start up, they need every cent of capital upfront to get the business off the ground, allowing them these incentives up front pays off when you start seeing the businesses generating sales taxes and hiring employees who pay income taxes on the back end.
What actions would you take to fight crime in Belleville? Explain whether you think the city can afford to hire more police officers. I would like to see more aggressive patrolling in the higher crime areas of the city. More frequent showing of force through collaboration with the county and the state would be another tactic that I believe would put people with warrants and other criminals on notice of Belleville’s commitment to heightened law enforcement. I’d also like to see stricter code enforcement for derelict and empty properties which I know is in the works. As I stated earlier, we were supposed to see more officers on the street with the advent of the .25 percent sales tax and in my opinion that just hasn’t happened. We have a fantastic police department and dedicated full-time code enforcement employees, but they do need more help. Now we have brand new state of the art police station that was much needed, but also very costly. In addition, City Hall is being completely renovated. Absent state or federal grants, I see it very difficult right now to find the money necessary to hire the amount of officers we need to make a noticeable difference.
Why should people vote for you? The voters of Ward 7 should vote for me because I have a proven record of dedication to their best interests in representing them on the City Council. For the first two years of my term, I was the only alderman in Ward 7 with a very sick child and fielded all calls and emails from constituents with their problems and concerns with no complaints. I have four years now of experience understanding how the city functions and am way better suited than my opponent who “woke up one day” and decided he wanted to be an alderman. This is precisely the type of knee-jerk decision making that is bad for government. I encourage the constituents of Ward 7 to go to my Ward 7 Alderman Facebook page and watch the short debate between myself and Mr. Weygandt. I think after viewing the debate there can be little doubt who is more qualified for the position.