What you need to know about the April 2019 election
Name: Michael J. Buettner
Occupation: Retired director 20th Judicial Circuit Court Services and Probation Department
Position seeking: Belleville Alderman Ward 2
Campaign website: Facebook only
Why are you running and why should people vote for you? I am running for re-election because over the last four years as Alderman in Ward 2 I truly enjoyed serving and helping the residents solve problems and issues in their neighborhoods. I have always tried to be available to address any concerns the residents brought to my attention. If re-elected I will continue to represent all the residents of Ward 2. People should vote for me as I am the only candidate in the Ward 2 Alderman race who is truly independent and not backed, influenced or controlled by political bosses.
What is the most important issue facing your town? How would you approach it? The most important issue facing the city is lack of leadership from the administration at City Hall. Although positive things are happening within the city several serious issues continue to go unaddressed. These issues include the loss of population, deteriorating streets, curbs and sidewalks, derelict and abandoned houses and buildings, crime, lack of an economic development plan and lack of holding certain developers accountable for not fulfilling their development agreements with the city. These issues must be addressed and if re-elected, I will continue to hold the administration accountable to address these issues.
Under what circumstances, if any, would you raise taxes or fees in the municipality? Please explain. Raising property taxes, fees or the sales tax must have legitimate reasons for doing so. Only after every budget is cut to the point where we are certain nothing else can be reduced or eliminated without seriously curtailing services should we even consider raising taxes. Mandated payments to the city’s pension funds consume most of the property tax revenue. Until there is serious pension payment reform from the state legislature local municipalities will continue to struggle to meet their responsibilities to provide services.
Crime has been an issue in parts of the metro-east. What is the best way to stop the problem in and around your community? In order to address crime you first have to admit there is a crime problem. Unfortunately, the city administration refuses to admit that Belleville does have a crime problem. Hiring more police officers, increasing patrols in the neighborhoods and known crime prone areas, as well as, having the police officers more accessible to the residents to develop relationships so individuals feel comfortable providing information to them are steps which can be taken to address crime within the city. Our police officers work tirelessly to protect and serve our community, but until the courts hold those committing crimes accountable, our community will continue to be victimized by those who prey on the innocent law-abiding citizens.
In recent years, the city has granted various tax incentives to businesses. Explain whether you would support or oppose tax incentives for businesses. Four years ago I was the only alderman to vote against the Shrine development. Based on the promises which were made and the information provided to the aldermen I did not believe the project could be a viable or successful development. Unfortunately, the project was pushed through the council by the mayor. The city spent 2.5 million dollars to run a sewer line to the development and agreed to over 37 million dollars in incentives, which is 40 percent of the total cost of the project. By now the development was supposed to have 2 hotels and convention center, a convenience store with two fast food restaurants, at least seven more restaurants, a soccer park with sports bar and the Hofbräuhaus. The agreement has no specific timetable for completion of any of the promised businesses. This type of agreement should never be made again. When asked what the status is on the development we get nothing but more empty promises from the developer and the mayor. At some point we must hold this developer accountable to deliver on what was promised or cancel the agreement. I have voted in favor of incentives for businesses, but my criteria is that there needs to be a return on the taxpayer’s investment. It must generate sales tax or improve an area where derelict or abandoned buildings can be replaced with viable and legitimate development.