O’Fallon City Council Ward 1 Candidates answered questions about implementing new ideas, improving the city economy and red light cameras at the annual candidate forum hosted by the Mayor’s Youth Advisory Council (MYAC) on Tuesday evening.
The MYAC is composed of juniors and seniors from local public and private high schools, chosen by their school officials to learn more about local government.
The terms of Rick Lucas, ends in April, leaving one seat open in ward 1. Lucas is running for re-election, facing opponents AC Dienoff and Kevin Wattelet.
At the forum, each O’Fallon candidate gave a three-minute opening statement and closing statement. After that MYAC members questioned candidates, allowing a three-minute response time.
(Read more about Ward 1 Candidates Here)
Meet the Ward 1 Candidates:
Dienoff is a community property manager, public advocate and also does some legal consulting.
“I attend city council meetings and stand up for issues I feel strongly about,” he said, siting transparency and openness in city government as one of those issues.
He also spoke out against the city council’s recent approval of salary increases at the last meeting.
“I’m asking tonight that the mayor veto that decision by the city council, because it’s not just in these economic times.”
Wattelet graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. He has been a program engineer with FlightSafety International for 16 years.
He said his experience with scheduling and budgeting at work would help him be a successful city council member.
Wattelet said his two step-children and wife are fully supportive of his run for city council—a long-time dream of his.
“I’ve always wanted to be a city councilman, all the way back to high school sitting in student council,” he said. “I mention this because I want you to know I have a huge place in my heart for the City of O’Fallon and city government.”
Lucas has worked as a service technician for Diebold, Incorporated for 33 years.
He’s lived in O’Fallon for 23 years and served on the city council for seven.
Lucas said when he first took office O’Fallon was in somewhat of a situation of turmoil, but in seven years become a manageable city.
“I’ve stood for effective government since I’ve been here and I’m asking tonight for your vote for Ward 1 councilperson,” he added.
New Term, New Ideas in Ward 1
Lucas said he is already working on an initiative to bring together local businesses, the city staff and officials to discuss roadblocks for bringing in new business.
He said this process for approving new businesses coming into O'Fallon needs to be streamlined.
“The thing I don’t want to see is to have a business come forth and tell me they’d love to be in O’Fallon, but because of issues they couldn’t get here,” Lucas said. “We need to make sure we retain the businesses that are currently here and make the city attractive to those looking to relocate here.”
Dienoff said if elected he would address issues with transparency, business and the city’s homeless.
“When things that are traumatic happen in the city like the removal of a city administrator or the city needs to come forward after discussing in closed session,” he said.
Dienoff also suggested holding more town hall meetings in neighborhoods to bring the community together.
He also said he would interact with business owners and find ways to help them attract more residents and hire more employees.
“When businesses like Menards come, offering $750,000 in sales tax to our city, we can’t just turn them away and keep making them jump through hoops,” he added.
Dienoff said another issue he’d like the city council to address, is the homeless men he’s encountered sleeping in the streets of O’Fallon behind dumpsters.
Wattelet said he also hoped to improve the relationships with existing O’Fallon businesses and come up with ways to attract more.
“I believe really strongly in the “Keep it in the O” campaign, and I think it can be expanded upon and help draw businesses to O’Fallon and make it a destination city,” he said.
Inspiring Economic Prosperity in O’Fallon
All three candidates agreed that the process for approving new businesses wanting to set up shop in O'Fallon, needs to be streamlined.
“I think the key to this is having a more open and welcoming process,” Wattelet said.“I think there’s a perceived perception from businesses that O’Fallon has a long process and I know there’s other cities around here where it can take as little as 30 days.”
Wattelet added there should be some city oversight to the process, but also common sense.
Lucas said the city is already discussing how to make the process much more efficient.
“It’s not an overnight situation, it’s not something where you’ll get someone in 30 days, but I do have some hope that there is some movement and we’ll see something in the near future," he said.
Lucas added he would also like to see the city start marketing vacant areas, like the office space on hte south end in high-tech corridor.
He said he's made several out of town trips to speak with grocery stores about coming to the north side of town.
“That’s one of my goals, to get enough business growth on that north side, “ Lucas said, adding he'd like to see a unique business district in this area of town.
Dienoff said economic development is right next to public safety to him.
"You have to have a safe community, then you have to have the jobs and the tax revenue to pay for the social services to make our city a great city," he said.
Dienoff added that right now O'Fallon does have a lot of restrictions and said this was the reason Menards decided to withdraw their plans of building in the city.
Candidates Say No to Red-Light Cameras
Dienoff said he is opposed to the red light cameras because they cannot 100 percent identify the driver.
He added he is in favor for the police department seeking grants to target areas of traffic violations in O’Fallon and start with warnings.
Wattelet, who has served on O’Fallon’s Public Works Commission for four years, said the subject has been debated before.
He said he doesn’t think they work, but tend to cause more accidents.
Lucas agreed. He said he thinks the cameras are a revenue generator and are not a good way to solve traffic problems.
Who has your vote for Ward 1 O'Fallon City Councilman?
Check back with O'Fallon Patch this weekend for more from the O'Fallon Candidate Forum.