March 11, 2005

O'Brien, Welvaert outline platforms

**WARNING** Looooooooong post

During a press conference held Thursday, Pat O'Brien put forward his proposals, plans, and hopes for the city of Moline.

Not surprisingly, he's in favor of keeping taxes to a minimum, believing that tax increases can be avoided by focusing on economic development, saying, "Economic development is the key to paying off our bills without straining our homeowners and residents."

Though noting his support for many downtown development projects, O'Brien expressed his belief that economic development must be spread throughout the city, not solely focused on Tax Increment Financing districts or TIFs such as the one downtown.

As part of this diversified approach away from focusing all development and funding towards small areas of the town, O'Brien believes in supporting neighborhoods, particularly in the older sections of town by providing stronger city services, continuing and expanding infrastructure repairs in these neighborhoods, and developing a stronger sense of pride by encouraging and supporting neighborhood associations and owner-occupied housing. "I think we need to put more money back into our neighborhoods," O'Brien stated, "I think that makes Moline a desirable place to live."

Mr. O'Brien feels his relationship with Dem politicians at local, state, and federal levels who are supporting his candidacy will prove a great advantage in bringing support for the expansion and development of the Western Illinois University campus along River Drive. He would also focus on plans for creation of a high-tech corridor centered on the Western Illinois University riverfront campus with the belief it would bring with it new businesses and high-paying jobs.

He believes in the city's plan to create a high-tech corridor around the proposed Western Illinois University Quad-Cities campus, a corridor that could attract new businesses and high-paying jobs.

Mr. O'Brien stressed that as mayor he will be accessible and open to residents, continuing to hold town hall meetings as he has as alderman and maintaining regular office hours in order to allow constituents the ability to share their suggestions and concerns. "By respecting people’s ideas, we can remake the city. I pledge to gather the best and brightest people we have in Moline to work in unison to make our dreams and plans reality, for business expansion and many other future projects."

Don Welvaert offered his three-point plan for Moline.

The first is creating and retaining jobs through strong economic development policy. touting his history of advocating for jobs in Moline, and his participation last week in a lobbying trip to Springfield with the Illinois Quad City Chamber of Commerce.

The second point is building community pride through the maintenance of streets and buildings, and providing high-quality services.

"By doing this we show people who are looking at Moline that there is pride in Moline, that we take care of the city and the infrastructure, and we are a good community in which to raise a family and do business," he said.

Welvaert said the third point in his plan is to providing a good quality of life through schools, parks and libraries.

"I firmly believe that it is a balance between those three things that creates a vibrant community and provides for growth for the future of Moline."

Both men's platforms appear to be almost interchangeable with the same basic goals stated differently. The key difference being which candidate's approach to accomplishing these goals is best for the people of Moline.

In this respect, though Welvaert has done commendable work as a part of pro-business groups, their commitment to the concerns of those who are not business owners, might be called into question.

The desire for the WIU project represents an issue where the interests of both labor and business happen to intersect. Business has a need for trained workers, and workers have a need to gain skills and therefore it is hoped, well paying jobs.

While Welvaert states his desire to improve services and maintain streets and buildings, he lacks O'Brien's emphasis on building and promoting the sense of neighborhood by the creation of neighborhood associations and other measures, such as has been done successfully in Rock Island.

Welvaert's third point, of improving quality of life by providing good schools, parks, and libraries, while commendable, seems to be an expected goal. After all, one might trust that neither men would neglect schools, parks, and the libraries, all of which are currently well maintained and well funded. Welvaert mentions parks as a way of highlighting his work as liaison to the Parks Department and his interest in development and maintenance of city parks. While this too is to be commended, it's certainly not something new and one would hope that either man considers good schools, parks, and the libraries to be a priority.

Both candidates have a lot to offer the city, however The Dope feels that O'Brien has the experience and outlook that would make him a mayor that better balances the desires and needs of the average resident of Moline with those of it's business community.

Under the current mayor, the balance has been skewed far too much towards business interests at the expense of deteriorating infrastructure and declining neighborhoods. O'Brien seems to understand that what is important to residents is the condition of their neighborhoods and infrastructure, and has the ability to see things from a ground level with a sensitivity to those who aren't part of the investor class. Too often, development deals have been sold as benefiting the city, while in reality, they only benefit and serve a small slice of the population. Mirroring the national situation, Moline has too long been engageded with helping the rich get richer and providing development for their use and enjoyment (such as incredibly high priced restaurants, boutiques, etc.)at the expense of neglecting older areas of town and the people that call them home, people who rarely, if ever, step foot in the businesses and facilities built with the help of city funds.

Looking forward and focusing on trendy projects is not the only thing a mayor should focus on. It's wise policy to look back towards the neighborhoods and the currently less lucrative areas of towns and to attempt to funnel some development support into those areas as well.

Business leaders are important partners in a city's vitality and growth, but it takes a leader to show them that investing in less glamorous projects will reap tangible returns as well. Another trendy coffee shop, while nice, does far less for the city than fixing crumbling sidewalks or forcing absentee landlords to maintain their properties.

O'Brien brings a more populist approach which seeks to provide for the needs of all residents of Moline while working towards the same goals shared by his opponent. In this respect, the Dope feels that O'Brien would provide fiscal balance and a welcome change for the city of Moline.


At 3/11/2005 10:55 PM, Anonymous Peter Frampton said...

Listen, Pat O'Brien is head and shoulders above his opponent in terms of experience and vision and independence. I'm for him, I'll vote for him.

But Mr. DOPE, please don't encourage Mr. O'Brien to be against economic growth in the city of Moline. I know Mr. O'Brien is not against economic growth, because he knows without active private investment we don't move forward with jobs and a bigger tax base, etc. He knows that public funds are limited, in terms of investment opportunities, as he knows the public priorities are roads, neighborhood safety, etc.

At 3/11/2005 11:14 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Ahhh. the commenter who ALWAYS capitalizes "THE DOPE"...

All I can say is that I'm not encouraging Mr. O'Brien to do anything in particular, nor do I imagine that I could if I wanted to.

But the town should do something besides bringing in restaurants where a meal runs a minimum of $50, fine wine stores, and expensive boutiques. They're all fine, but there's more to progress than serving only the most wealthy of a community.

Sure, do all the public/private deals you want, but they carry with it the risk that they only provide profit for the investors and use public funds to do so. This isn't always best.

I wish I could enjoy all the benefits and profits of a business while the public coughs up most of the initial capital, gives me sweet tax breaks, pays most of my rent, and assumes most of the risk. What a sweet deal!

But the government is not in existence solely to serve as a business incubator. There's plenty of federal and state programs for that. At the very least, the city administration needs to scrutinize such schemes to makes sure that they will actually provide a broad benefit to the city, not just to a few connected interests.

Think of the projects accomplished so far and then think of how much value they have to a person living paycheck to paycheck in an older neighborhood in the west side of town.

Think they're paying $80 a pop to go see shows at the Mark? Do they dine often at TGIFs or throw down a hundred or more to dine at The Blue Ribbon? Think they're shopping at Isabel Bloom, picking up a bottle of Pinot Noir at Gendlers, or hanging out at the various shrines to John Deere?

It's time to get real.

At 3/11/2005 11:16 PM, Anonymous Peter Frampton said...

Tsk, Tsk, Ms. Dope, while you make valid arguments about throwing good tax dollars at bad schemes of the private sector, I don't see those happenig at the present time.
At a time when the public dollars are stretched to the priorities of which DOPE speaks (roads, kids), it takes engenuity, creativity and lots of private investment dollars to fund necessary projects.

As I look ahead at the future of public policy in Moline and the state, I can see more and more of smart public private alliances.

Be careful of which you speak -- what's wrong with having a Blue Ribbon in town to attract folks?
Every dollar spent at Blue Ribbon, or the John Deere museum, or the MARK ... trickles back into Moline's coffers.

As usual, with any policy, it's not that simple. There are good private plans and bad private plans, good public expenditures and wasteful public expenditures.

DOPE, be careful of the broad paint brush you like to use. But, as usual, I appreciate your insight and your guts and your love of Moline. Keep it up!

At 3/11/2005 11:22 PM, Anonymous Blue State said...

Go Pat O' Brien!

At 3/11/2005 11:37 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Who knew Peter Frampton was such a believer in "trickle-down" economics!! Yet another "serve the wealthy a $100 plus dinner and let the rest feast on the leftovers" economic argument.

If you read my comments, you'll note that I'm not saying that there should be NO public/private partnerships, only that they've for the large part been misguided and shouldn't be the basket in which the city puts all it's eggs.

Of course stimulating economic activity and attracting businesses is key to generating the much needed funds to pursue other projects in the city.

But are you saying that the only result of public/private partnerships must be businesses and development that only serve the upper-middle class?

I think that's the mind-set that has prevailed in Moline and The Dope feels it's neither correct nor beneficial for the majority of residents of Moline.

I'm not quite sure where we differ. You caution about using too broad a brush, yet don't mention any specifics yourself.

Again, I'm not calling for an end to public/private financing schemes. Just that they should be more intelligently focused towards the broadest benefit for residents.
My comment above speaks for itself.

At 3/12/2005 1:02 PM, Anonymous Peter Frampton said...

Ms. Dope, you have warmed my heart -- you now agree with me there is a role for smart private investments alongside the city policies. That is a huge step forward for you! Now, I think you are ready to lead Moline alongside Pat O'Brien.

At 3/12/2005 1:59 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Pete, The Dope is very disappointed that you don't read his posts. I realize it was long, but if you had buckled down and read my post, you would have noticed that I clearly said there's a place for public/private financing schemes.

You must have missed it when I wrote:"Business leaders are important partners in a city's vitality and growth", and the many other places where I said that such partnerships were not the ONLY thing a city should focus on. Don't confuse that with saying the town should NEVER go that route.

So you've spent two comments arguing that I should feel the way I had already said I do.

At 3/12/2005 8:13 PM, Anonymous Blue State said...

I guess we're in total agreement, then. My central point, from the beginning of this "thread," is that with declining public dollars we will have to look more aggressively at public-private partnerships.

Everyone should benefit from these partnerships.

Everyone running for office in cash-strapped cities like Moline
should welcome that.

Glad we now have a resolution to our mild disagreement.

Thanks for your civic-minded threads, Dope.

At 3/12/2005 9:16 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Is The Dope alone in wondering just what the heck Pat O'Brien was thinking when he decided to be the lone vote against the new library construction?
I have admired his ability to stick to his convictions, even if he's the lone dissenter, but please. I mean, the deal was done, he's a candidate on the brink of an election, this is not the time to be laying out a vote that many residents will likely see as obstructionist or anti-development.

One could hardly imagine any benefit to being seen as someone opposed to a popular project at this time. And a vote in favor of the project couldn't have any downside.

I'm sure he had his reasons for opposing the project, but there's no use in beating a dead horse, especially when you're running for mayor.

At 3/13/2005 1:34 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

And we're all in very hot water if all we have left to keep our towns afloat is hopping into bed with wealthy interests. There's got to be an alternative that doesn't rely so heavily on these dubious schemes.

In a way, it reminds me of a desperate slob going hat in hand to a payday loan outfit!


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