Oswego board candidates talk business
By Jenette Sturges email@example.com March 7, 2013 1:40PM
Sandy Benson, a member of the Oswego Chamber of Commerce board of directors, asks a question of a candidate running for village trustee during a candidate forum at Oswego Village Hall on Wednesday, March 6, 2013. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:11AM
OSWEGO — Candidates for the three Village Board seats that are up for grabs April 9 tried to put their best business-friendly foot forward in a forum this week hosted by the Oswego Chamber of Commerce.
Seven candidates are on the ballot to serve the four-year terms as village trustees. Incumbent Trustees Judy Sollinger, Scott Volpe and Jeff Lawson are running for re-election, challenged by Pam Parr, Ken Duda, Ryan Kauffman and Scott Finkenbinder.
Sollinger said that her goal is to attract “a specific type of development,” to Oswego, namely, the kind that would “provide living wages” for residents looking for work in the village.
Sollinger touted her experience as a real estate broker in recruiting specific businesses to meet the needs of Oswego’s residents.
Parr spoke strongly in favor of incentives.
“Incentives have to be back on the table,” she said. “There’s a reason Sam’s Club is building in Montgomery — that’s a lot of money and resources we lost.”
Sam’s Club recently announced it will build a new store at Routes 30 and 34 in Montgomery.
Volpe touted the work of the current board in analyzing the Oswego market and identifying “leakage” — those items that people feel they must leave the village to buy — and using that analysis to target businesses to come into Oswego.
“We need to step up our economic development program, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
Duda said that incentives should be brought back on a case-by-case basis “rather than a catch-all.”
Duda also suggested the return of the Oswego Economic Development Corporation, which closed its door in 2011 after the village board pulled its funding from the public-private partnership.
“The OEDC did a great job, and why we disbanded it, I’m not totally clear,” Duda said.
Kauffman, too, voiced support for “rekindling” the OEDC, calling the decision to bring economic development into a village department “a shame.”
Kauffman said his priorities include lowering taxes, bringing back the OEDC and a 10 percent pay cut for village trustees.
The other candidates all addressed facets of economic development.
Both Sollinger and Duda said they wanted to focus on revitalizing downtown Oswego.
Duda also criticized the board’s decision to keep out video gambling machines that would have brought the village and its businesses more revenue.
School sales tax
Candidates were split on the Oswego School District’s recent proposal to consider a referendum levying a countywide sales tax.
Most of the candidates cited the need to educate students and reduce the property tax burden, versus the possible negative effect a sales tax might have on business growth.
Parr came out strongly against the proposed sales tax, saying it would be “devastating,” but got a laugh when she admitted that the School Board has “problems I don’t know the answer to — that’s why I’m not running for that board.”
Volpe, however, said despite the complications of levying a tax in Kendall County for a multi-county school district, the sales tax might be a good option if it can help offset property taxes.
Duda said that he is torn. While nobody is in favor of another tax, he said “it certainly would be better than hitting up the homeowner again, but it wouldn’t be a good thing for the businesses in town.”
Kauffman said that he would be in favor of a sales tax to benefit schools if the amount added to shopping bills is small enough.
“I think it might hurt the village,” Sollinger said.
She added a sentiment shared by most candidates: “I’m not sure it will pass if it goes to referendum.”
Lawson and Finkenbinder were both absent from Wednesday night’s forum. Lawson was kept at work because of an emergency, according to Chamber members. Finkenbinder, though still on the ballot and campaigning, has announced that he will be moving out of Oswego this summer.