Kennedy, Sebonia seeking 6th Ward seat on council

Development, intergovernmental relations top issues this campaign season

6th Ward
Candidates for Elmhurst City Council Jim Kennedy (left) and Ron Sebonia speak Feb. 12 during a League of Women Voters forum at City Hall. (Elmhurst Titan file photo)

ELMHURST – Incumbent Elmhurst alderman Jim Kennedy is facing off against challenger Ron Sebonia this spring in the 6th Ward race on the City Council.

With days to go before the official election day, Kennedy and Sebonia have each touted the virtues they would bring to the council. The top vote getter will represent the 6th Ward for the next four years.

Sebonia and Kennedy have also discussed the issues they viewed as important, which include development and working relations with the boards overseeing Elmhurst School District 205 and the Elmhurst Park District.

Development

On the topic of development, Kennedy and Sebonia agreed there is a balancing act in maintaining the city’s history and spurring new development to shift the tax burden off single-family property owners.

In general, the candidates said they believed Elmhurst should look to the future by taking whatever steps necessary to keep the city competitive with its peers at a time when prospective homeowners’ desires are changing and evolving with the times.

“We have to think about the future,” Sebonia said. “We should take our current residents’ thoughts into account. But if we don’t grow, we’ll stagnate. That’s poison to any municipality.”

Sebonia said the city should take the wishes of the millennial population into account by factoring sustainability, mass transit and the so-called complete streets model into city planning efforts.

From his perspective, Kennedy, an eight-year veteran of the council, said economic development has been an important part of his platform as an elected official.

“It’s a great big world out there,” Kennedy said. “Economic development is something that has to be considered. I want to relieve the burden [on single-family taxpayers] as much as I can.”

Fiscal responsibility

Fiscal responsibility has long been a hot-button topic in municipal circles as various spending decisions have been made. But the talking point has reached new heights more recently as city leaders have, at times, offered incentives to would-be developers.

When asked for their philosophies on this topic, Sebonia and Kennedy offered varied viewpoints.

“I think we can start looking at redoing our involvement with the incentives,” Sebonia said. “It seems to me we’ve been a little over-reliant on TIF (tax-incremental financing) in the past.”

Kennedy, by contrast, said he would continue reviewing incentives on a case-by-case basis. “You have to consider the benefit with and without the specific [development],” he said. “One benefit of something like this is the city has more controls with how a development looks.”

Intergovernmental relationships

The topic of the City Council’s relationship with Elmhurst’s two other major taxing bodies – the District 205 school board and the park board – has been an ongoing subject of conversation as a range of issues have bubbled to the surface.

Stormwater management has been an especially thorny issue among members of the different taxing bodies.

Kennedy, who chairs the council’s Public Works Committee, has touted his stormwater management efforts throughout his bid for another term in office. He concedes relations between the City Council and the other entities have been strained, in part because of issues with flood management.

“We are three very distinct, different taxing bodies, and we provide different services,” Kennedy said. “All I’ve asked [the school and parks boards] for is to give us a fair shake. I’d like us to come to some kind of an agreement.”

Sebonia said he has been concerned about the strained state of relations between the different taxing bodies and would like to take steps toward mending fences with the other organizations within the city.

“It needs repair, but it takes time” Sebonia said of the relationship. “We all have a common goal, so we should start with that. I think communication is very important. You start with that and then build from there.”

Affordable housing

When it comes to affordable housing within Elmhurst, Sebonia and Kennedy each said they were generally pleased with the state of options available to current and future residents.

“I think we have a good housing stock,” Sebonia said. “We’re at a good point right now. I don’t think we should tinker with it too much.”

Kennedy said, “I think we have affordable options out there. It’s a different kind of Elmhurst than the one I grew up in, and I think it reflects what the market will bear.”

Elmhurst Ward Map by The Elmhurst Titan on Scribd

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