In his speech “Citizenship in a Republic,” delivered to the Sorbonne in Paris in April 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
I have always accepted that criticism is the price one pays to serve in a position of public trust. However, when that criticism is not factually based, it is no longer mere criticism: it is conjecture. That is what is contained in a television advertisement being run against me by the campaign of one of my opponents, and I feel compelled to set the record straight as it pertains to the misleading, inaccurate claims within that advertisement.
First, the advertisement claims that the city is running a $2 million budget deficit. To put it simply, this statement is false. While the current fiscal year (FY16-17) does not end until March 31 and thus preliminary final numbers are not yet available, in the first three fiscal years of my administration, the city ran a surplus.
In FY13-14, actual revenue was $37,006,934 and actual expenditures were $36,670,278 for a surplus of $336,656. In FY14-15, actual revenue was $39,182,132 and actual expenditures were $37,559,621 for a surplus of $1,622,511. In FY15-16, actual revenue was $41,803,658 and actual expenditures were $38,883,610 for a surplus of $2,920,048. Each of those years, the surplus was placed in the city’s Reserve Fund, with an eye toward potentially using some of that money to begin paying down the city’s roughly $85 million unfunded pension liability.
Second, the advertisement states that unemployment is at 7 percent in Alton. While that number is correct, what the advertisement conveniently omits is that when I took office, the unemployment rate in Alton was a staggering 11.6 percent. This means that during my administration, unemployment has decreased by over 37 percent.
When I took office, we began implementing positive, pro-growth business policies that have contributed to the decrease in the unemployment rate. Not only have these policies helped to reduce our unemployment rate, they have led to over 200 new business licenses being issued and more than $56 million in capital investments by local businesses.
Third, the advertisement claims that violent crime has increased by 22 percent during my administration. In this instance, statistical gymnastics are being used to arrive at that number for the purposes of attacking me.
In reality, crime during my administration has decreased by 11.02 percent compared to my predecessor’s administration. There were 6,196 index crimes reported during the previous administration, while there have been 5,513 reported during my administration. Further, during the previous administration, there were 720 violent crimes reported during the previous administration, while there have been 540 reported during my administration. Compared to the previous administration, there has been a 25 percent decrease in violent crime during my time in office.
Last, the television advertisement, as well as multiple mail pieces, have claimed that we have a $50 million sewer problem that has been neglected. The $50 million sewer project was mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the city’s past three administrations have known since 1994 that the Combined Sewer Overflow projects (CSO) had to be done. The U.S. EPA mandated that municipalities must separate their storm water and sanitary sewers. The previous three administrations kicked the can down the road on this issue, but my administration developed a plan and began work on this unfunded federal mandate.
The first separation project was recently completed from Broadway north along State Street. The remaining Combined Sewer Overflow separation projects are scheduled to be completed by 2022. Since then, the EPA has paused their mandate as they make recalculations on their requirements for these projects. We are fully prepared to resume work on separating the other four combined sewer lines when the EPA allows us to. Further, there is a plan in place to pay for these projects using the sewer fees paid by residents, potential TIF funds, and low-interest EPA loans. There is simply no truth to the claims being made by one of my opponents that these projects have been neglected, nor will they result in massive tax increases.
It is unfortunate that campaigns today seem to be based on using innuendo, false statements and conjecture instead of the public records of the candidates. We’ve seen enough of the scorched earth tactics of Springfield and Washington politicians. We don’t need the kind of dysfunction in Alton that results from those types of campaigns. It is my hope that by using the facts that I have been able to refute the misleading, inaccurate statements being used by one of my opponents to mask the truth about my administration.
Four years ago, I took on an entrenched political establishment that had put its interests ahead of yours. We’ve made too much progress to go back to the days of special interests and back room deals where only the wealthy and powerful had access to City Hall.
Together, we’ve built a safer, stronger, more prosperous city, and made city government more responsive and transparent. With your continued support, we’ll build on the progress we’ve made to take Alton to even greater heights.
Alton’s future is brighter than ever, and that’s why I’m asking for your vote on April 4 — so that together, we can continue to move Alton forward.