March 28, 2011 12:28PM
Office sought: Mayor of Chicago Heights
Name: Joe Faso
Address: 241 Memorial Dr. Chicago Heights, IL 60411
Date of birth: 9/10/1951
Web site: integrityparty2011.com
Education: Prairie State College
Occupation, employer: Owner (partner in family business), Faso Excavating
Please list all sources of income: Faso Excavating, city of Chicago Heights (alderman’s pay), property, investment
Spouse, spouse’s employer: none
Children, age of children, children’s employer (if applicable): none
Please list any relatives, including in-laws, who are employed by a government agency at the federal, state or local levels. What are their job titles and with what agency are they employed? None.
What other elected offices have you sought? What year? Alderman of the 4th Ward, 2003 & 2007. Democratic Committeeman, 2010.
Have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime? If so, for what? What was the disposition? No.
Do you have any criminal convictions on your record? If so, for what? What was your sentence? No.
Political (elected or significant appointment) experience: current alderman of the 4th ward of Chicago Heights
In your view, what are the two most important issues facing your constituents? How would you address those issues? Jobs and corruption (including patronage and no-bid contracts).
One of the things I’d like to accomplish immediately is to work with the existing businesses in Chicago Heights to form a Mayor’s Business Council to keep jobs in the Heights and bring new businesses into the Heights. There are already companies here who have informally been trying to keep jobs here. I’d like to formalize their role and work aggressively to bring in new or expanding businesses.
I also want to be aggressive in recruiting businesses to start in or move to Chicago Heights. I will do more than say something nice about Chicago Heights, I will promote Chicago Heights as much as I can. I love this city, and I believe that others will love it, too, if they can only see it through my eyes. We have a rich tradition of architecture and diversity, with beautiful housing stock and a welcoming community. Businesses appreciate this and we can appeal to that side of economic development. We need more restaurants, I think it’s a shame that we don’t have a micro-brewery like so many South Suburban communities do, that we can’t buy a shirt or shoes in this city – or a brand new car -- and we have plenty of existing manufacturing stock and open industrial space that can – and should -- be developed. I’m willing to think outside the box, like bringing in film revenues. I think we can highlight our architectural treasures in both housing stock and industrial sites throughout Chicago Heights by pitching them to film and television production companies. Other communities in the area have been featured, and I think the New Chicago Heights can be, too.
I’d like to expand our economic development staff, hire professional grant writers and work with other communities in the South Suburbs in bringing in new businesses. I’d like for the mayor’s office to serve as a resource center for local businesses and entrepreneurs, especially in making sure that they know about all the state and federal programs that can help their businesses start and/or grow. But I’d also like to tap the existing venture capitol markets in Chicago and the Midwest to encourage new start-ups in Chicago Heights. There are so many resources that we haven’t tapped and I want to be aggressive about utilizing those resources and making the most of what is already available in the economic development field in the South Suburbs.
I realize that we need to improve the reputation of Chicago Heights in order to improve our business climate. Corruption, gangs and drug sales in the Heights have tainted the reputation of the city and this has affected the perception that businesses have of our city. We can’t improve our reputation without addressing these blights on our community.
The first order of business in this regard is getting a real handle on where our tax dollars are going. We need an independent “audit” of our budget and expenditures, done by someone with no connection to Chicago Heights and no history with our city. I want to compare our budget with other cities of comparable size and see how they are spending their money and where they’ve found efficiencies. I’d like to look into using our fireman as additional code enforcement. We need to look for other efficiencies as well, which is why I’m determined to compare our budget and expenditures with other, similarly-sized cities.
As mayor, I will end the practice of no-bid contracts and examine all the contracts in which the city is engaged. We need to get the most bang for our buck here. We can’t afford some of these contracts and we need to treat the taxpayer’s dollar as a scarce resource, not something to be wasted. I don’t think we can be really specific until we get a good look at everything, but I’m committed to getting the most out of the current tax dollars we have, and, hopefully, lower our property taxes, if we can.
I am confident if we re-deploy our police force from a traffic-centric emphasis to a crime fighting (and prevention) emphasis, we can get a better handle on the gangs and the drug sales that taint our reputation. Under my administration, we will work closely with all the law enforcement agencies to fight corruption, gangs and drugs and I will remove all the impediments that have seen federal agencies like the FBI and DEA freeze out the Chicago Heights Police Department from some of their sweeps and busts in Chicago Heights. And we will be very aggressive about ending the sale of drugs (and other illegal activities) on our streets.
I am determined to improve Chicago Heights’ curb appeal. I love this city, I live this city, and I want the rest of the world to see Chicago Heights through the same proud eyes that I do. I know that we’ve lost a little in our step in the last few years, but it’s not anything we can’t recover from if we reverse direction and face these steep challenges head on. I’m prepared to do this. That’s why I’m running for Mayor.
Please explain something significant you would like to accomplish within the next two years if you are elected to the office to which you aspire. A few things. First, I want an independent review or “audit” of our books from someone who’s not connected with our troubled past. Only then can we get a true handle on our spending and force priorities on to our budget.
Second, I want to immediately re-deploy the Chicago Heights Police Department to a crime-fighting, crime-prevention focus. I’d much rather see our police arresting drug-dealers, pimps and gang-bangers than writing traffic tickets. Until we rid our city of all the gangs, the police need to be working on ridding our city of their presence.
Third, I’d like to put together an economic development strategic plan and work towards re-developing our city. It’s important to understand that the mayor’s office can’t do this alone, we need to coordinate a strategic plan with other levels of government (eg, our schools) and area agencies as well as the plans for outside government entities (like IDOT and the plans for the Illiana Expressway) so that Chicago Heights can be at the center of economic development in our region.
Finally, I want to eliminate all the red light cameras in the city (except for the one in front of St. James Hospital). It doesn’t bring in much money for the city, and it is not worth the aggravation.
Please explain how you believe the office you’re seeking can help in creating local jobs. I am a businessman in Chicago Heights and I do create good paying jobs here. I think the mayor’s office can be instrumental in creating local jobs, or I wouldn’t be running for it.
There are a number of ways that I plan to utilize the mayor’s office to bring in jobs to our community and help our residents get jobs. By ending the corruption, patronage and no-bid contracts, I will improve Chicago Heights’ reputation, something that has prevented some businesses in the area from moving here. I will aggressively be “selling” the New Chicago Heights as a business-friendly, corruption-free place where people can do business. By attacking the gangs, pimps and drug-dealers that work our streets, I will further improve our appeal to companies to get started or expand here. This should also help us to attract some of the venture capital that exists in the Midwest. I think it’s important to help our potential entrepreneurs, whether by helping them navigate the SBA or help them get start-up money in the markets. I’d like to sponsor an entrepreneur’s networking club that could help foster both their interest and support
I’d like to continue our efforts to help our young people find jobs, with our Jobs seminars and coordinating business employment needs with our local educational institutions. I want our young people to stay here, buy a house here, get a job here or start a new business here because Chicago Heights is a great place to live and a great place to raise a family.
Do you believe the current way Illinois pays for education is working? If so, why? If not, why not? What would you change? No, I don’t think the current system is working well. But they have been talking about the tax swap for ages down in Springfield, and nothing seems to have been done.
I’m not sure what the mayor’s office can do about this. It needs to change but I don’t know what I could do about it yet.
Would you make any changes to the budget of the governing unit to which you are seeking elected office? If so, what? Absolutely. I want to start with an independent review of our spending and compare our spending with that of other cities of similar size. I think it’s important to get a concrete idea where our money goes and how other cities prioritize their spending. With solid information in hand, I’d like to hold community-wide meetings (like our meeting on the Police Pension scandal) to explain our spending priorities and get public input. Obviously, moving to a weak mayor-strong council form of government, I won’t be able to dictate our spending priorities, but I think that getting community buy-in is important anyway.
We definitely seem to be top-heavy in administrative staff in some of our departments. I’d hope to address that, and I’d expect to lose some of the patronage positions. Mostly, I just want to see the city and its tax-payers get the biggest bang for our buck. Because I’ve run a business, and I understand some of the efficiencies we’ve had to make in the last decade or so to be profitable, I would hope that my experience in business would give me a keener eye towards efficiencies. But I can’t do it alone. We are running against a party that has placed numerous friends and family into city government and it would be difficult to make the kind of efficiencies I envision without electing other like-minded people to the city council and park district.
Are there any other issues you want to bring to the public’s attention? If so, what? I have been looking out for Chicago Heights for years. I ask people, whenever they talk about moving, where else are you going to go to find what we have right here?
As part of my own commitment to Chicago Heights, I’ve offered my services at no cost at various times. I recently plowed city streets, alleys and driveways at no charge after the last blizzard. I had my guys out, as well (again, at no cost to the city). I don’t need to make a buck off the city because I’m very comfortable. I don’t do this for the money. I’m just trying to give back to the community that I love so much.
I’ve brought in the big Christmas tree at the Memorial Mound from time to time. I’d pick it up from the house that donated it and move it to the site at the center of the city, at no cost to the city.
I’ll also get calls from the firemen, who ask me to come and help them out during emergency situations. I’ve assisted our Fire Department by wrecking burning buildings in order to make it safer for our fire fighters to extinguish a fire. We have to keep our firemen safe, and I’m more than happy to oblige, when asked to do so.
I tell people that I’m running for mayor because I want to take care of Chicago Heights like I’ve taken care of the 4th Ward for these last 8 years. I’ve told people, when they’d come to our ward meetings, that they didn’t have to live in the 4th Ward, that they were welcome at our meetings and I was willing to help them with their problems or issues, regardless of where they lived. And I do get people from outside the 4th Ward show up – and they feel comfortable telling me their concerns. I do what I can to help them solve their problems – or explain why I can’t when I know that I can’t.
That’s what I want to do for all of Chicago Heights. We face some pretty significant challenges now, and I am prepared to meet them. I drive around our city everyday, and I’ll continue to do so as your Mayor. If I am extended the honor of being the Chicago Heights Mayor, I will look out for our city with the same vigilance that I look out for the 4th Ward. Most of my residents are happy with that. I believe that the rest of Chicago Heights will be, as well.