Candidate Questionnaire: Stan Nord | WGLT

Candidate Questionnaire: Stan Nord

Mar 5, 2019

These responses were submitted by Stan Nord, a candidate for Normal Town Council. The questionnaire was prepared by GLT in partnership with the League of Women Voters of McLean County. See more candidate responses.

What in your personal and professional background has prepared you for this position? Include any experience serving in local government.

I have a breadth of experiences, which, I think will allow me to understand and appreciate different perspectives of many of the citizens across Normal. I cannot expect to know what everyone wants or needs their government to do or not do. I will seek out direction, and listen to citizen so I can represent them. I am not running to represent what I want or think is right. I am running to represent the citizens of Normal. So please email or call me, stan@nordfornormal.com or (309) 242-2495. This is your government, you pay for it, let me be your voice on your town council.

Some of my experience in no order:

- I was born in Mexico and lived in Canada before moving to the US, so I can relate to others not born in the US.

- I was raised on a cattle and grain farm. I learned work ethic, mother nature’s un-predictableness, planning for the worst, hoping for the best. Among many other benefits being farm raised affords.

- Many in my family were and are heavily involved in the medical community. I grew up knowing that when someone needed help, you stopped what you were doing, be it, church, movies, dining, vacationing, sleeping, watching family play sports, farming, anything…you stopped, and you helped. I am taking time away from my family and my business to now help Normal, because I know I can help.

- I grew up and was educated in Bloomington/Normal, from grade through college. – I am very familiar with local history.

- My family owned and I worked at the Landfill and in waste hauling. I understand many of the needs and issues regarding municipal waste and public service.

- I was involved in the closing of the McLean County Landfill. We capped and captured the methane to provide to a manufacturing plant. This was before it was mainstream, it was green and it was just the right thing to do for the environment.

- In farming, we had to respect mother nature. We had water erosion projects, wildlife habitats and many other projects, which are now considered green projects. We did them because it was the right thing to do for the land, the environment, and the offered shelter to for the few wild animals we have left in Illinois. (The next time you fly, look and see how little space there is left for wildlife. Most of our ground is tilled up for farming.)

- My family operated one of the first recycling operations. I worked in recycling at a young age. I helped business and the U of I develop recycling programs in the 90’s, before recycling was mainstream.

- I have worked in insurance and information technology in the private sector. I understand complex and detailed systems. I understand the appreciate drive to look for ways to do more with less and continuous process improvement.

- I lived in and around Chicago for over a decade. I lived the Uptown live style. I understand the concept. I did not have a car for years. I took public transportation. I rode in the bike lanes. It worked in the congestion of Chicago. I loved and appreciated my time in Chicago.

- I worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs managing the computer security of their core network globally. This is the largest signally managed Microsoft network in the world. I was responsible for projects disseminating to 10’s of thousands of IT staff world-wide. I have experienced and understand there are inherent differences in government vs. the private sector priorities, operations, and goals.

- I have started and sold businesses. I have handled all facets of business, from starting, hiring, funding, governmental red tape, marketing, accounting, logistics, etc. I have worn many hats. I know there are business trends and cycles. I know following the customer’s wants is more successful than dictating to the customer what they want. I understand and have experienced how government’s involvement can help or hinder the success of business.

- I operate my business across multiple states. I understand the complexity, differences and competition within and between businesses, municipalities and states.

- I did not come back to Normal for job, or to go to school here. I came for family and what this community offers to raise my children. I want Normal to remain a place, my children, will bring my grandchildren, to be raised.

- I have been heavily involved in Cub Scouts and appreciate the community our local police, fire, unions and other businesses have provided in helping these young children understand what being a community means.

Since 2000, the town has embarked on a massive redevelopment of Uptown Normal. What do you think of what’s been done so far? What should be done in Uptown in the future?

I remember what downtown looked like before it became Uptown, I used to hang out at Garcia’s. There is no question downtown Normal has been transformed. The buildings are amazing, it reminds me of Naperville, though I miss the history we lost. If Uptown were funded less by taxpayers, I would be happy.

My concern is, since taxpayers have funded so excessively because developer after developer has said the structures the council wants built cannot be profitable without huge incentives and subsidies, what have taxpayers received in return for their investment? Taxpayers have paid so much already and we have $83 Million of debt that still must be paid for the construction already completed.

Our critical infrastructure has been largely underfunded and neglected. Our roads, water and sewer systems are decaying and crumbling. We need to pause on Uptown and focus on our infrastructure.

In Uptown, taxpayers were forced to subsidize luxury apartments. $4,200 per month apartments, that is the equivalent of over $700k+ homes that tax payers subsidized. The developers were REQUIRED to build these. We have people sleeping in their cars and living in tents and we chose luxury apartments over their needs for affordable housing.

How many new permanent jobs has the community gained for the Uptown expense? Of the obvious ones, a drugstore and 2 hotels. There were many small shops and restaurants, employing many people, all over downtown which were not replaced with the construction. The office space in Uptown 1 is rented by the town, at a rate much higher than the market rate, and these town jobs previously existed. Per the council, the Trail East businesses tenants who will occupy it are relocating from Bloomington to Normal, so these are not new jobs to the community. I just don’t see that enough new jobs have come to the community for the money spent thus far.

I would love to be proven wrong and shown many new permanent jobs and families Uptown has brought to our community to purchase homes, shop, eat and share in the tax and debt burden?

The property tax increase Uptown has promised has yet to benefit the schools. The town purchased buildings and property which has taken many parcels off the property tax rolls. The convention center parcel is owned by the town, so the schools will not see the benefit there either. The TIF has kept the schools from receiving any increase in property taxes for 23 years. The council has voted to extend the TIF in areas. When the schools finally begin to receive property tax benefits, how many more decades will it be before they are in black from what they would have received had the TIF not existed? This promise to schools has taken entirely too long, there are generations of children who will have gone through our schools before the net benefit is realized. We need to let the TIF expire and let our schools finally have their money. We can still offer incentive, just not through a TIF.

One positive, is there have been many temporary construction jobs due to the Uptown construction.

I think we could have used the $83 million+ more wisely and attracted many more diverse businesses, offering many more, higher paying jobs, and bringing more families to the community. These new families would purchase or build homes, pay property taxes. They would shop, dine, buy gas, and share in our tax burden.

I think we should pause on Uptown spending. Our economy and citizens are struggling to keep afloat. Illinois lost a net, 45K people last year, some were from Normal. We have lost and have seen downsizing in several of our economic engine companies. We need to tighten our belts, spend on our critical needs and focus on attracting new businesses who will hire local and bring in money from outside of the area. We also must look to our existing businesses and help them grow and remain in our community. We can get back to Uptown later.

When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?

We should offer incentives to businesses who hire local and bring in the bulk of their revenues from outside the area. We should also offer incentives for our existing successful businesses to grow and remain in our community.

We should not offer incentives to businesses like Portillio’s and Ross who are here to sell exclusively to our residents. These companies need us, more than we need them. If it is not profitable to sell goods to our residents, it is not government’s responsibility to subsidize their profits. When Portillio’s came to town, you likely did not start purchasing a second dinner. You just stopped purchasing from where you did before. The same number of meals were consumed in our community. We just shuffled them around. No net economic gain.

Companies like Brandt and Rivian are the very types of companies we should offer incentives. They hire local and they bring in money from outside of the area. We need them and their economy, more than they need us.

When we give incentives to attract a business, the incentive must be tied to the businesses. Too often our incentives are with the landlord and not the business we are trying to attract. If a business does not want to own, we should have the ability to offer a rent rebate.

There are many examples of other communities who have been successful in attracting economic engine businesses, we should learn from them and mimic their success.

If faced with a challenging budget situation, what would be your approach to balancing taxes and fees against preserving or expanding programs and services?

I would reprioritize spending. Government must reduce spending on city hall’s WANTS and focus on the citizens NEEDS and critical infrastructure. Our tax base is not growing, spending must reflect this.

I would like Normal to look at the properties it owns and ensure if they are rented, a fair rate is being received for the taxpayers who purchased the property. There are rental agreements where taxpayers are receiving only $1/year in rent. I would also reevaluate each town owned property and see if it were better if it were sold to a private party so property taxes will start to be collected and town maintenance costs would be reduced.

I do feel, as another cost saving measure to investigate, would be to offer each director an incentive for them to come up with ideas how to save taxpayers. For example, if we asked them to look at their budget and operations. Ask them to think outside of the box and be creative to find ways to save, while providing the same level of service. Then whatever reduction their actual expense comes to, give them 10% of that as a bonus. So, if they save taxpayers $50k, they get a $5k bonus. These are the folks that know the in-depth details of their departments and how they operate, we should start there.

What new programs or initiatives do you think the town should pursue?

The main government service I feel is missing is assistance to grow and retain our existing successful companies. I feel this service would be more successful outsourced to the private sector, but paid for through government funding.

I do not believe the town should play a major role in attracting new businesses to our community. This should be done at a community or county level. Our towns are too close together to effectively and efficiently attract new businesses. When Bloomington and Normal act independent of each other it creates a counterproductive environment which pits both towns against each other leaving the tax payers spending more money than they should. When a company comes in and does not really care if they are in Bloomington or Normal, they go with whichever town gives them the best deal.

I do agree we should diversify our economy. We should not focus on only the large businesses. State Farm and Mitsubishi have shown us the downside to our economy of being too reliant on just a few large companies. We should focus our ED efforts on many diverse smaller independent businesses. If one business or sector has a downturn our economy can better absorb the loss.

We should have someone meet with every business owner or manager in B/N at least once a year and see what the community/town can do to help them grow and remain in our community. Even though this could be done at the town level, I fear this would eventually foster the environment we are in now, where Bloomington and Normal offer incentives to existing businesses, effectively poaching from each other at the tax payer expense. All economic development should be done at the community or county level for the best chance of success and value to all taxpayers.

The town should expect the economic development group(s)/individual(s) be treated as a sales company. If they are not producing results the people involved or company may not be the proper ones for the job. If results are dismal, then find another group or replace the people involved.

What should be the town’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?

I would like to see the town set up a framework for affordable housing. I do not feel the town should build, own and operate housing developments. With the recent taxpayer subsidies and council mandates for $4,200 / month luxury apartments in Uptown, I am somewhat perplexed of the discussion for affordable housing.

There are several developers whom I have directed to the town staff who are interested and specialize in affordable, energy efficient housing developments. I hope to see success in this area.

I would advocate for the consideration of the ICC Appendix Q (Tiny Houses) to be included in our building code. For over a decade, I have worked with companies all over the US and Canada who have adopted the tiny home concept in their communities.

Do you think the town needs a full-time communications manager and/or economic development coordinator? Why or why not?

As I mentioned earlier, economic development should be at a community or county level to offer the best chance for success.

Below is the reason.

I do not believe the town should play a major role in attracting new businesses to our community. This should be done at a community or county level. Our towns are too close together to effectively and efficiently attract new businesses. When Bloomington and Normal act independent of each other it creates a counterproductive environment which pits both towns against each other leaving the tax payers spending more money than they should. When a company comes in and does not really care if they are in Bloomington or Normal, they go with whichever town gives them the best deal.

The town should expect the economic development group(s) be treated as a sales company. If they are not producing results the people involved or company may not be the proper ones for the job. If results are dismal, then find another group or replace the people involved.

As far as a full-time communications manager, I would need to know more of the needs being addressed and the responsibilities of the position to honestly answer the question. After learning, I would reach out to my constituents for guidance. They will be paying, through taxes, for this additional position. Depending on the amount of support for or against would guide me to a decision. After all this is the taxpayer’s government, they deserve a voice in how we spend their money.

Do you support either physical expansion of the Normal Public Library at its current site or construction of a new, larger building? Why or why not?

I support the Library. I have experienced the Normal Public Library through the eyes of a child, as high school student, a college student, an adult, and now as a parent. I have not yet experienced the Library through the eyes of a senior. The Library is much more than a place of books. It is a community center. There are so many more activities which do not involve reading.

The Library services have evolved over the years. With technology and changes in people’s habits and needs, each generation’s view of the Library has changed as well. My current view of the Library is through the eyes of a parent. The Library Board has a much better understanding of the current views and needs of the Library across the various generations. The Board should lead and steer the discussion as to what direction will serve the community, at every generation level, best. I support the Library and I will support and represent the citizens of Normal.

Do you think the town should offer up money, land, or other incentives to support development of a multisport complex in McLean County? Why or not?

We should partner with our schools, universities, park districts, coliseum, and existing facilities to utilize current excess capacity. Once exceeded, we should allow private parties to undertake the construction, financing and operation of a complex. A privately-owned facility will have more flexibility, better focus, and offer a greater chance for success.

As part of a family who has been donating land for soccer and other outdoor sport leagues, for decades, I appreciate the quality of life and benefits which organized sports, especially for children, provides our community. Through my discussions with leagues, a complex may not necessarily the best option for our community. Some have said it would require increases of $300 or more per athlete. They have mentioned other complexes, in similar or better markets are not profitable and bring a much higher cost to the athletes involved. So, at this time, I am skeptical of the success of a multisport complex in our community.

If a sports complex is needed and will be profitable, then we should have no problem finding a private company to take advantage of this need and profit. I would very much entertain partial rebating of actual increases in hotel and food tax revenue as a part of the incentive package. Any incentive should be performance based. Taxpayers should not be on the hook unless there were a measurable benefit. Taxpayers will save, the community will benefit and a professional focus will be placed upon ensuring its success.