GENEVA – Two candidates for Geneva 1st Ward alderman, Zac Ploppert and Michael Bruno, bring differing views on the city’s historic district and financial issues.
Michael Bruno, 53, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission for 11 years, is vying with Ploppert in the April 9 consolidated election. Both are seeking the post held by Sam Hill, who is not seeking re-election.
Ploppert, 22, lost an earlier bid for the 1st Ward in 2010 in a three-way race that was won by incumbent Chuck Brown.
A 2008 graduate of Geneva High School, Ploppert works at Geneva Ace Hardware. Bruno is an engineer and technology consultant.
When discussing historic preservation, Ploppert characterizes the city’s rules and ordinances as too cumbersome to families looking to buy a house.
“Where we run into trouble is the regulations and procedures we put on the buildings in this district,” Ploppert said. “We want to make sure we are doing our best … to work with people.”
As an example, Ploppert looked to the Geneva Ace Hardware where he works as limiting its sign to say “Ace” and not “Hardware,” because it is in the historic district.
To get a variance for the sign, Ploppert said it would cost $600.
Bruno said the strip mall where the Ace is located is not in the historic district, and Ploppert misunderstands the historic district’s rules.
“The myth of ‘oppressive’ – the facts do not bear that out,” Bruno said. “The city has done such a great job with historic preservation; it’s easily argued that our downtown is the gem that it is – in very large measure – because of the thoughtful, judicious application of historic preservation guidelines.”
Bruno added that, statistically, 98 percent of those who appear before the Historic Preservation Commission are approved.
In terms of the city’s finances, Ploppert said he does not support new taxes or increasing the levy.
“This year and last year, when the levy was voted on, Sam Hill was insistent that we hold the line on that tax levy,” Ploppert said. “I plan on doing the same thing. I know I’m only one of 10 people on the City Council; I can’t make all the decisions, but I can absolutely stand for what citizens are saying.”
Ploppert said when he talks to residents, nine of 10 will complain about tax increases. He acknowledged that the city’s portion of a tax bill is 8 percent.
“That does not mean we should not hold the line on our portion of the tax bill – no matter how small it might be,” Ploppert said. “That is what I hear residents saying. That is the way it’s got to be.”
Bruno described himself as a pragmatist in terms of the city doing things as efficiently as possible.
“When it comes to taxation, there are some things we need to do and things we can avoid doing,” Bruno said. “I’m certainly anti-taxation, [but] we have an incredible community. And, like it or not, taxes go the way of providing the services and infrastructure of the city. You will not see me signing any pledges for freezing the levy. Pledges are a ridiculous political stunt.”
Bruno cited a recent report from a consultant that found Geneva provides superior service at less cost than in comparable communities.
Both candidates also cited their support for continuing economic development.