Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Like the rest of America, Naperville has become more and more diverse over the years. Benny is a firm believer that we should embrace our diversity. Benny led the effort to update the City’s mission statement so that it now includes the phrase describing Naperville as “an inclusive community that values diversity.” This encouraged the city to create a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Manager position, as well as transforming the Fair Housing Commission as the Human Rights and Fair Housing Commission. Now the city can proactively respond in the event that a resident is blatantly discriminated against by a licensed business or organization in the city.
Social Service Agencies
Naperville is fortunate to have a robust nonprofit community providing outstanding assistance to residents that otherwise would fall to the responsibility of local government. These agencies provide a wide array of support in the areas of food insecurity, mental health, job placement, and homelessness, to name a few. Benny’s commitment to supporting these agencies both before and since becoming a councilman, along with countless others in the community really speaks to the heart and soul of Naperville. Benny believes, without a doubt, that continued engagement and collaboration with these agencies and the City is a must and will continue to offer his unwavering support and sincere appreciation for the work they do.
We give a great deal of the responsibility for our young people to our schools, which do a wonderful job of educating them; however, our youth often have less of a voice when it comes to the governance of our community. Even when they have not yet reached voting age, they have ideas and energy to contribute. Benny wants to continue efforts to enable their perspectives to be heard by encouraging and widening student representation on selected Boards and Committees at the Municipal Center.
Finally, a city our size means that our residents and Council members will have varying opinions on many issues that come before the City Council and finding common ground is not always easy. Benny is committed to learning and listening to other points of view in order to get the best perspective before making decisions.
As a Council, we have done a magnificent job in placing the City on firm financial standing. The Council established three financial principles in 2015 which have become our guiding principles for long term financial stability:
Principle One: The City will pass a structurally balanced operating budget annually. Benny has worked diligently with city staff to ensure we have a structured budget by giving detailed guidance that has allowed the City to meet all of its financial and services obligations, while ensuring our revenues and expenditures are in sync. This has especially been challenging this year as the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted our revenues. Our ability to take advantage of record low interest rates and adjusting the timelines on some of our capital improvements are just a few of the strategies we’ve used to balance our budget.
Principle Two: The City commits to continuous improvement in the delivery of necessary and cost-effective services. Naperville has high standards when it comes to services and residents expect nothing but the best. Our public works, public safety, and public utilities have done a remarkable job in providing those services. Benny will continue to work with departmental directors to ensure we continue providing these services while contributing guidance and support as they look at innovative ways to position themselves for the future through leadership and technology. Examples such as the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) for our water services and the City’s Emergency Telephone Service Boards (ETSB) are just a couple of innovative initiatives that have improved services to our residents.
Principle Three: The City will actively seek to increase its reserves to 25% and reduce its debt by 25% in the next 8 years. We are well on our way to reach this goal ahead of schedule. Our reserves continue to grow even through the pandemic and we have done a fantastic job of restructuring some of our current debt by taking advantage of the low interest rates. In fact, we have reduced our debt by over 15% and our estimated borrowing is expected to have an 8% total reduction over the next year. Strategic emphasis in this area will allow us to stay on track to reach our eight year goal.
As the son of a retired Kansas City, Missouri Police Officer, Benny grew up understanding the value and importance of Public Safety. Watching his Dad don the uniform on a daily basis provided inspiration for Benny to serve as well. The opportunity to attend West Point with a follow-on commission to serve as an officer in the Army was an easy decision for Benny, ultimately leading to a 22-year career of service to his country.
Naperville is fortunate to have the very best public safety departments in the country. The Naperville Fire Department (NFD)has been rated number one in the nation and the Naperville Police Department (NPD) is one of only a few in the country that has received the highest possible rating by The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).
The NPD has embraced President Obama’s 21st Century Policing pillars by building trust and legitimacy with the community, reassessing their policies, and placing emphasis on training and education. Members of the NPD consistently and proactively reach out to the community to speak to residents; they have changed policies such as eliminating choke holds, and have committed resources to de-escalation and implicit bias training. This was never more evident than in the summer during the George Floyd protests as our police and firefighters responded with the utmost professionalism.
As a former commissioner on the Board of Fire and Police, Benny is committed to providing continuous support to our public safety personnel so they can serve our community in the safest and fairest way possible.
Naperville is a wonderful place to live. Unfortunately, many of the wonderful people who work and visit here can not afford to call Naperville home. Benny is committed to mitigating this issue. He understands the need to work with developers who have the expertise and experience to increase our workforce/attainable/affordable inventory without isolating it to a specific area of the community. We need to explore innovative methods that share the financial burden across multiple entities so the business opportunity for developers is more appealing and we can make attainable and affordable housing a reality.
Housing choices for seniors continues to be a challenge. Many of them have lived here for decades but no longer wish to stay in their homes as they have become too big or too difficult to maintain. The City has made strides in this area but we must continue to increase these housing options so we can retain this wealth of knowledge and experience within our community. This also indirectly affects younger families as well because an increasing number of seniors are staying in place as the cost of “downsizing” is a more expensive option. As a result, the housing inventory for younger families has slowly diminished.
Benny is committed to smart, sustainable development. As the council reviews potential development opportunities and land use requests, Benny will encourage sustainable features that promote energy efficiency, structural resiliency, and cost savings. He believes the strongest neighborhoods are walkable, accessible, and well-amenitized. Where feasible, he will advocate for a diverse mix of uses as aligned with city planning best practices. Benny is also committed to acknowledging our architectural heritage while building for the future, and to striking a sensible balance between new construction, historic preservation, and adaptive reuse.