Associate's Degree, Physics, Morain Valley Community College
Bachelor's Degree, Physics, Elmhurst College
Master's Degree, Physcis, University of Notre Dame
Ph. D., Physics, The Ohio State University
On the Record
What experiences do you have that make you a good candidate for office?
The most important is 18 years of service as Alderman for the fourth ward. I understand how the city has evolved during a period of explosive growth and several significant changes such as the deregulation of the electric industry. I have an understanding of the recent history of the City and know why we do some things in a certain manner. Also my 37 years as a physicist has taught me to look at problems in a logical and systematic manner. I do not make emotional decisions; I analyze the issues and am not afraid to crunch the numbers to see if a proposal makes sense. I am also not afraid to state my opinions. I routinely deal with other scientists at Fermilab all of whom are convinced that they are the smartest person in the world. It takes a great deal of patience and skill to get a group of physicist to agree on anything. That is a skill I take over to the council chambers.
What are your top two or three priorities if elected?
1. Number one campaign issue: Streetscape and Downtown revitalization is the top issue for the community. The Council and staff have been working on many ideas for the past ten years on how to make the downtown a destination. The City hosts fairs, shows, and events such as the triathlon and half marathon to use the downtown and surrounding areas. This is a method to draw people to the downtown. The streetscape project was initiated after many community meetings to improve the appearance and walkability of the downtown. The TIF districts were created to fund projects such as streetscape and façade improvement (more on that later). 2. Number 2 campaign issue: Keeping City Services at the current level without raising taxes. The citizens of Batavia expect a high level of service for their tax dollar things such as rapid response from the police and fire departments in emergencies, clearing the streets of snow in the winter, prompt and courteous service from all the city employees. The recession led to a reduction in property values. As a result the number of city employees has decreased; this makes it hard to deliver that small town friendly type of service. The Council realizes that the taxpayer is not a bottomless well of funds. We have passed budgets that have been balanced but not without sacrifice by city employees and reduction of service. Budget issues will continue to
Would you support freezing your taxing district’s levy until housing prices rebound? Why or why not?
The City has been holding the line on tax increases. The levy was raised in 2012 but that is the only time since before the start of the recession. We have reduced staff through layoffs and attrition, and have been very fortunate that there were sufficient reserves to maintain the level of service without asking for more tax dollars. I do not believe in locking the City into a no-new taxes or a tax freeze. Every year is different, there are new challenges to face. While there are always several good projects that could be done if there was only a little more money the major job of the Council is to see that the citizens get the best value for their tax dollar and the best service from the City. In addition how would a rebound in housing prices be determined? What sort of metric could be used? Clearly before 2008 the housing market was over heated. Prices were un-realistic it was difficult if not impossible for new city employees to afford to live in Batavia. Should we wait until another bubble returns before thinking about increasing tax levies? Should we wait until the foreclosure rate drops to a level more like the 1980’s? As we have all seen in the past ridged pledges end up with loop holes that allow escape and are therefore meaningless. It is best to analyze the situation every year at budget time and throughout the year to do the best for the people that pay the taxes.
What one decision by the city council do you most disagree with and why?
Last fall it was time to renew the city’s insurance coverage. We are self-insured but do have stop loss policies to avoid major financial losses. The broker informed us that they would no longer provide coverage for injuries or illness caused by electromagnetic fields (EMF). This of course is quite reasonable since it has been demonstrated from first principals that EMF can’t interact with biological systems thereby causing any health issues. (See R Adair Phys Rev A43 1039-49 (1991) also Phys&Soc 21, 8-10 (1992) and Proc Nat Acad Sci. 91, 2925-29 (1994)) To put it simply, staff panicked and found an insurance agent that would provide such coverage at a cost of $30,000. This is simply taxpayer money thrown away! Why insure for something that cannot happen? I suggested at the committee meeting and again at the Council meeting that if we need EMF insurance we should also buy coverage for zombie attack! After all, the City owns two cemeteries and if the dead were ever to come back to life and wreak havoc in Batavia the City would certainly be libel. Unfortunately a majority of the Council decided we need to have insurance coverage for things that can’t happen.
What was the biggest accomplishment of the city council in the past year?
5. What was the biggest accomplishment of the city council in the past year? The biggest accomplishment was the successful completion of the first part of the streetscape project improvements to North River Street. It was a long and involved process to make the street more pedestrian friendly and to improve the infrastructure. While the construction lasted from early summer to late fall there was far more work involved in the design, planning and coordination of the job. It was hard on the businesses there but they did survive and we are all looking forward to a great spring and summer where the space can be enjoyed by all Batavians.
Why should voters elect you to office?
In 1994 I came before the Council to volunteer for the vacant fourth ward seat. Ed LaMort the other fourth ward alderman asked a very poignant question. “Do you have the time?” His meaning was clear. We schedule over 200 meetings a year and that does not count the ribbon cuttings the workshops and site visits, the calls, visits, emails from citizens that have to be responded to. If you look to my record in over 18 years I have missed only 5 council meetings, I attend almost every committee and most commission meetings. The only way to really understand what is going on is to be there and listen to the people. I use some of my vacation time from Fermilab to travel to meetings and workshops to benefit the City. After 18 years I can definitely answer YES I have the time to serve.
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L. Michael Konen