August 21, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Solomon Islands: Special Report: Mayor and Solomon Islands RPCV Tom Weisner: August 21, 2005: Headlines: Figures: COS - Solomon Islands: City Government: Aurora Beacon News: Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days

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Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days

Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days

While Weisner himself won't admit it, City Hall insiders agree the new mayor's visible style also comes from a calculated desire to set himself apart from his predecessor, former Mayor David Stover, who in retrospect seemed almost reclusive by comparison. As a result, they say, Weisner has set a unique tone for the remaining 1,360 days of his first term in office that of an aggressive, high-energy, high-profile mayor. Tom Weisner, elected mayor of Aurora, IL in 2005, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands.

Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days

Mayor Tom Weisner: The first 100 days
Striving to be a visible figurehead

By Ed Fanselow
Staff Writer

AURORA Call Tom Weisner what you will. Just don't call him late for your church's next potluck dinner.

Or your block party.

Or the next neighborhood cleanup.

"If people are getting together for the good of the community," he says, "I'm going to do my best to be a part of it."

For all of his more tangible accomplishments of his first 100 days in office, it is Weisner's high-profile public persona that has undoubtedly created the most buzz thus far in his tenure in office.

He's yet to miss an installment of Downtown Alive!, and has been spotted in recent weeks presiding over the rededication of an East Side cemetery and handing out trophies after the Aurora Boys Baseball championship game.

"Frankly, it energizes me," Weisner says. "And I think people appreciate it, too not because Tom Weisner is there, but because the mayor of Aurora is there. It validates whatever it is they're doing.
"

While Weisner himself won't admit it, City Hall insiders agree the new mayor's visible style also comes from a calculated desire to set himself apart from his predecessor, former Mayor David Stover, who in retrospect seemed almost reclusive by comparison.

As a result, they say, Weisner has set a unique tone for the remaining 1,360 days of his first term in office that of an aggressive, high-energy, high-profile mayor.

"It seems to be working out quite well so far," said Alderman Chris Beykirch, an ally of both the current and former mayors. "People noticed that Dave Stover wasn't out in the community a whole lot, and they notice the difference now."

Weisner contends that his efforts also extend far beyond city limits.

He points to a series of recent meetings with Illinois Sens. Barack Obama and Dick Durbin, and U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert as responsible for the city netting an additional $5.5 million in the recently approved federal transportation bill. It was the first time in memory that the mayor of Aurora has visited the nation's capitol on official business.

"They turned around and did some good for Aurora as a result of simply being asked," Weisner said. "I don't think that in the past every effort has been made to take advantage of those kinds of opportunities.

"When you're the second-largest city in the state, you have to act like it. If you're a high-profile mayor, you're going to elevate the profile of your city."

More tangible results, too


Not all of the new mayor's first three months in office have been focused on such abstract ideas. Weisner has also been able to push through some more concrete initiatives. Less than three weeks after taking office, he made waves at City Hall with the dismissals of a half-dozen high-ranking city staffers.

The move, according to Beykirch, signaled the beginning of "a change in culture" at City Hall.

"There's an idea being bought into there now that people have to believe in the idea of customer service," Beykirch said. "It's no longer 'I work for the government.' It's 'I work for the citizens of Aurora.'"

Along the same lines, Weisner in mid-July announced a proposal aimed at streamlining the city's approval process for new commercial developments. Cutting some of the red tape not only saves developers money, Weisner contended, but means that the city can start collecting property and sales taxes sooner.

Business leaders hailed the plan as long overdue.

"It's a giant step forward," said Tom Cook, project manager for R.C. Wegman Construction. "They've recognized an inefficiency, and they're doing something about it."

Weisner has also taken quick action to fulfill campaign promises of bolstering the police department's community-oriented policing program by assigning three additional officers to the COP beat. He also increased diversity at City Hall by naming a Latino and an African-American woman to his team of top advisors.

"All throughout the campaign, I was chomping at the bit to quit talking and start doing," he said. "So once I started, I didn't see the need to sit around and keep talking about the things I knew what we wanted to get accomplished. We just did it."

That aggressiveness, however, also helped led to what could be construed as the most noteworthy misstep of Weisner's fledgling administration: what some have seen as a premature announcement in mid-May that he helped broker a deal between the owners of the long-vacant Copley Memorial Hospital and a Chicago land developer.

Less than two months later, the supposed agreement had imploded, with Weisner admitting that he had "underestimated" the complex range of issues plaguing the property's owners, the Guiding Light Community Development Corp.

In a seeming effort to correct that mistake, he began taking a harder line with the group, saying that he was willing to consider a forcible takeover of the property if a deal could not be reached in short order.

The property, however, remains in limbo and at the top of the list of city issues that will continue making headlines over Weisner's next 100 days in office.

Also on that list:

Looming decisions regarding personnel, including a replacement for retired Fire Chief Roger Probst and the six department heads forced out in early May;

n Further attempts to restructure and streamline the City Hall workforce;

n The hiring of a permanent chief-of-staff, a role now being filled by Weisner's former campaign manager, Gerry Galloway, on a month-to-month basis. Will Galloway stay or will Weisner look elsewhere?

n Other long-standing problems including downtown redevelopment, the long-forgotten Eola Road interchange project and of course crime.

For many, though, the biggest question remaining is whether Weisner will be able to keep up the near-breakneck pace of his first 100 days.

"I've heard some concerns that after a while, if he keeps it in such high gear, he's going to eventually burn out," Beykirch said. "I hope that doesn't happen because I think what you've seen so far is what you're going to get for the next 3-1/2 years."





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Story Source: Aurora Beacon News

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Solomon Islands; City Government

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