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Kaptain reflects on city stages in annual Chamber address

Mayor Dave Kaptagives annual mayor's address ElgAreChamber Commerce ElgCommunity College ElgIll. Tuesday December 6 2011. 

| Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times

Mayor Dave Kaptain gives the annual mayor's address to the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Ill., on Tuesday, December 6, 2011. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |

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Updated: January 7, 2013 6:49AM

ELGIN — Mayor David Kaptain took a reflective approach to his annual address to the Elgin Area Chamber Commerce Tuesday morning at Elgin Community College.

In a phone interview after his speech, Kaptain said he built his theme after thinking about turning 65 last month. Like people do during the course of a lifetime, cities also go through cycles, he said.

For Elgin, those phases have included the time when the Watch Factory dominated the town’s fabric and which ended when the factory closed in 1965.

“Then we entered the dark ages. After the factory closed, about 4,000 people in a town of 45,000 lost their jobs. It took Elgin 30 years to recover,” Kaptain said.

The next era started in the 1990s when the Grand Victoria Casino was built, its tax dollars allowing Elgin to fund public works projects and other efforts to revitalize the town.

“We are at the end of that age,” Kaptain said.

With increased gambling competition across the region and the riverboat’s numbers in decline, the city is becoming less dependent on the casino for revenue, Kaptain said.

He noted that the city council this year put into effect new revenue streams to diversify where it is getting money, shifting to what some saw as an over-reliance on the Grand Victoria and property taxes to include such measures as a fee for garbage collection and a “pay for what you use approach.”

Kaptain said he would like to negotiate a contract for waste removal so those who have little garbage to collect pay less than those with bigger hauls.

This transitional phase also is including efforts at consolidation in services, diversifying the city’s economy, and looking to build global markets for Elgin businesses, Kaptain said.

“But the era of cash incentives is gone. I think the city has a high quality of life that can sell itself, with low crime rates, its workforce, and Elgin’s AAA bond rating, which you can’t underplay,” Kaptain said.

Other projects looking forward include forming a strategic plan advisory committee; developing 311 and 211 phone systems to more efficiently route resident concerns to city departments and social service agencies; forming a trades council; and holding an education summit to see how the city and its schools can better work together.

Regarding that last item, while some people in Elgin have been advocating starting a charter school, Kaptain said he thinks the tools are already in place for those who want to find such opportunities for their children.

Kaptain also noted that the city was recently honored by the Sierra Club for its sustainability efforts.

“It’s time for Elgin to be a leader,” Kaptain said.

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