Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Batavia's Houston Street streetscape up for vote

Batavia's Houston Street

Batavians, your input is needed on an important upcoming event:

The proposed $2.1million Houston Street streetscape project was discussed at last night's JCOW (Joint Committee of the Whole) meeting. The streetscape designers (Altamanu) were also brought in to review their analysis and design.

City Administrator Bill McGrath spoke on behalf of his staff and asked for the process to slow down. With River Street not officially finished, and Wilson Street in the midst of construction, he said city staff is being stretched too thin. He also reviewed the TIF budget, which is the primary funding mechanism for the streetscape project. Moving ahead with this project in 2014 will result in the TIF fund going into the red for several years until TIF revenue replenishes the fund.

Some aldermen want this project to move forward immediately. Others, including me, are not comfortable with the deficit spending, and have asked to review the design to ensure that we are not spending wastefully. There is no doubt that Houston Street needs renovation. The roadway is in horrible condition, and the infrastructure beneath is aged. That said, there are ways to reduce the spending for the project.

One other important piece of the puzzle: the proposed streetscape project will result in a net loss of 15 parking stalls along Houston Street, between Island Avenue and Water Street.

A motion was made to move ahead with the project. The resulting committee vote was 6-5 to immediately proceed with no further review or revisions.

The six aldermen voting in favor of moving ahead were: Brown, Atac, Wolff, Sparks, O’Brien, and McFadden. The five aldermen voting in favor of slowing down were: Stark, Callahan, Hohmann, Saam, and Vasilion. Aldermen Clark, Chanzit, and Cerone were not present.

This now moves on to the full council for a vote at this coming Monday’s meeting (Aug. 19th). If approved by the full council, this project will be built in 2014.

What are your thoughts? Please contact your aldermen (there are two in each ward) and let them know your opinion. Please attend the council meeting and let your voice be heard. This council is more inclined than ever before to listen to you. Your opinion is important.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


You, the voters, have clearly made your opinions and wants known to anyone who would listen:

1. Be better stewards of our city finances (the arch is wasteful).

2. Listen to our opinions. Don't tell us it's too late to correct what is wrong and to do what is right.

3. Set clear policies that will support new and existing downtown businesses.

4. Work cooperatively to keep Walgreens in our downtown.

5. Support our arts community. It is an important part of our identity and our future.

6. We demand greater transparency: make it easier for us to know what is going on.

I have heard you, loudly and clearly.  I need your vote today.

Thank you,

Friday, April 5, 2013


We are entering the final weekend of this campaign. It’s been an exciting and satisfying experience. I have met young first-time voters, seasoned citizens, and life-long residents who have participated in dozens of elections. Both young and old have the same concerns:

1. The city government doesn’t listen to us.  When we show up and speak at meetings we are criticized, told that discussions were held years ago and we should have participated then. It always seems “too late” to make changes to satisfy our requests.

2. The city is spending our tax dollars in the wrong areas. The River Street arch is the prime example. I’ve meet hundreds of voters and I’ve heard nothing but opposition to this structure. Objections included both the garish design and its $117,000 price tag.

3. What coal plant obligation? Many citizens still know little about this 30 year, $246 million commitment. They ask, if our electrical rates are supposed to be going down, why are their bills going up? It frightens them to know that we may not see a profitable return on this project until 2024 or later. If ever.

4. They say they want Walgreens to stay in town. They say there needs to be give-and-take on both sides, but want to see the process move more quickly. The want the city’s commitment to work efficiently and cooperatively with both Walgreens and the property owner.

5. Lastly, they say they want change. They want new ideas, new voices, and new energy.

I pledge to support each of these concerns. Thank you for your encouragement and support. Please vote for me on April 9th.


Candidate for 5th Ward Alderman

Friday, March 29, 2013

The River Street Arch

The streetscape renovation on River Street has opened to mixed reviews.  Most agree that this project accomplished a much-needed renovation; however I have heard a number of concerns:
·       Batavia spent far more of its TIF funds than planned, which will hurt its ability to improve other targeted areas.
·       The remodeling resulted in a reduction of parking in an area that already lacked adequate parking.
·       The parking is confusing: It is difficult to identify where the parking actually is allowed and has resulted in vehicles being ticketed or blocking through traffic.
·       Batavia City Council hired design consultants without seeking proposals from qualified local professionals.  This alienated local design firms who have now missed an opportunity to contribute within their own community.
The city council is about to approve a design for the crowning piece of the project: the decorative entry arch.  What began as a line item budgeted at $55,000 was then increased to $90,000 in June, 2012.  That cost has now risen to approximately $120,000 when professional design fees and lighting are included.  Below is a rendering of the proposed arch.
As an architect, I am respectful of the efforts of other architects and designer professionals
I have tried to remain open about this arch design.  I have reviewed the drawings and the 3D images several times.
To call this structure an arch is not accurate. The design is more of a tiara, an intricate halo, 30-feet in diameter, hovering14-feet above the street.  It is supported from cables suspended from a heavy timber structure. 
I don’t think this design is successful. The timber and steel design does not fit contextually with Batavia’s historic surroundings, nor does it represent Batavia’s future. It is an expensive, garish structure.
I think we can better spend $120,000 of Batavian’s tax dollars elsewhere.  Or not at all. 
The city council will be voting on the arch at its next meeting on Monday, April 1st.  Please attend and voice your opinion. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

From the Beacon News

Linda Girardi of The Beacon-News has written a good article about the debate over the Prairie State energy deal.
See it here: Power plan issue sparks debate

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Time for a change

We continue to receive excellent response to our recent letter. In case you missed it, here it is:


My name is Steve Vasilion, and I am a candidate for alderman here in Batavia’s Fifth Ward. I am writing to tell you about my campaign to represent the Fifth Ward and to ask for your support.

Who am I?

I have lived in Batavia for more than 16 years. My wife Laura and I currently live on Illinois Avenue and our blended family includes five adult children. I am an architect, and have more than 30 years of experience, operating my own practice for 22 years, 13 of those here in Batavia. I have designed a variety of structures in the area, including the Peg Bond Center bandshell at the Batavia Riverwalk. I know what it takes to compete and succeed in a challenging marketplace. I also serve on Batavia’s Historical Preservation Commission.

My vision for Batavia

I imagine a Batavia that embraces its past and looks forward to its future. I believe Batavia must work to welcome new business and be receptive to creative ideas. I am committed to a city that boasts an efficient, transparent government that works to build a better Batavia for all of us.

Transparency in government:

I will bring a fresh perspective to City Hall and a commitment to government transparency. It is time for Batavia to move beyond the old-boys network and business as usual. The incumbent has represented the Fifth Ward for 32 years and has stated now is “not a good time for change.” I believe Batavia cannot wait four more years for change and we can do better.

From its 30-year, $246 million obligation in the Prairie State Energy campus in southern Illinois to its excessive spending of TIF funds on a single street-scape project, I believe the City must do more to inform residents and business owners of the long-term impact of these commitments, including tax hikes and higher utility bills for every ratepayer. It’s time for a change.

I believe there is much the City can do to enhance the downtown business district, and it must start with improving the review process for proposed business projects. The City took more than half a decade to approve McDonald’s building renovation and Walgreens already has committed two years to a review process that many municipalities can complete in one year. My opponent blames these lengthy delays on the businesses themselves. If the City wants to improve its downtown, it must improve its operations. It’s time for a change.

I believe the City should make needed improvements — better lighting, more parking, safer sidewalks — to the area around Water Street Studios. This area attracts thousands of visitors to downtown Batavia and creates a distinct image for the City. I also believe we can do more to protect and enhance our riverfront.

I want to be your alderman for Batavia’s Fifth Ward, and I need your help to secure that privilege. Election Day is Tuesday, April 9, but early voting begins on Monday, March 25. Early voting can be completed at Batavia City Hall, 100 N. Island Ave. Please vote in the upcoming election, and please cast your ballot for me.


Steve Vasilion

Friday, March 15, 2013

Batavia Chamber of Commerce forum

I enjoyed speaking at the Batavia Chamber of Commerce's candidate's forum Wednesday evening. I was also great to hear from the other candidates and well.

It was tough to limit our responses to just one minute. My full-length answers to the Chamber's questions are available here: Steve's responses.

For everyone's responses, visit the Batavia Chamber of Commerce's website.

The video is available on Batavia Access Television here.