Aurora Mayoral Candidate Denounces Rise in Crime
Aurora has seen an uptick in violent crime in January that includes shootings and carjackings that have left several residents dead and seriously injured. Aurora Mayoral candidate, John Laesch released a video statement about the elevated crime rates and pledged to address the root causes of rising crime by focusing on proven crime prevention methods. In the video release Laesch talks about living wage job creation, adequately funding youth services, and rebuilding trust between community and police.
Text of John's Statement My name is John Laesch. I am running for Mayor of Aurora. I wanted to address the recent uptick in crime and violence in our city and assure fellow citizens that I am committed to bringing our city together to make sure that our neighborhoods are safe and that our government and our economy works for everyone.
Without question, 2020 was a difficult year for the nation and our city and 2021 is off to a rough start. On New Year’s Eve, two men were shot while driving down the street. Only one survived. Here we are a few weeks later and our community is already dealing with several incidents that have left our neighbors seriously injured or dead. Behind each tragic headline numerous lives are torn apart, families hurt from the loss, and it feels like our community is unravelling. I hear fear in people’s voices as I go door-to-door, or from people who contact my campaign. Many of them are taking precautions, such as installing video surveillance systems.
Our nation and city are still reeling from the pandemic, tossed into uncertain times where people are facing new fears that many of us never imagined. Economic insecurities and job loss, food insecurities, and housing insecurities. While some are calling for more dollars to the police, others in our community still face racial profiling and harassment. The later of these has eroded the trust between community and police, and we must rebuild this trust.
We all want safe neighborhoods, good schools, good jobs and an easy retirement. We all want and deserve to be treated equally and have equal opportunities regardless of race, creed or sexual orientation.
We are witnessing a failure of leadership right now when it comes to the insecurities we are facing. Good-paying jobs are scarce. Budget cuts to Youth Services have reduced after-school activities. COVID has presented new challenges and devastations. Violent crime is more prevalent. We are living through a crisis and we need new, strong leadership that is capable of taking our city in a different direction.
To look forward we have to look back and ask ourselves how did we reverse the trend from those years when Aurora sadly recorded 25-30 murders a year. It was not a simple answer then and it is not a simple answer now.
As your next mayor I am offering a 3-pillar approach to keeping our neighborhoods safe and bringing our community together. These three pillars include a focus on crime prevention, a focus on addressing poverty with better-paying jobs, and a focus on rebuilding the relationship between community service officers and the people who live in Aurora.
First, crime prevention. I mentioned earlier that simply bolstering the police budget will not address the recent rise in crime. If you think about it, the role of the police is to show up after the crime has been committed; tasked with solving the crime and holding the offender accountable.
I will restore the budget for youth services and build better relationships with other non-profits and governing bodies like the Fox Valley Park District, our schools, and the Aurora Township government to provide safe places for kids to go after school to receive help with their homework, enjoy a pick-up game of basketball, volleyball or soccer, and provide art and theater clubs.
We need to hire positive role models to staff these locations and invite community volunteers who want to serve in this capacity. I have even found a number of former gang members who served time, and are hungry to reach our youth so the next generation does not make the same mistakes that they made.
As a budget item, the youth services budget has seen dramatic cuts. In 2007 the Youth Services budget was $1.4 Million dollars. Today, that budget is $450,000 - more than a million dollars in cuts. One of the big items cut from the budget was the Fred Rodgers Community Center - a place where all were welcome. If you ask me, this is defunding of crime prevention initiatives and it needs to stop. During this same period, we have seen a dramatic increase in the police budget that includes a state-of-the-art facility and more uniformed officers, and yet crime is on the rise.
The current administration has given old city buildings away to developers at the whopping price of one dollar. Why have we not converted one of these empty buildings into a community center? Why has the mayor given his politically connected supporters two westside school buildings to turn into for-profit rental properties?
The best form of crime prevention is a good paying job. Pillar number two is addressing Aurora’s 12% poverty rate through living wage job creation for people who live and work in our city. There is a direct correlation between average household income and crime. Looking at Aurora and our neighbors, we have the lowest average household income of $91,235, and we have the highest crime rates.
I am campaigning on an aggressive green building and alternative energy program that will create good-paying jobs in our community. These jobs cannot be outsourced and we will target training programs for people who live in Aurora.
I will work with our education institutions to make sure that Aurora residents are first in-line for green training programs and certifications. We need to target people who have slipped through the cracks in the education system and those who want to better their lives with a new career and good pay.
I will work with the Kane County Sheriff’s office to provide job training and rehabilitation to make sure that ex offenders receive the skills they need to find good-paying jobs after they have paid their debt to society so they don’t return to a life of crime.
There is a significant amount of money available from the utilities, from both state and federal entities. If we have a department of sustainability that can help local businesses and residents find these incentives, we will bring more money into our local economy and create better-paying jobs.
I will also put forward an urban farming bill to build a local food economy and grow food locally, giving our community greater food security, reducing our carbon footprint and creating more local jobs.
Finally, when city assistance in the form of TIF districts or other incentives are offered to businesses who want to call Aurora home, we will require those businesses to pay a living wage. Using incentives to attract businesses that pay poverty-level wages brings nothing positive to our community.
The third pillar - restoring trust between the police and community is going to require a culture shift in the Aurora Police Department to a culture of public service and professionalism. I have said that on day one of my administration that I will take a 25% pay cut as a way of signaling that my job and all tax-payer funded jobs are here to serve the public.
I have a number of proposals to help rebuild trust and change our culture.
First, the current police chief or next police chief will receive professional development training that is focused on cultural change. If we want to change culture, we need the person responsible for this change to have the necessary training to do so.
Second - I support residency for new hires in the police department. Voters have indicated clearly that they feel safer when their neighbor is a police officer. I don’t know if this issue will be resolved before I assume the job of mayor - I believe that the administration is working on a stipend for police who live in Aurora.
I will push a “grow your own” plan to recruit young police cadets from Aurora schools so the next generation of APD officers come from Aurora, care about Aurora and reflect the cultural diversity of our city.
I am a strong advocate for community policing. will encourage and incentivize our women and men in uniform to attend community events to build relationships with the people in the areas they serve.
I will not tolerate police brutality or discrimination in our police force and we will expect a higher level of professionalism from those who serve in uniform. As a military man who served in a foreign country, I was always expected to carry myself in a way that reflects pride in the uniform and someone who is considered an ambassador to the United States. We will expect the same professionalism from those who wear the Aurora Police uniform. And as the mayor of this city I will do my best to treat all people equally, and with dignity and respect.
If we can rebuild this trust, I feel that people will feel more comfortable calling the police when they see suspicious behavior. Both police and residents will be more engaged in directing at-risk youth towards positive role models in our youth centers. And if we all treat our neighbors like family, we stand a chance of rebuilding Aurora after the pandemic into a strong, thriving city.
I believe that the city of lights can be a beacon of hope for our nation and I am committed to this cause - I cannot do it alone. I will need your help, your support and your engagement.
My name is John Laesch. I’m running for Mayor of Aurora. I am asking for your vote on April 6th - together we can rebuild our communities with greater safety, security and economic opportunity for all. Thank you.