Savanna has steadily declined in population for some time now. We are projected to continue that trend for the foreseeable future. There are many things that contribute to population loss and Savanna is definitely not alone in this. Many small towns are declining. With that being said, I believe there are some things we can do to attract and retain families in Savanna.
I will work with the park district to get more activities for kids in our area. We have beautiful parks and facilities and should be offering day camps during the summer. Get kids out and moving. We have amazing access to outdoor recreation in this area. Offer archery, canoeing, hiking etc for kids. Redeveloping and adding better access to the River will also help with family activities. I will bring back Taste of Savanna and expand the Shadfly fest to include more for kids.
Retaining families has a lot to do with jobs. I will work to bring new industry and market Savanna as a great place to do business. I will also work closely with our newly elected State Representative Tony McCombie help bring jobs to our area. However, bringing jobs is only half the battle. I will work with community organizations to provide job training and seminars such as resume writing, interviewing skills etc. For example, we have a Federal Prison looking to hire local individuals. These are good paying jobs with great benefits. However, the application process can be a little complicated. I will work with the Prison and local organization to provide coaching on getting in the door.
Perhaps most important to attracting families is the condition of our homes and properties. People do not want to raise a family next to a home that is unkept. This includes grass, paint, trash and cars in yards and any other ordnance violation. I will immediately move to hire re-hire an ordnance officer. We will set up a very streamlined routine and follow up system. This will include weekly touch bases with the ordnance officer. Property owners that neglect their properties effect all of us. They will be ticketed and we will be holding them accountable to cleaning up their property. This effects so much in our town. It effects attracting new residents, it lowers our property values which in turn negatively effects our schools, It lowers the amount of people stopping as they drive through which lowers our sales tax.
Our Riverfront is one of your greatest assets. The completion of the new waste treatment facility will give the City of Savanna the opportunity to redevelop large portions of our Riverfront. I envision a waterfront restaurant, bike rentals for the Trail, kayak rentals and more. This will bring much needed tax dollars as well as income for the Park District and City of Savanna. This will also give greater access to residents of Savanna and the surrounding areas as well as help attract new residents.
With the completion of the new bridge, the next mayor will be instrumental with redeveloping Marquette Park. We should take advantage of this time and make the most of it. I will work with community leaders, clubs, organizations and the park district to add updated seating, floral gardens within the park and a veterans memorial park to make it more of destination everyone can spend their day enjoying.
A thriving Main Street is a sign of a strong community. We draw businesses to this area through marketing ourselves properly. This will take a complete community effort. If elected Mayor, I will establish a committee of business and community leaders to come together and help brand Savanna as a place of opportunity for businesses. We have so many great programs that we can offer to people wanting to start or expand a business.
We will be promoting the fact that our Business District is a TIF District as well as an Enterprise Zone. These are both huge incentives that can help bring businesses to Savanna.
We also need to look open for business. I will work with community organizations like Savanna in Motion, Savanna Service Club, The Lions Club and others to build volunteer efforts to clean up and beautify our business districts. This includes IMMEDIATELY addressing safety issues on our sidewalks. We need to look like a town who wants new businesses if we expect to attract new businesses. Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest differences. We will repaint parking spots, add larger signage for off street parking, control weeds, add additional trash receptacles and look at signage standards, benches, tables etc…
As Mayor, I will reach out to other communities who have successfully Revitalized their Main Street. We will learn from not only their successes but also, their failures so we do not make the same mistakes. I will hold Town Hall meetings with members of our community to simply ask “What do you want to see on your Main Street.” This will take a community effort to achieve.