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DeKalb mayor previews upcoming State of the City address

January 1, 2019

DeKALB – Mayor Jerry Smith is the first to admit the city of DeKalb had “a lot happen in 2018.”

But Smith is already looking ahead to 2019, and on Friday previewed his upcoming State of the City address, which will take place during the entirety of the Committee of the Whole meeting Jan. 14, set to begin at 5 p.m. It will precede the regular city council meeting at 200 S. Fourth St. Smith was elected in the spring of 2017, and will deliver his second state of DeKalb address in January, marking the end of his first full calendar year in office.

“We continue to work very hard on some of the key issues that I ran on in my campaign: economic development and public safety,” Smith said Friday.

He highlighted the ongoing conversations surrounding tax increment financing and “its continuing impact, on a positive stance, downtown [DeKalb].”

Notably, the ongoing Pappas development projects in the Central Business District, Cornerstone DeKalb and Plaza DeKalb, were both given TIF money by the city in 2018. The TIF issues in DeKalb continue to heat up and elicit controversy, and in 2019, the city will undergo a forensic audit of its past TIF fund distributions, which the DeKalb County State’s Attorney’s Office will oversee.

Smith said he “feels really good” about continued public safety improvements, such as the DeKalb Police Department’s Safe Streets Initiative, the passage of the Annie Glidden North Revitalization Plan, and the installation of better lighting around town.

Mayor Smith highlighted his signing the Welcoming City Proclamation in May – which proclaimed the city of DeKalb as a welcoming community for residents regardless of national origin or immigration status – as a personal favorite 2018 success.

Smith continued to place a heavy emphasis on the hiring of Bill Nicklas as city manager to address ongoing issues.

“Obviously the 800-pound gorilla in the room continues to be the budget,” Smith said. “I know [Nicklas] is hard at work taking a look at what we’ve done with the budget so far.”

Smith also discussed the city’s partnership with Northern Illinois University.

“Having [NIU President] Lisa Freeman aboard at Northern is certainly a plus for the city,” Smith said. “We look forward to continuing what I believe has been one of the strongest relationships between this city and university in a long, long time.”

Smith said he has high hopes that Nicklas will be key to realizing his goal of better regional collaboration.

“I am going to work alongside [Nicklas] to make sure we handle more personal outreach to businesses and retail partners in the downtown and surrounding areas, and also in our industrial community,” Smith said.

Smith said he also wants the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport to have a “more regional tag,” and wants to improve relationships between the city and its state and national legislative leaders.

“I look forward [to 2019] with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of vigor, and a renewed sense of our ability to move forward now that we have Bill Nicklas aboard,” Smith said.

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