Van Buer support divided

By Nina Gougis

With first-term county board member Frank Van Buer running for DeKalb mayor, support for his actions during his term is divided.

Most of the discrepancy about Van Buer, who was elected for county board in 2000, arose from his stance on tax abatement.

Ruth Anne Tobias, county board chairperson and Democrat, said she has been pleased overall with what she said was Van Buer’s non-partisan work on the county board.

“He always votes on the merits of an issue, not always for one side or the other,” Tobias said. “He votes for what’s best for the county.”

Tobias pointed to Van Buer’s stance on offering tax abatements, in particular the abatement for the Target distribution center, as an example.

The 90-percent tax abatement reduces taxes the company pays by 10 percent each year for five years and ends after the five-year period, said DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow.

Tobias said it was good Van Buer wanted to wait to determine the pros and cons of offering tax incentives to large businesses in order to attract them to the city.

“We want to make sure they really are as good for the community as we think they are,” Tobias said.

Van Buer said, during a March 23 mayoral debate, that he voted against the incentive because he wanted to make his decision based on independent information that was not presented in trade magazines.

Dennis Sands, Republican county board vice chairman, said the board talked about the deal three or four months before voting, giving everyone plenty of time to make an informed decision. The city, he said, could have lost the deal had they waited any longer to investigate.

County board member Eric Johnson agreed, pointing out that every other taxing body in the county voted in favor of the abatement. Only Van Buer, along with what he said was a handful of others, voted against it.

Sands said whoever wins the mayoral race should consider combining the DeKalb County Jail and the DeKalb Police Department as opposed to building two separate facilities.

Sands, who introduced the idea, said three-fourths of the prisoners held in DeKalb County Jail are from DeKalb city.

“It would save the tax payers some money, and that’s something we all should look into,” Sands said.

Sands said he introduced the idea to Van Buer and Sparrow, and both agreed it is a good idea.

Van Buer is running against incumbent Greg Sparrow for DeKalb mayoral in the 2005 DeKalb election.