Marc Answers Questions on a Variety of Topics
Marc has been asked by many different groups to supply information about who he is and what his goals and polices are. We thought the residents of Normal would like to see a few his responses on a variety of topics:
In 150 words or less, please provide your background.
A political independent, Marc Tiritilli moved to Normal in 1997. During his 15-year career as an electronics technician, he received his bachelor’s in Mathematics from ISU.
Marc was an instructor at Tremont High School, Mastery Charter School in Philadelphia, and Bloomington High School. Currently, he manages the IDEA Center makerspace at Illinois Wesleyan and teaches physics and astronomy. Marc also serves as a rappelling technician for Over The Edge, conducting fundraising events nationwide for not-for-profit organizations.
Marc has been a Danvers trustee and a volunteer firefighter for Danvers Fire and Rescue. He has served in various roles for cave rescue, recreation, and conservation organizations—he is the secretary and past president of the Karst Conservancy of Illinois and is a board member for the Near Normal Grotto. Marc was also an instructor with the National Cave Rescue Commission.
Marc lives in Normal with his wife Tracy and their two daughters.
*Marc's expanded bio can be found on his About Marc page.
In 125 words or less, describe why you want to serve and what your vision for the office is.
Over the last several years, our leadership has focused on special projects at the expense of our real needs. New development isn’t bad, but when it’s not balanced with the upkeep of our infrastructure—when our “wants” eclipse our needs—we have a problem. Our residents feel our Town has misplaced priorities, and I agree with them.
My vision for Normal includes fixing the parts of our infrastructure that are both figuratively and literally crumbling because I feel a large part of a Town’s character is reflected in its infrastructure. My vision also includes easing divisions that have invaded our community. Those tensions tend to start at the top, with those who are in leadership. This is why I feel a change is needed.
In 125 words or less, describe what you think are the pressing issues facing the voters today and in the future and how you propose to address these issues.
We need to:
- Invest more in the repair of crumbling streets and deteriorating water mains. We have plenty of revenue, but we need to shift focus from unnecessary spending “wants” and reallocate those funds.
- Shore up underfunded pensions. The gap between pension obligations and funding has been widening—the shortfall is now $95M. Raising property taxes hasn’t worked. I will commit resources from the general fund to reverse the downward trend and get our pensions back on track.
- Enhance representation in our government. Restrictive public comment policies discourage people from speaking. Frustration results. I will remove restrictions that discourage residents from speaking and bring closed-door deliberations out into the open. I also want to change the council’s dynamics so there’s no longer a monolithic mindset.
Name three reasons you are running for office.
I am running for office to:
- invest more in our infrastructure,
- improve our pension funding,
- and improve representation in our local government.
Normal has more than enough resources to accomplish the tasks that are before it. What is needed is a new set of priorities.
There is nothing inherently wrong with investing in bike trails, but we have more pressing needs—our deteriorating streets must be addressed first. We have not been keeping up with the degradation of our infrastructure. This is apparent in the many miles of cracked and buckled pavement all over town, which have been in this condition for years. Many are not even slated for repair in the next five years; examples include Lincoln Street, the Savannah Green subdivision, and historic Route 66. We can do both, but we must invest more in order to catch up. This is also evident in the water system where we have had many complaints caused by outdated water mains that are in need of upgrade and replacement. We must make a higher priority out of these basic services.
Our pension obligations have been rising at an alarming rate. Unfortunately, despite property tax increases in almost every one of the current mayor’s eighteen years in office, pension funding levels have continued to decline. Fire department pensions have gone from a 78% funding level down to 47%. Police pension funding has gone from 74% down to 43%. Our combined unfunded pension obligations have ballooned to over $95 million. We need a different approach. We must commit resources other than property taxes to our pensions in order to reverse this trend.
The Town of Normal has had one of the most restrictive public comment policies in the entire state. Many people feel that their voices have not been represented well on the council. I would like to change that by making public comment more accessible. I want to give people greater opportunity to speak. I am willing to engage them in dialogue at council meetings. The current administration is not.
To accomplish all of this will require new leadership—one that is committed to better representation of all views within the community. It will include a reevaluation of how we spend our money. It will involve reallocating existing resources to shore up areas that are falling behind. It will require implementing a new and better set of priorities.
What has prepared you for this position?
I served as a Trustee on the Danvers Town Council where we had to address similar municipal challenges with far fewer resources. It involved cooperation, determination, and ingenuity, and was a valuable experience.
In my career in industrial automation and repair, I had to think about and quickly analyze mission-critical problems. I had to communicate collaboratively with team members and leaders to craft and implement solutions in real time.
With my training and experience as an educator, I found ways to enable unique individuals to connect with difficult concepts.
My background as a firefighter and cave rescue instructor involved working with risk in challenging and evolving circumstances.
In short, I am a problem solver. It is fundamental to the nature of how I operate. It is also an essential quality in crafting effective policy and maintaining efficient operations. I have studied the Town of Normal closely over the past several years. I see many opportunities for improvement.
What are the biggest challenges facing the position you're seeking?
The biggest challenge will be crafting policies that will guide us through the next twenty years as we deal with the very heavy financial obligations we have incurred. These policies must be structured in a way that maintains services without drastically increasing taxes. The current mayor has done a poor job in this regard. Whether it’s multiple years of rising property tax rates, new taxes on sales and fuel, or large increases in fees on water and garbage, the approach has been to simply take more money from residents. This has made it increasingly difficult for families to thrive in this community. We are finishing the year with a $6 million surplus, but the Town still doubled the local gas tax last December. This cannot continue. We need to take a harder look at our spending in order to reverse the negative trends in our pensions and infrastructure. We cannot continue to increase the burden on our residents.
Another difficult task will be reconciling the political divisions within our community. As a political independent, I am well-positioned to do so. We need more diversity of opinion on the council. We must still include the voices that have been in power for so long, but we must also engage those that have not. I believe a council that is always unanimous is an unhealthy thing—regardless of which way they tend. We are a richly varied community. There are many smart and talented people on all sides that have a great deal to contribute to our shared discussion. We must be more inclusive. In that way, when citizens look to the deliberative process and hear their own voices being represented, their own ideas spoken and considered, there will be much more satisfaction and buy-in with whatever decision finally results. This is an achievable goal. It is one towards which I will work tirelessly to achieve.
How do you work with others?
I am accommodating in that I can embrace a wide variety of approaches. In education, I work very independently with a lot of responsibility for what goes on in my classroom. I do so with direction from administrators and from collaboration with colleagues, but the majority of the task is self-directed. In industry, there is more of a team approach. Various courses of action are analyzed and discussed, resulting in a more consensus-driven solution. I also work comfortably in highly structured settings. As a member of the National Cave Rescue Commission’s Education Committee, I worked on a multi-year project to completely revise the curriculum, materials, and methods that would be used to train emergency personnel. It was a very immersive and collaborative process that yielded tangible results in a field where emotions can often run high.
I am very flexible in the way that I work with others. As a teacher, I have learned that one style does not fit everyone. I see this in my students. Working with them is as much about perceiving and engaging their learning styles as it is about the material itself. I was once asked in an interview, “How do you know when it’s time to give up on a student?” My reply was, “I can’t think of a time I would ever give up on one!” I will apply the same dynamics to the town council. I am willing and able to sit down and talk with anyone. I believe in open discussion that allows all participants to make persuasive arguments to advocate for their positions.
Name a situation in which you changed your opinion about something.
I originally thought the crosswalk signs for the busier roads along the Constitution trail were a good idea. However, I now think they should be removed.
I live on a street that is near one of the trail intersections. I saw the initial appeal in raising awareness of pedestrians crossing the street. In practice, however, the signs have done more harm than good. They are hit by cars on a regular basis. This costs the town for replacement, not to mention the damage caused to vehicles. I have personally witnessed three vehicle accidents caused not by pedestrians, but by motorists who are unsure of how to react to the signs. One involved a motorcyclist who rear-ended a car that stopped unexpectedly, even though no one was crossing the street. He was thrown over the handlebars, and the bike was severely damaged. I know that other incidents have occurred elsewhere in town. On balance, I now believe these signs do more harm than good. I am in favor of exploring other options for crosswalk safety, such as roadway-embedded lights that can be activated by pedestrians who are ready to cross.
In your opinion, what are the three greatest strengths of the Town of Normal? How would you promote them? Conversely, in your opinion, what are the three biggest challenges, notwithstanding COVID-19, for the Town of Normal, and how would you address them?
Normal has a tremendous amount of resources. We have interstate access in five directions, freight and passenger rail service, an airport, two universities, and top-tier companies that bring in talent from all over the world. We have wonderful local amenities in the form of parks, trails, and museums. We are home to a friendly and generous community that exemplifies midwestern hospitality and perseverance.
However, the current administration has failed to have enough self-respect for all that Normal has to offer. In fear of losing out on a deal, they have undercut the economic benefit of many projects by offering lavish incentives to favored developers. This has been counterproductive: first, because the millions in incentives are rarely recouped (Portillo’s, One Uptown Circle, Philips-Edison, etc.), and second, because one-off deals create a preferential and an uneven playing field that divides the business community while promoting dissent amongst the residents. Time and again we have seen that these projects would have come to fruition even if we hadn’t offered such desperate enticements.
To more effectively and more equitably promote our local advantages, I would establish a preset schedule of incentives based on capital investment and job creation that all business could participate in. By working together with local taxing bodies ahead of time, prospective partners would know up front what is available and would not have to risk delays or denials pending council and board approvals.
Further, since the program is accessible to all, the preferential climate that discourages some companies from investing in Normal would be eliminated. This type of program could be promoted universally. It would then catch the attention of a wide variety of investors from diverse disciplines, rather than a few targeted players.
Other challenges within Normal besides commercial favoritism include a low priority on infrastructure and a lack of diverse representation for the citizens. Examples include deteriorating roads such as Lincoln Street, which has large swaths of cracked pavement and buckled concrete, and West College Avenue, which has been the worst road in town for years, but is not scheduled for repairs until 2023. Lincoln Street is still listed as not recommended, meaning there are no plans to address it even in the next five years. Despite increasing balances in the general fund and a new local motor fuel tax, spending by the current administration on road repairs has remained relatively flat.
Water quality is another issue. Many residents have complained of brown, unpalatable water that has stained fixtures and ruined clothes. They were told their water main repairs would have to wait for years. This imbalance in our priorities in unacceptable. I intend to change it by making infrastructure and the needs of our residents a much higher emphasis.
This can be achieved by redirecting existing resources away from optional projects towards more critical infrastructure needs. This in turn will make Normal a more attractive environment for people willing to locate and invest here. Bad roads and bad water are a turn-off. We can do better.
Finally, in terms of representation, there has been a small segment of the community that has dominated the discussion for far too long. In Normal’s at-large system, we have wound up with councils that have a monolithic mindset. Dissenting voices have been actively shunned and disdained. A few years ago, Normal had the most restrictive public comment policy in the state. It allowed a resident to speak for only three minutes, once every forty-five days. It took the threat of action by the State’s Attorney to bring a change. Mayor Koos in particular has been overly restrictive in his public comment policies and currently has three cases pending* before him for violations of the Open Meetings Act. I believe this is wrong.
*Note: Since the time of this writing the State’s Attorney ruled against Chris Koos in one of these cases, stating that he did indeed violate the Open Meetings Act by interrupting Marc and stopping him from speaking publicly in a council meeting.
We should open up the discussion and welcome input from our residents and from all members of the business community. As I stated above, we are blessed with a talented and diverse citizenry who can bring many ideas and solutions to the table. We should dictate less and listen more. I will give voice to the people who have been excluded from the conversation.
If elected mayor, how would you work with the City of Bloomington and McLean County leadership to enhance and ensure collaboration?
I am a collaborative person. As an educator, I work with all students, parents, and staff, whether or not I find them agreeable. I will bring the same professional mindset to the office of Mayor.
I will engage the Bloomington council and staff on a regular basis to discuss any projects that affect them and to seek those areas in which we can share resources. This is especially true in the areas of emergency planning. In the past ice storm for example, it would have been helpful to have provisions in place that would have identified mobile 25-50kW generators. These could have been deployed to blocks that were without power for days on end. Buses could have been parked to serve as quick warm-up station for resident without heat who just need a few minutes to get out of the cold before going back to their house. Extra rooms at the local hotels could have been arranged for longer-term relief. Agreements should be worked out and be in place beforehand so they are ready to be executed on short notice.
In a similar way, I would collaborate with the county and any other boards and commissions that are affected by our endeavors, or who can benefit from increased cooperation.