Candidate for City Council, 18th Ward
Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign J.D. and B.A.
Age: Not answered
Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered
Q: Last year, the Chicago Tribune's investigative series "Broken Bonds" reported that, since 2000, Chicago had issued long-term bonds to spend nearly $10 billion, much of it for short-term operating expenses. Hundreds of millions of dollars went to delay bond payments by refinancing old debts, a tactic known as "scoop and toss" that extends payments far into the future. Was this borrowing justified? Going forward, how should City Hall change its finances to pay down existing debts and provide services? Will you argue primarily for cuts in spending or for tax increases? Please be specific.
The borrowing process known as "scoop and toss" was not justified. The delay tactic will burden future generations and force taxpayers to pay for problematic short-term purchases that are no longer available for public enjoyment. The city should implement a three prong trial program to restore public confidence and integrity into the Broken Bonds system. First, the city should restrict the allocation of resources to fund short-term/ day-to-day purchases (software, spare parts for vehicles, legal expenses, etc.). Second, the council should provide detailed spending plans to the public that clearly outline short-term purchases, refinanced bonds, and capital improvements. Third, long term borrowing should be reserved for projects that are intended to last. The city is in serious financial trouble and can't afford the level of service it currently provides. I have lived in the 18th ward for many years, and in speaking with my fellow residents, the consensus is nobody is willing to suffer from a further reduction of the services that many of these residents depend on. However, as a lawyer, educator, and homeowner, I also understand the value of fiscal responsibility and a balanced budget, and realize the dire straits the city's budget deficit places its residents. Therefore I think it's important to look for new sources of city revenue while also increasing fees, penalties and (as a last resort) taxes to help fund promised services and existing obligations. However, the high level of municipal spending that contributes to the deficit goes beyond just the services that my neighbors and I rely on. I would look to shrink the city government administrative budget by consolidating several city council committees, reducing redundant upper-level administration, and refocusing the city's commitment to environmental technology, which will ultimately save the city money in energy, paper and other goods. All of these administrative cuts should be done without reducing any core city services. All in all, we need to find new revenue sources and cut inefficiencies to help our city get back to a state of fiscal solvency.
Q: Chicago will face a substantial increase in contributions to its police and fire pension funds in 2016. Chicago's unfunded pension liability amounts to about $7,000 for each resident of the city. How should the city solve its pension crisis? Please be specific about pension changes, spending cuts or revenue increases you would support.
The city's police and fire pension funds have been called a "ticking time bomb," with the pension commission predicting that funds will run out of money. "There is no low- or no-cost solution to this problem," the commission wrote in a report. "Deferring action is not a viable option." I have a plan that works to bring the pension funds to solvency. This includes paying down existing debt obligation with the cost benefit of alleviating the taxpayers of the delay tactic, nicknamed "scoop and toss." I believe that once an employee starts paying into a pension program, the benefits should be clear and concrete. As a lawyer, I also believe that the equitable (and legal) thing to do is to honor the originally "fully negotiated agreement." But these Pension programs need to become properly funded, and I would support identifying a dedicated revenue source strictly to replenish our depleted pension funds. As a last resort, and in a worst case scenario, I could support reduced benefits for future employees based on negotiations and conversations with organized labor that provides for everyone's needs. It's important to work together to responsibly solve our financial problems while protecting the rights of our working class.
Q: What changes should be made in the city's use of tax increment financing? Would you support expansion or extension of TIF districts in your ward? How should excess TIF funds be spent? Do you support the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for a Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena? Please explain.
. I desire to use the Tax Increment Financing ("TIF") program to spur development in the 18th Ward. Ideally, I want to use urban planners to see how we can use vacate spaces within the ward to assist small businesses. I would support expansion and extension of TIF districts in the 18th Ward. I believe excess TIF funds should be use to fund capital improvement programs related to schools and economic business development. I support the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for a Marriot Hotel and DePaul basketball arena, however I believe the proposed TIF funding project should be put to a popular vote.
Q: The Tribune Editorial Board recently offered "12 ways to heal a city" — the best ideas among more than 1,000 suggestions from readers on how to craft "A new Plan of Chicago." These proposals are available at chicagotribune.com/plan. Please tell us which ideas you would champion. We invite you to offer additional ideas for dealing with Chicago's challenges.
Although I would explore all the offered "12 ways to heal a city," the following are the three I would champion: Schools as tools, It takes a City, and innovation Houses.
Q: Should the City Council keep or abolish the office of legislative inspector general? Should the city inspector general be given the authority to investigate aldermen and their staff members? Do you have other ideas to improve government ethics in Chicago? Please explain.
I believe the City Council should keep the office of legislative inspector general. I believe the city inspector general should be given the authority to investigate alderman and their staff members.
Q: The Chicago Public Schools system has seen significant improvements in freshmen on track and high school graduation rates. CPS has also closed dozens of schools, used fiscal 2016 revenue to balance its 2015 budget and faces a roughly $700 million pension payment in 2016. Please give us your assessment of the academic and financial performance of the city's public schools. What is the key to improving public education in the city? Should members of the Board of Education be elected by the public or continue to be appointed by the mayor? Do you support the longer school day and year? Should CPS expand or reduce the number of charter schools? How should CPS close its significant budget gap?
Fixing our schools is at the core of creating good jobs, safer streets, and brighter futures. Over the last four years our children's schools were closed and their teachers were laid off. I support good schools and want to explore all options to ensure they are adequately funded. Putting children first can no longer just be a tag line, it must be a mindset used to address every issue. Teachers are the front lines in providing a high quality education to our students, and as a former teacher I know how much valuable input they have to the needs in the classrooms and the needs of our students. I support an increase in high-quality public education options such as selective enrollment schools, STEM schools, International Baccalaureate schools, and high-quality Charter schools. Fixing our schools is at the core of creating good jobs, safer streets, and brighter futures. Putting children first can no longer just be a tag line, it must be a mindset used to address every issue. I believe a phrase in "hybrid" Elected Representative School Board will allow us to evaluate whether a full elected school board is best for our city. The local school councils "LSCs" mirror the challenges and rewards of an elected school board. Some LSCs are strong with active and independent members resulting in positive outcomes for students, parents, and the communities. On the other hand, some LSCs are ineffective and harm student achievement. Chicagoans deserve an opportunity to gradually evaluate what this accountability framework will look like across the city. I support the longer school day and year. I believe CPS should liquidate some of its assets to close its significant budge gap.
Q: How would you attract more employers to your ward? How would you encourage employers to hire local residents? What have you done to promote economic development in your ward?
. I believe the Tribune Editorial Board article suggestions: Oases in the jobs desert, and kids and careers in its "12 ways to heal a city" mirrors my plan to attract more employers to the 18th Ward. I believe awarding TIF money and eliminating property taxes for small businesses that locate or expand to the 18th ward will attract more employers. I will encourage employers to hire local residents through ward specific seminars, job-training programs, and job fairs for residents. I currently assist local high schools in their law programs through teaching and coaching courses. I hope to bring more professionals to 18th ward schools to cultivate a community of future professionals.
Q: Do you support or oppose the City Council vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019? Please explain.
People working full time jobs still struggle to support a family. There are thousands of wage-workers in the 18th ward. Minimum wage workers earn only about $17,000 a year, working full-time. This is insufficient to put food on the table and a roof over your head. Chicago is the city that works, because we a community of working families. I believe everyone who works for a living deserves to make enough money to meet his or her basic needs. I support the city's efforts to establish a Chicago minimum wage of $13. I would phase in the increase over four years, and index it to inflation going forward. I also support an increase minimum wage for tipped employees by $1 above the tipped minimum set by state law currently $4.95- over two years and index it to inflation.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
. I support the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art to be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront. I believe the museum will add to the museum campus and result in more tourism revenue for the city.
Q: How can the city improve public safety? Please address the role and performance of the Chicago Police Department and the role of neighborhood residents in crime prevention. What have you done to improve public safety in your community?
Reducing crime and increasing public safety is essential to improving the 18th Ward and the City. I will fight for increased police presence, particularly in the 18th ward, through hiring more rank-and-file officers and utilizing other deployment strategies that could help the 18th Ward as well as other neighborhoods suffering from the same blight that crime and violence has placed on the city. Chicago should focus police resources where they are needed most. It's unfortunate that CAPS has changed and funding has diminished. CAPS is one of many alternative efforts that can help the police do their job more efficiently. I will aim to fully fund the CAPS program. As the community representative for Bogan High School, I advocated for increase security and police presence during school arrival and departure hours. I have also been active in the CAPS programs.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
I do not support the Chicago's traffic light camera program. I believe the program is prone to error and has not delivered the revenue stream promised. Millions of dollars have been set aside from speed camera revenues, but community members are left guessing when it comes to how funds are used within Chicago.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
Currently, I do not support a decrease in the number of alderman. My neighbors already feel disconnected with city hall and have lost enough in city services. Reducing the number of aldermen will increase the anxiety surrounding being outside of city decision making. Communication is one of the key attributes of a successful elected leader.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
Fixing our schools is at the core of creating good jobs, safer streets, and brighter futures. Therefore, education is my highest priority in improving my ward. The greatest concern I hear from residents of my ward is that they want a reversal of the decline in services in the ward. This encompasses increase affordable housings and business development.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
My high school football team (Hubbard) won the City High School Football Prep Bowl Champion and we were also the second public league team in state history to advance to the Illinois State Semi-final of the State Football Playoff.