Candidate for City Council, 36th Ward
Education: St. William grade school Fenwick H.S. 2 years @ Columbia College. 3 years @ Cooking & Hospitality Institute of Chicago
Occupation: Owner / Operator Spin Productions
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.
Scoop and toss has served two purposes. It has allowed our elected officials an opportunity to delay dealing with a very serious issue. It has also given them an opportunity to save their job. This technique has done nothing positive for the city of Chicago and has contributed to our recent credit downgrade. As a member of city council I will deal with our financial woes in three ways. I will fight for a complete audit of our city's finances and institute cuts anywhere that will not directly impact our residents. I will fight for excessive TIF monies to go directly toward paying down our debt. I will take a top to bottom approach to any necessary tax increases. This will ensure that our most wealthy residents and businesses will contribute first (i.e. LaSalle St. transaction tax). I firmly believe the city of Chicago needs to explore alternative measures including a casino and gaming.
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.
Our police officers and fire personnel have all lived up to their end of the contract. The city of Chicago has not. I will fight to guarantee that all current employees do not have their pensions altered. I will scrutinize every budget to ensure that we make a full commitment to our workers.
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.
TIF funds need to be taken out of the hands of our Mayor and brought back to city council. TIF money should be focused on the blighted areas for which it was intended. I do not support the $55M gift that was given to DePaul. I believe a percentage of the incremental taxes should fund our schools, police and fire, and city services. I support the expansion of TIF districts.
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.
Of the 12 ways to heal a city I am most passionate about fixing schools to fix Chicago. When our children fail, Chicago fails. Academic failure also contributes to higher rates of crime and poverty. I want to bring new ideas to Public education. Our focus seems to always be on early development, as if our children are unintelligent and need an earlier start. The truth is our teachers can only do so much in the classroom. If there is no follow through at home kids fall behind. Most children will not take it upon themselves to commit to their education, they're just kids! Some families just don't have the time or knowledge to help. Perhaps it's because of a single parent situation or parents working multiple jobs just to put food on the table. The reality is that there are a lot of contributing factors. We need to focus on helping children become good students and I plan to initiate this concept in the 36th Ward. We have thousands of young adults who are studying and aspiring to be educators and work with children. I plan to establish after school mentoring programs throughout our Ward to give our students the support and encouragement they need. This will also give our young adult mentors the experience they need for their future careers. My goal is to make this a paid internship to help our city college kids with their ever-growing expenses. I hope that this project will be a model for our entire city.
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.
City Council should definitely keep the office of legislative inspector general. The city inspector should have the authority to investigate Alderman and their staff.
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?
I am not happy with the academic and financial performance of our Public schools. I support a longer school day. As opposed to extending individual class times, I believe the extra time should be placed at the end of the day. This time should be used for students to complete homework, work on class projects, and study for tests. I believe CPS should initiate a mentoring internship program with our city colleges. This will give our city college students who aspire to be educators experience in their field. This will also provide our CPS students with the role models they so desperately need. We need to teach our children how to become good students. I strongly support an elected school board.
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 plan to use my Ward office as a hub for small business. My vision is to have every resident and business owner actively involved in our ward. I will network with every business in our ward. I will make certain that our residents are well aware of our local businesses and what they have to offer. My goal is to keep our dollars local. I also plan to connect with every commercial property owner. I will make every effort to fill all vacancies. I will include residents in this process to determine what businesses we need. Through their input and petitioning I will persistently fight to bring new businesses to our ward.
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.
I support a living wage for all residents of Chicago. We need to push the State of Illinois to follow our lead. If the State does not follow suit we will have made the city of Chicago even less competitive for small businesses. This could be detrimental to certain areas of the city especially those, like the 36th ward, that border neighboring towns.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
I think the Lucas Museum is a great addition to our city and the museum campus. Chicago is quickly becoming one of the top Global cities in the world. Projects like these only add to that allure. I'm not 100% sold on the design of the building.
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?
To improve safety we need to do two things. We need to hire more police officers so each ward has a stronger police presence. We also need to get more residents actively involved with their local CAPS program.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
I do not support the traffic light camera program. This was clearly implemented as a revenue generator and has done nothing for safety. It has compounded traffic congestion. Driver efforts to avoid these cameras have also contributed to huge increases in traffic through our neighborhood side streets.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
Every problem we face is a direct result of those we've elected and their self-serving decisions that were not in our best interests. I believe expanding Ward sizes and reducing the number of Alderman would compound the problem. We will essentially be giving Alderman more power and money. If we want to rid ourselves of corruption we need to take the money out of the game. The job of Alderman has become too prosperous and too powerful. All the evidence you need is right here in the 36th Ward. We have a sitting Alderman who has uprooted his family and moved to another neighborhood because he desperately needs this job and he feels his chances of winning are greater in another ward. We also have two candidates who have clearly moved to our ward within the last 18-24 months because this opportunity presented itself and they have the support of some very powerful people. I pose this question. If the job of Alderman remained as it was intended, part-time with minimal pay and no benefits, would we be seeing this behavior?
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
The greatest concern I hear from residents is the condition of our streets. My focus as Alderman will be on three things. The condition of our ward, the safety of our ward, and the growth of our ward.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I studied at the Cooking and Hospitality Institute of Chicago (currently Le Cordon Blue) and trained to be a Chef.