Candidate for City Council, 17th Ward
Education: Pursuing Masters of Public Administration (Roosevelt University), Bachelor Business Administration Phoenix University, Jones Commercial High School
Occupation: Director/Owner of local non-profit
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.
These bond deals trouble me. Our city must be more transparent about the budget realities we face, so taxpayers can make educated decisions about the future of our city. We need to cut waste in the current city budget before committing to higher taxes or service cuts. I support budgets that do the most for Chicago residents with the resources they make available to us.
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.
I am not a lawyer, so I look forward to the court shedding light on the current pension reform issues. I think that will provide a useful foundation to continue this discussion.
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.
The use of TIFs needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis. TIFs should be used to rejuvenate neighborhoods and bring new jobs to the city. And that is what they were established to do: to encourage investment and development throughout the City. The litmus test when allocating TIF funds should be how and what additional development will result from TIF funding being allocated to any project. I cannot speak to the decision to allocate $55 million funds for the arena and hotel, but I certainly would have loved to see more of those funds go the areas that need them in the 17th Ward.
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.
There are some interesting ideas in the Plan of Chicago editorial. Schools as Tools is actually similar to an idea my organization WATCH alone with other organizations presented to Alderman Latasha R. Thomas for Guggenheim Elementary school in the 17th Ward. The Sister Neighborhoods proposal would be great if we can get real commitments from each neighborhood to make it work. I also believe making it easier to obtain a GED is a great idea and would spur higher educational attainment in the 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 keep the office of legislative inspector general and make sure it's properly funded. I don't know many people that think we could use less accountability in the City of Chicago. I would support requiring Aldermanic staff to be required to swipe in to record their work hours electronically, the same as other City employees. This would make their work records easier to track and much more accountable.
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?
The community needs to be more involved with our local schools: parents, local businesses, and neighborhood residents can do more to help improve our schools. As the product of public schools in the 17th Ward (Guggenheim Elementary) as well as a mother of three CPS-educated sons, I'm clearly aware of the benefits more instruction time can have for students. Further, in the 17th Ward especially, more time in school is less time in the streets and less expose to the violence that plagues our communities. I would like to see some factors such as curriculum, classroom preparation time for teachers, and other necessary items - fine arts, gym, and more - improved as it continues to be implemented. Schools are an integral part of any community and closing them is difficult. I will always seek to use that as a last resort and work on improving them first before taking such a drastic action.
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?
As the Founder and Executive Director of W.A.T.C.H. (What About The Children Here), a nonprofit dedicated to transforming youth into productive citizens throughout the Englewood & Auburn Gresham communities, I have helped hundreds of youth begin their professional careers through partnerships with local and national companies such as Bank America, Department of Children Family Services, Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation and SOS Children Villages of Illinois. I will continue to advocate for these types of practical solutions and alderman.
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.
Yes. It is long overdue and it will help many residents in my ward a great deal. It will also allow my friends and neighbors to spend more money in the community and stimulate economic development. I would like to see the City work in tandem with the State of Illinois on raising the minimum wage across the State, but am excited that working folks in the 17th Ward can benefit from the recent passed Chicago minimum wage ordinance.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
I prefer to bring projects such as this to areas that are more in need of an economic boost and do believe we should be extremely cautious about protecting our spaces on the Lakefront. But this development project would be huge for our city's economy and tourism industry.
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?
I have been extremely active with the outreach efforts of my church and our Pastor, Father Michael Pfleger. From our anti-violence marches through heavy crime areas to our midnight basketball programs, I have been deeply involved in addressing alternatives to reducing crime in our community. Beyond that, there has to be more resources allocated to promoting public safety and hiring more police. We should work to get the community more involved with the local officers, and police should also strive to develop relationship with their constituents.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
Again, I think this topic can only be discussed on a case-by-case basic. My support – or lack thereof – for red light traffic cameras is dependent on the location of the camera and whether or not it will help improve public safety.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
No, our community has long struggled to get adequate representation in City Council. I'm interested in consolidating other aspects of city government, but I will not support watering down my community's influence by reducing the size of City Council.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
I don't have one priority for improving my ward, but there is an overwhelming amount that needs to be done. Nevertheless, as Alderman, I would definitely focus on the following: decreasing crime, increasing economic development and job creation, and improving educational options. Crime is definitely the greatest concern I hear from 17th Ward residents.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I am a breast cancer survivor. If it wasn't for my healthcare, I certainly would not have survived. This is why I have always fought for complete and comprehensive access to healthcare and will continue to do so if elected.