Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of James E. Dukes

James E. Dukes

Candidate for City Council, 17th Ward

James E. Dukes

Candidate for City Council, 17th Ward

Portrait of James E. Dukes

Education: Business Admin, BA Community Counseling, MA Master Of Theological Studies Doctor of Divinity

Occupation: Pastor

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered


Candidates running for City Council, 17th Ward

Responses to the Chicago Tribune's questionnaire

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.

As we go forward we must look at more ways that the city, county and state can share services and expenses. Mayor Emanuel and President Prewinkle began this process when they took office and I think it should be continued and expanded to include the state. When services our found that are duplicated they can be cut or shared to reduce debt. I would not pass this expense to taxpayers

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 primary problem with the pension funds is the unfunded liability that rest on the city's inability to make timely payments. We must first stop the debt from increasing, make timely payments, reconsider investments that yield higher returns and a revenue stream produces higher returns. I would ask City Council to tax Medicinal Marijuana an industry that has shown profitable in other states to make these payments.

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 believe that TIF dollar be used to generate new revenues in a Ward and should be supported by the community. Each community is unique and there if the Depaul Community desire a Marriott and new stadium they should go for it.

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 Please tell us which ideas you would champion. We invite you to offer additional ideas for dealing with Chicago's challenges.

The two that are close to my campaign and vision is (1) Repurposing Schools. The Englewood, Auburn Gresham Community had 10 school closings. I would propose to take one closed school and transfer it into a 300 seat early childhood development center. We must engage both child and parent as early as possible in the education process. And a center dedicate solely to both would be a great asset to the community and high quality education. In addition is aligns with both mine and the Mayor's vision for early childhood learning. As we open a new daycare center this year under my influence withe Mayor's Office and CPS in Englewood. It serves 40 and we need more. Secondly, innovative housing would be utilized to strengthen blocks and restore community. My Safe House Safe Block Projects takes abandon houses and rehab them using local labor and sell them to low income families. This creates community partnership, jobs and housing opportunities.

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.

That City should try to combine and collaborate agencies and jobs that appear to have some overlapping. This would make the position more proficient and cost efficient and can save tax dollars. Therefore I say combine the two.

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?

Overall I believe that CPS most continue to make tough decisions that will both increase academic performance, secure safety and assure that children are in schools that best fit their needs. School choice is crucial to this process and the choices should be increased beyond the traditional school and be expanded to charters, alternatives, military and other selective enrollment schools. With a greta emphasis on early childhood development. Yes I supports the Mayor's longer school day. CPS budget can be reduce by combining services in particular create a middle school system that can service multiple elementary schools. I am for a hybrid school board of both appointed persons (to assure expertise) and elected (assure community representation)

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?

My economic proposal for my ward is to create family entertainment and dining. I will develop what I will term "Restaurant Row" There is no sit down restaurants in my Ward or the Southwest Side of Chicago. Instead of the traditional big box stores. these restaurants (at least 6 to start) will bring a great amount of jobs and activity to the ward that would generate more spending. Also it would allow us to collaborate with Kennedy King which has specific academic concentration in Restaurant & Hospitality. The preliminary discussions have already began through my efforts with bringing Whole Foods to Englewood.

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 working families being paid more because they need additional funds for life insurance, planning their children's college or simple paying bills. My push back is that it may deter potential employers or developers from doing business in our city or state. Both of which is in great need for jobs and economic improvements.

Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.

I have no opinion on the Lucas Museum because my concentration is on how I can bring high quality education, safety and jobs to the 17th Ward. I will them well

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?

Public Safety is a key concern of the majority of Chicago Communities. I have served on both the Mayor's Public Safety Transition Team and his Safer Chicago Commission. In both roles I strongly advocate create year round youth jobs, rehabbing abandon buildings and stronger community policing. We must get guns of the streets and computers in homes. I have actively participated in gun turn ins and distributed computers to 17th Ward residents. Finally I have done ride alongs to create a synergy of respect between residents and police.

Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.

No, I believe the lights are position and placed in communities that can not pay these high tickets or have the means to defend against them. These lights seem to be excessive and directed to impoverished communities. I disagree with the notion that we ticket residents to pay for services that should be covered in our budget.

Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?

No I believe the current governmental process of 50 Wards is best suited for proper representation of the residents of the City

Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?

My highest priority is to create safe, livable community that offers educational options and family entertainment and dining. A place where families seek to come to and not escape. A place that businesses and residents are proud to say that is where I reside and enjoy . visiting. The greatest concern I hear is trifold lack of city services, employment and safety.

Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.

That I have always had a secret desire to be a comedian. And one day I am going to go to amateur night and use try some of the jokes I have stored in my phone (LOL)