Candidate for City Council, 5th Ward
Education: Graduated high school and followed my calling to become an ordained pastor.
Occupation: President of Young Leaders Alliance
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.
This year alone the city issued almost $900 million in new bond. These bonds were primarily used to refinance old debt. It is my belief and sound policy that the issuance of new bonds should primarily be issued to invest in our future and growing the tax base, not refinancing old debt. This year Moody's downgraded Chicago's credit rating to Baa1. This downgrade means Chicago taxpayers are now on the hook to pay hundreds of millions of dollars more in interest payments. As a 28-year-old, I understand that when our city council passes short-sighted budget measures the repercussions will be shouldered by my generation. In order to pay down existing debt we have to have a mix of new revenue sources and spending cuts. In the coming weeks, I will release more specifics on sources of new revenue I support.
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.
Circuit Court Judge John Belz has ruled that it is unconstitutional for a government to fail to meet pension "commitments" to hard working citizens who have been promised a level of benefits. As Alderman, I will not turn my back on those who risk their lives daily to protect Chicago's over 2.9 million residents. I also will fight to ensure Chicago's middle class and working poor residents don't get straddled with the brunt of meeting our obligations. As I have specified in previous answers I will release more specifics on sources of new revenue I support. However, I can give a general look at some of the policies I'm considering: A "Financial Transaction Tax", A "Bankers Bonus Tax", An "Income Tax" on Chicago's highest earners, and A "Commuter Tax".
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.
1. TIF was created to spark economic development in blighted areas. In Chicago, what constitutes an area being "blighted" seem frequently to change. Often times a vacant lot in the middle of downtown Chicago is considered "blighted", and a wealthy developer, who doesn't need the capital, is eligible to receive millions of TIF funds to develop. Although the city has an ordinance that requires housing developers who use city funds to offer a percentage of affordable housing, this requirement isn't applicable to hotels, basketball arenas, etc. Chicago needs to prioritize the allocation of TIF funds. If we want to reduce crime and improve schools, we must commit to making long term investments in all Chicago neighborhoods. 2. Possibly. If the right reforms are implemented, TIF could be used to improve the quality of life for Chicago residents. 3. Declare a surplus of unused TIFfunds and earmarked TIF funds without proof of a purchase agreement, should be returned to the taxing body. 4. No 5. See #1 please
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.
1. All of the "12 ways to Heal a city" proposals were great ideas. As Alderman, I would champion; free GED classes throughout Chicago, TIF incentives for small businesses that locate or expand in struggling neighborhoods, leveraging Chicago's untapped fresh water assets to create revenue, developing neighborhood resource centers out of abandoned buildings (Innovative Homes), sell (or donate to nonprofits) every city owned lot and structure and piece of equipment that isn't fully used, encouraging private corporations to create college scholarship programs for their employees. 2. I will champion the aforementioned proposals because they involve education, innovative job creation, and re-purposing underutilized spaces/ equipment. My vision for the city of Chicago includes: - Making education more affordable by encouraging altruistic individuals (or foundations) to adopt struggling Chicago neighborhoods. My goal is to identify a donor(s) who is willing to establish a "need based" education fund that pays for every qualified 5th ward student to attend an early childhood development program and a four year college (in perpetuity). The program will cover students who do not qualify to participate in the Chicago Star program, and students who plan to pursue a bachelor's degree after attending a two year community college. The Rosen Foundation Scholarship model has been successful in Tangelo Park, Florida. - Creating jobs by investing in high growth industries. STEM, specifically green energy renovation, is an area that can produce high paying jobs for Chicago residents. Green energy renovation jobs make homes and businesses more energy efficient, while potentially offsetting the cost created by the impacts of global warming (e.g. sewage spilling into Lake Michigan). - Attracting new homeowners and businesses to blighted areas by beautifying the public and private corridors. Vacant buildings that the City of Chicago owns should be sold/ donated to nonprofits and converted into thriving community assets. Creating a ward free of eyes sores will attract families shopping for a new place to call home.
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.
With the number of elected officials convicted of misconduct ever increasing, every level of government needs strict oversight. I believe the office of the Legislative Inspector General can play an integral role in ensuring our democracy works efficiently while playing by the rules. In keeping the LIG's office, we must ensure the office has a real budget including yearly salaries (not hourly wages), the power to initiate investigations, accept anonymous tips, and conduct investigations without alerting those being investigated. With that said, If the political reality on the council floor turns further in the favor of eliminating the LIG's office, I will fight tirelessly to ensure that the Inspector General's office is given the power and resources to properly investigate complaints against the city council.
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?
1. The key to improve public education in the city, is to implement a rigorous, competitive and uniformed curriculum in all schools. No matter what school a child attends, the expectation and curriculum content should be the same at each grade level. In addition, school improvement initiatives should be monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis and where needed improved or discontinued. Teachers and principals should be evaluated on goals that have been clearly defined. When parents can look at a school's report card (issued yearly by the state of Illinois) and see that their child's school is considered a high performing school that is the ultimate recognition that our schools are excelling. 2. SB16 passed the Illinois Senate in May 2014. Essentially this bill if passed, would shift money from some districts to others but provides no increase in the state budget for public education. Illinois is 50 out of 50 states in state funding directed towards education. SB16 is being highly debated as some districts would lose a considerable amount of funding from the state. I intend to join the discussion to learn more about alternative financial resources that would be available once I become Alderman of the 5th Ward. One point of interest that concerns me is to learn more about the Illinois Lottery money and its formula and how the money was/is designated to funding schools in the state. I support a democratically elected school board. 3. I support the longer school day and year 4. CPS should strengthen neighborhood schools. Neighborhood schools build strong communities by bringing families together with shared interest in the success of the schools, businesses and growth of the neighborhood. 5. CPS should look at how TIF's impacts schools in the area by taking tax money away from those schools within the TIF.
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?
Over the past three months, I have visited both the Hyde Park and South Shore Chamber of Commerce to discuss the businesses that are in both communities and what initiatives (membership drives) they have done to promote business. Once, I become Alderman I will continue the conversation and attend Chamber functions to build more relationships with businesses. Additionally, I have met with many of the businesses in South Shore and Hyde Park and had discussions about successes and challenges that small businesses face in our community; such as, the impact that raising the minimum wage would have on their business, health insurance for employees and just increasing their bottom line profit in an economy that is still tight for many consumers. Also, I plan to convene a "business summit" from current owners to ascertain just how we can sustain the businesses already in the 5th ward and attract new businesses to the community. Again, I think that the TIF allocations are critical to the vibrancy of the 5th ward so consequently, I would want to do an analysis of the ward's use of TIF and insure that the money is being used in the end to advance our ward down the road. Through my leadership role as President of "Young Youth Alliance" I have used my networking contacts (managers at retails stores and small business owners) to match employers looking to hire and potential employees together. This has been very successful in helping to reduce unemployment for many youth who have struggled with securing employment. As Alderman, I will continue to work with businesses in the 5th ward to hire residents in the community that are skilled for the positions they have open. One of the goals of the business summit is to talk about what are the particular skill set that employers are looking for when openings occur. From the summit I will use the comments and suggestions to develop a business growth plan for the 5th 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 believe every mother, father, or grandparent who works full time should be afforded a living wage. In passing a $13 an hour minimum wage, the current administration has made a monumental first step in addressing the needs of Chicago's hard working families. I support a $15 minimum wage for employees of large corporations following the Seattle model.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
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?
The city of Chicago spends $400 million of our tax dollars every year detaining nonviolent pretrial offenders. Although the following alternatives our cheaper; putting somebody in a drug treatment before their trial; putting somebody in supportive housing; putting somebody on house arrest; we continue to waste money detaining nonviolent pretrial offenders. We should reduce the amount of nonviolent pretrial inmates and use the $400 million to expand mental health treatment centers, improve economic challenges, and strengthen unstable households. We can do this by creating neighborhood stabilization programs across the City of Chicago that uses data and community partnerships to reduce crime (See Richmond, California Model). I want to bring "officer friendly" back to Chicago neighborhoods. Police officers should be on foot, walking the beat, getting to know the residents. The relationships that are established from these encounters can lead to an increase in overall trust. This trust is key in creating an environment well residents feel comfortable cooperating with police officers to solve crimes. I have been awarded the Chicago Police Department's CAP Award as a leader in the city's anti-violence campaign. I've also mentored ex-offenders through Cook County Jail and assisted the Chicago Police Department in arresting violent offenders.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
I support responsible measures to protect pedestrians, especially our children, from drivers who recklessly disobey our speed laws. With that, it is apparent that the red light and speed camera programs are used to squeeze Chicago taxpayers for additional revenue. I believe the City of Chicago can find a middle ground where we hold reckless drivers accountable thereby protecting our residents without nickel and dimming thousands of other drivers.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I was the youth director of Ceda "South East" at age 21. I oversaw a $100,00 budget and donated a large percentage of my salary to feed struggling families and help people pay bills.