Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Joseph Laiacona

Joseph Laiacona

Candidate for City Council, 39th Ward

Joseph Laiacona

Candidate for City Council, 39th Ward

Portrait of Joseph Laiacona

Education: BA in Philosophy MA in Business Administration

Occupation: retired College instructor

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered


Candidates running for City Council, 39th 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.

Borrowing to pay operating expenses is a really bad plan. We should raise taxes and cut expenses to insure a balanced budget. I think we need to find alternative areas to tax, ie, transaction tax on stock and bond trades, etc.

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 will not support changes in already committed pensions. Once again we need to find alternative areas to tax, ie, transaction tax on stock and bond trades, etc. for unfunded liabilities

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.

Excess TIF money should be returned to the taxing body from which it came. I do not support the use of TIF for any private concern, i.e., the hotel and basketball arena. In general we have overused TIFs. I am especially opposed to the transfer of TIF dollars from one neighborhood to another.

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.

I am not a subscriber so I could not read the 12 ways. My ideas are 1. Fully fund public schools. 2. Hire more police and train them well. 3. Begin badly needed infrastructure improvements to improve our public services (CTA, Parks, Schools, etc) and to provide needed jobs to Chicagoans. 4. Eliminate out-sourcing and bring jobs back to Cook County residents

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.

Keep the IG but give him the power to subpoena and the authority to investigate the city's elected officials. If the ethic rules need to be legislated into lay or made more strict, they should be.

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?

As a former educator (at Columbia College Chicago) and a former member of the Roosevelt HS Local School Council, I am dedicated to education. I favor an elected school board. I am generally opposed to Charter schools as they are now constituted, since they take money from public schools but are not similarly accountable. Again, I am sorry to note that in general taxes need to be increased so that every Chicago child has a quality education.

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 would appoint a ward employee to oversee promotion of Ward 39 to new businesses. I think we can especially benefit from environmentally friendly business. Innovation here is the guide I would use.

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 favor raising the minimum wage to $15. Doing so is good for all of us. It would be a boon to the lower working class and would exponentially bring prosperity to all of Chicago.

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

Yes, I think it should be an addition to our presently find Museum Campus.

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 see that our city needs a significant increase in the police force. I also think that police teams should be assigned to specific neighborhoods and should walk regular beats. Get them out their cars and let them get to know the people they serve.

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

No I do not. It has no positive effect on safety and (as I read in your paper yesterday) they actually cause more accidents than they prevent.

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

No. Fewer alderman only consolidates the power of the few.

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

Crime is number one.

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

I am a former minister and an avid gardener.