Candidate for City Council, 10th Ward
Education: Roosevelt University B.S. in Finance
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.
In other large city governments, elected officials cannot borrow by issuing bonds backed by future property taxes without voters' approval. If approved, they are obligated to provide details of bond deals and how the money will be spent. They are held accountable when bonds fail to come in on time or on budget. Why isn't Chicago City Council held to the same standards? We need to push for responsible budget cuts and to reign in uncontrolled and unnecessary spending. Between clout heavy contracts and starting new and unnecessary projects, the current administration has perpetuated the "spend now-worry later" mentality of the previous administration. As a result of this, city services and departments are fraught with fraud, waste, and abuse, adding up to hundreds of millions of dollars of wasted tax-payer dollars. We need to take a realistic approach in that an increase in taxes will be inevitable in order for us to get out of the prodigious mess we are currently in. However, we cannot request more money from tax payers until we show them that we have taken responsible steps to fix a badly broken system. And, since Chicago already ranks amongst the highest municipal taxes in the nation, I will insist that any tax increase must be temporary, and that it come with a promise of additional tax cuts at the time that the increase expires. Unfortunately, we must pay for the irresponsible mismanagement of our predecessors, which is why an increase in taxes is inevitable. However, those increases must be on large businesses and luxury items, not on the working men and women who are already struggling to feed their families. But before then, I will insist on TIF reform, including the requirement that some of the slush fund be applied to reduce the budget deficit.
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.
If we don't reform our pension system soon, we won't be very far behind the City of Detroit in filing for bankruptcy protection. However, forcing municipal workers to absorb the brunt of a problem that was not created by them would be an unfair and improper solution. The right solution to our pension crisis requires that we reform the pension system to make it stable and healthy, but also that we fix the root cause of the problem to ensure that the solution isn't just another temporary one. We do this by taking control of the pension system out of the hands of the politicians and placing it in the hands of the workers, where it belongs, and where it will insure that investment decisions are based on financial grounds, rather than in exchange for political gains. I am a strong supporter of the holistic plan proposed by the Illinois Policy Institute, which will ensure that already earned pension benefits are fully protected, but will also raise the minimum retirement age to coincide with the provide sector (excepting police and fire). This plan is not a quick fix. The problem was created over decades of mismanagement, it will take a long-term, responsible plan to fix it. This plan will protect city workers by ensuring that they have a stable pension system, which they will now control, while at the same time protecting the taxpayers from having to constantly pay an ever increasing amount as yet another temporary solution. In addition to responsible budget cuts, halting unnecessary spending, imposing inevitable but temporary tax increases [on large businesses and luxury items], I would advocate so that TIF money is applied to the pension crisis rather than starting new projects. Again, these are all unfortunate but necessary steps that need to be addressed because our prior elected officials acted irresponsibly. Time to roll up our sleeves, cut fraud, waste, and abuse in both city services and departments.
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 city is facing a budget deficit and pension crises so continuing to spend on unnecessary projects like hotels and arenas will quickly put us in the position Detroit found itself in prior to filing for bankruptcy protection. You don't go shopping for a new luxury car when you're 6 months behind on the mortgage. The city council and mayor should understand that. To be completely clear, I believe the TIF program "concept" is great and when properly implemented, can do a lot of good for blighted neighborhoods. The problem is that, whether intentionally or unintentionally, it is just very poorly managed. We need to propose a temporary moratorium on all expansions and extensions on TIF districts. In fact, we should argue that any private development where ground isn't broken yet should be immediately halted, and if we can still responsibly get out of providing the TIF funds for that development, then we should do so. The administration has claimed to give back 25% of uncommitted funds to the schools. I would push for as much as 90% of uncommitted funds to be given back to CPS and the other taxing bodies, keeping 10% as a just-in-case. Failing to invest in the education of our children, and not even for funded projects, but for projects that "may" be funded in the future, is socially, ethically, and morally reprehensible. Lastly, and most importantly, I would push for an audit to insure complete transparency of the TIF program. This administration has done everything in its power to run the program behind closed doors. That is absolutely unacceptable to the citizens of Chicago. TIF was designed to develop blighted areas such as thise embodied within the 10th Ward. My ward would benefit greatly if TIF funds were managed properly. However I am conscious of the budget deficit that Chicago faces. As an Alderman and member of city council I need to be a team player and propose a moratorium on all expansion or extensions on TIF districts within my ward. Any excess or surplus TIF funds [up to 90%] resulting from new tax money generated from projects should go back into the taxing bodies each year. Considering the pension crises and budget deficit, I believe it needs to be done before starting any new projects. TIF districts created unnecessarily or improperly need to be ended early and all uncommitted funds should be returned to the taxing bodies. Finally, for TIF districts that are proper and necessary, I would sponsor an ordinance requiring that at least half of those funds be committed to projects chosen via participatory budgeting. Who better to decide how those funds are applied than the members of that community? Until we can remedy the budget deficit, pensions especially, new projects need to be put on hold. We need to prioritize responsibly how our TIF funds should be allocated. Furthermore, let us remember why TIF was created, to redevelop blighted areas.
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 especially fond of four of them. Two of them advocating for our youth while the other two for economic development. Perhaps living in the 10th Ward has conditioned me to lean toward these four. This is fine by me since it is what my ward needs. Being the utmost believer and immense supporter of investing in our youth, it is no surprise that I am advocating for Schools as Tools and It Takes a City. Investing in our children is the solution to all social and most economic problems that ail our city. Investing in our youth is crime prevention. It is the education needed to cultivate the leaders of tomorrow that will bring economic development Oases in the Jobs Dessert is exactly along the lines of what the 10th Ward can immensely benefit from and is very much possible. And perhaps I may seem biased but Exploiting Chicago's Greatest Resource will create jobs and bring major economic development to the 10th Ward. Asking universities and manufacturers to champion this idea is very feasible.
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.
I believe the office of the legislative inspector general should be eliminated. It was unnecessary to have been created since the city inspector general already existed. This legislative inspector general office was a complete waste of taxpayer money. It had too many restrictions that prevented it from doing its job effectively. While the legislative inspector general office should be eliminated, the city inspector general should have full and unabated authority to investigate the mayor and aldermen. I am a firm believer that sunshine is the best disinfectant. If the 50 aldermen have nothing to hide then there is zero reason for limiting the authority of city inspector general. Transparency is imperative. We need to keep our elected officials honest. By hiring internal auditors [preferably] with CPA credentials, we can help to insure compliance. Transparency is imperative from government.
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?
TIFs are stealing money out of the taxing bodies within our property taxes; especially CPS education. Freezing the amount that feeds into education for a 23 year period is a very long time. During this period, inflation is taking place. Costs are going up but the amount feeding into education is fixed. And if economic development projects increase property taxes within a TIF district then more money is once again being stolen from education and the other taxing bodies. This is money desperately needed to keep the Chicago Teachers' Pension Fund solvent. Because of this, I suggest that TIF districts in non-blighted areas be terminated allowing the funds to return to the taxing bodies. We need to focus on keeping the Chicago Teacher's Pension Fund solvent before starting any new projects with TIF funds. I support an elected school who meet specific requirements and qualifications. A truly democratic society means we are able to vote and be represented by people whom we voted for. Our current mayor will not let democracy into education. Instead he runs it like a dictatorship. The people of Chicago should have a say in how our schools are run. If the board has the threat of the mayor over them how can we ensure that they are not inflating numbers for the sake of making him look good? I support a longer school year. Students would retain more from year to year. Keeping students engaged for a longer period of time is difficult considering the attention span of younger children. Older students should have a longer day. I think if we extended the day and focused on literacy and math then we could save millions on the programs we purchase from vendors. The extended time should be fun learning. Studies have shown that movement helps stimulate the brain and prepare it for learning. This allows students to retain more. Time flies when you are having fun.I do not have a problem with charter schools but I do believe they should be held to a higher standard. If they do not meet it then they should not be funded. Otherwise, they are sapping funding from our neighborhood schools. I do have a problem with CPS financing them on the off chance that they are better than neighborhood schools. It is much like gambling at this point. I think we should stop funding charter schools until the budget gap is closed. If you stop promising money, they won't open more charter schools. We cannot
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?
Present corporate executives with packages that include Federal, State and Municipal tax credits. Inviting them to visit the 10th Ward and show them the benefits of coming to the 10th Ward where we have the 3 Rs: Rails, Roads and Rivers. The 3 Rs present an attractive selling point allowing the 10th Ward to stand out among other neighborhoods. A better work-life balance among employees will bring about better productivity. A 10 minute commute opposed to a 1 hour commute (20 minute vs 2 hour round trip) will save time on their commute allowing them to be better rested or use that time for health fitness. Fit employees will have more energy and improve production. Employees are proud to say they work for an employer minutes away from home and boast to their family and friends. To encourage employers to hire locally, tax incentives can be created, especially students from our neighborhood high school through work programs.There are many products and services that are not readily available to residents of the 10th Ward which is why we have to travel outside of our ward. I encourage businesses that I have interacted with to consider the 10th Ward as a potential site for their business. I explain to them how being a pioneer bringing a new product or service presents a window of opportunity. I have encouraged them to visit the alderman's office and chambers of commerce to see what can be offered.
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.
The impact of the overall economy will benefit significantly just as prior increases to the minimum wage have done. Although small business owners may have to pay their employees more, their clientele base will grow and current clientele will have more buying power. Consequently, there will be increases in revenue. Being proactive rather than waiting for a statewide increase in minimum wage needed to happen. Our families in Chicago cannot afford to wait any longer. Our families should not be living in poverty when working 40 hours a week. Also, an increase in minimum wage will allow families to sustain themselves without having to take on a second job. This in turn will allow parents to spend more time with their children so they do not lose them to the dangers on the streets.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
I understand that George Lucas museum wants a centrally located site by the lake but there is a Lakefront Protection Ordinance which prevents further private development east of Lake Shore Drive. This ban is set in place to preserve and protect the Lake Michigan shoreline. And I understand that it would replace just a parking lot but perhaps it can be constructed next to the Museum of Science and Industry as part of a new museum campus. Still on the lakefront but a few miles south along Lake Shore Drive.
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?
One such way to improve public safety would be to bring back mobile strike teams within Chicago Police Department, an effective tactic designed to combat high crime areas. Creating mobile strike teams will mean fewer officers in the beats. Consequently, we will need to hire more police officers which I fully suport. Enforcement of strategic placement for beat and sector cars is imperative if we want improved response times. This is especially important in the 10th Ward where our neighborhoods are divided by bridges and train tracks which have been known to slow down response times due to passing boats and trains. Criminals listening to police scanners know when beats are left unprotected which leads to strategically timed crimes. This is why strategic placement is crucial. I believe that crime prevention is very important. This is why I have decided to volunteer to coach our youth . I am currently the President of the East Side Little League which provides youth programming to over 400 kids from April to November. At ESLL our mission statement is to not only provide youth programming but serve as role models so that we mold young model citizens for the future. We cannot lose these kids to the streets.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
These lights were supposed to increase safety by strategically placing them around schools and parks. However some of these lights are not justified by schools and parks. Instead, they seem to be placed where revenue can best be generated. And contrary to its supposed safety intent, studies have shown they have been counterproductive.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
I believe the city can legislate with a much reduced city council. If a larger city like Los Angeles can, so can Chicago. Also, it is one of many ways to trim the budget and reduce our deficit. During elections, a reduced city council means fewer candidates, fewer petition challenges and less taxpayer dollars spent on elections.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
Safety. For most 10th Ward residents, crime/safety is the top priority. It is the one topic that affects everyone to some degree whether it is first or second priority. No one wants to see defacing of property or a littered neighborhood. No one wants their home or vehicle broken into. And to a higher degree, no one wants to lose a loved one to shootings and stabbings. No one does. To best combat crime, we need to attack the problem at its source before it becomes a problem. That means investing in our children. We cannot lose our kids to the streets. Presenting resources to our youth is giving them the opportunity to excel today and tomorrow.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I love the 10th Ward more than anyone. I was born and raised in its neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are my home. And it breaks my heart to witness the decline of my home. This is why I have decided to run for office. To not only stop the bleeding but to revitalize what once was a destination to visit and reside in. I want to bring those days back. I want to make the 10th Ward proud, and for the rest of Chicago to know who we are. Until now, I have been involved with the community on a volunteer basis in my spare time but now wish to dedicate all my time to improve the communities of the 10th Ward. My biggest contribution to the constituents of the 10th Ward has been to East Side Little League (ESLL), a successful youth baseball program to more than 400 youths, of which I am the President on a volunteer-basis. Aside from providing these kids with a youth program, I want to foster model citizens by instilling leadership, teamwork, and sportsmanship. By investing in the classrooms, on the fields and other outlets for these kids, we win. Rather than fighting crime tomorrow, we can prevent it today. I want to win these kids over before the streets do. I do not have children of my own but I do care about their future.