Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Marvin McNeil

Marvin McNeil

Candidate for City Council, 21st Ward

Marvin McNeil

Candidate for City Council, 21st Ward

Portrait of Marvin McNeil

Education: B.S. Degrees Industrial Technology Majoring in Safety and Fire Protection

Occupation: Zoning Code Enforcer City of Chicago Department of Zoning (Retired)

Home: chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered


Candidates running for City Council, 21st 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.

On the positive note with the economy on an upturn the city should realize and increase in revenue from resale taxes, licenses and user fees. With that said, the very first thing that I would institute would be an ordinance to make it illegal to use bonds for anything other than capital improvement projects. Furthermore, I will write an ordinance requiring public approval via a referendum before a bond can be issued. Finally, I believe that Alderman Ed Burke and Carrie Austin should resign from their committee appointment based on their long standing positions of this financial mismanagement.

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 pension fund crisis will not be solved over night. I do support a financial transaction tax as a new revenue source. I also support one casino, maybe two with revenues from all these mentioned sources being dedicated to a assist in shoring up the pension liability.

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.

TIF used for the Marriott Hotel and DePaul arena is a terrible idea. The city has got to get out of business of public funding of prime property projects. DePaul has a multi million dollar endowment they can use and the Marriott is a multi billion dollar corporation. I support the prohibition of using TIF dollars in the central business area. This is prime land with developers lined up with investment projects waiting for the opportunity.

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.

Oasis in the Jobs desert is an excellent idea for use of TIF funds that I would approve. When people are working they are making things happen and infusing their neighborhood with much needed cash. I will sponsor utilization of TIF to modernize facades of small strip mall areas. The TIFs could have a shorter shelf life so that the loss tax revenue is limited.

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 say that the Inspector General's office should be granted greater enforcement powers or eliminated all together. As it is currently constituted the office is worthless. I have an idea. Why not allow the federal government to have a GOA office on the 5th floor? Maybe a federal watch dog would prevent a lot of the federal crimes... or solve them quicker.

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?

I do not see the significant improvements that most people are talking about. I see the problem spread out between public, charter and alternative schools. The mayor has taken an initial good idea (charter schools) and turned it into a union busting privatization plan. I do not support any additional charter schools until more regulations are put into place to provide more protections for students and teachers. This is one of the reasons that I support an Elected School Board. If egregious errors are made someone should be held accountable before we go for the mayors' head. The key to improving public education in Chicago is mentorship and more black men in the schools. Look at the faculty makeup of Urban Prep as an example. When young men can see themselves they do better. Another example is Harlan High School. This is a general public high school that takes in the students that charter and selective enrollment schools kick out for various reasons and yet, the principal has turned that school around and could be doing better with more resources. Whereas I recognize the anti discrimination decision against seating set aside for black students at selective enrollment schools, I support the elimination the geographic discrimination created by the seats set aside for residents in the neighborhood of selective enrollment schools.

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?

Alderman Brookins allowed a beauty supply store open in a former Best Buy building. He stated that there "nothing he could do" because the property was properly zoned. Personally I would have down zoned the property so that anyone seeking to lease the property would be force to bring their plans to the community for approval. There are currently 3 beauty supply stores in the immediate area. Further, this was a high profile stand alone structure along the Dan Ryan expressway which would have been ideal for a store that could have attracted more business into this commercial corridor. I would have accomplished this by first talking to Best Buy. They had 13 years remaining on their lease and the store had been vacant for over 3 years. I would have went shopping on the north side for a big box store that was nearing its' lease's term and offered them 6 months free rent if they transferred their business. Everybodys' happy. The 87th street corridor is very disorganized. I intend to establish a chamber of commerce for the area. I explained to many business owners in the area that a chamber of commerce prevents unwanted businesses from setting up shop in the area, promoted better customer service and provide a central means of giving back. As infrastructure and other contracts are awarded in my ward I will bring the architect, developer and contractor before the constituents. They will have to present a holistic plan to the residents. I support ethnically based employment. Forty per cent of the workers on contracts should be represented on those projects. I want residents seeing themselves out there building the future businesses that they are going to support.

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.

Support, absolutely. The influx of lower paid jobs are increasingly being fielded by heads of households. Along with the increased minimum wage, increased customer service training should be employed at these establishments.

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

No. The city has not fully vetted the decision. Multiple city wide hearings could have allowed comments for and against the plan. Secondly, the city needs guarantees that it will not be given a bill for any unforeseen cleaning of underground contaminates. Community input is an important component and so I vote no until this happens.

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?

Most police say that there is a code of silence in the community that prevents the solving of many crimes that happen. I say there is no code of silence but a code of trust. Residents have horror stories of calling the police about a criminal event only to have the police come to their homes asking what the problem was. These people do not call the police again. Public trust is developed when police get out of their SUVs and walk or ride their bikes in the community. When a police officers knows a citizens real name (and he the officers) a bond of trust is developed. I have march with father Flegar through our community to "put the guns down" and I attend community CAPS meetings. I am a member of my block club.

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

I believe that red light and speed cameras are being used as a revenue stream and not as a means to promote safety. In my neighborhood cameras are placed on the opposite side of schools on streets that never cross. If the cameras are for safety then the residents should have uniform warning of their presence. When speed cameras are combined with digital flashing speed indicators and large limit signs drivers reduce their speeds without receiving tickets. Many cameras have warning posted far from the camera. Others have cameras that blend into the areas.

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

I am quite comfortable with the number of alderman being reduced by half.

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 will be to organize a schedule of service for the ward so that the residents will know what blocks are receiving services, where they are receiving services and when their block will be serviced. They can tolerate waiting as long as they know their place in line.

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

When I graduated from Dunbar Vocational High School I received a job at Inland Steel in East Chicago, Indiana. It was a swing shift. I stayed in Englewood with my mom. I went to Amvets and bought a bike for $5. I rode my bike to and from work every day through rainy nights and sunny days. Never missed work until I went off to school. It took me 45 minutes to ride one way. I recently drove one of my children the route I took. I got there quicker on my bike.

City Council, 21st Ward