Candidate for City Council, 11th Ward
Education: BFA, Interior Design Illinois Institute of Art, Chicago
Occupation: Small Business Owner
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.
#1a Was this borrowing justified? Bond finance of municipal operations is not in and of itself wrong. Political gamesmanship with pension law and with revenues resulting from bond issues is wrong, as is paying enormous fees to politically connected bond dealers who take city debt to market at significant markup. #1b Going forward, how should City Hall change its finances to pay down existing debts and provide services? The city's shadow finance network of TIFs, within which is held at least $1.4 billion should be immediately exposed to sunshine and large pieces of it redistributed to apply to the official city budget. Further, the city should pursue clawbacks of the huge number of historic TIF disbursements made under false pretenses where jobs were not created and economic development was not engendered under a "but for" standard with regard to the disbursements. #1c Will you argue primarily for cuts in spending or for tax increases? Please be specific. I strongly advocate a tiny tax on financial transactions that take place in Chicago. In 2008, the S&P 500 alone traded at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange at $54 trillion in notional value. A tenth of a penny tax on that sum would have produced $54 billion in a single year. As for counter-arguments holding that the CME, so taxed, would leave Chicago, I say it is long past time to stop pretending that the financial industry is precariously sited here in this world-class city. We should all face the fact that market makers and their legal counsel need to be on, or near, LaSalle Street and not in, for example, Libertyville.
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.
Pension benefits that have been earned must be paid. Too often left unspoken is the side effect of a multi-decade wave of privatization of city services upon the actuarial problem of city pensions. As city jobs are shed, the ratio of active city workers to retired ones falls sharply, making the problem significantly worse. Of all the poorly-advised political gamesmanship undertaken with pension structures, it is the notion that privatization brings greater efficiency and fiscal health to city finances that rings most hollow. This management fad must be finally rejected. A program of deprivatizing city services will reverse this process and restore ratios of active workers to retired in numbers that make positive actuarial impact.
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.
See Question #1 for my position on TIFs generally. I do not support the allotment of TIF funds for a basketball arena and hotel while a) the endowment of the University, the capital improvement capacity of the hotel chain and/or the creditworthiness of either are together more than capable of shouldering these costs of doing business and b) the City of Chicago is closing schools and slashing services.
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.
I would support the creation of Sister Neighborhoods. I'm very concerned about many of our neighborhoods that have been starved of resources. I'd like to have affluent/highly functional neighborhoods help struggling neighborhoods to show the stakeholders how to obtain resources, programs, create committees, plan, organize and have a voice in the direction of their neighborhoods. I'd support any programs that would bring high-tech light manufacturing training, green jobs and co-op opportunities to help those who are unable to find work for a variety of reasons from additional skills or education needed, minor convictions that are preventing someone from obtaining a good job. I'd also like to see programs like Green Corps nurtured in more neighborhoods.
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.
The City Council should keep and expand the powers of the legislative IG, adding the power to investigate Aldermen and their staff members. Toward improving governmental ethics, I wish to send a signal to City Council lobbyists that they should stay in the lobby and no longer freely prowl the floor and chambers of the Council. I also call for a moratorium on former Aldermen or Aldermanic staff lobbying the Council on behalf of corporate clientele for a reasonable number of years after public service. There is a revolving door between government and industry that must be stopped.
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?
CPS is under attack from forces seeking to turn public education budgets into private fortunes while leaving children and families with lost opportunities for improved educational outcomes. The key to improving public education in the city is to recognize that poverty drives educational outcomes and to address this root cause. The Board of Education should absolutely be elected by the public so as to prevent the outrageous current situtation of an investment banker as President of the same body whose bank holds the mortgage on properties selected for charter schools, such as with the FBI-investigated Concept Charter. I defer to the Chicago Teacher's Union on the matter of length of school year and day, and I call for fewer charter schools, particularly fewer that justifiedly fall under investigation for corruption. CPS's budget gap should be addressed by a combination of TIF reform and clawbacks, clawbacks from corrupt charter operators and proceeds from a financial transaction tax.
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?
Unlike my opponent, Patrick Daley Thompson I believe that boutique size retail is the backbone of Chicago's most successful and attractive local economies. I would make special efforts to find and recruit appropriate businesses to fill south Halsted's empty storefronts and lots with businesses that would succeed in our central location of the city. I would conduct Ward job fairs with local high schools and colleges, residents and quality employers. I founded the Bridgeport Business Association an alternative chamber of commerce to the incumbent chamber which has poorly served our neighborhood, politicized the area's commerce and completely failed to market the area.
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.
Yes, as far as I'm concerned it doesn't go far enough. Productivity has climbed to record highs while wages have remained stagnate.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
Chicago would be better serviced to have the Lucas Museum in a neighborhood that would benefit from tourism that it would generate. My preferred location for the museum is the Michael Reese Hospital campus in Bronzeville
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?
Crime is what happens with education is undermined and opportunity dries up. To address the problem of poverty is to ensure public safety. The Chicago Police have a monumentally difficult job made harder by Mayor Emanuel's administration's effective cutting of 500 officers. Systemic racism and brutality casts a shadow on the good work of our police officers. I call for special prosecuters to protect the people and obtain endictments of any bad police officers at ranks that reflect reality.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
As with many programs of Mayor Emanuel's administration the traffic camera implementation raises serious questions as to the fairness to motorists as well as questions about which politically connected vendors inordinately benefit from their operation.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
Absolutely not. Why should we give up our representation?
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
My neighborhood is the cradle of a political machine that has looked out for itself and left the ordinary people of our neighborhood behind. My first priority is to reclaim the 11th Ward for my neighbors. The greatest concern I hear from my neighbors is that the blighted conditions of south Halsted will remain or become worse if Patrick Daley Thompson, a 10+ year officer of the South Loop Chamber of commerce is elected our alderman.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
As dedicated as I am economic and social justice I come at it after years of business experience for 11 years including designing and manufacturing a custom chair for Hall of Fame White Sox slugger, Frank Thomas.