Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Michael LaFargue

Michael LaFargue

Candidate for City Council, 9th Ward

Michael LaFargue

Candidate for City Council, 9th Ward

Portrait of Michael LaFargue

Education: MBA-MPA Illinois Institute of Technology

Occupation: Realtor

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered


Candidates running for City Council, 9th 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.

The borrowing of General Obligation bonds is not entirely justified. These bonds are massive loans backed by primarily property taxes, there Principal and interest are secured by the full faith and credit of the issuer and usually supported by either the issuer's unlimited or limited taxing power. These bonds basically use future revenue to pay for current debts and old debts. The article reports general obligation debt has increased from $2.96 billion in 1995 to $14 billion last year. This represents about 12% of the debt paid by 63% of property taxes. The Tribune reports of the $10 billion in bonds much of it for used for short-term operating expenses. Additionally hundreds of millions of dollars went to delay bond payments by refinancing old debts. Sixty percent of our payments go to interest not principal. Was this borrowing justified? We are in serious debt. I would prefer that general obligation bonds be used for schools, streets, highways, bridges, hospitals, public housing, sewer, water systems, power utilities, and various public projects and not short term operating expenses. How should City Hall change its finances to pay down existing debts and provide services? I would like to consider the benefits of City Hall financing from one that pays down debts and provide services from "Debt Service through Municipal Bond Used" to a "Pay As You Go" revenue and expenditure system. This could potentially save the city of Chicago hundreds of millions dollars in interest annually. Eventually resulting in the city of Chicago having a reserve fund and increase the City's weakening Bond Rating. I suggest opening the discussion of selling or leasing "Naming Rights" to corporations or individuals this would not burden the taxpayer. The opportunity for companies and individuals to rename public buildings (excluding City Hall), facilities, and other city assets according to their wishes could be financially beneficial. Note this is not privatizing, the city would retain complete control over these assets. While I prefer Aldermen serving constituent sizes of 60,000 people. I would not defer any discussion about the pluses and minuses in reducing the number of Alderman in the city council.

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.

Three partial solutions to the pension funding include: 1.) $1.5 Billion in TIF Reserves used to reduce the current Pension Deficit for by $1.5 Billion to $24.5 Billion from $25.8 Billion. 2.) A Financial Transaction Tax should be considered to address the Pension Deficit. 3.) A commuter tax for workers may have to be considered as well. 4.) Selling naming rights to public buildings other than City Hall could generate monies that would apply to pension debt. Spending Cuts May Be in the Form of cost savings initiatives through: 1.) Improving processes in City Departments to reduce costs and improvement. For example Imaging Technology may benefit paper intensive and document retrieval processes in Human Resources, Insurance and Contract Procurement Offices. In the cost of paper handling, process improvments, storage, handling and retrieval costs. 2.) Using Green technologies that may be able to cut City of Chicago's government utility costs by using modern efficiencies and technology to heat, cool, light and regulate lobbies, offices, and conference rooms throughout all City of Chicago facilities. Light and heat motion detectors in rest room and conference rooms. Using photovoltec window as an energy source is an idea for our conservatories, office buildings.... 3.) Offering employees to the option working four days a week ten hour a day, forty hour work weeks. This can reduce daily start-up costs as well as reduce personal and public energy consumption. This would allow the city to avoid city employee furlough days and improve quality of life issues that require the use of personal days.... Shorter weeks are common in Europe. In the Netherlands, four-day work weeks are practically the rule, not the exception. The average German worker puts in 394 hours less than an American each year -- the equivalent of nearly ten fewer weeks. The country is far smaller than the United States in area, population and resources, yet still manages to compete as the fourth largest economy and third largest exporter in the world. Further I recommend pension: 1.) Reform only as to "new" employees – those to be hired in the future. 2.) Contribution requirements for public pensions. It is important to note that public employees pay a significant amount towards their defined benefit pensions, an amount that is higher than Social Security contributions of private sector employees. BACKGROUND INFO. State law establishes retirement plans for all public employees in Illinois, including those employed by the City and its sister agencies. Employees of the City of Chicago participate in one of four pension funds: 1. Municipal Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund of Chicago (MEABF) 2. Laborers' & Retirement Board Employees' Annuity & Benefit Fund (LABF) 3. Policemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund (PABF) 4. Firemen's Annuity & Benefit Fund (FABF) Two other funds that cover employees of certain sister agencies of the City. 5. Chicago Teachers Pension Fund (CTPF) 6. Park Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund (PEABF) Currently, the City's six pension funds only have 50% of the funding needed to support the current pension system.

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.

TIFs were originally designed to improve blighted areas by attracting construction and jobs. Yet the Loop, Near North Side, Near South Side and Near West Side have taken nearly $1.56 billion of the $2.45 billion in TIF dollars spent from 2004 to 2008. Only $4.8 million was spent collectively in Pullman, Riverdale, Roseland and West Pullman, far South Side communities where blight is prevalent and economic development scarce. (THIS MUST BE FIXED. AREAS IN OUR WARD AS WEST PULLMAN AND RIVERDALE HAVE 24% to 61% HOMES BELOW THE PROVERTY LEVEL.) This year are reported TIF's cover 1/3 or the city. (THIS MUST BE FIXED RESIDENTS IN THE 9TH WARD ARE STARVED FOR JOBS. TIF's CAN BE REVISTED AS TOOL TO GENERATE JOBS.) THE SOUTH MICHIGAN AREA BUSINESS STRIP IS STARVED FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT WILL BRING AND CAN BENEFIT FROM TIF FUNDS) Reports indicate TIF's devour $500 million each year that should pay to educate our children and for the care of our most fragile citizen. (THIS MUST BE FIXED – FOR A PERIOD OF 23 YEARS A TIF PROJECT WILL FLAT LINES PROPERTY TAXES THAT SHOULD GO TO THE SCHOOLS) . The TIF process is broken, there should be an immediate moratorium on any new TIFs. freezing the TIF program, it will allow us time to conduct a complete audit by an independent body to find out exactly where our money has gone and what the benefits are. This audit should be made public, giving independent experts, media and the people of Chicago the ability to weigh in on the best uses of this money. Estimates say the City may currently have $1.4 to $1.7 billion in unused TIF funds. That money could then be used to reopen our mental health clinics, shore up some of our school budgets, make a payment into our beleaguered pension fund, turn some of the closed schools into community centers that drive economic development and begin meaningful neighborhood economic development programs. This alderman will support the use of TIF funds with local support to assist in creating development and jobs in our communities. I agree with progressive aldermen who state thoughtful development can put vacant properties and parcels back on the property tax rolls, simultaneously generating tax revenue, creating jobs and fostering safe streets and strong neighborhoods.

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 truly enjoyed reading the ideas shared in the article. I could champion all of them. The one that I would champion follow: GED Chicago (Truly needed in Roseland) Help people get there GEDS Sister Neighborhoods (Within the Ward First) Start a Sister Neighborhoods program to connect residents in far-flung parts of the city and suburbs. . It Takes a City (In discussed brieftly with the Black Star Project) Challenge: Provide more support for at-risk children — and at-risk parents. Expand SAFE Children, a Chicago initiative that teaches parents how to get more involved in their children's schools, how to develop consistent discipline and monitoring practices, and how to use other parents and families for information and support. Innovation Houses (Working on With the DCP in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.) Proposal: Innovation Houses. The Big Idea here mimics the Hull House model of the 19th century: Convert vacant homes in impoverished neighborhoods into community residences for young people — starting with college grads returning to childhood neighborhoods. . City in a Garden (I do now 94th and Indiana. 107th and King Drive will be the next garden) Solution: Transform them into urban farms. This could be done near schools to give kids a chance to learn about agriculture and nutrition. Exploiting Chicago's greatest resource (Resident's in the Riverdale are of the 9th ward would love this.) Opportunity: Create jobs and major economic development by leveraging Chicago's untapped freshwater assets. How? Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore outlined a smart plan on these pages on Dec. 26: Establish an industrial park surrounding the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District's Calumet treatment plant at 130th Street and Torrence Avenue, where industries could buy treated (but not pure) wastewater cheaper than potable water.

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.

Yes the City Council should keep the Office of the Legislative Inspector General. Yes, the Office of the Legislative Inspector General should have the authority to investigate aldermen and their staff members. My suggestion to improve government ethics: I would give the Inspector General's office independent subpoena power or other compulsory process that can be directed against city officials, agencies and employees upon notification of the Mayor and Corporation Counsel. The OLIG would be able to proceed with or without the Mayor's or Corporation Counsel's concurrence. I believe the Inspector General should be able to initiate his or her own investigations of Aldermen without a complaint from outside the office and upon notification of the Mayor and Corporation Counsel... Further I believe the Inspector General be able to pursue anonymous complaints upon notification of the Mayor and Corporation 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 schools need adequate funding for resources as books in the library; specimens and scalpels for biology classes, chemicals and beakers in chemistry labs. Further iPods, laptops and PC throughout each school. 2.) Motivating parents to engage with the schools and students in revenue neutral ways as Saturday Report card days. 3.) Integrating LSC's throughout the ward to one another. 4.) Developing friendly relationships between the police and the local schools in the ward. 5.) Developing a friend relationship between local businesses and the schools in the ward. Should members of the Board of Education be elected by the public or continue to be appointed by the mayor? I advocate for an elected school board. Further it is important that each part of the city is represented on the board and that those running for the office have a record as educator, LSC member or professional in education budget management. Do you support the longer school day and year? Yes Lengthening the school day will give teachers more time to spend with students, to focus on trouble areas and more difficult material. Some school districts propose adding time to each class session, while others want to add an intensive session in English or reading, areas where many students aren't working on grade level. Teachers say there's never enough time in class, and they're always rushed, so many welcome the idea of an extended day. A longer school day would allow schools to spend more time on art, music, social studies, science and physical education. These subjects have been cut through the years to focus on English and math in the hopes of boosting test scores. Yet test scores have remained stagnant, and students have missed out on a more well-rounded education. A longer school day may reduce the trouble students get into after the typical 3:00 pm. Release because these hours may better align with a parent's work day. This may reduce parental costs of having someone watch kids. I am aware longer school hours do not necessarily mean more learning.

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?

As a member of the Developing Communities Project Red Line Oversight Committee we are working on attracting businesses by Advocating for the Red Line Extension to 130th and the Bishop Ford Expressway. Through our Panels of Development we are focusing on. o Work Force Development – To spur job/careers and jobs in the community. o Land Use – identifying all available properties in the area. o Transit Oriented Development – To develop around each station. I am also the Business Development Coordinator for 95th Street Panel of Development o We are reaching out to entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs encouraging them to prepare Business Plans so that they will be in position for TOD development around the Red Line Extension o We are reaching our the minority contractors Representative to the Ward so the area are of business opportunities. As a community leader I have advocated for local business growth in the following manner: o I have recently had a local company hired to maintain an abandoned Wendy's Restaurant. o The association which I preside as president we published a Black Business and Black Contractor list to encourage business in the community. As a fan of the history of the Pullman Community and community leader I have attained signatures for advocating the area become a the Pullman Historic National Park and I have written letters to our US Congressmen in support of the National Park. Over the last year I met with the Roseland Business Development Council and have attended their most recent award's dinners. These groups of proven businessmen desperately want to improve the Michigan Avenue Business Strip In the 9th Ward as I do. My office is at 10842 S. Michigan Ave. One block north and one block South of businesses I use to work at as a child.

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.

While I am an advocate for the wage increase going to $15, Yes I support the City Council's increase of the minimum over several states to $13 per hour by 2019. I look at this as a good compromise and is one business can adjust to.

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

I am not in favor of the Lucas Museum to be built as proposed designed or where propose on Chicago's lake front. I believe in open spaces, applauded the city's 1973 Lake Front Protection Ordinance and continue to support Burnham's lakefront plan to keep space green and consider the initial design a massive eyesore that appears to be more structure than Campus Park. However, I am in favor of using existing property space i.e. Michael Reese building or Old Post Office or the like. However, if the building is in full compliance with state law and city ordinances I would give further consideration and Lucas Museum.

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?

Improving public safety by police patrol on foot, biycycle and Segway hleps police to know the community Improve through block clubs, phone Trees Representatives at CAPS meetings and report back to Community leader President

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

No, I do not support traffic light camera program. The Red Light Camera system has been unfair to Chicago citizens. My concerns about the Red Light Traffic Program include • Evidence show there has been negligible affects on safety. 90 degree T-bone accidents have declined while rear end accidents have increase. • Evidence showing the system yellow camera light timing system was yellow lights were shortened, • City ordinance vs state law, vs due process and the U.S. Constitution. •The annual cost to maintain the cameras is high. •The fact that Redflex Traffic Systems the former vendor for Chicago's red light camera system was banned two years ago from holding a city contract after allegations the company had bribed a former city manager hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure the lucrative contract. •A Tribune examination of overturned red light tickets revealed evidence that the city of Chicago has quietly cast a wider net to snare drivers since switching red light camera vendors earlier this year amid a bribery scandal. A before-and-after analysis of photographic evidence and interviews with experts suggests the transition to a new vendor last spring was accompanied by a subtle but significant lowering of the threshold for yellow light times. •The report, resulting from the Office of Internal Government Investigation showing of mysterious spikes in red light camera tickets at a handful of intersections uncovered by the Chicago Tribune this past summer. The story spotlighted 12 intersections where ticketing would jump dramatically for a short period of time, then subside just as suddenly, resulting in nearly 16,000 questionable violations.

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

This should be discussed as Chicago has one of the nation's largest city councils per constituent. Since 1923 the City was divided into 50 wards each has an alderman. Since 1935 Aldermen have served four-year terms. New City has 51 alderman serving 165,000 people. Each Alderman in Los Angeles serves 255,000. Chicago's 50 Aldermen serve about $57,000+ constituents each. Aldermen are paid about $110,000 annually. Per the Better Government Association reducing the Aldermanic count to 25 would save $2.7 million in aldermanic salaries. Office staff, are paid $176,000 annually. This may save and may save $2.2 to $4.4million office staff salaries per year. The range is Salary is because some office staff would have to be reallocated to new and larger wards. Other savings that would occur include possible savings or $1million some of the Ward $90,000 per year ward superintendents are reduces as an effect of downsing the counsel if the grid system has not done so already Another savings is that with fewer numbers of elected officials elections could cost less do to fewer candidates, fewer petition challenges and fewer taxpayer dollars spent in the election. Streamlining government by eradicating wasteful and inefficient levels of government, and getting rid of redundant or unnecessary positions within the bureaucracy, is the most compelling argument for reducing the size of the city council. While reducing the size of the City Council won't solve Chicago's financial problems; it may be a step in the right direction. Personally I believe Chicago's ratio of Aldermen to constituents allow for a more intimate relationship with his constituents. .

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

The highest priority for improving my ward is: • Support opportunity for economic development and employment within the 9th ward. This specifically addresses the resurrection of the South Michigan business corridor, as well as other viable locations within the 9th ward (There are many). The greatest concern I hear from resident revolve around jobs, Other Priorities Include: • To provide leadership, voice and energy to seeing the CTA Redline extension become a reality. • To reduce the crime in the 9th ward. (This will be accomplished by the realization and work in the first 4 dot points) • Support initiatives and legislation that will support excellent education for our toddlers, youth and young adults. This includes an elected school board which will bring voice to unserved and underserved 9th ward communities • Coordinate the development of diverse post-secondary training opportunities for all residents that will lead to a career path, not just a job. • Change the environmental profile of the 9th ward where waste landfills and brown areas are prevalent due to the exit of manufacturers. I would like to see these areas turned into viable parks and green related initiatives that will enhance the air quality and improve the health of residents in the 9th ward.

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

My wife and I have been married 29 years. This may be impart that we have discovered we have many similar many interests. Some of those interests include: Dogs, bicycling, working on our own lawn care together, motorcycling and when we were younger we enjoyed studying Hapkido as a way to stay in shape. Very importantly we enjoy praying together.

City Council, 9th Ward