Candidate for City Council, 24th Ward
Education: BA, Political Science – Morehouse College
Occupation: Area Manager, Chicago Park District
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.
It is my belief that the past administration believed that this choice was in fact in the best interests of the city and its residents; however, the money was mismanaged and poorly spent. Going forward, I would recommend a combination of cuts in spending as well as tax increases. I would seek to increase luxury tax items, hotels, cigarettes, cars and other non-essentials. I would also, although begrudgingly, suggest raising property taxes in an attempt to correct the City's fiscal dilemma. We also have to take a closer look at reducing city spending without reducing city services. I would consider charging for city services such as scavenger services.
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.
An increase in contributions is necessary but, I do believe the proposed 26 percent increase will make it difficult for retirees to maintain a modest lifestyle. I would suggest raising contributions to a more affordable level. I would also recommend increasing the age limits as retirees often outlive their originally projected pensions. I would also like to see mandatory outside investments similar to 401(k)s (without city contributions) for new employees. This will afford employees the opportunity to invest their desired amounts while lessening the burden on the city in the future. I am very interested in Treasurer Summer's pension reinvestment plan which, I believe, will plug a hole in the pension debt.
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 funding is desperately needed in the community in which I hope to serve. Schools, Parks, and other city-supported infrastructure would benefit from the proper use of TIF funding. There are often times outside investors are awarded TIF funds without giving enough back to the community in return. The 24th Ward /North Lawndale desperately needs companies to invest in its residents. I would be in favor of allocation of TIF funds if there were funds set aside for local constructions companies, jobs for community residents as well as a possible revenue sharing. I would also support the Marriott/DePaul being housed in the 24th Ward.
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.
The proposals that I would champion are as follows: Schools as tools: closed public school buildings are tremendous assets to the community. Repurposing the buildings to house programming and services that will support the community is much needed GED Chicago: When addressing the needs of our communities, all roads lead to jobs. GED's are great assets for job preparedness. Kids and careers: Informing young students and getting kids excited about career opportunities at an early age aids in the process of helping determine the best education tracts, leading up to college. The current model of addressing careers during the college application process is outdated and needs a reboot. Hubs & STEMS: After attracting and securing new community-based businesses, the next steps are finding innovate ways to sustain them. This proposal does a great job of connecting young talent with established professionals to address a critical sector of business – online engagement. The 12 proposals presented here reflect many of the same ideas and passions of the participants I encountered at the On The Table dinner I attended.
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 should keep the office of the legislative inspector general. The City should be more transparent in a time where transparency in desired by the residents of the City of Chicago. I also believe that they should be able to investigate the Alderman and their staff.
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?
Over the past 10 years, there has been a steady and gradual increase in academic performance in CPS students. Test scores and graduation rates continue to rise. However, we cannot rest until each student tests at or above the national average and is on track to graduate. Fiscally, however, CPS is in poor shape. The key to bettering education is more funding. I would recommend a hybrid school board; some member-elected and others member-appointed with strict special interest guidelines. I support the longer school day as it keeps kids engaged in constructive activities for an extra hour and fifteen minutes each school day. CPS should only expand charter schools if they are proven successes (such as Urban Prep). The unfortunate reality is that CPS has limited options as it relates to closing the budget gap. These options may include, but is not limited to, raising taxes, reallocation of its current investments, reduction of central office staff and better oversight in Principal spending.
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 create a chamber of commerce that really works for businesses and residents in the community. (See response in question 3 above regarding TIF funds being reinvested in the community). In an attempt to promote economic development in the 24th Ward, I founded The Chicago Westside Music Festival ("WSMF"). WSMF . seeks to create a series of musical concerts that are FREE to the community and that establish the Westside as a destination for music and summer festival fun, drawing audiences from both local and citywide communities.
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 support an increase in the minimum wage, but we must be mindful of the burden this places on small business. Bottom line, if people have more money they spend more money which is great for the economy.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
Yes. This addition to museum campus would have a tremendously positive economic impact on tourism for the city, which will ultimately reach to the outlying communities.
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?
The city could improve public safety by implementing a community policing unit similar to CAPS but with more street intervention. There is so much tension between police and residents because police no longer have personal connections with the residents they are serving. We need to focus on rebuilding this relationship. A suggestion could be placing police officers in locations from which they came. I spearheaded Police National Night Out, a community outreach program in which police came to various parks to meet with and speak to residents. I was also on the inception committee of Night Out in the Parks, which is a park district program that attempts to reduce the amount of crime that happens in the parks on the weekends and in the evenings during the summer. I am also an active coach with the North Lawndale Eagles elementary tackle football program. The program not only teaches the game of football but also social interaction and life lessons. The program helps keep kids off the street and reduces crime.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
The controversy around the red light program derives from it being touted as a public safety measure as opposed to a revenue generating tool. The City is in need of alternate revenue generating sources. I believe the messaging should change to reflect its actual intended purpose.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
It depends. There is a large number of aldermen in the City Council but it is difficult for one person to serve so many constituents in a large area. The benefits of having so many aldermen is that they are so localized and more in tune with community issues and needs but I do believe this number could be decreased with proper staffing and additional resources. Attention must also be paid to redrawing the map of each ward.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
There are three main issues that work together in my plan to improve the 24th Ward, education, economics and reduction in crime. If you are better educated, you have better opportunities and a better economic base, which ultimately results in a reduction of crime. These are concerns I hear from residents in the ward.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
Outside of going away to Atlanta for college, I have lived in one-mile radius my entire life.