Candidate for City Council, 38th ward
Education: Holy Cross High School
Occupation: City of Chicago Alderman
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.
No this borrowing was not justified. We cannot mortgage our future to reduce our payments now. As we move forward we need to make some changes in our city's finances. We need to examine progressive revenue options like a LaSalle Street Tax, which would place a small tax on financial transactions, or a commuter tax, which would ask those who live in the suburbs but work in the city to contribute a small amount to help pay for the services they benefit from every day. As we continue to look to find revenue options to meet our pension and other long term debt obligations we must be careful to not over burden the working men and women of Chicago with crippling tax increases.
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.
It's no secret that we need to make some changes in our city's finances if we're going to be able to meet our commitments to our public workers and fully fund their pensions. We need to examine progressive revenue options like a LaSalle Street Tax, which would place a small tax on financial transactions, or a commuter tax, which would ask those who live in the suburbs but work in the city to contribute a small amount to help pay for the services they benefit from every day. As we continue to look to find revenue options to meet our pension and other long term debt obligations we must be careful to not over burden the working men and women of Chicago with crippling tax increases.
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.
Over the years the TIF program has been a valuable tool used to spur economic development in many areas of our city. However many of those old TIF districts are no longer necessary. We must examine all existing TIF districts and eliminate those in areas where they no longer are needed. As part of a plan to modernize Chicago's TIF program we must create a system of oversight and transparency so the people of Chicago know exactly where their tax dollars are being spent and any surplus of tax dollars in the TIF system should be refunded to their taxing body. I do not support the use of public TIF dollars to purchase land for Marriott and DePaul University.
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.
Education is the key to moving our city forward. In order to create jobs and strengthen our economy we must educate all of our students. Good public education should offer a broad based elementary and secondary curriculum that includes relevant vocational education in addition to offering a path for students who wish to attend 2 and 4 year colleges. Our economy cannot grow without a complete and skilled workforce. The Tribune editorial offered several ideas that follow my belief that education is the key. I would support programs similar to: "Schools as Tools," "GED Chicago," "Kids and Careers" and "Hubs and STEMS."
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.
City Council should abolish the Office of the Legislative Inspector General as it exists today. This office is underfunded and has no real authority to enforce ethics regulations. I believe the power to investigate aldermen and their staff members should reside in the office of the city inspector general.
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?
Chicago Public Schools continue to improve academically but there is a lot of hard work to do. If we want to see this trend continue we must adequately fund our schools and encourage parents to get involved. I have been a vocal proponent of an elected school board and have sponsored legislation to have an elected school board referendum included on the ballot. I believe we should move to an elected school board because parents should have a say in our children's education. I support a longer school day as long as the time is used to improve math, science, and reading scores and not wasted. CPS should not expand the Charter School program. In my community, parents are looking for improved neighborhood schools where our children can learn without being stuck in overcrowded classrooms. Diverting funds from our public schools to a charter schools system that has little to no oversight takes much needed money that could be used to improve facilities and hire more teachers. We can begin to address the Chicago Public Schools budget gap by returning the surplus TIF dollars.
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?
Since being elected in 2011 I have worked hard to attract businesses to our community. I constantly reach out to businesses to let them know of available properties for them to move into. I have brought developments into several different areas of our ward including a much needed grocery store and a commercial development on a formerly empty gas station. I believe the changes we have made in our ward by improving our schools and parks has made our community a more attractive location for businesses to open in.
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 the increase in the minimum wage to $13 by 2019. I feel that we were able to come up with a plan that will strengthen our economy and improve the lives of over 400,000 families in Chicago. The ordinance that we passed raises the minimum wage across a wide spectrum of our work force including tipped employees and domestic workers. The phasing in of the wage increase over time will allow businesses to adjust and will injected over $800 million into our local economy.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
Although I welcome the addition of the Lucas Museum to Chicago I do not believe that it should be built on public open lakefront space. The construction of this new tourist attraction has the potential to create jobs and infuse money into our economy. We should look at alternative locations and bring that money into other areas of the city.
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?
Chicago needs to hire more police officers to improve public safety in our city. For three years I have called for funding that allows the CPD to rely less on costly overtime and hire and train additional officers. Currently overtime spending has increased to $100 million annually. Investing in hiring 500 new police officers will reduce overtime costs and reduce the burden on our current officers. The addition of new police officers will also allow us to implement a neighborhood policing strategy that will make our communities safer.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
When the idea of installing speed cameras throughout Chicago was introduced we were told that the goal for these cameras was to make the streets around schools and parks safer for our children. Like everyone else in our city I support any proposal that will truly make our streets safer. I do not support the speed camera program. I voted against it when it was proposed because I feel that it is a back door tax increase that over burdens the Chicago residents that can least afford it.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
I don't believe that reducing the number of wards will have a positive effect on the lives of Chicago residents. Chicago Alderman serve as the voice of the residents not only in City Council but also with the various departments throughout the city. Under the current system many Alderman that I speak to work 70 hours or more each week. As Alderman I have worked to provide the residents of my ward with open and accessible government. Through a series of advisory committees we have built a true partnership to improve our community. If we reduce the number of wards in the city the number of people that each Alderman would represent would greatly increase making it much more difficult for residents to have a say in the direction of their neighborhood.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
When I was elected as Alderman in 2011, I promised to create a system of open and accessible government for our community. This new system has created a partnership between the community and the Alderman's office that never existed before. As we move forward I hope to continue this partnership to ensure that city services meets everyone's needs and we continue to improve our community.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I am 56 years old and I have been working consistently since I was 14 but I have only held 4 jobs. I started working at Elmcrest Banquets when I was 14, in 1978 I began working as a driver for UPS where I worked as a member of the Teamsters Local 705 for 16 years, in 1993 I became a City of Chicago Firefighter where I served proudly for 18 years, and in 2011 I was elected as a City of Chicago Alderman which is my full time job today.