Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Otis Davis, Jr.

Otis Davis, Jr.

Candidate for City Council, 15th Ward

Otis Davis, Jr.

Candidate for City Council, 15th Ward

Portrait of Otis Davis, Jr.

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Candidates running for City Council, 15th 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.

I believe that borrowing for this debt should be only in an emergency basis "Only". It should only be used to help temporarily, until we figure out a long term solution. We have found that this process has gotten us in trouble before. This has only compounded the situation that we currently find ourselves in. Our budget is constantly being pushed onto future generations. Increases to pay debt service and constraining budgets need to be evaluated. The residents of the 15th ward have to be able to receive services that are badly needed in our community. The closing of a mental health facility in the 15th ward has been a major blow to our community, it has caused a greater burden on other frontline people to deal with the outcome. Now other facets of our community have taken on the burden for these much needed services on top of their already stressed work load. As Alderman of the 15th Ward, I have questioned myself if these savings were a blessing or a curse. On one side of the coin, I have to consideration whether there is enough money to pay pension obligations? In the intern our debts piles up. Coming up with a strategy on how to decide on how to solve the debt problem has to be every Alderman's primary concern. A broader scope of what our true debt is needed to assess what this picture really looks like. On the other side of this coin, our city may have to renegotiate debts only if the long-term costs are not pushed on future generations. Tax increases seem now an inevitability regardless of the cuts. Our services are already extended in some areas. I believe that these cuts will have greater repercussions in the long scheme of our city's makeup. One finale thought, with our city giving tax breaks, exemptions and TIF's to corporations, this takes money that was earmarked for our communities. We have to have confident Alderman that have a heart for our communities. Put in place a total package for re-vitalization and put that plan to work in our communities.

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.

Our City has neglected many of the servicers of our city. Many have paid into a promise that our city has seemed to turn from over the years. First, I believe that we really need to evaluate our current crisis. Secondly, we need to cut unnecessary spending. Thirdly, we must eliminate waste in our government. Lastly, I would support a strategy for living within our means. There has been legislature that propose changing the retirement age and cutting of benefits. My position would be that Our City would honor our obligation to meet our pension obligation. I would support a LaSalle Street Tax and a small commuter tax increase.

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.

The TIF system is not functioning at its intended purpose. I would support a resolution to use TIF money the way that it was intended to be used. I would evaluate, make suggestions on the use of TIF monies. I would recommend that at least $55 million dollars be spent on Wards that really need re-vitalization and economic turn-around. I would appoint committees to evaluate and come up with recommendations for our hardest deprived neighborhoods. I would support resolutions that would re-open or open mental health clinics that were closed in my Ward. I would not support expansion or extension until we have had a chance to evaluate how this will impact our community. TIF surplus should be returned to the appropriate taxing bodies. I do not support the allotment of $55 million in funds for Marriot and DePaul. DePaul University and the City has failed to provide an adequate case, whether financial, educational or otherwise, as to why this commitment of public funds would be of benefit to the residents of the city of Chicago. I would use these monies to shore up Chicago Public School budgets and pensions.

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.

After reviewing The Tribune Editorial Board recently offered "12 ways to heal a city", I have come to the conclusion that find it refreshing that a media body has received such ground breaking revelation on how to heal our city. I looked at four of the twelve that stood out right now for our Ward. 1. GED Chicago--Fixing Schools-Save Chicago 2. Oases in the jobs desert 3. It Takes a City--Curb Crime-Save Chicago 4. Innovation Houses

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 give both offices the authority and resources to properly do its job, which means properly funding the office and expanding it, as well as giving it the authority to investigate City Council members. I don't support abolishing the Office of Legislative Inspector General. Each has a function.

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?

To ensure every CPS district is adequately funded. To provide qualified teachers with the necessary resources and technology in the classrooms. I support the election of Chicago Board of Education. Only the Superintendent should be appointed by the Mayor. I would support a longer school year but not a longer school day. Equipping teachers with tools and resources to provide a better education has to every persons' response to our education system. Involving parental participation has to increase. A moratorium on Charter school is needed. This has to be based on a ward by ward decision. Parents have to be presented with all the information to make the best choice for their child.

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?

The economic climate of the 15th ward will require action in a number of different ways. Corporations and small businesses working with residents, community leaders and organizations to examine and analyze the community to assets our communities need. Currently making certain to support and promote the existing local business and entrepreneurial efforts. Looking for opportunities to create and set up job training facilities as a funnel that will help to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

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.

We support the increase but our communities and residents can't afford to wait until 2019. Even with the City Council raising the minimal wage it will still not a living wage. By the time that this increase comes we will still have residents that will not be able to make it without some other form of assistance. As is the case with the current ordinance small businesses would receive relief from the timetable that big box retailers would have to comply with.

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

No, it is time for downtown development to take a rest. This is the time to focus on community development in Chicago's neighborhoods. The lakefront has been developed greatly over the years, when will the neighborhoods get the same kind of attention. The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art could possible enrich a surrounding neighborhood.

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, what can I say, "It Effects Everyone". Crime has many facets to it. If we focused on some of the root causes, 1. Youth: job opportunities are lacking in most of our communities. Summer and after school could help reduce some of these problems that we are having with crime in our youth populations. Jobs programs that are supported during the entire year would be equally welcomed in our communities. As always a necessary component in such programs is mentoring. I have been involved with the CAPS program in the 15th Ward and have been in the discussions on this issue. I can say from experience that we won't get rid of crime simply by putting more officers on the streets, or by building stronger relationships of trust, accountability and collaboration between police officers and the community although these are vital first steps. In our communities that are lacking vital resources, investments and opportunities for community members, crime runs rampant. If we invest in services like technical and skill training programs and parental training, we can help our children get off to a good start. We need to invest more resources.

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

I do not support the traffic light program. This program has not met with the masses approval. It has been plagued with controversy since it's' inception. The public has more questions than answers. Studies have gone in favor of both sides of the argument for or against this program. We need to look for alternative methods to this program.

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


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

Where do we begin: Crime, Education, Economic Disproportion...These are problems that binds together Englewood, Gage Park, Back of the Yards and Brighton Park and many other communities/wards. What we find is the key to unlock these concerns is strong leadership. Our Aldermanic office has lacked true focus on the issues of this Ward. We have heard many great ideas and concepts but have seen a lack of fruition of said plans. These diverse communities can be brought together with an open and accessible stewardship by the alderman. Many community organizations, institutions, and leaders in these communities have worked to deal with Public Safety and we can unite these efforts in this newly drawn ward to have a strong impact by using the centrality of the office of alderman.

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

I am an African-American that speaks fluent Spanish. I spent over 20 years in/on local school boards. I been to Jerusalem and I would like to return. My life has been spent trying to heal broken people.