Candidate for City Council, 10th Ward
Education: Bachelor of Science, Political Science & Criminal Justice.
Occupation: Compliance Officer (CCA) Diversity Section, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago
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.
There are many financial decisions being made by the City that are addressing only short term needs. I don't believe the taxpayers are tolerant of increases in taxes, especially property taxes. We have a very serious unfunded tax liability that is causing a drag on everything from city services to our debt rating. I believe that we need to take a very close look at how we are spending our money before we raise taxes or cut services. I believe there is a need to conduct a "forensic audit" for every city department. We need to take a look at how and where we are investing our money and if possible refinancing our long term debt.
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.
I am very concerned about the $900 million unfunded pension liability; City, Police & Fire and Teachers. As I have conducted research on this issue; I have become alarmed at how this one issue which most residents know nothing about can sink our city. I do not want to see pensioners have their benefits reduced, which they paid into. I do not want to see an increase in property taxes on our homeowners nor do I want to see an additional decrease in city services. If we do not change some things fundamentally this unresolved issue can destroy our city financially. In addition, to the forensic audit that I called for above in addressing ways to see how we are spending the taxpayers dollars I believe that we need to do the following, please note that we will need to seek additional solutions in addition to these. There is no "quick fix" and the City must stop borrowing against pension payments. There is no single solution, but fiscally, this has to be priority number for the City Council: City must stop borrowing against pension payments. Debt should be re-amortized. City will have to increase its payments (has to be changed in Springfield). Must have much more conservative & realistic actuarial assumptions.
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: We need to have transparency and accountability in spending and reporting of TIF funds. This is another issue that most voters are unaware of. There has to be some standard of when and how TIF dollars are utilized. Originally intended to be utilized in "blighted" areas we have seen these funds used as politicians own personal piggy banks. There are no standards and Alderman have access to these funds todo what they wish dependent upon their relationship with the Mayor. In the 10th Ward we have allocated $99 million + of for the USX Lakeside Redevelopment. I would like to see 10th Ward TIF dollars utilized to help remediate some of the most contaminated land in the 10th Ward, the old LTV Steel property on Avenue O for economic redevelopment and job creation. I believe that the City Council should report quarterly on the TIF funds and how they are being utilized in each ward. I believe that every Alderman has a duty and responsibility to report annually to his/her constituents on the various TIF districts in their wards and how those funds are allocated.
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.
Working alongside Comm. Debra Shore's MWRD plan, with entities and individuals on all sides of this project to be the developers and owners of these water-intensive industries. This is in line with the importance of owning economic systems and structures. 500 words too few to list additional ways to heal the city I can provide more examples during interview or in writing.
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.
I believe city employees as well as Alderman and their staffs should be investigated.. If we can streamline and have all of that done through one office that would be a good start. I appreciate the efforts of Mr. Khan and I am also aware of Mr. Ferguson's efforts as well to investigate fraud and corruption. I do not like how the Mayor and the City Council have handled the situation with Mr. Khan and the Legislative Inspector General's office. I believe that these types of investigative powers are necessary especially since the City Hiring scandal focused on the 10th Ward (Al Sanchez, HDO, Pope). In addition I believe these offices are necessary in guarding against situations such as what we read on the front page of the Sun Times in September 2014, where Alderman Pope's chief of staff was forced to resign for sexually harassing four African American female city employees and placed on the City's permanent "Do not hire" list. Thomas "TJ" Sadzak should have never been hired seven years ago. We need to restore the public's confidence in City government.
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?
As a graduate of the Chicago Public School System, my wife is a graduate of the Chicago Public School system, my wife also taught in the Chicago Public schools and my wife and I both have served on Local School Councils we are very concerned with the educational system structurally and fiscally. I have recently heard some rumors that because of their financial deficit CPS may have to file bankruptcy and I certainly hope not. Obviously the CPS financial system is dire. I make the same recommendations for CPS as I did the city. While I oppose the city and Mayor closing 50 schools, what do we do with those properties now? We are spending millions of dollars to keep those schools heated and the power on. Maybe we need to issue an a national RFP seeking the best proposals to sell those properties. My assessment of the educational system is mixed obviously there is a disparity between select enrollment, magnet and neighborhood schools. We need to close that divide. I do not necessarily support a longer school day, but I do support year round schools. Three years ago I supported an Elected School Board and I still do so today. As a Homeschool parent I believe in school choice, I am not fully convinced in Charter Schools and I believe that Charter Schools should be funded privately and NOT through CPS budget 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?
I would attract more employers to my ward by: Utilizing TIF funds to remediate polluted acres of land in the 10th Ward to help facilitate a Green Economic Corridor to create good paying jobs for 10th Warders and bring in industry and light manufacturing that does not pollute our community by harming the health of the most vulnerable in our community; children and Senior Citizens. For our commercial districts I am advocating for a "Free Trade" Zone to reduce or eliminate the our sales tax in the 10th Ward so we can be more competitive with those businesses that border us in Indiana. I am advocating for a private university and/or hospital to be incorporated in the Lakeshore Development project. I am advocating for the local hiring of 10th ward residents through the utilization of Community Benefit Agreements. These will have to be negotiated on the front end of every major project with input from the community. Look at creative ways to reduce taxes or provide other incentives for industry to invest in the 10th Ward. It should be noted that most of the industry in the 10th Ward employees very few 10th Warder including the Ford Motor plant, Beemsterboer, KCBX, AgriFine, Adelman's Trucking and the AOS Asphalt Plant. All of these projects came in with the promise of "jobs" but the question is jobs for whom? 10th Warders must benefit from these types of projects and that has not happened.
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 City Council's efforts to increase the minimum wage to $13.00 and hour. I support this because I believe that it is necessary for many working families to survive in an ever increasingly expensive city. With that being said, there is obviously an impact to those employers and we should examine ways to provide incentives to them as well to encourage them to pay these wages. An increase in the wage does not guarantee that many of these employees will work 40 hours. We need to identify ways to assist our residents and constituents to increase their educational opportunities as well as their skills through entities such as City Colleges. I am also a proponent of Entrepreneurship and we have to do a better job of teaching, training, cultivating and fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in our ward and in our city.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
To be clear I am first and foremost concerned with the Lakefront of the 10th Ward. I am not particularly enthused by the Lucas Museum and not certain what its connection is to our city. I am much more concerned with the Lakeshore Development on the 500 acres on the lakefront in the 10th Ward. I am proposing and advocating for the creation of an International Steel Workers Museum to honor the legacy of generations of Steel Workers from Chicago's Southeast side, such as my great-grandfather, grandfather and father.
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?
I answer this question as a former CAPS Beat Facilitator, member of the 4th District Advisory Committee and Courtwatch Advocate. I worked on the front lines in South Chicago alongside CAPS Beat Facilitator Arnold Mireles who was murdered because of his work in the community. First, we need to bring our personnel up to "full strength" in hiring the 2,000 additional police that we need. I believe that the current administration's policy of overspending our Overtime budget $75-100 million dollars and putting desk personnel into the streets has not been a benefit our public safety. A $100 million dollars could have bought us another 1,000-1,500 officers; which could mean another 60 officers per district and 20 per shift. Until we identify and appropriate these resources and I am even advocating that we pull money out of TIF districts if need be, we will not be able to have or maintain "Beat Integrity" which keeps beat cars in their beats. We have a serious issue of beat integrity especially in Beats 432 & 433 in the 10th Ward. I have spoken to our business owners on our Commercial districts and we need to reestablish officers on foot in a commercial districts. I have been critical of the current Alderman who sits on the police and fire committee for his lack and failure to address these issues. Public safety in critical and right now people in Chicago and people in the 10th Ward do not feel safe; this impacts our commercial districts, our schools, our property values and whether or not people invest in our community. I am also advocating and promoting the creation of Community Based Radio Patrols to work in conjunction with the Police department to be an extra set of eyes and ears.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
I don't support the traffic light camera program based upon how the contract was awarded and the obvious flaws in the program.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
No, I do not believe we should reduce the number of Alderman in the Chicago, primarily because handling constituent services for 50,000 residents can be overwhelming and with a small council staff budget it is already a stretch.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
Highest Priorities in the Ward: More police on the street, improve public safety Economic Development and job creation; Ban Petcoke
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
Born in Buffalo, New York and two of my friends are Bill Rancic, the "Apprentice" and Chris Gardner, "The Pursuit of Happyness".