Candidate for City Council, 44th Ward
Education: Scott attended Waubonsie Valley High School, Illinois State University and DeVry University, obtaining bachelors degrees in Mass Communications and Telecommunications Management.
Occupation: Project Manager, PartsTrader LLC
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.
Chicago faces a looming fiscal crisis. Massive budget deficits, compounded by excessive spending, exploding unfunded pension liabilities and an ever increasing debt burden threaten Chicago's fiscal solvency. If these problems continue, the City will no longer be able to borrow, tax or refinance its way out of fiscal calamity. We need swift action to address these issues. I am running for Alderman to save Chicago from fiscal disaster without raising property taxes. If the current Mayor and City Council have their way, our property taxes could double! That would be a disaster for property values, small businesses, rising unemployment and the overall Chicago economy. Chicago desperately needs an independent voice for fiscal responsibility. I will be that voice. I will fight to cut spending and stop the borrowing so we can lower our debt burdens and improve our bond ratings, which sit just a few notches above junk status.
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 will work towards comprehensive public sector pension reform that protects both pensioners and taxpayers. I want to give pensioners more choice by creating defined benefit programs to replace the current defined contribution program for new employees and for existing employees who opt in. This would allow pensioners the freedom to choose how their retirement funds are invested and when they will have access to those funds, rather than assuming a one-size-fits-all government approach works for all employees. To accomplish this, some education would need to be done on the benefits of such a plan. Much fear mongering has been done on this topic to scare pensioners away from what would take this money and power out of the hands of bureaucrats, despite the fact that it is in the best interests of both the pensioners and taxpayers to resolve this crisis. But I am not running for Alderman to take the most popular stands—I am running to bring commonsense solutions to my city.
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.
I believe strongly that we need to end Tax Increment Financing Districts and redirect TIF funds back to the areas they were intended to fund in the first place: city services, parks and schools. Instead, these funds are going to subsidize certain developers and projects over others and allows our current leaders play favorites among the politically connected. I believe there is a better way to promote economic development than creating inordinately high barriers for businesses via taxes, fees, and regulations, and then using TIFs to try to paper over those self-induced problems. I believe that by creating a level playing field and reducing the barriers for businesses in the city, we can not only spur increased economic activity, but we will also bring in more revenues that will allow us to shore up the pensions, pay down our debt and invest in our children and the safety of our citizens.
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 piece that stood out to me the most was entitled "How Chicago debt exploded." It is incomprehensible to me that politicians made the promises they did, racked up debt that won't be paid off for decades, with no regard for how we could possibly sustain that much debt and still pay the bills. The citizens of Chicago need immediate spending reforms, transparency and accountability brought to the floor of the city council as official public policy. This is why I am running for Alderman and frankly why I am involved in politics. After witnessing the economic recession and the bailouts of Wall Street over Main Street, I decided to get off the sidelines and get involved. I became an activist, helping to organize local organizations and campaigns to audit government spending, hold politicians accountable, and ban red light cameras. I want to bring these ideas and principles to the city council to be a champion for fiscal reform.
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 we need more accountability in government, not less. The office of legislative inspector general is a key player in the effort to rein in corruption and increase accountability and transparency in Chicago, and I wholeheartedly support the office and its mission.
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?
The first step is to closely inspect school spending to ensure every dollar goes towards educating children. We must spend as little as possible on administration while investing as much as possible educating future generations. That is why I am calling for a forensic audit of CPS as a way to bring transparency and accountability to Chicago Public Schools. Savings found through duplicate functions, waste and fraud can be directed towards educating children and avoiding future budget shortfalls. Only after we have ensured we are making the most of our current level of funding, and once the city's fiscal condition improves, can we seek out additional ways to invest in educating our children. That's why I support using money currently sitting in the TIF funds to shore up public sector pensions in the short term while restoring the tax base dedicated to public schools in the long term by eliminating Tax Increment Financing in Chicago. I support charter schools and other school choice alternatives because giving parents options when determining their children's education is what is best for our community. I will advocate for an elected school board so voters have someone to hold accountable for the quality and performance of our schools.
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?
In my Ward, the number one economic concern is saving Wrigley Field. As a proud resident of Wrigleyville, I understand the importance of Wrigley Field and the Cubs to our community. Wrigley Field is vital to our economy and neighborhood. We need to save Wrigley Field and keep the Cubs in Wrigleyville. I believe the Cubs new owners are building a championship organization. They have proposed a dramatic renovation project that will transform Wrigley Field into the premiere Major League Baseball venue in the country. Lakeview residents need an Alderman who will partner with the Cubs to make the necessary improvements to build a World Series Champion, while balancing quality of life issues in the Wrigleyville community. Residents don't need an Alderman who is an adversary towards the Cubs and the Wrigley Field Renovation. I am a lifelong baseball fan with a special link to the Chicago Cubs. My Great Uncle, Ken O'Dea, played Catcher for the Chicago Cubs from 1935-1938, even hitting a home run for the Cubs in the 1938 World Series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
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 am concerned over the shortsighted nature of the recent vote to increase the minimum wage in just Chicago. While we ought to be working towards a living wage for all, it was a mistake to increase the minimum wage in the city without increasing the minimum wage throughout the rest of Illinois. In addition, increasing costs for businesses will only serve to decrease employment in the city at a time when our unemployment is higher than our neighboring states and the workforce participation rate is at an all-time low.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
I have mixed feelings about the Lucas Museum. I am personally not a fan of how it looks on our lakefront, and it seems that many in the community share my feelings. However, it does not appear that we have much say in the matter. However, I am happy to see yet another development that will further cement Chicago's status as a destination for tourists, residents, and employers.
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 Chicago Police department plays a key role in my Ward, especially with the presence of Wrigley Field and the surrounding commercial areas. Unfortunately, when Districts 19 and 23 were merged, there was a noticeable decline in police presence in our neighborhood. I will fight to return our police patrols to the levels seen before the merger. While not necessarily done to improve public safety in my community, I have worked in our community to support our veterans, especially those hungry and/or homeless. I organized a walk team for the 26th Annual Greater Chicago Food Depository Hunger Walk in 2011, and was a team participant at the 3rd Annual Run to End Homelessness 5K Run/Walk, raising over $7,000 for homeless veterans. My father is a Vietnam combat veteran who served as an Army artillery officer from 1967-68.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
On April 18th, 2012, 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney and 32 other City Council Members voted to install speed cameras throughout the City of Chicago. Since then, thousands of Chicagoans have been caught on camera in a scam to generate millions of dollars of revenue for the city by way of automated tickets. Red Light Cameras and Speed Cameras are not about safety. They are a revenue gimmick for a city that can't live within its means and a regressive tax on drivers that unfairly punishes poor people. I will fight to repeal the unsafe, unfair and unconstitutional Red Light Camera and Speed Camera programs that are tainted by corruption. It's time to Ban the Cams in Chicago!
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
While I am unsure as to the benefits of such a move, if studies prove that such a reform would result in decreased costs and corruption, I would champion the reform. My plan to reform Chicago government is to focus on downsizing or consolidating some of Chicago's 34 city government departments.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
My highest priority for improving my Ward is to bring ethical leadership and instill commonsense reforms in Chicago. I believe public officials ought to represent their community over their party or special interests, and I will be an independent voice for the 44th Ward. My mission is to advocate for fiscal responsibility, individual liberty, free market economic reforms, and transparent government in Chicago.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
While in college at Illinois State University in the early 1990's I played the sousaphone in the "Big Red Marching Machine". This weekend we learned Illinois State has reached the Final Four in the FCS college football playoffs. Go Redbirds!