Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton

Candidate for City Council, 1st Ward

Andrew Hamilton

Candidate for City Council, 1st Ward

Portrait of Andrew Hamilton

Education: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, University of Louisville, 2002. Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, 2007.

Occupation: Attorney

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.hamiltonfor1stward.org

Candidates running for City Council, 1st 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.

We cannot ignore the obligations that the City has to its residents or it's previous agreements. However, we must refrain from kicking the can down the road any longer. We need a more comprehensive approach in reviewing and assessing our spending in each and every department within the City of Chicago. As it would be a mistake to believe that we can only cut our way out, proper oversight from aldermen and input from taxpayers is crucial in order to pay debts and provide proper services. If not, then consider an alternative revenue sources.


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.

The right solution to the pension crisis is not to simply increase taxes or cut spending, it has to be a comprehensive plan that cuts unnecessary spending while broadening the tax base without the need to increase tax rates or fees. This plan should include a grander vision for Chicago's future. If the residents and businesses of Chicago are doing better, many of the City's financial problems will be alleviated. We must look for means of boosting economic growth through a modernized city government to be more enterprise-friendly and encourage and promote education, jobs, and research.


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.

If used properly, Tax Increment Financing Funds ("TIF") can be an invaluable tool for the redevelopment of our depressed communities. However, we need more transparency in the manner in how our tax dollars are being spent. Taxpayers should feel confident that their money is being spent wisely and efficiently, ensuring that these programs are doing to most good possible for the communities paying for them. As to these two specific examples, I do not agree that taxpayers' money should be allotted to these projects.


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.

One of the things that I truly found fascinating about the Tribune's "How Chicagoans can shape their city's future" is how the residents of Chicago often have better answers and a clearer vision for the future than its government leaders. This type of thinking is part of what has inspired me to run for Alderman, it is critical for City Counsel to have some fresh voices and new ideas for the future of the City. Chicago has been a city that has "never stopped hatching big plans to attract industry, build strong neighborhoods and create a city truly in a garden." In order to stay relevant in a globally-completive world we need to educate our children and provide them with the right skills to compete in a global market. We also need to encourage skilled individuals to move to Chicago to work and innovate. We can accomplish this through investing, forecasting, and focusing on future industries that will be the next world-economic boom and positioning Chicago to be a leader in those industries.


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 support having an Inspector General's Office for both the legislative and executive branches. Having just one to police two branches will spread an inspector general too thin. With one for each branch, each can focus more on specific concerns relevant to the particular branch, have more ethical oversight, and can motivate each branch of government to alleviate city waste and increase efficiency.


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?

We must focus on the best interests of our children. We need more accountability and transparency in the day-to-day operation of our public schools. In order for our children to have a competitive edge in this world, we need to properly fund our schools and make sure that the investments we make in schools are progressive and forward thinking. Increasing or reallocating funding is not the only way improvements in the school system can be achieved, we also need to encourage greater involvement in our schools by the community, parents, and teachers. Communities that take the strongest interest in their local schools tend to have better schools. I support an elected school board. The residents of Chicago should be allowed to decide who is the best person for the position.


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?

As the 1st Ward is a vibrant and diverse community, we welcome the entrepreneurial spirit. Small businesses are the backbone of not only this City, but our country. As a small business owner myself, I sympathize with the everyday small businesses in Chicago. As such, we need more incentives to keep a global-competitive edge and create more jobs. Additionally, we need to make it easier for individuals to start and run businesses in the City. If you have a good idea and are willing to work hard, the City should encourage that person, not stand in her way.


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 do support the minimum wage increase. When individuals are working forty or more hours a week and still cannot pay their bills, we need intervention. This will help support a healthy middle class for Chicago.


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

Of course, my first choice would be for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in the 1st Ward, as our community is known for a strong artistic tradition. However, if the sole reason the museum coming to Chicago over San Francisco was this lakefront location, then I would like to see it here in Chicago. Having the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art will not only attract tourism, but could be another source of revenue for Chicago.


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?

As an alderman, I will work closely with the police and community to improve public safety. I will encourage the police to expand the number of officers walking the beat to strengthen community-police relationships. I will also work to develop programs for at-risk youth and first offenders to help them steer clear of trouble.


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

I am troubled by the program. Based on the Tribune's recent article it seems that these cameras provide little tangible safety benefit. This seems like another unnecessary burden on the residents of Chicago, just to increase City revenues. We need new ideas for attracting business and money to Chicago, not additional "nuisance" taxes like these cameras.


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

No. Having 50 aldermen benefits our communities by providing our communities with a stronger voice. Part of being an Alderman is providing hyper-local services, by decreasing the number of Alderman it would reduce the ability of City government to provide those services. Additionally, it is important that every resident has a voice in the City Counsel, reducing the number of Alderman will make it even more difficult for the concerns of individual voters to have their interests expressed.


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

As alderman, I will work to improve public safety and ensure that city services will be promptly and efficiently provided. The greatest concern from constituent feedback is the lack of accountability and response times to constituents' concerns. Upon taking office, I will develop a mobile application for residents to communicate directly with the Alderman's office to report issues such as potholes, graffiti, burned out street lights, reporting rodent problems, and more. Constituents will be able to work directly with the Alderman's office and I will be accountable to make sure their concerns are resolved.


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

My favorite athlete of all time is Muhammad Ali.