Candidate for City Council, 41st Ward
Education: BA Criminal Justice
Occupation: Chicago Firefighter
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 was not justified borrowing long term for short term expenses goes against finance 101 and common sense. I would look to cut bloated payroll in the management hierarchy taking a hard look at deputy and managing commissioners possibly eliminating positions. There are avenues to raise money. Specifically TIF surplus, luxury service tax (nonessential), and one large casino revenue. This would give consideration for lowering sales tax since we have become a service economy which would lower rates and broaden base. Also limit the amount eligible for tax appeals on residential property over $600K as well as the first $10M on commercial value. TIFs have a lack of transparency – it is a stealth slush fund. The richest TIFs are in or near downtown. There is approximately $1.5B in surplus controlled by the administration. It is a boon to private corporation i.e. the $55M Marriot, DePaul project and $17M to expand elite Walter Payton High school. This is a major drain on revenues for city budget and sister agencies i.e. Chicago Public Schools, Chicago Park District and Cook County approximately $500M in revenue per year (source Chicago Reader).
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.
As a second generation Chicago First Responder, I have paid from every pay check into what we were told was our fair contribution towards our pensions noting the vast majority of Police and Fire are unable to collect social security benefits. With that said, I think an initial step would be for the administration to lobby Springfield to extend the period of time to make the pension funds whole since 2016 it too short of a period time to collect. It took about 15 years to create this mess and it will take more than a couple years to fix it. I would suggest that we need another stream of revenue to be ear marked specifically for pensions. At this time the most stabile stream of revenue would be one large land based casino near downtown nearest McCormick place with convenient transportation. One of Chicago's largest revenue generators is from tourism and conventions which isn't going away. We directly compete for conventions with Orlando and Las Vegas. Direct tax benefits from the casino are estimated from $450-$750M annually which would be that new revenue stream. Indirect benefits would be new jobs, conventions, tourism and synergy would be in the billions (source Illinois Watchdog Gambling Casino and Chicago Chamber member). I would also consider gambling machines at Midway and O'Hare Airports.
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 41st Ward is the only ward without a TIF. Excess TIF funds should be declared and the Funds returned to appropriate governing bodies. I absolutely do not support the $55M in TIF funds to such corporate giants as the Marriot and a well endowed DePaul University ($359M as of 2012). TIFs were not created to subsidize these large entities.
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.
"12 ways to heal a city" was a terrific article to read. I especially like the idea of "Improve Chicago without relying on more state and local dollars that don't exist". Our office would be a huge advocate for the liquidations of empty lots and old buildings. Liquidating these empty lots and old buildings gives a person or business the opportunity to grow and generate revenue for the city.
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 Inspector General should be able to investigate alderman and staff members as long as the Inspector General receives confirmation from City Council. As a public servant you are expected to be held to higher standard and accountable for your actions.
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 proud parent of 3 children who attend Chicago Public Schools I am very pleased with their academic performance. Lowering classroom sizes and providing funding for resources is of paramount importance for overall academic performance. Supporting teachers and parental involvement is necessary for success. Members of the Chicago Board of Education should absolutely be elected and not appointed by the administration. As a civil servant it is my observation someone entering as an outsider is detrimental to moral and impacts stability as well as performance. Beyond that an appointed board may not represent the direct interest for the body they represent and rather the administration from which they were appointed. A longer school day based on performance would be ideal allowing students to attend tutoring for subjects they may be struggling with or excelling at. With the new testing requirements meeting growth expectations can be difficult for both diverse learners as well as high growth learners. To keep children on task for college ready status it is important to focus on individual curriculum. This of course is difficult with large classrooms sizes which should be addressed and new testing requirements almost mandate it as a requirement in order to meet standards. Charter Schools to this end are not necessary as demonstrated by the success with in the O'Hare Area 1 Schools performance. Elimination of substandard performing Charter Schools should be required with the City's funding contributions returning to CPS without establishing new Charters. In order to close the budget gaps we have to go back to the TIFs. Chicago Public Schools would be the largest recipient of the $1.5B share of the TIF surplus and the $500M annual drain on all city revenues would create a steady stream of income.
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?
There are millions of dollars in union jobs available at O'Hare airport which has not been explored by our current alderman where local residents would get preferential hiring. My office would work directly with unions on employing residents with existing available openings. I would work with employers by assisting and navigating the city's byzantine licensing and regulation requirements. I would also personally interview any perspective zoning change applicants in regards to their policies on hiring local residents and facilitate their communication with the local zoning advisory board. A relationship with the local Chamber of Commerce is also very important to educate and assist new and existing employers in the community. I would encourage employers to work with them tapping into available resources. Currently we have approximately 50 plus empty/vacant store fronts within our ward. Working with property owners and new businesses (or expansion of existing businesses) would be an assigned project within my office to find or initiate lower rent opportunities to get the buildings filled with appropriate occupants and bridge the startup expense gaps for business owners.
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 totally support and increase in minimum wage in several steps $10-$13/hourly by 2019 but should be done on state wide basis across the board.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
9) While the Lucas Museum would be a welcome addition to the City, the lakefront is meant to be clear and open for the public's use and any encroachment on this trust would violate our stewardship we are responsible in maintaining for generations to come.
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?
Improvement of public safety would include the hiring of more Chicago police officers and allow them the proper training necessary to effectively police the city. As a former Chicago police officer I truly understand what these men and woman are going through each day the strap on that vest. I also understand as a former Chicago police officer that taking officers from a low crime district and moving them to a high crime district, makes the low crime district more vulnerable. This trend is directly affecting the 41st ward with burglaries and home invasions. The Chicago Police Department is doing an incredible job fighting crime given the limited manpower they have to work with. The Chicago Police department is one of the strongest and most prideful departments in the entire country; I believe promoting a superintendent of police should be done from within the department. I grew up knowing I wanted to be a civil servant, it's a career that runs in my family. I joined the Chicago Police Department in 2000 and worked the 015 district until I joined the Chicago Fire department in 2005. Every day I'm looking to improve public safety in my ward. I believe in and practice a neighborhood crime watch as well as speak at the local schools about the importance of fire safety.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
I support Chicago's traffic camera program on a limited basis. I feel the camera program creates more safety issues and should be removed in areas that are not affective.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
The best government is one that is decentralized and close to the constituents. In planning on being a fulltime alderman with a larger ward it could be more difficult to personally communicate with the people in the ward for which I would serve. The aldermanic position is probably the only elected position which is least influenced by big money.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
The highest priority for improving the ward is for us to make the Alderman's office a more accessible tool for constitutes. It will be our job to facilitate the ward with an open door policy and encouraging residence to get involved in deciding how we will grow. Our goal is to strengthen the crumbling infrastructure of the ward and make the 30 feet in front of and behind every home priority number one. Our office will advocate first and for most for the residence of the 41st ward "Our Voice, not City Hall's" I will be a full time Alderman for the 41st ward.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I'm running for the position of Alderman of the 41st ward because I love, support and cherish the residence living in it. I am not an inspiring politician; I was born into a family of respectful civil servants. Leaving the fire Department maybe the toughest career move I would ever have to make because I "Love" what I do, but to do so to help strengthen my ward is a no brainer.