Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Bob Galhotra

Bob Galhotra

Candidate for City Council, 29th Ward

Bob Galhotra

Candidate for City Council, 29th Ward

Portrait of Bob Galhotra

Education: BA- IIT JD-IIIT-Chicago Kent College of Law

Occupation: Attorney

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://bobgalhotrafor29.com

Candidates running for City Council, 29th 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.

The term "Broken Bonds" is true on many levels. The Bond that is the financial instrument is broken because it cannot be repaid from current revenues. The bond of public trust is broken because the City managers can't manage to repay the legitimate debts of Chicago without mortgaging their grandchildren's future. Another name for "Scoop and Toss" might be a "Ponzi scheme." The City of Chicago is borrowing new money now (think new Madoff accounts), to pay for old debts and promises and some special interest current accounts (think Madoff cronies investing for years getting fat checks every month). Current tax revenues can't meet spending levels. What percent of the City's revenue simply goes to pay for the $10B (and counting) debt? A cynic might say "what's the difference how much debt is kicked down the road if we never really have to pay it off?" City Hall has adopted this approach. Only, some future generation will have to pay for it. City leaders must put an end to this charade immediately, and through a combination of spending cuts and specific tax increases, balance the City's budget. Revenue incases should be targeted at sectors that unduly benefited from the unrestrained spending.


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 city needs to negotiate a pension reform bill with labor that they can take down to Springfield and get the changes necessary to make the pension funds sustainable. I do not think the goal should be at this time to have the pensions funded at 100%. A funding level of 70%-80% should be high enough.


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 need to be reformed such that taxes meant for public schools do not keep getting siphoned off into the TIF. HB 1207 and SB 1626 were designed to do just that. I am not in favor of TIF expansion. Excess TIF funds should be returned to the schools. I do not support the allotment of $55 million for the Marriot/DePaul hotel arena project because this money is much better spent in areas that actually need economic investment. The near south side at Cermak and LSD is already thriving with convention, tourism and residential development. It doesn't need this project.


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 idea of re-opening some of the closed public schools and re-purposing them into community centers where children and families can get not only schooling, but vocational training and job search help for parents; students could get after school tutoring; gymnasiums can be used to provide children in these areas with safe places for recreation. Giving kids something to do after school; helping them achieve better academically with tutoring and giving them a safe environment within which to build social skills are the goals I would promote as alderman.


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 think we should do one or the other. Either keep the legislative inspector general AND fund the office adequately OR give Ferguson the authority to investigate alderman and their staff. But at this point, both the LIG and the IG have their hands tied.


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 academic performance of CPS may be improving, but there are many students who are not getting the foundation they need to be successful in our economy. Financially, the schools are in crisis, but that is due in large part to the diversion of funds to TIFs, and charter school operators. The key here is to focusing our resources on neighborhood schools and allowing teachers and educators to arrive at solutions to academic deficiencies. I believe we should have an elected representative school board, as we have in many other parts of the state and country. I am not convinced that a longer school day has had a positive effect on the students. It was clearly a policy that was instituted without much discussion with educators. That is what is wrong with our educational policy in Chicago: there is a lack of respect for the teaching profession. CPS should not open any new charters. The city should utilize money from TIFs to help close its budget gap.


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?

Employers seek a consistent, fair regulatory system -- and low, fair, taxes. I would look to ensure we have a healthy diversity of businesses to provide for my ward, perhaps encourage that which we don't currently have. But I would also capitalize on my ward's strengths. There is plenty of industrial and manufacturing space available along Armitage and Roosevelt Road. The old Zenith space can be repurposed into an incubator space for newer smaller light industrial businesses and other startups and there would be a vast pool of labor that is on tap and close by in the community. I would review and encourage the types of businesses that fit with my ward's zoning to concentrate here. A local, educated workforce helps sustain small businesses and employment provides structure for the community. I prefer to use incentives to promote hiring instead of having quotas imposed. Job training and trade schools can help to make our labor force viable. Each can reinforce the other. I shop at local businesses in order to promote economic development in my ward. A thriving business in the community encourages and attracts other businesses to locate there as well.


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 in favor of an increase in the minimum wage, however, I believe it may have discouraged the general assembly from moving to increase it state-wide. But the eventual increase to $13 will help struggling families make a living wage.


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

No. The museum should not be built on the lakefront. There are many other locations in the city where the museum would enhance the neighborhood and bring economic development. Many other locations are more deserving and worthy of this institution.


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 city can improve public safety by having more police officers walk their beats. I like the bike details as well but rarely see them in the 29th Ward. Citizens are fearful of "getting involved" because they fear retaliation from those whom they identify as being perpetrators, etc. Witnesses are not eager to come to court an often what they say in court is dramatically different than what they said initially to police and prosecutors when suspects are charged. CPD needs a better way to collaborate with the Cook County State's Attorney to ensure the safety of witnesses.


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

No. Because of the inconsistency in the duration of the yellow light from camera to camera; because the fines are exorbitant; because CPD should ticket people who are committing these violations. There needs to be a beefed up traffic unit in CPD if we are truly concerned about the safety of kids at parks and schools.


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

No.


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

To provide honest and independent leadership to the residents of the 29th Ward. The main concern expressed by residents is twofold: the inadequate level of city services (tree trimming, pothole repair; sewer maintenance; street lighting) and unemployment.


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

I have a lot of interests outside of my profession and politics. I love to cook; I have enjoyed riding motorcycles since I was 10; I have an extensive music collection; I like mid-century architecture and design. Those are a few things that may surprise you.