Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Chris Taliaferro

Chris Taliaferro

Candidate for City Council, 29th Ward

Chris Taliaferro

Candidate for City Council, 29th Ward

Portrait of Chris Taliaferro

Education: The John Marshall Law School, J.D. 2007; Lewis University, B.A. 2003

Occupation: Chicago Police Sergeant, Attorney at Law

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://29thward.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 borrowing scenario is a financial alternative available, but, not one I would not proposed. The city is simply pushing back the debt payments which would have a negative financial impact on our future generation. I would address our financial issues with spending cuts, government consolidation and development of new revenue. If we could refinance our debt at a fixed low interest rate, I would take advantage of that opportunity.


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 support legislation that would establish annual caps on benefits at $125,000 for new hires. I support a dedicated revenue stream to the municipal pension along with a reduction for new employees on a prospective basis. We cannot financially sustain the current level of benefits and we must reduce them without affecting retirees or current employees. I would change the system to match closely with the federal government and/or with the 401(k).


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.

In the spirit of transparency, I would work towards a more open and public process regarding the use of TIF funds. The practice by the current administration and supported by this council has created an image of a lack of trust and questions the legality and moral correctness of the use of these funds. Use of TIF funds should have the support of the community and businesses in that particular district, and a commitment that shows those surplus dollars going back into that community. I support using TIF funding for Chicago Public Schools infrastructure improvements. I don't support the $55 million allotment of the TIF funds to buy land for a Marriott Hotel. I believe funding for private use should be directed in depressed neighborhood areas.


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 City of Chicago should put more emphasis on economic development in the depressed neighborhoods. The administration should develop an environment that is conducive for educational learning. It also should develop social programs geared towards reducing crime.


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.

Yes, the office of the Legislative Inspector General should be abolished. I support expanding the powers of the Inspector General where that agency would be responsible for investigating both the city and the City Council. There should be one Inspector General, not two for the City of Chicago. The Inspector General should have full investigative powers for the city administration, aldermen and their staff members.


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?

Clearly, the financial performance of the Chicago Public Schools is in a deplorable state. The practice of using several months of the 2016 future revenue to balance its 2015 budget is unsound and dangerous. At some point you will run out of money, especially if you keep spending. The decision by the board to refinance their debt using action‐rate bonds proved to be a disaster. CPS is now projected to lose up $100 million. Individuals responsible for this should be held accountable and relieved of their duties. A better working relationship should be developed between CPS administration and Chicago Teacher's Union. If the two groups worked as a team/partners, it would create a better environment and learning opportunities for our children. I support an elected School Board. I do not support longer school days, but I do support a longer school year. I support smaller classroom sizes. Research shows that children are more productive in smaller size class rooms. Enforcing class size limits enhances the teacher's opportunity to reach a greater number of students, as well as, delivering a more quality education. I support a moratorium on charter school expansion until new legislation is developed that reforms the current system. I support a moratorium on all school closings until a study is performed to analyze the impact on the parents, students and community. The impact of these closing have been devastating to our communities.


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 ensure that an emphasis is place on keeping our streets and neighborhoods clean through the use of city services and its residents. I would be proactive in creating TIF districts and using the funds to help build the neighborhood's infrastructure. I would be selective in the type of businesses that come into the ward, supporting only those businesses that contribute to well‐being and economic growth of the community. I would encourage employers to hire capable local residents. I would be vigilant in working to make the ward a crime free area. With a reduction in crime, I believe businesses are more apt to locate into the ward. I am an execute board member of the Northwest Side Community Coalition, working to provide community services and promote new businesses for the neighborhood. It is my vision that Roosevelt Road, Chicago Avenue, Madison Avenue, Division Street and North Avenue will flourish with businesses that support and enhance the communities in which they serve. I will not support a business that looks to thrive off of the community. I will create a commission of community leaders and businessmen and women to assist me in vetting each business wishing to operate in the 29th Ward.


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 minimum wage increase, however, I think it should be in line with the State of Illinois minimum wage initiative.


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

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art should not be built on the chosen Park District property. I would propose the shuttered hospital site located on the near Southside.


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 support putting more police manpower in neighborhoods that have higher criminal activity, whereby, using limited resources more efficiently. I support realigning the beats and moving police from lower crime areas to higher crime areas would be an ongoing policy I would advocate until the city hire up to the policeman staffing level needed. I participate in police watch activities and I educate community organization in my area on interacting with the police. I would push for policemen wearing body cameras. It is not refuted that there is a shortage of police manpower throughout Chicago. This shortage has unfortunately led to decreased resources in the areas where violence continues to spike, including Austin. Crime, especially violent crime, has a dramatic and spiraling negative effect on the spirit and development of a community. Moreover, when there is either complete unawareness or a lack of effective responsiveness to the issue, it gets worse and amounts to despair in the community. I will be a voice that will encourage the hiring of more police officers. A voice that will foster better education for the public, as well as police officers, regarding issues that often lead to mistrust. Crime and public safety has, and will continue to be, one of the factors that will bring unlimited hope to the community or despair. As Alderman, I choose to use my understanding and experience with the Chicago Police Department to bring hope for our families, businesses and communities.


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

I do not support the Red Light Program. We were told it was designed and installed for safety benefits, however, it is another scheme to take hard earned money from the residents. Safety is the least component of what this program offers.


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

Yes, I think the City Council can be reduced 1/3 of its current size.


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

Education, Public Safety, Jobs, Economic Development, Foreclosure, Responsive City Services, Minimum Wage Increase and TIF Legislation are my top priorities for the constituents of the 29th Ward. The greatest concerns I hear from the residents in my ward are jobs, crime, city services, school closings and opposition to the opening of a new pawn shop. I firmly believe that we are the stakeholders in our neighborhoods and have a responsibility and obligation to leave our neighborhoods in a better position for the next generation. As Alderman, it is my commitment to promote voluntary educational programs to homeowners to help educate and explain the resources available to prevent the possibility future foreclosures. I will fight to obtain funding from the State of Illinois, as well as the City, to help redevelop foreclosed properties in the 29th Ward. With that, programs should be initiated to assist first time homeowners from the community to help reinvest in the community through grants aimed at assisting the homeowner with down payment assistance. I am committed to bringing safer parks for our children to "come out and play," schools that are properly resourced and neighborhood libraries sufficient on size to serve the growing neighborhoods.


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

I am a police officer and a practicing attorney. I've worked in the Chicago Police Department Internal Affairs Division, where I was charged with the task of investigating police misconduct. I provide free legal advice in my community.