Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Chuks Onyezia

Chuks Onyezia

Candidate for City Council, 18th Ward

Chuks Onyezia

Candidate for City Council, 18th Ward

Portrait of Chuks Onyezia

Education: Graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Engineering: Bachelor's of Science in Mechanical Engineering w/ minor in Mathematics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Business: Master's of Business Administration w/ Concentration in Corporate Finance, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign College of Law: Juris Doctorate

Occupation: Attorney

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.chuksforalderman.com

Candidates running for City Council, 18th 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.

1. I believe this borrowing was not justified. Maneuvers like these cloud the transparency in viewing the current financial status of a city and acts as an unnecessary tactic. Moving forward city hall should focus on properly balancing our budget. Debt should be matched with a combination of income, new revenue sources, and waste cutting options. My neighbors in the 18th ward have suffered from inequitable amount of cuts and depletion in services and I fear that any further cutting would devastate the remaining standard of living that we greatly depend on. We must responsibly and fairly determine an equitable tax increase.


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.

This is a problem that we must tackle with the intention of finding the absolute best solutions that benefit the city and our city workers. Our brave police and fireman paid there fair and negotiated share. We've failed them, and our previous leadership failed us. The only reasonable solution that will come as a sacrifice to us, the taxpayers is to ensure that those fairly negotiated benefits stay intact and we identify new sources of revenue to fill those gaps.


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 would push for the city's use of tax increment financing to build and repair infrastructure, clean polluted land, and restore blighted areas. These revenue resources should ensure the city is providing employment opportunities by way of a more robust infrastructure strategy and also maintain and enhance the beauty of Chicago. Yes, I would support the expansion of TIF in the 18th ward. We have communities in our ward that have suffered from blight and divestment, specifically the north and east ends of the 18th. I believe that our ward can only be as strong as our most vulnerable blocks, and TIF was designed to battle that neglect. Excess TIF should similarly be spent battling disenfranchised areas, and it's been proven that investment in education is the great equalizer. I do not agree with the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for these private institutions in an area of the city that even under the most creative imagination would not be viewed as neglected, in fact, sprawling may actually be the best characterization.


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.

Schools as a tool. I regularly speak of my experiences as a Chicago youth and give thanks to the Boys & Girls Club Chicago for assisting in grooming me. I make it no secret that the 18th ward needs more centers such as these. We have no YMCA's, Boys and Girls Clubs, Crock centers, or even free park district programming to assist in grooming and nurturing our communities youth and young adults. Oases in the jobs desert. This is a prime example of how TIFs can be a great benefit. Hubs and STEMS. Similar to the 'Year Up' program or a college intern/externship program, this can create a mutually beneficial relationship that will bridge the technology gap of small businesses and the employment experience gap of job seeking students. Mutual of Chicago. In today's world and business environment, there is no longer a direct need for a company to have a "downtown location". I have proposed that major corporations relocate into the surrounding neighborhoods to help uplift our Chicago communities and alleviate traffic and congestion. The 18th ward is properly located steps away from midway airport and a 15 minute non stop Metra ride directly to downtown's union station.


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 legislative inspector general should be abolished. It has served as a toothless office that has proven to be a redundant and unnecessary cost to taxpayers. Instead, funding should be directed to the current Chicago inspector general, along with new authority to investigate aldermanic complaints and claims.


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 key to improving public education is properly and equitably fund education. We have been witness to a proliferation of CPS divestment in public education that has openly attempted to create a two tier system of education. For every charter school that is built, multiple neighborhood schools are robbed of its student population and its funding, while having to play by different rules in respect to discipline. I believe in political accountability and democracy, which is why I agree with an elected school board. I do support a longer school day, I don't believe that such increases should be on the backs of hard working teachers. In my job, I'm paid to work longer days, and our educators should be giving that same right. TIF surplus is a good source to look at in ways to close CPS budget gaps.


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 the 18th ward the biggest obstacle in the way of attracting new businesses and future employers is infrastructure rather then location. We are conveniently located steps from Midway airport, a Metra one stop away from union station, freight train exchange, industrial space, public parks with golf courses, forest preserves, malls, and a City of Chicago community college. What we lack is the structures to house the jobs and service business need today. The 18th ward can easily serve as a down town satellite campus that can help alleviate inbound traffic from the south west, since most jobs in these industries are not restricted by geographic location. Imagine a large firm, bank, or insurance company housed on the 18th floor of a mid-rise or high-rise located behind Ford City Mall or Daily College. In efforts to promote economic development I have founded and publish a monthly community newspaper that is distributed to over 13,000 homes and businesses in the 18th ward (www.TheNeighbor60652.com). This paper features the community at large and highlights its offerings. We also showcase employment opportunities, highlight community heroes, and feature local businesses that are friendly to residents of the 18th 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 increase in the minimum wage, however I would like for it to go a step further and have the wage be higher and without incremental steps. This would allow for a clearer understanding in budgeting to future employers. The increase is definitely a step in the right direction based on Chicago's cost of living but it's still not enough for a hard working family to live off of without assistance.


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

Financially, I am opposed to the city funding such projects. However this project appears to be fully privately funded. However, there is more at play with this project. In order to formulate my full stance I would have to fully evaluate the Chicago's Lakefront Protection Ordinance, and any obstructions the proposal will create to our quality and enjoyment of our great lake.


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?

In our community, we would greatly benefit from a stable deployment of Beat officers. As a community becomes more familiar with the officers that are assigned to protect us, that community can begin to form trust in those officers and a trust for the system. That familiarity will result in better lines of communication between community and police. In efforts to improve public safety, I have founded and publish a monthly community newspaper that is distributed to over 13,000 homes and businesses in the 18th ward (www.TheNeighbor60652.com). This paper features the community at large and highlights its offerings. We also include a crime section in the back page that notifies residents of area crime stats, community alerts, suspect sketches, and the times and dates of our local CAPS beat meetings.


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

No, as an attorney I believe in our right to face our accusers, and this program violates that right.


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

No, reducing the number of alderman will not have a substantial financial cost saving affect to the city's finances. For most residents, the alderman is their first line to city services. They depend on their alderman to act as that connection to city services, departments, and even other elected officials. In our ward, reducing the number of alderman, or increasing the number of constituents that an alderman serves would negatively affect the quality of life for many. It is not the number of alderman that needs reduction, it's the amount of ineffective alderman that should be reduced.


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 is to create and provide an environment and opportunities for our ward's youth and young adults similar to what I had growing up. I believe that creating this environment will have transformative affects that will carry over in reducing crime, increasing employment, and growing a stronger community. We fear our young people and blame them for crime without providing a true environment that they may be productive, develop, and thrive. The biggest concern I hear from residents is that our leadership is inaccessible and unavailable, and have abandoned them in the times they sought guidance and were in need.


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

I'm a South-side Cubs fan!