Candidate for City Council, 32nd Ward
Education: Glenbard South High School, Class of 1990; Journeyman Carpenter
Occupation: Small Business Owner; Doodlebug Junction, Inc.
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.
These bond deals are concerning. It's hard to believe that a world-class city such as Chicago would be forced to resort to accounting gimmicks just to balance the budget. Our city needs to be more upfront about actual revenues and expenditures, so taxpayers can understand the actual cost of the services they receive. We need to make sure there's no waste and inefficiency in the current city budget before committing to cuts or tax increases. I support practical budgets that provide the most effective services with the resources the taxpayers make available to the city.
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 constitutionality of pension reform at the state level is still an open legal matter. The outcome of this legal decision will do much to provide a blueprint for pension reform in the City of Chicago.
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 use of TIFs needs to be examined on a case by case basis. TIFs should be used to revitalize blighted areas and possibly create new local jobs. I do not support the use of TIF funds for the Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena.
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.
There are some interesting ideas in the Plan of Chicago editorial. The Sister Neighborhoods proposal is a nice idea but it might be too tough to keep alive. I like the GED proposal but believe it should also push real life job skills. The idea I found most intriguing was using MWRD wastewater to create urban hydroponic farms.
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.
City Council should keep the office of legislative inspector general, and it should be better funded. We need to keep elected officials honest and accountable. I would support an ordinance that prohibits political offices from being within 100 feet of an office ward office. These offices are often close or in the same building and it creates too much potential for conflict.
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?
One key to improving public schools is community involvement. My husband and I are raising our son in Logan Square, and when it became time to send him to school we investigated our local options and realized they were limited. Instead of moving or sending our son to private school we decided to get involved. Eight years ago, I started Friends of Goethe School (FOGS) with another concerned parent and activist to help support our local public school. Today that organization is a healthy and successful nonprofit filled with talented parents and neighbors. As alderman, I will be more supportive of parent and community groups and push for a part-time volunteer and communications coordinator at each school. This would increase volunteer hours and provide more adults on school grounds. We can't just throw money at our schools and expect them to improve. We need to increase community and parent involvement at our local schools.
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 will work to make the business licensing process clearer. Accessing permits for business construction should be more transparent and user friendly. Business owners should be able to count on a dependable and predictable system, instead of having to deal with the whims of the alderman.
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.
Yes. An increase in the minimum wage is long overdue – especially in Chicago, where it can be expensive to raise a family. As our country moved out of the recession, wages unfortunately lagged behind. We need to help low-income workers earn a livable wage. Higher wages create more disposable income and more money to spend on goods, which can potentially boost our local economy.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
I like Star Wars. Generally I prefer to bring projects such as this to areas that are more in need of an economic boost. I also believe we should be extremely cautious about protecting our spaces on the waterfront. However, this project is a $300 million development with a $400 million endowment. It will be a huge boost to our city's economy and tourism industry and has the potential to uplift the surrounding museums as well.
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 of Chicago has some of the finest police officers in the nation, but they can't do all the work. We cannot just rely on the police to solve our crime problems. We must take action encourage community support and participation to keep crime down. I will give residents the tools that they need to communicate with one another to help solve problems together. I will encourage block parties and neighborhood meet and greets, because knowing who should and shouldn't be on our streets is key to keeping them safe. We dealt with crime spikes and gang activity on my block in Logan Square. I created an online group and reached out to neighbors to share information that we could then pass along to police. We got to know the beat patrolman and shared information with the local officers. When minor offenses occurred we made sure we pressed charges. This official track record became essential when the ring leader assaulted a fellow gang member and beat him severely. The judge saw the pattern and was not lenient. Once the gang leader went to jail, the rest of the gang moved on and stopped harassing our neighborhood. I also walk my child to school and encourage others to do the same. This is a simple but powerful action that keeps neighborhoods safer.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
It depends on the location of the camera and whether or not it will help improve public safety.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
Yes. We should reduce the number of aldermen and remap more efficiently.
Q: What is your highest priority for improving your ward? What is the greatest concern you hear from residents of your ward?
Strengthening education opportunities for Chicago's youth, investing and rebuilding Chicago's aging infrastructure, improving city services for residents and businesses, rat control, and quality of life improvements for residents. The greatest concern I hear from residents is they need quality schools. Too many residents pack up and leave due to the lack of local public school options.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
You might not know it to look at me, but I spent several years working as a union carpenter. I worked during the dead of winter on installing safety walkways and handrails down the Green Line tracks from the river at Wacker St. all the way to Oak Park. This type of work was not for the faint of heart. Day after day, I rotated three pairs of gloves that I warmed in my chest pockets between uses. When the condensation from my drill froze my fingers to the trigger it was time to replace the gloves so that I could continue. The only days we didn't work were the days the temperatures dropped so low that the hydraulics in the scissor lift just wouldn't go up.