Candidate for City Council, 7th Ward
Education: GRAMBLING STATE UNIVERSITY Bachelor of Science – Major: Accounting; Minor: Finance and Computer Information Systems UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, BOOTH SCHOOL OF BUSINESS, EXECUTIVE EDUCATION Essentials of Effective Management – The Psychology of Management
Occupation: IT Manager
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.
Assuming that the "scoop and toss" tactic was used without exploring other options, this form of borrowing was not justified. Based on my experience as a former Accountant, Auditor and Financial Analyst, employing such tactics can increase the overall cost of borrowing and misstate the city's overall financial position to the public. Going forward, City Hall should focus on operating in as prudent a financial manner as possible, while at the same time, not neglecting current city services. To do this, an initial financial review and analysis of the city's debt obligations (and subsequent periodic reviews) should be performed and the information from this analysis used to determine effective strategies to manage debt - including debt restructuring, debt consolidation and renegotiation of terms. City Hall should also identify areas where costs can be reduced and new revenue sources can be introduced. As future Alderman of the 7th ward, I am responsible for the quality of life of the residents in my ward and as I walk the streets of South Deering, Calumet Heights, South Chicago and South Shore meeting and talking with residents, I have been inundated with complaints of service gaps and inefficiencies. So, cutting necessary services to save money is a last resort. However, identifying more efficient ways to provide services through the use of technology, staff training, process improvements, policy implementation and consolidation of resources, for instance, should be explored.
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.
All efforts towards solving the pension crisis must first start with the mindset of honoring the commitment made to those who have faithfully contributed to a pension and have been promised benefits under the respective plans. With that said, the city of Chicago and its tax payers must participate in activities that seek to protect promised pension benefits including identifying revenue sources to satisfy unfunded pension liability amounts, identification of unnecessary and excessive expenses and fees associated with pension fund transactions, management and maintenance and ensure that investments made within the respective pension funds are appropriate relative to predetermined investment risk and objectives. With experience as an Auditor, Financial Analyst, Financial Planner, Trader and Investor, I know firsthand how excessive fees and the negative effect of taking undue, uncalculated risk, can adversely affect the value and growth of an investment portfolio.
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.
Since the TIF program was created as a special financing tool used by the city of Chicago to promote public and private investment across the city, I would take steps to ensure that it is used as intended and available for building and repairing roads and infrastructure, cleaning polluted land and redevelopment including putting vacant property back to productive use. I have identified areas and assets throughout the 7th ward needing redevelopment and repair. This includes vacant and abandoned property which has a devastating impact on the homeowners and the community and attracts vandalism, arson and other crimes. I feel this will/is discouraging people from investing in the neighborhoods. As such, I would advocate, as well as support, expansion of TIF districts in the 7th ward. I am a proponent of preserving and improving neighborhood public schools and support using TIF funds to invest in this effort. I do not agree with, nor support, the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for a Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena. It's about priorities! Why give public funds to a large international publicly traded hotel chain (3Q profits +25% over prior year) and a private university while our neighborhoods are plagued with vacant and abandoned property, old infrastructure (streets, sidewalks and lights), cuts in city services, four underfunded pensions, an underfunded public schools system with outdated facilities and insufficient resources.
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.
Per review of "12 ways to heal a city", I would champion the following ideas either as stated or use as a model and augment accordingly: Schools as tools: Growing up in the Jeffery Manor neighborhood located in the South Deering community of 7th ward, I had access to activities including, Southeast Little league, park district Basketball tournaments and various after school programs located in public school facilities, churches and community centers in the neighborhood. Unlike the 7th ward of my youth, currently there aren't many facilities where residents can visit that offers after-school and weekend programs including tutoring, mentoring, sports activities and arts and crafts and skills training for job seekers. As such, I support viable opportunities that effectively fill this void and improve residents' quality of life, community vitality, city competitiveness, and local economy. Oases in the jobs desert: This idea is in line with the intended use of the TIF Program (see response to question #3) Kids and careers: This idea can be incorporated with "Schools and tools" Mutual of Chicago: This is a good concept toward economic development and the creation of jobs in the 7th ward. Corporations establishing satellite offices in the various communities throughout Chicago could prove to be beneficial to both the company and the community. The 7th ward is accessible via LSD, US 41, Chicago Skyway and the Dan Ryan expressway. It is close to The University of Chicago Hyde Park Campus and is accessible via public transportation including CTA and Metra. Hubs and STEMS: As an IT Manger of a global company, I am responsible for the prioritization, planning and management of IT projects, ensuring completion within predetermined time frames and budget, while at the same time maximizing staff resources and maintaining a high level of IT service and support to customers. To be successful, I look for alternative solutions to augment staff resources via seasonal and part-time internships and short-term contracts. As such, I take this opportunity to staff these positions with young adults thus giving them the opportunity to gain valuable professional experience. I have hired individuals from programs such as Year UP and Link Unlimited. I also seek to provide opportunities to CPS high school graduates and graduates of and individuals attending HBCUs.
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 City Council should abolish the office of the legislative inspector general. This office is a redundant expense to tax payers and ineffective. The city inspector general should be given the authority to investigate aldermen and their staff members and adequate funding and the appropriate power should be granted accordingly. Ideas to improve government ethics in Chicago include mandatory ethics training and subsequent refreshers to which government employees and elected officials are held accountable.
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?
I would give CPS academic and financial performance, at best, a "C." Due to lack of transparency, it is difficult to ascertain whether students who are being educated with city tax dollars are performing better and if the monies being used are effective. Though many reports, like the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research touts in April that there is a"recent dramatic improvement in the percentage of Chicago ninth-graders who are "on track" to graduate" these numbers do not reflect those students who have been siphoned off to Charter schools, specifically in the poorer sectors of the city. Furthermore, for all the 'gains' that the CPS touts (5 of top 10 public HS in IL – US News Report), it is clear that the city has actually lost ground amongst African-American students, which makes up 40% of CPS. In 2013, Chicago Public Schools gap widened between black and white students - in 3 of 4 measures in the 2013 National Assessment Educational Progress report - the largest gap since the study began in '03 and wider than the average gap in most major US cities. To compound matters, due to risky bond deals and ballooning pension costs, CPS future financial situation does not leave room to effectively implement proven strategies to effect student performance. To improve public education in Chicago, several objectives need to earnestly be pursued based in proven strategies, 1) Attract and maintain quality teachers and provide them with the proper resources, environment and training. These include reducing class sizes especially for critical elementary grades, and have adequate support functions to address concerns. 2) Require and put measures in place so that every child can succeed. This includes identifying early when a student starts to fall behind, and provide adequate support to overcome challenges – throughout the entire city 3) Encourage and include parental and community involvement. Most effective schools have a very active parental participation. To deliver against these objectives, there needs to be a process where the school board has elected representation. This will allow for transparency, proper auditing and accountability against objectives and strategies and a well rounded decision making process. Though I believe in a longer school day, data would suggest that it is not the sole factor to delivering better education. In fact, many of Chicago elite private schools and some of the top school systems worldwide offer less class time to students. It is about the quality of the education, not just the time. I'm not an opponent of charter schools; however, I am a staunch supporter of public neighborhood schools. CPS must focus on delivering against these objectives and not parse its limited resources to charter schools. Moreover, the current charter schools are not properly monitored nor have they proven to be more effective in educating our children. There are several ways to close the budget gap including the use of TIF funds, education grants and increased educational funding from the state level.
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 attract more employers to the 7th ward by highlighting the 7th ward strengths. 1) The People. The 7th ward is a well-educated diverse community. With over 75% of the population over the age of 25 with at least a high school diploma, it is a reliable employment base for companies. Also, a large number of this population speaks at least 2 languages, 2) The location. The 7th ward houses the largest piece of undeveloped land in Chicago. Nestled on Lake Michigan lakefront, it is less than 25 minutes to Chicago city center and just miles to Indiana. With an updated infrastructure on Route 41 and close proximity to Metra trains and CTA, makes the 7th ward accessible. While touting the benefits of the ward, I will hold businesses accountable for responsible growth and continued investments in the community. Additionally proactive efforts to attract business include, Identifying and soliciting the types of businesses needed and wanted in the ward and work to bring the businesses into the ward and enter into mutually beneficial public/private partnerships. Though the 7th ward has many strengths we face many challenges too. As such, I will work to address these weaknesses and challenges in an effort to build a better 7th 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.
Not only do I support the City Council vote to gradually increase the minimum wage, it is absolutely necessary for a vital and growing Chicago. At the previous minimum wage of $8.25, a family of 4 would make less than $17k a year working full-time – below the poverty line. The increase, according to Fox News in July 2014, would affect 3,100 workers and pump $800M into the Chicago economy. The minimum wage increase would especially help those in the 7th ward, where in 2011, 25% of residents were living below the poverty line.
Q: Should the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art be built at the proposed location on Chicago's lakefront? Please explain.
There is a lot of opposition mounting with regard to this project including lawsuits to block construction and allegations of impropriety. At this time, I do not have enough information on the project, proposed location and potential impact to the area. As a future council member tasked with making decision on issues that impact the future of Chicago, I will continue to act responsible and educate myself on this issue as well as other issues in an effort to put myself in the best possible position to make decisions that are in the best interest of Chicago and the 7th ward.
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?
Growing up in the 7th ward, I remember beat police officers being fixtures in the community. They knew the neighborhood and the neighborhood knew them. Issues were readily identified and the community as a whole was safe and protected. I am an advocate for the presence of beat police. A consistent presence in the neighborhoods would transform into mutual trust and respect for the police office as well as the department and its system. Residents will feel more comfortable with the officers, thus opening up the lines of communication and engagement, and improving public safety. This is the digital age and the city can benefit from the use of technology to improve public safety including broadband technology to create a virtual environment where law enforcement staff and citizens engage, collaborate and exchange information in real-time. Other technology investments to consider include: the development of software applications, mobile Wi-Fi video surveillance systems, the use of Wi-Fi technology in police cars, the use of Smartphone technology, and police staffing/manpower at adequate levels.
Q: Do you support Chicago's traffic light camera program? Please explain.
The installation of the red light camera program has been very controversial issue. Though I agree in the objective of reducing accidents in high-traffic pedestrian zones, I believe the tactic of the red-light traffic camera program has proven to be unreliable yielding false results and is a misuse of resources. In fact, as reported by Fox news in August, Judge Sussman "has been throwing out 70% of red light camera cases." Due to this, I do not support the Chicago light traffic program.
Q: Should Chicago reduce the number of aldermen in the City Council?
As I am not privy to any information that shows a benefit from reducing the number of alderman in the city council, I am not in favor of reducing the number of alderman. As the alderman is the steward of their respective ward and all wards have their challenges that are not easily addressed, I think increasing the number of constituents and neighborhoods the alderman is responsible for will prove to be ineffective and counterproductive hindering progress in the wards and throughout the city.
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 7th ward is enhancing the quality of life via rebuilding the neighborhoods block by block This includes: 1) Emphasis on timely repairs of damaged streets, sidewalks, lighting and utilities infrastructure. 2) The rehabilitation of blighted, vacant and abandon property in the neighborhoods which has attracted vandalism, arson and other crimes. 3) Addressing service gaps that interfere with residents' access to city services. 3) Improvement to faulty/inadequate storm drainage systems. The greatest concern I hear from the residents of my ward is that the current leadership has done nothing to improve the ward or address their concerns. As stated by many, she is inaccessible, uninvolved and doesn't know the needs of the community. Since appointed, she has proven to be an unreliable, ineffective resource for the residents of the 7th ward.
Q: Please tell us something about yourself that would surprise us.
I use to DJ back in high school and still play around on the tables in my spare time