Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Irma Cornier

Irma Cornier

Candidate for City Council, 31st Ward

Irma Cornier

Candidate for City Council, 31st Ward

Portrait of Irma Cornier

Education: Loyola University College, M.A. Social Justice and Community Development 2014. Columbia College Chicago, B.A. Media 2003.

Occupation: Community Outreach Coordinator

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.cornierfor31.org

Candidates running for City Council, 31st 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.

No, the borrowing was not justified. Issuing long term bonds to solve short term problems is not only short sighted but irresponsible. This completely disregards future finances and burdens our new generations with enormous debt. I strongly believe that residents should be involved in how their tax dollars are being spent. The city should be required to hold referendums for closer public scrutiny of how tax payer dollars are spent, this would need to be done on a state level and I would help support that change by working with local state officials and constituents to make this happen. In addition, city contractors whose projects come in over budget or late should be held accountable and tax payers should not be expected to pay for their underperformance. Also, new debt should not be incurred to pay off old debt unless to renegotiate a lower interest where it saves the city money. My primary argument will be for spending cuts and increase efficiency by making city department heads more accountable by specifically detailing personnel needs and their functions. I will also pursue efforts to make private contractors hired by the city more accountable so tax payers are not left to pay for their mistakes. Finally, I will address the city issuing bond problem.


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.

Many difficult decisions will have to be made. At this time the pension solution is directly tied to what the Supreme Court and the State Legislature will do, as it relates to pensions. Then a clear and long term answer can be offered for the pension and the overall financial health of the city.


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 should be focused more towards school improvements. I would support the extension or expansion of TIFs provided it helps improve living conditions for residents of the ward. Excess of TIF funds should be used for social support services such as mental health clinics and youth services. I definitely do not support the $55 million allotment of TIF funds to buy land for a Marriott Hotel and DePaul basketball arena. These are private businesses and should not be subsidized by tax payer dollars when our schools and children need help. These businesses would benefit from the prime location and would be compelled by their pursuit of continued financial success to build without such incentive from already overburdened Chicago tax payers.


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.

All of these ideas are innovative and effective, Schools as Tools would be one I would support because it would revive closed public schools where buildings still exist and offers a number of benefits to the community. I would also strongly support Kids and Careers which exposes youth to the possibility of a career that will open their eyes to productive alternative choices. Another additional idea I would offer would be mentoring and entrepreneurial training for neighborhood youth. This would give them an opportunity to explore their own creativity and create a product or service that the public might need. This could work in partnership with existing youth organizations and or with both Schools as Tools and Kids and Careers.


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 believe oversight of our elected officials is a good thing and having two Inspector General's administrations provides accountability and a higher level of ethics.


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?

City public schools and teachers are asked to do more with less and face a great deal of challenges such as lack of resources and poverty which is directly related to a child's academic performance. I am in favor of an elected school board. I believe that the parents who send their children to city public schools should have a voice in who represents the school board and the interest of the children. Teachers' pensions should be respected and the commitment to fully fund teachers' pensions should be honored. CPS took a successive pension holiday and paid nothing into the pension fund for ten years and now the teachers' pension is only half funded through no fault of the teachers. I do not support longer school days or year. Charter schools should be reduced, they were never meant to substitute public schools, they were meant as an experiment to share information with public schools to help develop best practices. Charter schools have not proven beyond a doubt that they work better. Finally, an elected school board would help identify new sources of revenue and I believe TIF money could be used for school funding.


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 attract employers by helping to create a safer environment for the residents and potential business investors. I would encourage employers to hire local residents by using my aldermanic office as a conduit. I have also advocated with church organizations to help connect parishioners seeking employment throughout the city.


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 strongly support the minimum wage increase because it will help families and those struggling to make a decent living wage live a life with ease and added security.


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

The Lucas Museum should not be built on the Lakefront. There are many places available in and around Chicago neighborhoods that would benefit from such a project to help serve as a source of jobs and commerce in those communities, instead of using prime lakefront space.


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 focusing resources on communities with high crime activity. Police Commanders should work to develop a close working relationship with the residents of the community by improving communications with stake holders in these high risk neighborhoods. Community policing would be part of the solution, but this can only be accomplished if trust between police and community are cultivated. In order to improve public safety, I have organized several events in my community and worked closely with leaders and clergy to bring public safety awareness and offer alternatives to the residents.


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

No, I would only keep those camera's that have proven to prevent accidents and not those that are only there to pick the public's pocket.


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

Yes, this would help save city revenue.


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

Crime prevention and public safety which would help stimulate greater business activity by providing a safe environment for existing business owners and those willing to invest in our community. This would not only benefit business but would provide safety and improved quality of life to the residents of the ward. The biggest concern I hear from the residents is too much gang activity and lack of resources for our youth.


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

I fought Washington, D.C. for several years, and succeeded in having them recognize my grandfather with a Purple Heart for his military service in the Korean War. This honor had been denied to him since 1952. I also completed a two year master's degree program in one year from Loyola University Chicago.