Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Joe Lomanto

Joe Lomanto

Candidate for City Council, 41st Ward

Joe Lomanto

Candidate for City Council, 41st Ward

Portrait of Joe Lomanto

Education: St. Francis Xavier Grammar School and Lane Tech High School.

Occupation: Ace Hardware and Keystone Hardware Store Owner

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.joe41.com

Candidates running for City Council, 41st 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.

Taking out loans that will not be repaid until well after the usefulness of the product or projects lifetime is irresponsible. I believe that extending payments into the future should never be done unless there is a cost savings to the city the after the refinance is completed. I believe there needs to be a new process, such as a referendum to allow the city to issue these bonds unless it is for a capital improvement. If the city can refinance bonds that will ultimately save the city money over the lifetime of the new bond and not make it more expensive over the long term I would support that. I think the city needs to eliminate the waste and short term mindset of doing repairs. How often is a street replaced yet within a couple of years it is crumbling? Usually this is because the city did the construction in the cold or used inferior products or may not have done the work in universally accepted methods. Also, we should not outsource jobs to people who do not live in the city. People who work directly for the city or for companies that are located in the city spend their money here and that spending creates tax revenue. Many of the outside companies that receive contracts are located outside the city and that money leaves the local economy. Rather than focusing on mismanaged privatization deals that have yielded little but headaches for the city we need to explore real legitimate forms of revenue. I would be willing to look at any proposed ways to increase revenue for the city as well as ways to reduce waste. I do not believe we should be raising taxes or fees in a way that would hurt middle class residents of the city and I would oppose such measures I feel do so however it is clear that the current path of borrowing and kicking the can down the road is unsustainable.


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 city absolutely should not go back on its promised agreements with police officers and firefighters or any other city employee that has been promised a pension. These individuals entered into an agreement with the city and that agreement is constitutionally protected by the Illinois State Constitution. The city must do everything in its power exploring appropriate spending cuts and revenue increases that do not negatively impact the residents of the city and those who's pensions should have been funded properly to begin with. It is not the fault of the pensioners that city and state officials have been so irresponsible and haven't funded the pension system. The city needs to look at all options. TIF districts drain money from the city budget we need to look at that revenue. We also need to work with the legislature to look at enterprise zones, while they may serve the immediate need to encourage development I also see where areas are still in enterprise zones and the area is plenty revitalized but no sales tax is being collected on the building or these multimillion dollar projects in the enterprise zone. Going forward we need to adjust new employee pensions, while still making them worthwhile enough to encourage the best people to apply for the job. We also need to take a look at people getting second pensions who have only worked a short period of time to receive this pension.


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.

TIF funds should expire when the project or redevelopment is accomplished and if any bonds were taken out, repaid. 23 years is a long time to leave the tax level at the rate it was when it was created, I believe in the long term it hurts the city as it has siphoned off much needed revenue and we cannot continue to put the burden on working families and homeowners. The TIF funds need to receive a forensic audit to determine how much is in each TIF district, where the money is going and whether or not what the TIF district is meant for is being abused. Excess TIF funds should be diverted back to community schools or toward paying our unfunded pension liability and city debt. I see absolutely no reason why $55 million dollars of TIF funds need to be spent to support building a private institutions' basketball arena. I do not support TIF funds to buy anything that will not create a return on investment within a few years or one that is a risky investment.


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.

I believe we should utilize the closed schools to help educate adults who do not have a high school education. Once they have this education they are much more likely to get off the streets and get a job as well as help educate their own children. I also believe in mentoring, where students and adults can help others to get the education that they need to go on to college. Early childhood programs should be supported as much as possible as this is a crucial period for our children. We also need to focus on children with special needs and make sure every child has the chance to get all the services they deserve. I agree that vacant land and buildings should be sold, but not given away. There needs to be a way for the city to get the best money for the value of the property. The sooner we can get the property back on the tax roll the better.


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 office of the Legislative Inspector General was created by city council because they were afraid of real oversight from the Inspector General and hoped to have a complacent Legislative Inspector General. However, the Legislative Inspector General has bucked the City Council by continuing to investigate matters brought to him against various powerful aldermen and because of this he is not receiving further funding. It would be far more cost effective to simply move the responsibilities of investigating the council and their staff to the Office of the Inspector General, set his budget and prevent the City Council from altering it once his responsibilities are set. My only concern is that tips or information needs to be fully vetted before any investigation is permitted and anyone who gives a frivolous tip should be investigated as well. I think term limits for aldermen would prevent people from exploiting the system as easily as long time officials who understand the system may be able to.


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?

CPS closed too many schools, way too fast. It needed to be a slower process as many schools that were closed should have been given more time to turnaround. The money that is spent on safe passage takes away from money that could be spent on education. We are also taking police off their beats to man safe passage posts instead of patrolling the neighborhoods. To improve public education CPS needs to continue focus on early childhood education as well as bolstering attendance and adding programs such as mentoring. The CPS also need to address overcrowding at schools and have a plan going forward as this takes away from learning. There should, at the very least, be a partially elected school board to keep balance and not have an entire board of individuals loyal only to the person that appointed them. The longer school day has not lessened the amount of homework for our children but has simply increased focus on teaching to the test. Like us, children need to have balance in their lives and other activities outside of testing often add to enrichment for the students. The way the longer school day has been implemented takes away from children's enrichment as we see children more stressed. I am not opposed to a longer school day if it adds to a child's enrichment in the learning process during school, this would allow them to partake in other activities after school that are meaningful to their development. I do not support Charter Schools as they rarely outperform neighborhood schools and take away resources that could be used in those neighborhood schools. Charter Schools are merely a profit center for private operators. I think a reduction in money spent on Charter Schools could significantly help with the budget gap. CPS needs to improve its relationship with the teachers union so together they can address the budget issues. I also believe it would be helpful to review CPS management and administration and cut waste at the top.


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 create a business association to promote the visibility and growth of new and existing businesses in the ward. This group would also network with community groups to hire local residents and students, thus reinvesting in our neighborhood. I support the many businesses in the neighborhood by shopping locally instead of in the suburbs or at big box stores. I am building a house in the ward and I am using stores within the ward to buy supplies for the project.


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 voted for the recent referendum to raise the minimum wage to $10.00. I believe we need to review the minimum wage much more regularly but not guarantee a wage many years away without knowing what its impact might be on the communities. More reform on workman's comp insurance may help businesses to balance wage increases. We need to look at how the wage increase affects the local economy as well as the affects it has on small businesses that pay many taxes in the city. A couple of ways to review this could be looking at how many business licenses are current every year, the unemployment rate and how much additional revenue is coming in through the city sales tax.


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

I think it is way too big and takes away from the lakefront. The current proposal is aesthetically unpleasing. It needs to blend in with the lakefront, not stand out. We need to find a better use for the 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 needs to hire more police. Many times the man power in our district is far below what it should be. We can't continue to take police from areas of low crime and move them elsewhere. We continue to see response times rise in our district with many unmanned cars. I think the Police department has done an excellent job with all the man power issues. The people in our ward are very diligent in watching out for their neighbors.


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

I do not support the red light camera system as I do not believe in most cases it has added to public safety. It has enriched the companies that administer the program as well as others who are involved in the corrupt practices that have been taking place surrounding the program. The city needs to hold itself to the same standards it holds businesses. As we saw with the shorter yellow light situation, the city ignored its responsibility to address the people who were affected with a reasonable response. Instead of being more efficient the city continues find ways to penalize the average person with taxes and fines to raise revenue.


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

I believe more can be done with fewer aldermen. The money saved should be kept in the budget to improve the neighborhoods and infrastructure of the city. We pay a lot of taxes for basic services and the response time to get those services continues to increase. Aldermen need to be held more accountable for the people that work for them and we need to have standards for when people can expect to have city services rendered.


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 for improving the ward is making sure we get, at a minimum, the services that all wards get. Residents of the 41st ward are continually told that since our ward is so big we should expect less. I will be extremely responsive to the requests of my constituents in providing answers and information regarding their needs. Since our ward is very big we have many pressing concerns. The pension system is a huge issue since we have many city employees that live in the ward. Airport noise due to the O'Hare Modernization Plan is affecting the quality of life for many people and they were promised solutions that have never materialized. We also have many overcrowded schools and need to look at building new ones and updating facilities.


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

When I opened my first hardware store in 1987 I was the youngest Ace Hardware store owner in the country.