Candidate questionnaires

Placeholder for LaDarius Curtis

LaDarius Curtis

Candidate for City Council, 24th Ward

LaDarius Curtis

Candidate for City Council, 24th Ward

Placeholder for LaDarius Curtis

Education: High School: Providence St. Mel (Chicago), College: Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) MBA: Keller School of Management (Chicago)

Occupation: Self-Employed

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.24deserves.com

Candidates running for City Council, 24th 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.

We need efficient and practical budgets that provide our residents with the best services our tax dollars can afford. As alderman, I would seek to learn more about these tactics and determine whether they are justified. I want to help our city pass budgets that are efficient and without waste, and only then would I investigate alternatives for increasing revenues.


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.

We can't commit to a long-term solution for Chicago's pension crisis until the state supreme court decides on the constitutionality of current pension reform efforts. Once the ruling is announced I look forward to developing a comprehensive solution for Chicago's unfunded pension liability.


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 be used to revitalize our cities neediest neighborhoods and create new opportunities for residents. Instead of spending $55 million in TIF funds for a hotel and basketball arena near downtown Chicago we should try to use that money to improve needy areas in our city.


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.

The "12 ways to heal a city" plan for Chicago is one of the most innovative and insightful proposals I have read. There are many comprehensive ideas that can be used to create a better Chicago. There is a particular combination I would use to deal with the challenges of the city. Funding issues aside, I would use the recently closed schools as a "School as Tools" program and create a new central learning hub for the community. These new learning hubs would have a satellite office for Mutual of Chicago to ensure that the necessary community investments and resources are in place. I imagine engaging local retired residents along with the "Sister Neighborhood" program to teach, train and operate the facility. In this new central learning hub I want to see these programs: "It Takes a City," "Kids and Careers" and "Oases in the Jobs Desert." "It Takes a City" will give children and parents the support the need to elevate themselves out difficult situations and give them a sense of hope and confidence that positive change is just around the corner. "Kids and Careers" will start our young people on the path to understand the difference between a job and a career and also provide them with the tools needed to get there, no matter what the industry or career field. Finally, the "Oases in the Jobs Desert" program would help people in the neighborhood find work and become a productive citizen of society.


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 City Council should keep the office of legislative inspector general. We need to keep our elected officials accountable. I support any efforts to improve government ethics in Chicago and provide more accountability for our elected leaders.


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?

We need a diverse and multi-faceted solution for improving education in Chicago. On the matter on elected school boards: I believe in democracy and accountability and giving people the power to hold their school representatives accountable seems perfectly reasonable to me. But I would like to see more specifics before committing fully to this proposal. I support longer school days. Having more time in school with teachers and enriching activities is enormously beneficial for students. As implementation continues, I want to see not just more time in core subjects like reading, math, and science, but other activities that play an important role in development. Some examples would be physical education, arts, and opportunities for social services that are important in a community like mine. Lastly, on school closures: I want to first assert that school closures should be analyzed on a case-by-case basis. That being said, I will hold accountable any educational institution -- be it neighborhood, charter, selective enrollment, military, IB, or any other -- that is failing our students. Politicians who are afraid to make tough decisions and do what's best for the children have led us into this current intractable situation. We must be willing to do the right thing. Schools are an integral part of any community and closing them is difficult. I will always seek to use that as a last resort and work on improving them first, before taking such a drastic action.


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?

TIF funds have the potential to attract businesses and bring jobs to the 24th Ward that can adequately sustain our families. In City Council, I would fight for increasing the use of TIF funds in the 24th Ward. Finding good, hard working and dedicated employees is difficult. To encourage employers to hire local residents, I would streamline the job search process. My office would prepare a group of resumes of local residents for new employers in the 24th 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.

Of course! Anyone that works a full-time job should not live in poverty. And unfortunately, that is the reality of many workers in Chicago. A livable wage will help lift families out of poverty and provide a boost to our economy.


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

This project will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in investment and revenues to Chicago. I support the project and hope it will lead to better opportunities for Chicagoans in all parts of the city – including the 24th 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?

I am a strong supporter of community policing. We need to foster better relationships and communication between residents and the Chicago Police Department. I respect the hard work that CPD does to keep us safe every day, but they can't do that work alone. We also need more police officers on the streets. We need to hire more cops to end the violence that is plaguing our neighborhoods. I attend my neighborhoods CAPS meetings and have relationships with CPS officer in my areas. I am also involved with groups like YMEN (Young Men Education Network) that encourage young people to get an education and keep them off the streets.


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

As long as the program can prove that it is accountable and improves public safety, I can support it.


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

No. My ward has a high number of residents that rely upon government services. They need a hard-working alderman who is accountable and available. Reducing the size of city council might save a small amount of money – especially when compared to the overall budget – but it would lessen the opportunities for our city's neediest residents to have meaningful interactions with representatives of city government.


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 in my ward is revitalizing the community by increasing job training and opportunities in the ward. By increasing the skill set of residents in the ward we can boost the opportunities for them to find jobs and expand their career paths. The greatest concern I hear from the residents is violence and the need for more constructive activities for the youth that are not economy based. We need events that will inspire our children without costing parents a fortune.


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

I have played different three instruments in my lifetime and really enjoy going to the Chicago Sinfonietta.


City Council, 24th Ward