Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of LaShonda "Shonnie" Curry

LaShonda "Shonnie" Curry

Candidate for City Council, 7th Ward

LaShonda "Shonnie" Curry

Candidate for City Council, 7th Ward

Portrait of LaShonda "Shonnie" Curry

Education: Lewis University B.S. in Psychology 1991 – 1995 National Louis University Master, Educational Leadership 2011 – 2013

Occupation: Administrator, Chicago Public Schools

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://lashondacurryforthe7th.com

Candidates running for City Council, 7th 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.

As Alderman, I would advocate for more transparency in how tax dollars are spent and would push for initiatives that allow voters to have a say in whether or not the city can issue more long-term bonds to fund short-term operating expenses. City Hall should identify long-term, sustainable solutions to these budget shortfalls. This would mean increased transparency in the budgeting process, prioritizing budget items that are the most pressing. This would also include identifying new sources of revenue to meet these fiscal obligations and prevent placing a heavy fiscal burden on future generations.


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.

I believe that all pension obligations for current retirees should be met in full as the law requires. Pension obligations should be met by prioritizing these payments in the budget and by identifying new sources of revenue. I am supportive of a LaSalle Street Tax, a Commuter Tax and a progressive income tax. I am also supportive of closing corporate loopholes that make it difficult to generate enough revenue to cover these long-term expenses.


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.

I believe there should be more transparency in how TIF funds are used and that they should be used to benefit blighted communities as intended. As Alderman, I would push for a participatory budgeting process which would allow 7th Ward residents to have a say in how this money is spent. I would use excess TIF funds to re-open schools and mental health clinics. I believe that there should have been more public participation in the decision to spend TIF funds on the DePaul Arena and the Marriott Hotel. If asked, the public likely would have determined that those funds could be better spent elsewhere in communities that are more in need of economic development.


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.

Schools as tools, GED Chicago, Sister Neighborhoods, It Takes a City, Innovation Houses, eBay Chicago, City in a Garden, Exploiting Chicago's greatest resource, Oases in the jobs desert, Kids and careers, Mutual of Chicago, Hubs and STEMS. These are all great ideas for addressing the deficits in our government and communities. I would advocate for any program that supports educating our youth and young adults so that they are college and career ready. Programs like GED Chicago, Kids and Careers, and Hubs and STEM provide invaluable educational opportunities that build better communities. There are only 2 of the 12 plans that I would not support without further research. They are Oases in the jobs desert and Exploiting Chicago's greatest resource. Corporations or businesses must pay their fair share as citizens do. We have to find other way to attract businesses without creating additional loopholes. Chicago's greatest resource is another plan that requires additional research to determine if it is environmentally safe and respectful of our natural resources. Our current GED program seems a little antiquated and we should consider a more modern/technology based approach to the problem.


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 maintain the office of the legislative inspector general. Someone should be tasked with ensuring that the Mayor and city council members are acting lawfully and in the best interest of their constituents. Without a watchdog who is tasked with investigating suspicious activity, workforce movement (i.e., hiring, transfers, etc.) members can participate in backroom deals that may benefit them personally but do not benefit the people of Chicago. I would advocate for the reinstatement of Shakman Decrees and more oversight to deter political patronage. As Alderman, I would also enact a participatory budgeting process in my ward to give residents a say in how their tax dollars are spent.


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?

As Alderman, I would push for an elected, representative school board. I believe the needs of our public education system are complex and would be best represented by and elected board of people who represent the respective communities and are able to bring the needed resources to Chicago Public Schools. CPS can be improved by electing a school board that can be held accountable for its budget, spending and financial obligations. While CPS made some slightly significant academic gains, these gains are far from what is needed and required to prepare students for college and career readiness. CPS is looming a major financial crisis because it has failed to manage its resources with objectivity and sound financial planning. I would advocate for an external auditor to assess spending and ways to close the gap. Schools and students lack comprehensive resources while CPS engages in misguided endeavors, like an expansive central office relocation project, swaps, school closures, and charter school funding. Data has shown that there is no significant student growth among charter schools in comparison to traditional CPS schools. Therefore, CPS should not provide funding to charter schools. Instead those funds should be designated to provide the supports/resources that students and families desperately need. I support students having more instructional minutes and access to the Arts within the school calendar. Ideally, we can improve our neighborhood schools by changing the demographics of our neighborhoods. Desegregating our neighborhoods so that they are mixed income, integrated housing and a sustainable economic base to adequately support 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 would work closely with developers and encourage them to invest in our community by attending development conferences and being proactive about cultivating those relationships. I would also make sure that local residents were invited to the decision-making table to discuss prioritizing job and education opportunities for local families. Just this past Saturday, I marched with the Alliance of the Southeast to join their call that Lakeside Development draft a Community Benefits Agreement that would ensure that local residents will be given economic opportunities and will play a significant role in the large-scale development project on the lakefront.


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, the minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation and it is time for an increase. A vast number of people in Chicago who work full-time are living in poverty. Anyone who works full-time should not have to live in poverty. This is a simple way to ease poverty in the city, though much more should be done to create jobs and spur economic development.


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

While the city would benefit from more cultural programs, like the Lucas Museum, we must preserve our natural resources and city architecture for the citizens of Chicago. Such cultural enterprises should be considered for development near blighted communities. Doing so will stimulate the economy, create jobs, job training, and generate much needed revenue.


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 think the city can improve public safety by improving the quality of education in the city and by creating more economic opportunities for young people. I believe that the Chicago Police Department should work in closer partnership with the communities they serve in order to devise solutions to public safety issues. The police should be seen as a partner in solving the chronic violence in some Chicago communities, not as an intimidating force that perpetuates violence. As a community member, I have organized block clubs, neighborhood phone trees, community protests, and participated in CAPS programming to improve public safety in my community. As Alderman, I will continue this work, but on a larger scale that synergizes CPD and residents, and holds both stakeholders accountable.


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

No, I think it is an insignificant source of revenue and strikes me as a petty solution to budget challenges. Red light and speed cameras are another way of generating revenue on the backs of the working class while the wealthy are not held accountable to pay their fair share in taxes.


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

Reducing the number of Alderman is a viable option for helping to close the budget gap. However, I would argue that all communities need fair representation so that people are not disenfranchised or exploited.


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

I think it is essential to improve the quality of service delivery in the ward. Too often, I hear that the residents feel like their alderman is absent and unresponsive to their needs. I want to be very present in the ward and work to represent the interests of 7th Ward residents as best I can. They deserve a leader who fights for the people and gives them a voice in the political process. I will improve service delivery and make sure that residents know their alderman is doing what is in their best interest.


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

I am an enthusiast who likes adventure and would love to skydive.