Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Michelle A. Harris

Michelle A. Harris

Candidate for City Council, 8th Ward

Michelle A. Harris

Candidate for City Council, 8th Ward

Portrait of Michelle A. Harris

Education: BA Degree from Chicago State University High School Diploma, CVS High School Graduate of Bryn Mawr Elementary School

Occupation: City of Chicago Alderman of the 8th Ward

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://aldermanmichelleharris.net

Candidates running for City Council, 8th 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.

Yes the borrowing was justified. Going forward, the city should continue to develop a comprehensive plan each year to pay down existing debts and provide services, which may include cuts in spending as well as fee increases.


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 should resolve its pension crisis by continuing to partner with the state legislators to develop a comprehensive plan that would have the least financial impact for each resident of the city by cutting services and or increasing fees.


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 do not believe any changes should be made in the city's use of tax increment financing. If the TIF structure is changed, there has to be a partnership with the State of Illinois legislators. I would not support expansion or extension of TIF districts in my ward. I do not have excess TIF funds in my ward. The TIF in my ward is used to attract larger business and help pay to modernize schools. I support my colleagues with development and redevelopment in their perspective wards. Every community's footprint is different. There is no one size fit all for the 50 wards in the city of Chicago.


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.

Each of the ideas had some merit. I would champion improving the relationships with stakeholders, residents and the police department to development partnerships on combatting crime. I believe in supporting the continued efforts that CPS is doing to improve our public school system and seeking adequate funding to create more STEM schools. I champion working to decrease unemployment, partnering with the banks and other lending institutions to assist residences who lost their homes through foreclosures just to name a few.


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.

Due to the pending law suit, I am unable to speak to the issues involving the office of the city inspector general. However, I do support the office of the legislative inspector general. I will continue to support transparency in government.


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?

Academically and financially, the performance of the city's public school system continue to improve. The key to improving pubic education in the city is for the state legislators to provide adequate funding whereby each district will have the equal amount of funding per student. The appointed or elected members of the school board is a decision made by the state legislators. However, I will support a combination of members being elected by districts and also a number appointed by the mayor to ensure representation of each community. I eagerly support the longer school day and year. The CPS should continue to partner with the state legislators for additional funding to close its budget gap.


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 have partnered and continue to meet on a regular basis with developers and community stakeholders to bring new development into my ward. I encourage community residents to apply for vacant positions in the ward and ask employers to hire qualified local residents. I have partnered with the governor, state senator, state representative, and cook county commissioner to reign in dollars to promote economic development in my 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.

I supported the City Council's vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019. I believe minimum wage workers deserve a fair wage increase.


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

Yes. I support all of my colleagues with the development and redevelopment in their perspective wards; they know what is best for their communities.


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 continuing its plan to initiate more police presence in the high crime areas. The role and performance of the Chicago Police Department is to continue to serve and protect the people of Chicago and continue to engage the residents in crime prevention. I personally feel that crime prevention is a partnership between the community and the police department. In my community I have an ongoing relationship with the four police commanders for the 8th ward and over 300 block club and community groups and encourage them to attend their perspective CAPS meetings and report criminal activity as they see them. I also support the Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Nuisance Business programs to ensure the safety and protection of constituents from business engaging in illegal acts.


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

Yes, I have one of the largest logistical traffic grids in the city, 79th and 95th and Stony Island. I believe the traffic light cameras are an effective tool to aid in the reduction of traffic accidents and fatalities by holding people accountable in obeying traffic laws.


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

No


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 my ward is to ensure that the 8th ward constitutes continue to receive quality service. The greatest concern that I hear from the residents of the 8th ward is to continue to provide infrastructure improvement and additional lights.


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

My only job is Alderman of the 8th Ward so that I can devote my time to ensure that the residences are my first priority and receive the quality service that they deserve.