Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Raymond A. Lopez

Raymond A. Lopez

Candidate for City Council, 15th Ward

Raymond A. Lopez

Candidate for City Council, 15th Ward

Portrait of Raymond A. Lopez

Education: St. Camillus Elementary School St. Laurence High School University of Illinois-Chicago

Occupation: Skycap

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: http://www.electlopez.com

Candidates running for City Council, 15th 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.

Borrowing should be used as a tool to offer short-term relief until a long-term solution is negotiated. Such "kick the can" measures only make for a harder day of reckoning that our future generations will be unable to afford. If all manner of budgetary efficiencies have been exhausted, we must be open to expanded revenue options to strengthen our financial foundation.


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.

Pension contributions can no longer be delayed. We must find revenue streams, even dedicated streams, if all efficiencies have been exhausted. Additionally, we must recognize that, as an employer, the City of Chicago has not only deferred payments but also decreased paying participants by not filling positions in the city. We must hire according to the positions allotted within the budget, not only to provide adequate service but also to ensure increased internal contributions to the major pension funds.


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 may be open to new/expanded TIF districts if we are able to limit the outward flow of funds to projects that do not directly benefit the 15th Ward. I support repatriating surplus funds to the taxing bodies they were excluded from. I will make no comment on the DePaul/Marriot deal without reading the particulars.


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 am open to all ideas that benefit the city. I am grateful to the Chicago Tribune for giving residents an outlet to improve Chicago, and that is something I hope to emulate as Alderman


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 OLIG should be abolished with all powers and authority be given to the Chicago Inspector General.


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?

The academic report of the school system shows progress; however, it does not accurately account for the missing children that "disappeared" following the citywide consolidations. I do not support, and testified against, budgetary gimmicks to balance the budget. I do not support an elected school board. If we are financially able, I support year-round education with a more intensive school day. I do not support the expansion of charter schools in my ward. Charters redirect funds from neighborhood schools as well as disproportionately and negatively impacts the sole Catholic school within the 15th Ward. I would support a forensic audit for the entire budget of CPS


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?

In order to encourage business investment in areas that it is underserved, we must first tackle the issue of safety. Nobody will invest in an area with a negative perception. I am committed to working with the Chicago Police and community/religious organizations to change the perception and reality of our communities. Additionally, there are some parts of the ward that has many small business owners employing hundreds of local residents. We must review and address the needs of these business owners to ensure the stability and continued ability to hire. We can partner with various governmental agencies in programs that pay partial or full salaries if local companies are willing to hire select demographics (ie. veterans).


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 support a graduated increase raise to the minimum wage so that struggling family-owned businesses are not negatively impacted during unfriendly economic times.


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

It is my understanding that Marshall Field demanded an open and accessible lakefront for all Chicago. However, the location, between two existing structures on the lakefront, walks a thin line between the letter and the spirit of what was gifted to Chicago. I personally would like to see more cultural attractions outside of downtown.


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 first and easiest way to improve safety would be to fill all the budgeted spots for officers within the Chicago Police Department. Four years ago, nearly 2100 spots went unfilled despite being budgeted for. I believe that number is closer to 1100, after 1000 were struck from the budget. This is unacceptable. At present, we have allowed our police force to become a reactionary unit of government. With a full compliment, we can again model our police department to be a proactive and engaging force within our communities. As an elected official, I have distributed 10,000 neighborhood watch signs to all 15th Ward residents. I attend CAPS meetings. I participate and sponsor National Night Out events at both major districts within the ward.


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

I support having motorists obey traffic laws and speeds in our communities. Cameras free up police to focus on issues other than speeding motorists. I think there must be oversight and accountability regarding their maintenance and timing.


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

I do not support reducing the size of the City Council. Chicago's style of government is alderman-centric, and it is that particular style that has allowed our city to avoid the fate of Detroit. Despite any negative press, alderman have the direct ability to react and adjust to their respective areas in non-cookie cutter ways that keep all communities viable. Additionally, there is no guarantee for minority representation in a reduced or trustee-style electoral process.


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

Returning safety and security to our communities is my top priority. It is on the tongues of residents, especially with daily news reports of someone getting shot in West Englewood, Back of the Yards, Gage Park, and Brighton Park. It impacts how residents view their neighborhood. It impacts people's decision to invest and open businesses. It impacts our ability to educate our children. Tackling crime, while not politically easy, remains the elusive first domino that must fall so that all other issues come together.


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

My ethnic heritage: third generation Mexican-American mixed with Polish and Italian for good measure, and I enjoy the cultures and cuisine of all three.