Candidate questionnaires

Portrait of Samantha M. Webb

Samantha M. Webb

Candidate for City Council, 10th Ward

Samantha M. Webb

Candidate for City Council, 10th Ward

Portrait of Samantha M. Webb

Education: Masters Degree in Public Administration Bachelors Degree in Business Administration

Occupation: Chicago Police Officer

Home: Chicago

Age: Not answered

Past Political/Civic Experience: Not answered

Website: www.webbfor10.com


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.

I do not believe that kicking the can down the road is ever justified. The city of Chicago has operated in a fiscally negligent manner for decades and that is exactly what has led to the current crisis. Going forward, city government must streamline all operations and find ways to cut expenditures. This will obviously be no easy task but if elected I will do whatever is in my power to bring to light the waste, fraud and abuse that has overtaken the system. Currently the City of Chicago spends more money than it takes in and owes more debt than it has the ability to pay. While I firmly believe that all debts must be paid and all financial obligations must be kept, there is absolutely room within the budget to cut unnecessary spending. I also believe that the citizens of Chicago are already overburdened with taxes and fees which is why I am a proponent of a city casino that should be used to first pay down all debts, and fully fund all pensions. Should I be elected, my main argument for balancing the city's budget will be to cut expenditures. While the people who reside in the city struggle to make ends meet, the mayor and city council continue to green light pet projects with little to no support from the residents in order to enrich connected friends and give naming rights to dignitaries. I refuse to sit by and let these wasteful habits continue when those funds could go towards correcting the unbalanced budget.


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.

As I touched on in the previous question, I am completely in favor of a city casino in order to fully fund the pension liability. This pension crisis lies solely at the footsteps of the previous administrations. For decades the members who would be the recipients of a city pension faithfully contributed their obligated dues to the pension funds. During that same time the city found countless reasons to short their obligations and allowed risky investment deals for individuals who should not have been allowed to invest pension money. The police and fire pensions are contractually binding and these contracts have been upheld in the Illinois courts. I understand that the financing for these pension funds will be difficult, and as I have also stated previously, the citizens of Chicago are already overburdened with taxes and fees. With the proper oversight and commitment to utilizing the revenues generated from a City casino, I am confident that the pension crisis can be averted.


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 that the TIF program is in dire need of reform. I would like to see the TIF program go through legislation to change the standards of spending to include getting our public schools in order, hiring and funding for more Police Officers, and the pension crisis. I think the expansion of these TIF districts would not be beneficial until we can organize and revamp the program. Marriot is a business that has enough equity to borrow from itself. The TIF funds would not benefit anyone else besides the revenue produced in the South Loop or City center. The money will not reach the Wards throughout the City, only the immediate surrounding wards.


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.

Ironically, I remember when this article came out. I believe it was even before I had announced that I wanted to run for Alderman. I remember how much sense it made; just pure common sense and good ideas as to how to implement some really positive changes for our communities, City wide. As far as a cause to "champion", I believe that they are all great causes and strive for a better tomorrow.


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 be obligated to maintain the office of legislative inspector general and fully fund it according to the needs of the head of that office. The legislative inspector general should be given absolute authority to investigate alderman and their staff for any possible wrong doing. This investigative power should not be limited to just sworn complaints but should also include self-initiated investigations by the inspector general. Government oversight is paramount within the City of Chicago and as such I would support the efforts by both inspectors general to gain increased capability to monitor a much wider range of governmental resources. One suggestion that I would make would be to allow the inspector general to examine and assess all aspects of the city pension funds, how they are invested, who is investing, and what the general health of the fund is. While I do not believe the inspector general should be allowed to have actual input as to the divestment of the pension funds, I firmly believe that there should be a more transparent accounting of how the funds are managed.


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?

To try and pin point one key item that can could magically improve this city's public education system is next to impossible. I believe that there are countless opportunities for improvement within the system, some small and some large. That being said, I am a firm believer in an elected school board. With a 6.8 billion dollar budget, I cannot see any reason that the mayor's office should have any greater hand in spending the citizen's money than it already does. Furthermore, having an elected school board allows the people of this city to have their voices heard as it pertains to the way their children are educated. I will proudly say that if I had to vote on a longer school day and year it would be an easy yes from me. While I understand that there would be costs involved with increases in how much time students are in the classroom, I believe that the benefits would far outweigh the cost in the long term. From the little amount of data I have seen pertaining to charter schools, I am not sure there is any real benefit in increasing their numbers. I feel the best way to begin to address the budget gap that CPS currently faces is to start with greater oversight of the system. As with most other city entities, waste, fraud and abuse are have become the normal operating procedures and I feel that this would be the best, first step in fixing the problem


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 attract more businesses to my ward I believe there are several possible solutions that can be offered. I believe that offering tax incentives for hiring residents of the 10th ward would be a fantastic start. Our residents need jobs that are close to home. Residents of the Ward travel hours to and from work and must commute using several aspects of public transportation, resulting in their incomes being spent elsewhere. By bringing solid jobs into the community, residents are more likely to patronize these businesses, keeping revenue in the Ward and offering sustainability to the business itself. Also, by hiring more Police Officers, and allowing for better patrol, the businesses could feel more secure in knowing their investment in our Ward is protected.


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.

As much as I can appreciate being paid fair wages, I believe it is unfair to force employers to pay workers more than the market will allow for a given job. Our Ward is unique in that we are 5 minutes away from the Indiana border, where taxes are lower and most items are a more inexpensive. It is very difficult to do business in our Ward competing with these factors. Residents can travel a few minutes east and spend much less money. Adding to these factors, the minimum wage increase for our City businesses would only push more of them out. I believe it would either force businesses to move elsewhere for affordability OR force them to cut their workforce to make up for the higher cost of paying their employees, resulting in even fewer jobs for our residents. If the minimum wage increase was nationwide, of course, I would vote yes.


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

I believe that the proposed location for the Lucas Museum is a great idea, however; the location itself could prove to be a little tedious for commuters. It could mean an increase in traffic in an already congested area, especially during peak travel hours and events at Soldier Field. I like the idea behind it, and that it's supposedly not costing the tax payers anything right now, but I would still like to discuss it more with Friends of the Parks & the Chicago Plan Commission.


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 task the city needs to undertake in order to improve public safety is to hire more officers. The police department has not added enough officers to keep up with retirements for years and this depletion through attrition is being felt throughout the entire city. While Chicago is boasting decreases in homicides there has actually been an increase in shootings. This uptick in violence requires additional boots on the ground and that can only be accomplished through an aggressive course of new hiring. Chicago currently has one of the best trained and capable police departments in the country. The dedicated professionals who don a star and protect the citizens of this city every day are constantly faced with the old adage that they must do more with less and in that endeavor they consistently outperform most other law enforcement organizations. The citizens are, for the most part, unaware of their role in policing their community. I believe that an aggressive campaign to educate the populace as to what they need to do in order to assist the police department is required. I want to revamp the CAPS program to help facilitate better working relationships between the community and the Department. I am a police officer and I have dedicated my life to serving and protecting this city and its residents.


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

I do not support the use of traffic light cameras. I feel that the use of cameras to enforce traffic violations is only meant to generate revenue. For as many studies as can be cited that cameras at intersections are beneficial, just as many can be found to contradict that claim. The reality is that nothing can replace a police officer in maintaining law and order on the roadway. To add to this belief, countless arrests are made by Chicago Police every year during traffic stops that were initiated due to a motorist committing a traffic violation


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

Reducing the number of Alderman is definitely an option to consider. A small reduction could lead to a decrease in the budget spending, but it would have to be done in a manner that the Ward residents were not affected. If residents don't feel as if they have adequate representation in City Council, than this reduction would obviously be a failure to our Wards City wide.


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 when elected is to increase public safety in my Ward. I believe that it is in this accomplishment that all other priorities can then more easily be obtained. Making the streets safer in turn will create stronger neighborhoods and more options for our youth. With a viable community, entrepreneurs will become more enticed to initiate businesses in the area. By bringing gang, guns and drug activities to a halt, property values will increase and more people would be likely to want to purchase homes in the Ward. Each success is dependent upon another. It needs to be a group effort. People need to believe that they deserve better and stop accepting anything less than exceptional. That's why I believe now is the time to act upon this election and vote for a change.


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

I love to cook!! I am always looking for new recipes to try and love to learn how to make new foods. My favorite part of cooking is the socializing with family and friends as we get together and try out new things. I think it's important to keep up with old recipes so that we don't forget our traditions.