The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 44th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Elizabeth Shydlowski submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Elizabeth Shydlowski?
She’s running for: 44th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background:
- Jack Kemp Foundation — “Expanding Opportunity in Chicago”, Community Organizer
- State of Illinois — Healthcare and Family Services, Senior Public Service Administrator (Rapid Results, Governor’s Process Improvement Initiative)
- Marco Rubio for President, Fundraising Consultant
- Catholic Charities USA in partnership with the University of Notre Dame, Fundraising Manager for the Poverty Solutions Initiative (Lab for Economic Opportunity)
- Frances Xavier Warde School, Maggie Daley (Board Chair and Founder) – Development Associate and Fundraiser for the Children at the Crossroads Foundation
- Mark Kirk for Congress, Finance Director
- Office of the Chief Judge, Timothy Evans – Assistant Director, Family Mediation
- Office of the Chief Judge, Donald O’Connell – Assistant Director, Family Mediation
- Cook County Republican Central Committee – Executive Director
- U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) – Legislative Correspondent
- City of Lubbock, Office of Mayor David Langston (D-TX) – Intern and Committee Member (Task force on Charter Reform; Arts and Entertainment)
Her occupation: Self Employed — Non Profit Consultant
Her education: Texas Tech University, Political Science (Minor: Communication Studies) (1987-1993)
Campaign website: elizabethfor44.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: Safe neighborhoods, strong schools and fiscal transparency.
Recent civic work
Please tell us what you have done in the last two years to serve the city, your neighborhood or a civic organization. Please be specific.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I worked with the Jack Kemp Foundation to “Expand Opportunity in Chicago”. The effort brought together community leaders from the South and South-west side of Chicago to assess community needs, network, and to discuss partnerships to move the needle on scalability and effectiveness of existing cross-over programs. The overarching focus of the effort is to introduce and educate the community about Opportunity Zones and how they can help disadvantaged communities grow and improve.
Also, my youngest son attends the Nettelhorst school, and for the past two years we have assisted with raising funds to offset the CPS shortfall through our Stallion Stampede and our annual “Helping Hands” fundraiser.
Chicago is on the hook for $42 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which works out to $35,000 for every household. Those pensions, in the language of the Illinois Constitution, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Should the state Constitution be amended to allow a reduction in pension benefits for current city employees or retirees? How about reducing pension benefits for new employees? Please explain.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I support a constitutional amendment to allow changes to future unearned pension benefits and reducing pension benefits for new employees. We have to acknowledge that a corrupt and self-serving political culture created this situation; therefore, in order to have any chance at real reform, we must elect a new city-council. Alderman Tunney voted “yes” to approve leasing our parking, one of our most valuable revenue-generating assets (especially in the 44th Ward). We must end these short-sided, bandaid approaches in order to create systemic change.
Of the following often proposed sources of new revenue for Chicago, which of the following do you favor, and why? A Chicago casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana, a LaSalle Street tax, a commuter tax, a property tax increase, a municipal sales tax increase, a real estate transfer tax increase, video gambling.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I will support legalized and taxed recreational marijuana as long as controls are in place to prevent political abuse. I would also consider a city-owned casino, however I would need to know more specifics regarding governance structure, how fiscal transparency will be provided, and to review an economic impact study from an objective source before endorsing.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: Taxpayers in the 44th Ward have been taxed to the brink and can no longer afford to be leaned upon to solve the budget crisis that was created by self-serving political insiders, so I will fight to protect residents from any further increases. Instead, I will insist on fiscal transparency across the board and will consider supporting user fees for non-essential services depending on the concept and governance structure.
Tax-increment financing districts are a primary economic development tool for Chicago. In a TIF district, taxes from the growth of property values are set aside for 23 years to be used to support public projects and private development. What changes do you favor, if any, in Chicago’s TIF program?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: The TIF program has strayed from its intended purpose and has become a slush fund for the Mayor. I will want to see a full audit before supporting continuation of the TIF program including: disclosure of entities who benefit from the expenditures, outcomes and community impact reports, and detailed descriptions of TIF projects, expenses and the names of the Aldermen associated with them. Moving forward, we need assurance that all members of the City-Council understand the program and know how to properly utilize and protect it from being abused.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: Aldermanic privilege is an open door to corruption as it is arbitrarily used and has no mechanisms in place to prevent abuse. I will advocate for streamlining certain processes with regard to permits, and have pledged to serve residents and businesses unconditionally. In City hall, I will advocate to empower the Inspector General with more oversight over the Mayor, Aldermen and their staff.
The City of Chicago has entered into a federally monitored consent decree to overhaul the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department. Civil libertarians say it is long overdue, but others say it is unnecessary and could make it tougher for the police to do their job. What’s your view?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I support upholding the consent degree. Re-establishing public trust and building bridges all around will be a priority. We must also have conversation with our police officers on the ground to see what they need and to hear their ideas for moving forward.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: This will require a comprehensive review of data reflecting the locations and frequency of gun purchases, among other variables. The findings will guide us in the conversation as we map out next steps to reduce the number of illegal guns. We will also need to work in partnership with law enforcement of the neighboring cities where the guns are being purchased. Gun violence is a deeper issue than removing guns. We will need to work with community to identify root causes of violent crime in our neighborhoods and work toward solutions with our schools, churches and community leaders to help our youth in disadvantaged communities find a path out and away from gun violence.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: If properly fostered by CPS, the relationship between Charter and Neighborhood schools could boost performance of both entities through the exchange of information with regard to curriculum and techniques. For neighborhoods with class sizes that are too large, charter schools offer support to offset the crowding of a neighborhood school as well as an alternative to families looking for something different. The two can and should co-exist as long as they enhance the needs of the neighborhood families, rather than compete with one another.
Should the Chicago Board of Education be solely appointed by the mayor, as is now the case? Or should Chicago switch to an elected school board or some hybrid?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I support an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: Sky-rocketing property tax increases are pushing existing 44th Ward families to the brink, therefore the need for affordable housing has taken on new meaning. On a broader level, the 44th Ward is home to seniors and millennials, so a large rental community currently exists, as well as an affordable housing program for LGBTQ seniors. We can always do more, and I will work to ensure that Lakeview continues to be a welcoming and supportive place to allow opportunity for others.
Chicago, by ordinance, is an official “welcoming city.” This means the Chicago police are generally prohibited from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities. What’s your position on this policy? What more — or less — should be done with respect to undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I support the current position as a “welcoming city” and stand firmly that children must not be separated from their families. However, our police officers should be given latitude to take appropriate action if there is a concern that the individual(s) will do harm to others,
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Elizabeth Shydlowski: Yes, the Inspector General should have the power to hold the City Council and Mayor accountable. I am disappointed that Alderman Tunney voted against empowering the Inspector General in light of the Ed Burke scandal. Decades of pay-to-play, political side deals and perks have resulted in unfunded schools, watered down city-services and overburdened families who have been saddled with unending tax bills. We need controls in place to stop the cycle of corruption and end the “Chicago Way”.
Would you employ, or have you employed, staff in your office who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city? If so, please explain.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: No, I would not. The recent Ed Burke scandal is a perfect example as to why this is an unacceptable practice. He had to recuse himself from hundreds of votes because of his conflicts of interest. The person with the second highest recusal rate was 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Elizabeth Shydlowski: I respect and admire the work of the Chicago Progressive Caucus. In particular, I look forward to meeting and working with 32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waugespack. I appreciate his tenacity and resolve in fighting for transparency and ethical standards in City Hall. He is one Alderman that I hear of, consistently from his constituents, that is known for being a visible and vocal advocate for his Ward.