The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 25th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Hilario Dominguez submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Hilario Dominguez?
He’s running for: 25th Ward alderman His political/civic background: I am the son of two immigrants from Michoacán Mexico. At 10 years old, my mom crossed the border in the back of a van with her brothers and sisters. At 14, on his third attempt, my father crossed the border with hopes he would get a good paying job to help his family. Every day my dad wakes up at four in the morning, straps his boots, then heads to the scrap yard, where he has worked as a truck driver for over 30 years. Meanwhile, my mom has worked as a housekeeper, food vendor, factory worker, and currently cleans hotel rooms. I am a proud product of Chicago Public Schools, where my teachers and classmates taught me to fight back in the face of injustice. When CPS tried to shut down schools and cut teachers and staff, I led a student walkout with a handful of classmates. Hundreds of Whitney Young students marched to CPS headquarters to demand equitable funding for all schools. After high school, I attended Johns Hopkins University, where I worked three jobs as a full-time student to pay for college. One of those jobs included serving as a staff member for Baltimore City Councilman Bill Henry, where I established and maintained participatory budgeting processes. My senior year, Black Lives Matter took to the streets to protest the unjust murder of Freddie Gray. My school refused to make a statement in support of the larger Black community of Baltimore. In response, I lead the efforts to fight back with marches, protests, and sit-ins. After two weeks, the university agreed to take a stand. After college, I returned to Chicago to work as Diverse Learning Instructor in the same public schools I attended. I’ve had the privilege to lead a classroom and impact students directly. Additionally, as the teacher representative on the LSC, I organized parents to provide free immigration services to our community. During my time as an educator, I founded I AM HE, an afterschool group aimed to improve the lives of young men of color. Currently, I serve as a community representative on Whitney Young’s Local School Council. I left the classroom knowing I had to make an impact on the systems that affect our children: access to affordable housing, safe and healthy neighborhoods, and quality education. I became a housing justice organizer where I worked to fight unjust evictions, secure housing for those displaced, and fight against unfair property tax assessments. I then became a volunteer coordinator where I worked to elect Chuy Garcia to Congress, Alma Anaya as Cook County Commissioner, Aaron Ortiz as State Representative, and Beatriz Frausto Sandoval as Subcircuit Judge. I also founded a youth-led organization, Young Urban Progressives, that has registered thousands of high schoolers to vote, and recently marched hundreds of first-time voters to the polls. His occupation: Special Education Teacher and Community Organizer His education: Graduated from Galileo Elementary School, Whitney Young High School, Johns Hopkins University, and Dominican University Campaign website: hilariofor25.com Twitter handle: @Hilariofor25 Facebook page: facebook.com/HilarioFor25
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
HilarioDominguez:My top three priorities for the 25th Ward are 1) affordable housing and community driven zoning, 2) fully-funded public schools, and 3) participatory budgeting, where voters decide how to spend the aldermanic menu money.
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.
HilarioDominguez:I’ve spent the past several years working in public service and advocacy roles throughout Chicago. As a special education teacher with Chicago Public Schools, I’ve worked with students in West Humboldt Park and have seen first hand the challenges that students face. As an organizer with an affordable housing organization in Pilsen, I’ve worked to keep longtime residents in the community and fought against developers who have sought to displace our community. Most recently, I worked with Congressman-elect Chuy Garcia on his campaign, as well as the campaigns of young, progressive leaders like Alma Anaya, Aaron Ortiz, and Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval. I also founded a youth-led organization, Young Urban Progressives, that has registered thousands of high schoolers to vote, and recently marched hundreds of first-time voters to the polls. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned through service and advocacy to represent the needs of the 25th Ward.
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.
HilarioDominguez:A pension is a promise that the city made to workers who have upheld their end of the bargain. My father has spent the past 30 years doing similar work to many of the city workers who are now receiving a pension, and the idea of removing those benefits after they have entered retirement is unacceptable. There’s no question that we need additional revenue (as outlined in the next answer), but we can’t balance our budget on the backs of working people. I also support the Pension Obligation Bond, which would reduce some of the costs of the existing debt the city holds.
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.
HilarioDominguez:I’m focused on additional revenue sources that target those that have resources to spare, as opposed to new taxes that target working people. The truth is that there is no room to further increase property taxes or sales tax, our neighbors are already being forced out of their homes and out of the city they love. Creative solutions like a LaSalle Street tax and a corporate head tax can increase revenue from those who can afford it, allowing the city to invest in all neighborhoods and prepare the next generation of Chicagoans for success.
Other reforms, such as the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, have the chance to add substantial revenue to Chicago. I also support a Chicago casino and video gambling, but only if it is built in an area of the city that has historically lacked investment.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
HilarioDominguez:While an alderman does not have a vote in Springfield, they do have influence. I will work with state legislators to advocate for a progressive income tax at the state level to ensure that those who reap the most benefit from the economy are the ones that are expected to increase their contributions.
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?
HilarioDominguez:There are a number of concerns that I have about the TIF system in Chicago, specifically with the way it has been used as a slush fund for developers to use public dollars to build unnecessary “improvements” in some of the city’s wealthiest areas, like Navy Pier. The truth is that there is a limited amount of money that the City of Chicago has, and by locking a portion of that for developers to use instead of Chicago Public Schools or any of the various resource-starved programs in the city doesn’t best serve residents. That’s why I support the TIF Surplus Ordinance, which would ensure that money is directed towards schools, not developers.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
HilarioDominguez:Aldermanic prerogative has been a barrier to progress in Chicago for generations. It has prevented affordable housing from being built while giving local officials the ability to support their friends and donors through back room zoning deals.
As Alderman, there are two immediate steps I will take to change the relationship residents have with their elected official. I will establish a zoning committee made up of voters from different neighborhoods throughout the 25th Ward that will review zoning requests and host community forums for impacted communities prior to any decision. I will also implement participatory budgeting, where neighbors in the 25th Ward will vote at the ballot box to determine how the $1.3 million of “menu money” is spent each year. This has been successful in wards throughout Chicago, and there is no reason why it has yet to be implemented in the 25th Ward.
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?
HilarioDominguez:There’s no question that police have a difficult job, but it’s also clear that there is a pattern of misconduct both in Chicago and across the country that requires immediate action. I was a student in Baltimore when police killed Freddie Gray with a level of excessive force that led to his spine being 80% severed at his neck. I worked with Black Lives Matter and other community groups to demand accountability and force community members to denounce this action.
Here in Chicago, the murder of Laquan McDonald and subsequent conviction of Officer Jason Van Dyke was another reminder that the status quo of policing in Chicago is not acceptable. I support the consent decree, and other initiatives like the Chicago Police Accountability Council that work with the community to hold police officers accountable for their actions.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
HilarioDominguez:As we have seen over the past several decades, there is no Chicago law that can completely rid our streets of illegal guns. Even efforts to limit the number of weapons available have been hampered by weak gun laws in places like Indiana, which is only a 30 minute drive from the 25th Ward. If we’re serious about reducing the number of illegal guns, we need to get serious about investing in our communities.
I’ve seen firsthand the damage that gun violence and gang violence can have on a family; my brother was incarcerated after due to his affiliation with a gang. But I also know that for many young men, limited job opportunities and real concerns about their safety and the safety of their families makes gangs seem like the only option. As Alderman, I’ll work to bring more resources to the 25th Ward including job trainings and opportunities for residents and police officers to bridge the divide and find concrete solutions to limit the number of illegal guns and reduce violence in general.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
HilarioDominguez:I oppose the proliferation of charter schools and other forms of school privatization. I was proud to support the charter teachers who recently won the first charter school strike in the nation, and I hope that those workers continue to receive the benefits that they deserve. But the truth is that we need our resources to go to fully-funding our public school systems, and I’m not giving up on that vision.
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?
HilarioDominguez:Chicago needs an elected school board. Our current system, where the mayor can hand pick banking executives to determine the future of our public schools, does not serve parents or students. Voters decide on their alderman, their county commissioners, their This isn’t about one mayor or one ideology; it’s about placing the power in hands of the people.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
HilarioDominguez:Absolutely not. As an organizer with a local nonprofit that focuses on affordable housing, I learned first-hand the devastating impact that rising rents and gentrification are having in my neighborhood. Families who have lived here for decades are being forced out of their homes as property taxes increase and developers build newer, more expensive residential units. As Alderman, I will work to expand affordable housing my creating a people-driven zoning process that balances new development with affordable housing opportunities and protects renters and property owners in neighborhoods like Pilsen, Chinatown, and the West Loop.
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?
HilarioDominguez:The Welcoming City Ordinance was a great victory for Chicago, and I’m grateful for groups like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee rights that championed it. There has also been recent progress on the state level with the passage of the VOICES Act, which a bipartisan supermajority of legislators passed by vetoing outgoing Governor Rauner’s ill-advised veto of the bill that will protect immigrant communities that are survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
As alderman, I’ll work with community groups to continue to pass meaningful reforms so Chicago can provide sanctuary to those who need it most, and to ensure that city dollars do not support institutions that are complicit in President Trump’s disastrous immigration and family separation policies.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
HilarioDominguez:Absolutely. Given the history of Chicago politics, many people have lost faith in our local government and are disillusioned with what happens in City Hall. The purpose of an inspector general is to ensure that there is a watchdog in place to review various programs and ensure that aldermen are held accountable for their actions between elections.
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.
HilarioDominguez:I have not and will not employ anyone who does business with the city. I will be focused on delivering services to my ward, not to friends, donors, or political allies.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
HilarioDominguez:Congressman-elect Chuy Garcia, who served as an alderman until 1993, is a role model of mine. Not only has he built his career on helping working people and making difficult choices, he has created a movement for young progressives in Chicago. I worked with him directly in the last election to help elect people like Alma Anaya, Aaron Ortiz, and Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval to local offices throughout the Southwest side of Chicago. I’m proud to have earned his endorsement, and hope the voters of the 25th Ward will give me an opportunity to partner with him as an alderman.