The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for for 47th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Heather Way Kitzes submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Heather Way Kitzes?
She’s running for: 47th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: Inter-American Magnet School LSC – community member (enrollment area includes 47th Ward). Serve Illinois – State of Illinois Commission on Volunteerism – appointed by Gov. Pat Quinn, 2011. Serve(d) on several local boards including:
Commissioner, SSA 17. Lakeview YMCA. Lakeview Pantry. St. Joseph Hospital Community Leaders Board. Friends of Lakeview
Her occupation: Manager, Government & Neighborhood Relations, Chicago Cubs
Her education: University of Missouri-Columbia, Journalism, History of Art & Architecture
Campaign website: wayforward47.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Heather Way Kitzes: Strengthening Neighborhood Schools — The 47th Ward is home to some of the best schools in the City, but more can be done. The K-8 schools are fantastic but the majority of families seek High Schools outside the neighborhood and in some cases, outside the city. One of my primary goals is to make sure our local, neighborhood high schools become the destination for secondary education.
Gaining lost population — The 47th ward has lost 15% of its population since the last census. This is due to a variety of factors and a lack of flexible, affordable housing stock plays a significant role. I will advocate for smart density and affordability creating a housing stock which works for multiple demographics.
Improving Ward Services — Constituent services are important and I am committed to keeping our community safe, informed, clean and vibrant.
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.
Heather Way Kitzes: I manage a grant for Cubs Charities called the Schools All Stars Grant. Over the past two years, Cubs Charities has matched $1million in fundraising activities via the Schools All Stars Grant. I am also a member of the Friends of Lakeview, the group responsible for the Low Line Pedestrian path which creates new community hubs, connecting the Southport and Paulina El Stations.
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.
Heather Way Kitzes: Pensions for current employees and retirees should not be reduced. Those were benefits agreed to by the City, and must be honored. If new/future employees can agree to a Collective Bargaining Agreement which includes adjustments to future pension benefits, I would similarly honor that CBA.
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.
Heather Way Kitzes: I support the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana. I am open to a Casino and the expansion of video gambling, depending on what such proposals would look like. I do not support any of the other taxes listed here, unless as a last resort. I still believe there are other ways to reduce spending, coupled with the measures mentioned above, which will get the City back on solid financial ground.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Heather Way Kitzes: I oppose any new revenue through taxes which would make it even more difficult for working-class families to stay and thrive in Chicago.
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?
Heather Way Kitzes: Generally, TIFs are a great tool for re-developing under-utilized land, but in recent years there has been an increased portion of TIF funds used for administrative costs. This is an example of government waste that we need to address. I believe comprehensive TIF reform must include accountability and transparency.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Heather Way Kitzes: Elections are a fair check on aldermanic prerogative. If I am elected by the people of the 47th Ward, service to them is my top priority. I will act fairly and responsibly on their behalf.
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?
Heather Way Kitzes: I support the consent decree. Police officers have a difficult job, and I will work to support their efforts, but reform is also needed.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Heather Way Kitzes: I support a wide range of federal- and state-level reforms, including universal background checks, which would help stop the flood of illegal weapons coming into our City from surrounding areas. I also support local measures like gun buy-backs and turn-in days with no questions asked.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Heather Way Kitzes: I want parents to be able to choose the best option for their child, but there are already plenty of options. Any further expansion of charter schools in Chicago is to the detriment of public, neighborhood schools. That’s why I’ve pledged support for a moratorium on all new Charter expansion in Chicago.
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?
Heather Way Kitzes: As a CPS mom, I support reform in the Chicago Board of Education. I have stated previously that I support an elected school board, but having served on an LSC, it may be worth exploring that model as all stakeholders are appropriately represented: administrators, students, teachers and community. I would not be in favor of an elected school board for the sake of an elected school board; I am in favor of efficiency, transparency and strengthening the district as a whole.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Heather Way Kitzes: No. Families are increasingly being priced out of the 47th Ward due to a lack of flexible and affordable housing options. De-conversion of 2- and 3-flats to single-family homes has been a culprit, but we also need to encourage a wide range of different options, including more TOD’s along the 47th Ward’s excellent transit lines (Brown Line, Ashland Bus, Western Bus).
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?
Heather Way Kitzes: I support sanctuary city efforts in Chicago. We should be doing more to welcome and support immigrants.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Heather Way Kitzes: Yes. Council needs more oversight.
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.
Heather Way Kitzes: No. Regardless of whether such arrangements are technically ‘legal,’ they create the appearance of impropriety, which erodes the public trust.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Heather Way Kitzes: Alderman Tom Tunney (44). I have known Alderman Tunney for nearly 20 years. I have worked side-by-side with him since he came into office in 2002. I have long admired his dedication to the 44th ward and the people who call it home. I have rarely seen him waver or stray from what he believes to be the right thing. He has been a mentor to me throughout my career. We may not always agree but I value his input, leadership and consider him a friend.
Also running for 47th Ward alderman: