The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 28th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Jason Ervin submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Jason Ervin?
He’s running for: 28th Ward alderman His political/civic background: I was appointed Alderman of Chicago’s 28th Ward in 2011 and later elected to a full term in the spring of 2011. Prior to serving as Alderman I was the Village Manager of the Village of Maywood and served on the Local School Council at Tilton Elementary School and Westinghouse Career Academy. His occupation: Alderman, 28th Ward His education: I received my bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Southern Illinois University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Governor’s State University. Campaign website: aldermanervin.com/ Twitter: @AldermanErvin Facebook: facebook.com/jason.c.ervin
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Jason Ervin:My top priorities for the ward are economic development, expanding opportunities for working families, and safety for children. On a citywide level, I want to find ways to continue to move Chicago forward in addressing our financial challenges and return vital service levels to residents that have underwent reductions these past several years.
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.
Jason Ervin:Throughout the last two years I’ve worked with other members in City Council to pass a minimum wage increase, invested in city infrastructure like roads and filling potholes, and expanded affordable housing throughout the city through the ARO pilot program.
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.
Jason Ervin:I have worked with organized labor and the administration to find an acceptable solution to both parties and will continue to do so. I believe revenue enhancements have to be part of the solution, that a pension is a promise we can’t back out on, and fully recognize that pensioners do not have any retirement security such as social security that many other retirees can count on. I also recognize that if we ask everyone to sacrifice together, nobody has to sacrifice too much.
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.
Jason Ervin:I support finding ways to increase revenues without affecting the bottom line of Chicago’s residents and that conversation begins with the share Chicagoans will receive of any progressive income taxes from Springfield. I would support a Chicago casino and legalized and taxed recreational marijuana. I oppose a LaSalle Street tax unless done at the federal level. I have serious reservations about increasing property and sales taxes and I would need to see more data on the implementation and revenue drawn from a commuter tax before supporting it.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Jason Ervin:See previous answer.
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?
Jason Ervin: TIF districts have been effective tools for development but they’re opaque. I would support reforms that make them more transparent for residents because taxpayers should have a better idea about where their money is being spent.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Jason Ervin: Chicago needs accountable elected officials that embrace transparency and reject exclusive policies. I will work with the next administration in finding new ways for City Council to embrace citywide issues, and find ways to limit the use of aldermanic prerogative as a tool to reinforce exclusionary policies.
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?
Jason Ervin: I fully support the consent decree, and I believe it will be a good step in improving relations between the police department and Chicago’s residents and elected officials.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Jason Ervin: Chicago has repeatedly attempted to punish shady retailers and distributors that flaunt the law, but challenges in the courts have made this process incredibly difficult. I believe restrictions implemented on the state or federal level are more effective at stemming illegal gun sales, and guns trafficked here from bordering states. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Springfield and the new administration to strengthen our hand in combating this epidemic.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Jason Ervin: Charter schools serve communities where the public school system has struggled and I believe that charter schools should be held up to the same standards as public schools and have to abide by the same rules and regulations.
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?
Jason Ervin: I support an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Jason Ervin: I think there’s a greater need for housing not just in my ward, but all across the city, and I believe ARO affordable housing ordinance recently passed through City Council will expand access to affordable housing.
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?
Jason Ervin: I support the Welcoming City Ordinance and I believe the Chicago Police Department should do their absolute best to follow the ordinance; especially in the wake of a racist and xenophobic Trump administration.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Jason Ervin: I support an independent inspector general with audit and review power. An independent watchdog can promote good governance and transparency, and increase public trust in government.
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.
Jason Ervin: I have not.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Jason Ervin:Alderman Ed Smith of the 28th Ward is a mentor and trusted advisor. Very simply, he worked hard for his community and was independent when their interests were in conflict with the powers that be. I have tried to follow a similar path when it comes to doing this job.