The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 9th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Essie Hall submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Essie Hall?
She’s running for:9th Ward alderman Her political/civic background:No formal political background. Her occupation:Independent Consultant Her education:Doctor of Philosophy/Educational Psychology
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
EssieHall:Priorities of the Ninth Ward include:
1.) SAFETY- The incidence of criminal activity within the 9th Ward, particularly the murder rate, is alarming. I propose to improve community safety: ensuring public streets and walkways are well lit, maintained and protected through community policing, extended partnerships, and restorative strategies.
2.) ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT-The vast majority of the 9th Ward is characterized as a food desert, blighted by abandoned buildings and undeveloped property, specifically in the most vulnerable communities. I propose to eradicate this reality, securing reputable businesses and directing TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) revenues to meet economic needs relevant to ALL constituents of the ward.
3.) EDUCATION-The 9th Ward is in ripe position to ensure that all students have ample opportunity and access to resources for personal and professional development. I intend to seize the moment and nurture meaningful partnerships among the educational institutions within the ward that its most precious treasure, our children, have the support to attain their goals.
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.
EssieHall:Over the past two years I have participated in activism against gun violence, marching with Father Michael Pfleger (St. Sabina Church) to illuminate the consciousness of all Chicagoans regarding the issue. Gun violence and senseless murder is not a problem ascribed to one side of town, it is a city-wide problem for us all to reckon with. Additionally, I have participated in the annual Hunger Walk, sponsored by the Greater Chicago Food Depository raising funds and awareness to help eliminate the incidence of hunger throughout our city.
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.
EssieHall:Regarding current city employees or retirees, I strongly believe that those who have invested in their pension, as the system is designed, should absolutely be able to claim their benefits accordingly. To reduce their benefits, after the fact, would be a breach of trust and unjust. Ideally, I am not in favor of pension reductions. However, after all other alternatives have been exhausted, I would consider reducing benefits for new employees. Again, this consideration would only be entertained as a last resort.
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.
EssieHall:I would favor a LaSalle Street tax among the proposed sources of new revenue for Chicago. A LaSalle Steet tax would primarily affect the institutions and individuals who trade, to significant benefit. This would, in part, level the playing field requiring the wealthy 1% percent to actively share the burden of generating revenue to meet the city’s budgetary needs.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
EssieHall:In terms of opposition, I would not support a Chicago casino. Associating our city as a casino town or hub would certainly generate revenue, but at what cost? Among its disadvantages, a casino can potentially exploit and disenfranchise our most vulnerable citizens, the poor. For me, this would not be an option.
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?
EssieHall:The primary adjustment I would like to see regarding Chicago’s TIF program is reform. TIF revenue is designated to support the advancement of blighted areas and communities. However, there are several instances where TIF funds have served to improve areas of general affluence. This kind of misuse fails to improve the economic stability of communities with the greatest need. TIF program reform is a must.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
EssieHall:The greater Chicago community should be aware of central issues, such as housing, that impact racial equity on a consistent basis. Transparency and accountability to Chicagoans regarding the issues would be a priority.
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?
EssieHall:It is apparent that our current system of training and practice within the Chicago Police Department needs revising.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
EssieHall:The issue of illegal guns poses an ill-defined problem that must be met with a multilayered response. There are many factors to consider including: building trust and cooperation among community members to turn in such guns; eradicating the distribution of illegal guns; and meeting the needs of those who would opt to utilize illegal guns in the first place. I would support a comprehensive approach to engage all the stakeholders within the community to resolve this issue.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
EssieHall:The appropriate role of charter schools is yet to be identified and defined by the creators of the program within the school system.
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?
EssieHall:I favor a hybrid of the current system. Most assuredly the Chicago Board of Education should be represented by those who have first-hand experience in the “trenches”, as educators. However, I again support a collaborative approach to board selection in the interest of all involved.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
EssieHall:No. The people could benefit from housing that is supports the well being of family safety and community.
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?
EssieHall:I support Chicago’s position as a “welcoming city.” Further, I favor comprehensive support of undocumented immigrants that their citizenship may be realized, if they so desire.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
EssieHall:Transparency encourages accountability. The people of the City of Chicago, should be the check and balance system for the City Council. If the City Council has abused its power or committed a grievous act against the people of Chicago, it would be acceptable for an audit or review of City Council programs, operations and committees by the inspector general.
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.
EssieHall:No. This is a conflict of interest that I would not support.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
EssieHall:I have been motivated to run for office because I’ve not seen a model to demonstrate the concerns for my community.
Also running for 9th Ward alderman: