The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 47th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Eileen Dordek submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Eileen Dordek?
She’s running for: 47th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I am the 10th District Commissioner for the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues. I am a Board Member of Equality Illinois. I served on the Board of Personal PAC from 2009-June 2018. I’m a member of the Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, serving on their Women Leaders in Business committee and volunteering regularly for their events. I coordinated volunteers for Nasty Women Art Chicago in 2017. I’m a precinct leader for the 47th Ward Democratic Organization, getting 84% voter turnout in the 2018 midterm election.
Her occupation: Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Her education: I earned a Bachelor’s Degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a Master’s Degree in Speech Communication and Rhetoric in 1992 from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a MSW in Social Work in 1999 from Loyola University of Chicago, Graduate School of Social Work.
Campaign website: eileendordek.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Eileen Dordek: School equity
I will be a leader in crafting policies that prioritize the children of Chicago. We need to provide equity in education quality, funding, and support systems because investing in education is investing in the future of our communities and our city. As a social worker, I will bring a system-oriented mindset to addressing this issue head-on. We need to fight for a concurrence in the state legislature for an elected school board in Chicago to provide transparency and clarify financial interests of potential members to the public. We also need to address what seems like a constant, stream of school closures and openings because every time we reshuffle, its Chicago’s kids who are left feeling the loss in their communities. I look forward to working tirelessly so we can find solutions to the time sensitive and critical issue of creating equitable schools citywide.
We want to ensure the neighborhood has truly affordable housing that will ultimately make the ward, and our city, healthier and more vibrant. I agree with the Our Home, Chicago ordinance – generated by the Chicago Housing Initiative and there are a number of ways we can make affordable housing a reality, together. We can require that the affordable housing in new construction be available onsite within the neighborhood by working with builders to increase the number of units for new residential development projects. We also need to take a hard look at the zoning and permitting process to streamline both of them at the city level to make adapting multi-unit housing easier, rather than promoting de-conversion into single-family housing. We also need to reverse the current city prohibition on legalizing non-conforming units like granny flats, coach houses, apartments above garages, etc to accommodate smaller, more affordable housing citywide.
Investing in our neighborhoods
We need to create a safe, welcoming community that offers opportunities for Chicagoans to live and work in the same neighborhood. There are several action steps that need to be taken. One of the first is to invest in the social services that are already available to the ward, through small business support, community volunteerism, and public financing. We also need to welcome growing digital technology, design and nonprofit organizations to neighborhood commercial and office locations. Our communication between industries across the ward and the city need to be prioritized to ensure that all of our leaders- whether in the organized labor, small business, community groups, etc- are aware of developments and new opportunities.
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.
Eileen Dordek: I have been intimately involved in my community for the past 22 years I have lived in the 47th Ward. In my work as a Personal PAC Board Member, I worked to make sure that HB 40 was passed by organizing phone banks and door to door canvassing. Through my work on the Cook County Commission on Women’s Issues, I have been involved in the organization of two public hearings. The first addressed the different needs of 18-24 year olds in the criminal justice system, and the second revolved around women in the workplace. I have also been very active in the neighborhood by volunteering at food pantries, senior lunches and have been involved in social justice actions.
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.
Eileen Dordek: I consider employee pensions a commitment to hard working families. I am committed to fighting for these funds by working with our state legislators who need to support us on this time sensitive issue. We need action on their part in changing Illinois’ constitution to allow us to implement a progressive income tax as soon as possible. We also need to see our tax base broadened by a number of options so that we can work to fund the pension liability. I do not believe that the Constitution should be amended to reduce benefits that workers have paid into for their entire careers or for new employees.
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.
Eileen Dordek: I am in favor of legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana, a real estate transfer tax increase, and online gaming because these options do not continue to place the brunt of the burden on hardworking families. I am also in favor of advocating for Illinois to change its constitution to allow the state to implement a progressive income tax.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Eileen Dordek: We need to explore implementing a services tax. Services are making up a large percentage of our economy and it is one of the fastest growing sectors. We need to adjust to our changing economy, and this would be one way to accomplish that while growing revenue for the City.
What we need to avoid is raising property taxes again because it has put an undue burden on long term residents as well as those who are looking to purchase a home.
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?
Eileen Dordek: We need to get back to the original intent of the TIF program which was to help communities struggling with blight and investment. I would advocate for projects and districts to be created to create economic drivers in these communities rather than investing more of these funds in already robust areas that do not pass the “but for” test.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Eileen Dordek: Creating more affordable housing is a city-wide issue and needs to be the responsibility of all Alderman and the City to help mitigate the issue. I would enforce the Affordable Requirements Ordinance, requiring that the affordable units be on-site for new developments, keeping developers from paying the in-lieu fee. I support Transit Oriented Developments and would push to have more 2- and 3-bedroom units in those developments. I would work with other Aldermen on city council to hold everyone accountable to ensure that all neighborhoods keep their end of the bargain to create more affordable housing city-wide.
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?
Eileen Dordek: Chicago has a long history of a troubling relationship between the police and many local communities. There are far too many police shootings and far too few consequences. I am looking forward to implementation of the consent decree to start to address our law enforcement issues. I believe that we also need to implement the Grassroots Alliance on Police Accountability oversight proposal, as well. It would go further to improve oversight of the police from the system we currently have and should help to improve relations between the police and the community.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Eileen Dordek: There is no question that action needs to be taken to reduce the number of illegal guns in the City of Chicago. Recently it was found that almost 60% of guns recovered in Chicago were from out of state, 20% of them coming from Indiana. We need to close the private sale loophole so that dealers are compelled to run comprehensive background checks and implement a penalty to those who do not verify a prospective purchaser’s FOID card. We also need to increase the enforcement mechanism for our lost or stolen reporting law and continue buyback programs. It is estimated that Chicago may recover 10,000 firearms this year, and we must do what we can in City Hall to bolster the programs in place and to work towards finding preventative solutions in City Hall to begin to bring that number down and heal the communities that have been and continue to be traumatized by gun violence.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Eileen Dordek: I prioritize neighborhood schools as they provide neighborhoods a central place around which community is built. There are areas where gaps exist in what the Chicago Public Schools have to offer and only then, there is a role for charter schools to play. An example of that is the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School, giving young women a same-sex educational environment where they can thrive. Employees of charter schools still have the right to organize and to collectively bargain. Like we saw with the first charter school strike in the nation at Acero Schools, educators fought for increased pay, smaller class sizes, and in other ways using Chicago Public Schools as a measuring standard. As a product of public education and the mother of two who attended and are attending a Chicago public high school, I believe in public school equity across the City and there are times that charter schools are appropriate.
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?
Eileen Dordek: I am in full support of Chicago moving from an appointed school board to an entirely elected school board. We deserve transparency, accountability, and clarification of financial interests to be disclosed by those who are making such important decisions concerning our schools.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Eileen Dordek: There is not currently enough affordable housing in the 47th Ward or in the City of Chicago. Neighbors are being forced out of their homes because of rising rent prices and those who wish to move or buy a home are finding it difficult to do so. We need to do a number of things in City Hall to address this problem. Update current zoning laws so that multi unit buildings can legally be built in certain areas, reverse the current city prohibition on legalizing non-conforming units like granny flats, coach houses, apartments above garages, etc to accommodate smaller, more affordable housing citywide and we need to push for affordable housing units in new construction and make sure that they are on-site.
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?
Eileen Dordek: In an era when cities are at the forefront of protecting civil rights from the tyranny of our federal government, we need to continue prohibiting police from detaining undocumented immigrants. As Alderman, I would work to continue our “Welcoming City” policy. I support the TRUST Act that was passed and signed last summer. Immigrants are, and always have been, an essential part of our community and we need to continue protections and support a path to citizenship.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Eileen Dordek: I believe in operating in full transparency and openness as Alderman of the 47th Ward and I would vote to allow the inspector general to audit and review Council’s programs, operations, and committees.
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.
Eileen Dordek: I would not employ staff who have outside contracts and/or jobs with entities that do business with the city.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Eileen Dordek: Two Aldermen that I look to as role models are Sophia King and Susan Sadlowski Garza. They are both very much of their community, as I am. They are long-term residents and were highly invested in the ward prior to running for office. They speak out on city wide issues of social justice that are essential to make Chicago a better city for all instead of just a few. And they are also very approachable and accessible to their constituents. They are role models of doing the job of both city-wide policy and in-the-ward constituent services. They are hands-on in the ward and forward looking for the city at the same time.
Also running for 47th Ward alderman: