The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 20th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Andre Smith submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Andre Smith?
He’s running for: 20th Ward alderman His political/civic background: Civic organizer against violence His occupation: CEO of Chicago Against Violence His education: 1998 Attended Moody Bible Institute in theological studies Campaign website: andresmith20thward.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
- Public safety
- Economic development
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.
- Advocated building the U of C trauma center
- Fought against the soda tax
- Founded Chicago Against Violence organization
- Helped families of gun violence with various monetary and emotional resources
- Fought against property tax increase
- Worked with Tom Dart and Todd Stroger on Burr Oaks investigation
- Works as a mediator to reduce gun violence.
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.
Andre Smith:The state should contribute to our pension funds, we are 20% of the state population, but the state does not contribute to Chicago pensions while our funds are used to finance the rest of the state pensions. We are in favor of extending the time it takes to earn the pensions.
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.
In favor of:
- Video gambling
- Chicago Casino
- Legalized Marijuana
To increase revenue.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Andre Smith:a new idea, bicycle license plate fee
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?
Andre Smith: Yes we need changes to the TIF program, but it needs to be studied, evaluated and reformed.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Andre Smith: We in the 20th ward will form an advisory committee to make sure that it is not abused.
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?
Andre Smith: I agree that the consent decree is overdue, but the way this one is written is simply more of the same, allowing the existing agencies to create the rules to govern themselves.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Andre Smith: Stiffer penalties for straw purchasers.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Andre Smith: I am pro the children in my ward being educated properly, especially in disenfranchised areas.
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?
Andre Smith: No the mayor should not have that authority. I believe there should be a hybrid system.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Andre Smith: No, there is not enough affordable housing in the 20th ward. However, we have to question the term affordable housing, and what it should look like in the future as opposed to today.
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?
Andre Smith: I don’t have a problem with Chicago’s immigration policy. But I believe there should be a better system to deal with illegal immigration.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Andre Smith: Yes. There should be oversight, we can’t police ourselves.
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.
Andre Smith: No.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Andre Smith:No. We can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results.