The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 3rd Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Patricia “Pat” Dowell submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Patricia “Pat” Dowell?
She’s running for:3rd Ward alderman Her political/civic background: Current Alderman of the 3rd Ward since 2007 Former Deputy Commissioner of Neighborhood Planning, City of Chicago Former Urban Planner, City of Chicago Former Executive Director of Mid-South Planning and Development Commission, Near West Side CDC, and Public Allies Member of Progressive Community Church Member of the Greater Bronzeville Community Action Council Her occupation: Urban Planner and Alderman, 3rd Ward Her education: B.A. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Rochester, M.A. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago. Campaign website: dowellforthirdward.com Twitter: @AldPatDowell3rd Facebook:facebook.com/aldermanpat.dowell
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
- To respond promptly to constituent needs and concerns with courtesy and respect.
- To reduce crime by working with residents, businesses, organizations and police in a collaborative fashion.
- To attract job opportunities by attracting new businesses and industries and supporting existing ones.
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.
PatDowell:In addition to performing the duties of an Alderman, I am actively involved in the activities of Leadership With Compassion for All, Inc, a not for profit that serves seniors and children. In addition to raising funds for this organization, I have supported the organization in implementing toy, coat, and food drives for needy families. I also serve on the steering committee of the Greater Bronzeville Community Action Council working with community stakeholders to garner resources for our schools and work with CPS to improve the academic outcomes for our children. Over the last two years, I have surplused over $4 million in TIF funds to support after school activities, social support programs, text books, and new technology in 3rd Ward elementary and high schools.
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.
PatDowell:I believe that some form of pension reform is necessary. Specifically, I supported the elimination of compounding COLAs and increases in retiree health copayments. I won’t pretend to know the magic formula, but I think we should honor the spirit of the promises made to current city employees and retirees in a manner that allows us to make benefit cuts that are compassionate to the beneficiaries without being punitive to taxpayers. I’m open to changing the benefit package for new employees assuming the state constitution could be amended.
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.
PatDowell:Chicago Casino — I support casino gambling in Chicago. However, it should not be considered as a quick fix to our revenue problems. Revenues from gambling should be very deliberately earmarked for education, small business development and other targeted economic development initiatives.
Recreational Marijuana — If passed by the Illinois Legislature, this new revenue source would be good for the City of Chicago. City government, however, must have clear rules for the location and operation of dispensaries in our city neighborhoods.
LaSalle Street Tax — I support this idea in principle, however, I believe it is a measure that should be generated at the federal level to withstand legal challenges and insure consistency across the 50 states.
Real Estate Transfer Tax Increase — I support this measure on higher income property and if the revenue is directed by ordinance towards a specific use such as homeless, affordable housing and mental health services.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
PatDowell:Chicago Income Tax -—The pros and cons of this taxing strategy should be widely discussed in Chicago once city government has shored up its finances.
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?
PatDowell:Playing with TIF surpluses is just tinkering around the margins of a problem. With that said, I think we need to develop a TIF surplus policy which the Emanuel administration pursued but without transparency. I also think that some TIF districts, like those in the central business district should be sunset. I believe every TIF district should have a clear plan for the use of the increment and every development project funded should have strong job creation and community benefit agreements. The city should publish (online and in hard copy) a readable annual report on every TIF district. The online version should be user friendly so comparisons between districts can be easily made. Finally, I think CPS should be allowed to decide if they want to participate in a particular TIF district or not.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
PatDowell:I am a co-sponsor of the ordinance recently introduced that would mandate the 20% of all future public housing units be built in low poverty areas of the city and requires that planned developments for housing in wards with less than 10% affordable housing go through an evidence based approval process and be heard by the Plan Commission within 90 days of application or else it is automatically approved over the objection of the Alderman. I also think that we need to curtail the use of Rule 41 which some Aldermen who do business outside of their aldermanic duties use to not cast a vote on city matters.
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?
PatDowell:I support the consent decree for the Chicago Police Department. The police officers that I have spoken with welcome structured accountability and quality and consistent supervision and training to help them regain the public trust.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
PatDowell:I support increasing penalties for gun crimes committed near schools or safe havens. However, crime fighting legislation has to be aimed at reducing the root causes of crime, namely high unemployment and lack of access to job, job training programs, under resourced schools and social supports. Also, I believe that true gun control legislation needs to be accomplished at the federal level, not locally.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
PatDowell:There is no role for charter schools in a public school system, however if one is necessary, charter schools should be held accountable to the same standards of academic achievement, measures of student success, and pay for teachers that CPS schools follow.
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?
PatDowell:I think the school board should be elected and consequently held more accountable to the public rather than just the Mayor. However, this is in the hands of our State Legislature. I strongly believe improving schools will require a bottom-up approach. Finally, the Chicago School district is the only one in Illinois that doesn’t elect its school board members. The Chicago School Board should be like every other school district in the state.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
PatDowell:Yes. The 3rd Ward housing mix currently consists of approximately 30% public or subsidized housing. This is in comparison to 8.5% public or subsidized housing citywide. Keeping with my commitment to housing stock diversity, every community should have their fair share of market rate, CHA and affordable housing units and I’m proud to carry on that tradition in the 3rd Ward. I support the Homes for All Ordinance, and the Development for All Ordinance and will continue to complete the CHA Plan for Transformation for Southbridge, Park Boulevard and Legends South.
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?
PatDowell:As Chair of the Human Relations Committee of the City Council, I have been a key supporter of undocumented immigrants. The City of Chicago has done a great deal for the immigrant community from passing resolutions against Trump’s Zero Tolerance policy, to supporting the retention of the DACA program and condemnation of any government action to deprive Arabs and Muslim Americans of their rights. I sponsored a resolution calling for the extension of Temporary Protected Status to Haitian immigrants. We also funded at $1 million a legal defense fund for immigrants and passed the Municipal ID program. Finally, undocumented immigrants can attend college using the Star Scholarship Program. I am open to other ideas that would protect undocumented immigrants.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
PatDowell:Yes. I support the role of the inspector general in rooting out corruption and government inefficiencies. I would, however, want safeguards put in place to protect against the office becoming politicized and used unfairly to punish Aldermen and Committee Chairs that don’t always follow the directions of the Mayor’s Office.
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.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
PatDowell:No. My role model in politics is New York Congressman Shirley Chisholm. She was effective in delivering services to her constituents and focused on education and childcare. An advocate for women’s issues, she was inspiration to me when she ran for President in 1972 while I was a sophomore in high school. I later ran to become president of my senior class in 1974.
Also running for 3rd Ward alderman: