The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 25th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Alexander “Alex” Acevedo submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who isAlex Acevedo?
He’s running for: 25th Ward alderman His political/civic background:
- 10 years as a Registered Nurse and community health advocate
- Jungman Elementary LSC member
- Community non-profit and service leader: Pilsen Neighborhood Watch Coalition founder, Board Member of Mobile CARE foundation, El Valor Associate board, and Chicago Scholars.
- Ran for IL State Rep. District 2 in 2016.
His occupation: Registered Nurse His education: Bachelors Degrees in Kinesiology and Nursing from UIC Campaign website: alexfor25.com Twitter handle: @alexfor25 Facebook page: facebook.com/Alexfor25/
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
AlexAcevedo:Our campaign is putting city services/accountability, neighborhood economic development, and education front and center. Being a responsive, 21st century Alderman that utilizes innovative communications tools to efficiently addresses citizen requests and is accountable on public safety, road maintenance, streetlights, trash pickup and graffiti removal is critical. Supporting neighborhood economic development by linking small businesses to the resources they need to get started and grow will keep more revenue in the ward. We are also focused on bringing green jobs with union labor to the ward in conjunction with FEJA. We are supportive of neighborhood public schools, supporting fair teacher pay, and bringing more trade schools that will create a pipeline to quality union jobs.
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.
AlexAcevedo:As a nurse, I am engaged with local patients on a daily basis in my community nursing work – specifically Seniors and Mental Health issues. In April 2018 I was elected to proudly serve as Jungman Elementary LSC member. Two years ago, I founded the community group Pilsen Neighborhood Watch Coalition and grew the organization from 7 to over 7,000 active members., I have volunteered my time on the boards of Mobile CARE foundation, El Valor Associate board, and Chicago Scholars. I have been an advocate for working families and stand strong with unions to fight for some of Chicago’s most pressing issues, such as raising the minimum wage, keeping our streets safe, providing job opportunities, expanding trade schools, increasing affordable housing, investing in our schools, and providing legal defense for undocumented immigrants.
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.
AlexAcevedo:We have an obligation to uphold our end of the bargain to the hardworking people who earn their pensions and it will take creativity and political will to accomplish this on the budgetary front. Moving to a graduated progressive income tax and going after a greater share of revenue from the State of Illinois will help fund our public pensions. We must simultaneously look at auditing government inefficiencies and pursue creative funding strategies like tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana to potential casino revenue.
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.
AlexAcevedo:We have to look at creative ways to supplement the budget and increased tax revenue from legalizing recreational marijuana shows great promise. However, we need to look at other states and cities that have implemented taxes on recreational marijuana and learn from their successes and failures. For example, there is a 15% excise tax on marijuana sales in Colorado from the cultivators to the retailers, plus a 15% sales tax on consumer retail sales, while Washington taxes recreational marijuana with a 37% sales tax. We need to look at prospective supply and demand and speak with the full range of operators and regulatory bodies within the product life cycle and supply chain to make sure we get this right on a budgetary front.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
AlexAcevedo:With proper vetting and forecasting, I would consider a wide range of creative revenue options, including creating more government efficiencies and the casino idea, as long as the impacts don’t put an excise burden on working people
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?
AlexAcevedo:I would make sure that TIF funds are partitioned in a fair way across the neighborhoods of the 25th ward and that they are spent on necessary infrastructure projects. I would also open up transparency on this process and institute a consistent neighborhood input process on TIF funds.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
AlexAcevedo:We must address the policy of Aldermanic prerogative by putting power back into the hands of the communities we serve regarding community development, housing and zoning issues. I pledge to bring participatory input into the development process through regular community development meetings and a consistent participatory budgeting process. Additionally, we must look at comprehensive city-wide planning structures that address race-based and socio-economic disparities. Even though our city had a large, 8.6 billion dollar budget in FY 2018, the city’s budget process is a mystery to many working families. I would support transparency measures on the budget process and opportunities for the public to learn about and weigh in on the city budget in town-hall style meetings prior to major city council budget decisions.
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?
AlexAcevedo:Chicago needs to improve its accountability mechanisms and it is productive that this discussion is happening in the public view. The solutions that are decided upon in the coming months and years must involve effective, evidence-based transparency and accountability reforms, while monitoring the results and impact of such policies. There must also be steps taken to provide appropriate training and communication of policies within CPD as reforms unfold.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
AlexAcevedo:Public safety is a priority in our campaign. A large part of the problem is access to illegal guns. We need to crack down on the flow of illegal guns into our city by shutting down straw purchasers, where people purchase guns at shows thus avoiding background checks. The reality is that the majority of guns used in crimes in Chicago come from bordering states. Preventative work on this front will go a long way. Additionally, we need an effective gun tracing program in our city and to work with our partners in Springfield to pass mandated state licensing for firearms dealers.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
AlexAcevedo:I believe our city should focus on building strong public schools and making sure schools’ infrastructure is a priority. Chicago needs more accountability on Charter oversight and results-based standards and we can look to other cities like Boston and New York City for such results-based models that have proven results.
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?
AlexAcevedo:I believe elected school boards are more accountable to the constituents they serve and elected school boards are the common practice in the majority of U.S. states. I support an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
AlexAcevedo:There is not enough affordable housing in the ward. I pledge to take on this challenge through pushing for more mixed-income housing and reducing the property tax burden on struggling homeowners who live in the ward and own property. In particular, Pilsen struggles with affordability, however the majority of Pilsen property owners live outside of Pilsen and the 25th Ward. By introducing participatory budgeting processes and community-led development decision making structures, we can gather the appropriate data and input to make informed decisions for our residents.
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?
AlexAcevedo:We can always do more to protect our most vulnerable populations, particularly undocumented immigrants. I believe Chicago should continue to be a welcoming city. I have organized and led efforts to ensure undocumented people can get driver’s licenses and the resources they deserve. I am against discriminatory policies and have fought to secure the status of the Dreamers through incorporating DACA into regular legislation.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
AlexAcevedo:Yes, whether it is the inspector general or another body or figure, I am in favor of increasing transparency and accountability across the board in our city – in city council and beyond. We have to make sure the accountability mechanisms are fair and objective when implemented. I will make it a priority to research and implement accountability measures that follow best practices and retain their integrity and objectivity.
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.
AlexAcevedo:Alderman Gilbert Villegas from the 36th Ward is someone I admire for his ability to reach across the aisle and work productively with other caucuses to reach productive and pragmatic solutions. I strive to do the same, bringing folks together who don’t necessarily agree find common ground and move our city forward.