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. Dernard D. Newell submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Dernard D. Newell?
He’s running for: 20th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Nomination Coordinator, Senator Joe Biden, Senate Judicary Committee Staff
- Legislative Corespondent, Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio)
- Issue Analyst, Sharon Pratt Dixon for Mayor
His occupation: Lawyer/Pastor/Consultant
- B.A. Political Science Miami University
- MPA George Washington University
- JD Howard University School of Law
- M. Div. Garret Evangelical Theological Seminary
Campaign website: Dernardnewellforthe20th.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/dernarddnewell/
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Dernard D. Newell: My top three priorities for the 20th Ward are increased employment and job training, increase affordable and market rate housing and prevent residential displacement and strengthen the business currently in the 20th Ward while attracting new 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.
Dernard D. Newell: I have worked for the last 20 years serving the neighborhoods in which I have lived. I have serve as an LSC member and participated in mentoring organizations like 100 Black Men of Chicgao, Link Unlimited and iMentor that served teenagers in the 20th Ward. In addition, my wife an I own a daycare center that provides quality child care for residents of the 2Oth Ward
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.
Dernard D. Newell: The state constitution should not be amended to reduce the pension of retirees. They have paid into the system and should get the return that was promised. However, I am in favor of a change in the pension system going forward that would not affect the agreement that was made with current city 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.
Dernard D. Newell: I support a Chicago casino and a tax on legalized marijuana. The casino and legalized marijuana are two income sources that would raise a significant amount of money to resolve the current pension issue and to continue to improve neighborhoods on the South and West sides while continuing to support the improvement of the downtown area. The casino and legalized marijuana would not further burden the residents of the city of Chicago with additional taxes.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Dernard D. Newell: I oppose a commuter tax, a property tax increase and a municipal sales tax increase.
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?
Dernard D. Newell: I am in favor of ending the TIF district and replacing them with economic development tools that can’t be abused and that would be designated to improve the particular areas targeted for development.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Dernard D. Newell: I would get rid of aldermanic prerogative. It places too much power for development of a ward in the hands of one person. This control has resulted in a history of abuse and corruption. The community needs more input and the city needs a better structure and more accountability in deciding what gets
build and where.
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?
Dernard D. Newell: I worked as an investigator for IPRA and COPA and it was clear from my training and interaction with police officers accused of police misconduct that reforms were and are needed. Chicago police officers are under trained which results in inappropriate policing of some residents of Chicago. Many officers do their jobs but the Chicao Police Departmwnt has a history of abuse that the consent decree would help address. The consent decree also provides for the extra training and the additional oversight needed for the police who violate the civil liberties of some Chicago resident .
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Dernard D. Newell: More responsible gun laws which include: universal background checks, stiffer penalties for gun dealers who’s guns are used to comitt crimes and stuffer penalties for straw purchases
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Dernard D. Newell: I think all efforts to educate Chicago’s children should be welcomed however I am against diverting any funds that are designated for the public school system to aid or assist charter schools.
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?
Dernard D. Newell: Chicago should switch to an elected school board for more fiscal and community accountability.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Dernard D. Newell: No. The 20th Ward housing market is in severe decline. The population has declined over the last 40 years and due to the lack of economic development there was no incentive to build and maintain affordable housing. The development of the OPC will be attractive for developers to build market rate housing however there is still no incentive to increase the amount of affordable housing for the residents to who are currently in the 20th Ward or who would want to relocate there. Measures need to be put in place to increase the amount of affordable housing while ensuring that rents aren’t drastically increased that lead to the displacement of longtime 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?
Dernard D. Newell: I’m in favor of Chicago being designated as a “welcoming city” and I agree with all of the protections for undocumented individuals that comes with that designation.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Dernard D. Newell: Yes. The amount of corruption and lack
of oversight into City council programs and operations has led to the deterioration of the integrity of the council’s leadership and reputation.
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.
Dernard D. Newell: No. It’s a conflict of interest
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Dernard D. Newell: No. Although I appreciate the work of Alderman Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward