The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 6th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Richard A. Wooten submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Richard A. Wooten?
He’s running for: 6th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Candidate for Alderman 6th Ward 2011 & 2015
- Candidate for State Representative for the 34th District 2012
- President of the Greater Chatham Alliance (GCA)
- Member of Community-Police Relations Working Group of the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF)
- Advisory council member for the Civilian Office of Police Accountability
- Executive Director of Gathering Point Community Council, and Pastor of Gathering Point Universal Ministries.
His occupation: Pastor & Entrepreneur
His education: Bachelor’s Degree
Campaign website: wooten2019.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Richard A. Wooten: After conducting a study throughout the 6th Ward the number one Concern across the Ward is Crime, the second concern was the lack of education and recreational activities being made available for our youth, and the third concern was the lack of city services…i.e. Alderman Office.
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.
Richard A. Wooten: In the past two years as the Executive Director of Gathering Point Community Council I have been actively engaged in city wide issues such as Police Reform and Community Relations, aid in lobbing for Expungement reform, Member of Civilian office of Police Accountability (COPA), served on Mayor Emanuel COPA Chief Administrator search committee, and the Engaged Stakeholder Committee for the selection of the Independent Monitor finalists.
However, locally in my community and ward as the President of the Greater Chatham Alliance (GCA) Community Organization I have been engaged in helping our schools in obtain resource, engaging in monthly activities with our senior, a member of Chatham NHS housing committee, and Part of the Community Leaders to stop bad businesses in the community.
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.
Richard A. Wooten: Absolutely not, the Constitution should not be allowed to be opened to bail out the City for its mismanagement of Pension funds. Promises made should be kept and as a Pension recipient I feel the frustrations that others feel when our elected officials are making attempts to take back the promise that will affect the lives of many. As for new employees if an acceptable pension plan is agreed upon at the time of employment then that would be acceptable
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.
Richard A. Wooten: Chicago is a busy city with a lot of traffic. Thousands and Thousands of people travel to Chicago daily to work but never invest back into the city, the place where their income is being generated. I am an advocate for the Commuter tax. A commuter tax as little as 1% could generate revenue of over $300 million annually.
Legalizing marijuana seems to be something that the people want, however, I strongly feel that if Marijuana is legalized that individuals in custody for possession without the intent to distribute should be given some-type of relief on their sentence.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Richard A. Wooten: I am oppose to increasing Property Taxes.
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?
Richard A. Wooten: The TIF program must be met with transparency and accountability. I favor not create new TIF districts until fully analyzed the performance of existing TIF districts through an audit by an independent body to ensure that the TIF’s are meeting their intended objectives. Such report will be made public, giving independent experts, media and the people of Chicago the ability to weigh in on the best uses of the program and money.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Richard A. Wooten: Alderman’s are the gate keepers to their wards and should have some control of the types of businesses trying to obtain a key into the communities. However, I am a firm believer that the Alderman has the duty to hear the request of their constituents and have them involved. As alderman I will have a committee of representatives from every community in my Ward who will share in on the development of the ward.
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?
Richard A. Wooten: I served as a Chicago Police Officer for 23 years and in 2015 I spoke up for Police Reform. I held several community meetings with the Department of Justice and Served on the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force – Police and Community relations Committee. Our Police Department is a fine department with some of the best officers in the country. However, just as any other profession, if you don’t maintain and update to current standards you are destine for trouble. CPD has for several year been performing undermanned, short of resources, and lacking in supervision. This consent decree doesn’t make a good officer a bad officer it makes a bad officer a better officer. It make the Department more accountability not only to the Citizen of Chicago but to the Officers that walks the beat.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Richard A. Wooten: Chicago has one of the most notorious Interstates know for gun trafficking. Interstate 55 runs 294 miles North and South with Chicago in between. Other interstates like 90, 94, and 57 has experienced increase shootings on the expressways. Some of the things Chicago will need to do to reduce the number of illegal guns it to continue building its relationship with ATF, DEA, and Homeland Security in patrolling communities where shootings are up. Share interstate patrol duties with the State Police to conduct more stops and offer more visual presents on the expressways. Finally, Charge repeat gun offenders with federal charges verses state charges.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Richard A. Wooten: The appropriate role of Charter Schools within the Chicago Public Schools system is an Alternative that operates independently.
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?
Richard A. Wooten: Chicago Board of Education will service better under the control of an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Richard A. Wooten: The 6th Ward residential base are predominantly single family homes where homes have been passed down through generations. There are some areas of the 6th Ward where Affordable Housing has been accepted but I don’t think we have enough. The 6th Ward has land where Affordable Housing can be built.
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?
Richard A. Wooten: I support the fact that Chicago is a “welcoming city”. The Chicago Police Department is not the immigration police and can’t be pulled into that arena, unless a criminal act has taken place involving an undocumented immigrant which will require the Chicago Police Officer to act accordingly.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Richard A. Wooten: I believe in a transparent government where checks and balances are in place. I support the Inspector General having the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations, and committees? I believe that less corruption will take place knowing that you are not untouchable.
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.
Richard A. Wooten: It depends on two factors 1) The position of employment the employee has with the outside employer contracted with the city, and 2) Whether the employer is doing business in the ward.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Richard A. Wooten: NONE
Also running for 6th Ward alderman: