10th Ward candidate for alderman: Robert ‘Bobby’ Loncar
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 10th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Robert “Bobby” Loncar submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Bobby Loncar?
He’s running for: 10th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Commissioner on Board of Commissioners for SSA No. 5 – Commercial Avenue; 2016 through present
- Active member of East Side Chamber of Commerce since 2014, currently serving as president
- Active member of South Chicago Chamber of Commerce since 2014
- President and Co-founder of Southeast Chicago Dog Park Committee; 2015 – present
- Vice President of the South Chicago Development Corp.; 2018 – present.
His occupation: Attorney
His education: Bachelors Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with concentration in Economics from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Juris Doctor from the John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.
Campaign website: bobbyloncar.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar:
I sat on the Revitalization Committee for the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce, which worked with UIC Great Cities Institute to create a Revitalization Plan for South Chicago’s Commercial Ave. I am proud of the work we did toward that cause but am disappointed that the City has done little, if anything, to implement the plan since it was created 2 ½ years ago. Once elected 10th Ward Alderman, I will take steps to implement the Revitalization Plan that we created.
Similar plans are needed for the remaining commercial districts in the tenth ward: Ewing Avenue in the East Side; Baltimore Avenue in Hegewisch; and Torrence Avenue in South Deering. Once these plans are in place, they need to be implemented using the tools available to us.
There are several environmental issues affecting the tenth ward. Among the most pressing is the manganese crisis.
The manganese ordinance and resulting regulations are ineffective in dealing with the manganese crisis. Aside from the ordinance not containing an outright ban on the handling of manganese in residential areas, the ordinance’s most glaring defect is the air monitoring exception to the enclosure requirement. To summarize, the proposed regulations, as they are currently written, require that facilities handling manganese enclose the substance, but provide further that such facilities which agree to install air monitors are exempt from this enclosure requirement. This air monitor exception renders the ordinance useless and does nothing to help those residents living within areas found to have elevated levels of manganese.
There is a clear link between elevated levels of manganese and adverse health effects on humans. For that reason, fighting for an effective manganese ordinance will be a top priority once elected Tenth Ward Alderman.
Crime is an important issue for many tenth ward residents. My approach to crime involves supporting our police offices as well as taking crime preventative measures such as maintaining a strong middle class and ensuring that programs are available to children who may otherwise turn to crime as a means to occupy their time.
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.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: I have been an active member of the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce and the East Side Chamber of Commerce. My work with the South Chicago Chamber of Commerce included participation in the organization’s Revitalization Committee, which I discuss further in response to the previous question.
My involvement with the East Side Chamber of Commerce involves working with the Executive Director and other officers and directors to promote the East Side community. We are responsible for a number of events, including East Side Community Day and the Annual Teachers’ Awards Banquet. We also partner with the local boy scouts in hosting the East Side’s annual Trunk-or-Treat and Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Over the past two years, I have also been involved with the Southeast Chicago Dog Park Committee. We founded this organization in early 2015 for the purpose of establishing the first officially sanctioned dog park on Chicago’s south side. I have served as the organization’s president since its founding. In July 2018, we were happy to break ground on our Dog Friendly Area in Calumet Park.
In this time, I have also served as a Commissioner on the Board of Commissioners for SSA No. 5 – Commercial Avenue. This is a mayoral appointed position which is approved by the City Council. As mentioned in response to the previous question, above, I have used my position as a commissioner to advocate for policies in furtherance of the revitalization plan we put together for South Chicago’s commercial district more than 2 ½ years ago.
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.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: The Illinois Constitution should not be amended for this purpose. If it is, the City should nonetheless honor these agreements. The City of Chicago should never attempt to fix its fiscal house by breaking promises it made to the hard working men and women who make Chicago the city that works.
With respect to new employees, I fully support the workers’ right to collectively bargain and will always promote good faith negotiations between the City and its 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.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: I do support the establishment of a casino in Chicago and I do support the mayor’s recent proposal for it to be built at the Illinois Port Authority, located in the 10th Ward. Jobs generated by the casino would benefit residents of the tenth ward and surrounding areas. The communities surrounding the casino, including those in the tenth ward, could use the casino as an opportunity to attract neighborhood tourism, something currently lacking in the tenth ward. The City and the tenth ward alderman’s office must work with the chambers of commerce in coordinating these efforts.
While we discuss the benefits a casino could bring to the City, it is important that we also discuss the challenges associated with casinos. According to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction, nearly 10 million people in the United States struggle with a gambling addiction, adding up to approximately $6 billion each year, which impacts the U.S. economy and citizens. Should Chicago allow the establishment of a casino within city limits, it is crucial that a portion of that revenue be allocated toward assistance for people suffering from gambling addictions and their families, who are greatly affected.
If marijuana is legalized for recreational purposes, it is important that we remain mindful to the sensitivities of those who may not support such a measure. Consuming marijuana should be allowed in some places and not allowed in other, much the same way as the smoking of cigarettes and consumption of alcohol is regulated. We must also take steps to ensure that people are not operating vehicles while under the influence of marijuana, just as we do for people under the influence of alcohol. And, of course, should marijuana be legalized for recreational purposes, the City should tax the sale of it at similar rate as tobacco and alcohol.
The “LaSalle Street Tax” is a proposal for a tax on the trading of financial assets, such as stocks, bonds, currencies and derivatives based on these assets, in the City of Chicago. The tax is usually described as a relatively small tax of $1.00 – $2.00 per transaction.
The problem with the “LaSalle Street Tax” is that a large tax would drive Chicago’s financial markets out of the City, thus drain rather than grow the City’s tax base, and that a small tax would do little to remedy the City’s fiscal problems. While such a tax may be feasible at the national level, it would not likely work at the state level and most certainly not at the city level. In an ever increasingly mobile world, traders would more likely switch to online trading. Companies that currently trade using Chicago institutions, such as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, could easily switch to institutions located in New York, Los Angeles or even Indiana.
I do not support the “LaSalle Street Tax.”
I would consider supporting a commuter tax if, and only if, (1) it could be demonstrated that such a tax would not drive businesses out of the City and (2) it would not affect people who reside within city limits. With the City’s current fiscal woes, almost every option should be on the table. However, it is important that we carefully consider all aspects of each of these options.
I absolutely would not support any increases in property taxes unless such increase is met by dollar for dollar reductions in City expenses. City residents, especially those in the middle class, are already squeezed to the max on their property tax bills.
The Chicago sales tax, combined with applicable county and state sales taxes, is currently the highest sales tax in the United States. I absolutely do not support any increase in Chicago’s municipal sales tax.
I would not support an increase in the real estate transfer tax. The current transfer tax rate in Chicago is $5.25 per $500.00 of the transfer price. Of that $5.25 per $500.00, the Buyer is responsible for $3.75 and the Seller is responsible for $1.50.
At current real estate transfer tax rates, the parties to a real estate transaction for a single family home valued at $165,000.00, within range of sales prices in the tenth ward, pay a total of $1,980.00 in transfer taxes. In this scenario, the Seller pays $495.00 to the City of Chicago; $82.50 to Cook County and $165.00 to the State of Illinois. The Buyer pays $1,237.50 to the City of Chicago. We should be encouraging home ownership in the City of Chicago rather than squeezing our already over-taxed middle class. For these reasons, I would not support an increase in the real estate transfer tax.
Almost all sources of revenue need to be on the table in order to find solutions to Chicago’s fiscal challenges. More community input is needed on the issue of video gambling. It is a matter of determining whether it would be better to limit gambling to a central location, such as a casino, or to open it up to other establishments, which would make gaming more widespread. The interests of small business owners within the tenth ward, many of whom may consider allowing video gambling in their establishments, would have to be taken into consideration as well.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: Chicago must maintain and even increase its middle class tax base. The middle class is currently being squeezed and many middle class families are moving to the suburbs and Northwest Indiana. In order to maintain its middle class, the City must look for more ways to attract middle class jobs and to provide middle class families safe and clean neighborhoods in which to raise families. The quality of education and the public school system play a large role in this.
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?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: As of the end of the 2017 reporting period, there is close to $16 million in untapped TIF funds in South Chicago.
In the East Side community, the Ewing Avenue TIF started 2017 with a $1,457,870 balance, but after giving $1,043,272.85 to the Chicago Board of Education and spending $370,554 in administrative costs, was left with a closing balance of just $256,994.
The commercial district in the Hegewisch community does not currently benefit from a TIF district.
TIF funds in the tenth ward are currently either unspent, misspent or nonexistent. We must keep in mind that these funds are intended to spur economic development in blighted areas and that is not what is happening in the tenth ward. As Tenth Ward Alderman, I will advocate for the proper use of TIF funds within the ward.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: The concept that an alderman should have a high degree of control over what happens in his or her ward is not necessarily bad. To the extent that abuses exist, the electorate is there to keep elected officials in check and to rein in aldermanic prerogative as needed.
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?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: The consent decree does contain some good ideas. However, many of these ideas are incredibly difficult to put into practice. We do have to hold people accountable, including police officers. However, we must keep in mind that these men and women serving in this capacity are putting their lives on the line every day they put on the uniform and the vast majority of police officers are good people whose job should not be made more difficult than it already is.
I have much respect for all who played a role in negotiating the consent decree. I know that it was very difficult for all sides to agree to a form that all affected parties could live with.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: Chicago has some of the toughest gun laws in the United States. These laws need to be enforced. Earlier this year, Commander Paul Bauer was shot six times by a four-time convicted felon wearing a bullet proof vest and in possession of an extended magazine in the middle of the Loop. There is no reason a four-time convicted felon should be in possession of a firearm and there is no reason a four-time convicted felon should be anywhere but in a jail cell.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: The appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system is to provide a choice for parents in deciding where to send their children to school. Whether or not a charter school is appropriate in a given community should be up to the community itself. No decision with respect to the establishment of a charter school should be made until after community meetings have been held and a sufficient level of input from the community has been considered.
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?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: I support an elected School Board. For me, it is a matter of accountability. Currently, those members are only indirectly accountable to the people affected by their policies. An elected School Board would ensure direct accountability.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: Yes. Rents and median sales prices for single family homes in the tenth ward are well below city averages. If there is one thing we are not lacking in the tenth ward, it is abandoned homes and vacant land. We have affordable housing in the tenth ward.
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?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: In 2010, Arizona passed a law giving its police officers the power to question anyone whom they believed with reasonable suspicion to be an undocumented immigrant. The Federal Government sued Arizona and won. The Supreme Court ruled, in summary, that it is the Federal Government’s duty to enforce immigration laws and that this is outside of the realm of state power. The same reasoning would apply to the City of Chicago.
Local police should not be enforcing immigration laws. The Supreme Court has made clear that this responsibility lies with the federal authorities. When it comes to local policy, we must ensure that all residents of Chicago, regardless of their circumstances, are comfortable cooperating with police officers and that no one is afraid to call the police out of fear of being deported.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: Yes, the Office of the Inspector General is an independent, nonpartisan oversight agency whose mission is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity in the administration of programs and operation of City government (taken from the website maintained by the Office of the Inspector General). Allowing the Inspector General to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees would help promote this mission and thus help promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency and integrity in the administration of the City’s programs and operations.
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.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: I do not plan on employing staff who hold outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the City. However, if an applicant is qualified for a position and able to perform the duties of that position concurrently with holding an outside job or contract with an entity that does business with the City and provided that holding both positions does not pose a conflict of interest, I would consider it.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Robert “Bobby” Loncar: I am very independently minded. While I learn from those who are more experienced than me and am always happy to hear their advice, there is no one person whom I model myself after. I just like to be me.
Also running for 10th Ward alderman: