10th Ward candidate for alderman: Susan Sadlowski Garza
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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 issues facing the city and their ward. Susan Sadlowski Garza submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Susan Sadlowski Garza?
She’s running for: 10th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: 10th Ward Alderman, 10th Ward Committeeman, Chicago Teachers Union Area Vice-President
Her occupation: Full-time Alderman, formerly CPS Counselor
Her education: Masters in Counseling
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: My deep personal commitment is to improve the quality of life in the 10th Ward. People’s lives have always driven my efforts, from being a school counselor, union leader, social-justice activist and now an Alderman. My top 3 priorities are to create living-wage jobs, create quality public schools in all neighborhoods and reduce crime.
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.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: My office has also brought back the Annual Labor Day Parade and Fest, introduced new playground equipment at numerous parks, implemented Participatory Budgeting to disburse menu-money, created a dog-friendly area in Calumet Park, resurfaced a track at Rowan Park, installed new exercise stations at Calumet Park, installed trees along Torrence Ave., and welcomed 27 new businesses and 5 Major employers to the 10th Ward.
We also implemented a pilot program with Communities in Schools of Chicago to bring a full-time social worker to work with at-risk students. Host numerous resource events for seniors and veterans.
I have worked with parents to create an organization (PECS Support Group) to inform, support, and empower the parents of children with special needs in the 10th Ward. Together, we organized CPS to secure a cluster program on the Southeast side for severe and profound diverse learners, as well as a program for autistic children.
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.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: No. A pension is a promise. Workers paid their contributions every check, we should not punish them for past city administrations that squandered money. Our retirees should be off the table. Real, lasting pension reform is the only way to protect taxpayers from further tax hikes, protect government worker retirement security from fund insolvency, and ensure that state and local governments can continue to provide core services such as education and public safety.
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.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: The 10th Ward is the only ward that borders another state, Indiana is walking distance from parts of our Ward. The Horseshoe casino sits 6 blocks to the southeast of our ward in Hammond; you can actually walk there. According to reports, Horseshoe Casino brings in 47.1 million dollars per month in revenue, approximately 75% of the license plates visiting are from IL. A well regulated Chicago-based casino would be able to capture some of these dollars and add much needed tax revenue for our city. No, to a commuter tax. No more property tax increases for home owners. We need to be sure the Assessors office is making the commercial real estate buildings are paying their fair share.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: The Lasalle street tax should be implemented. If a .01% tax were imposed on every trade it could generate millions of dollars a year. Big Corporations like Goldman Sachs and Chase Bank can afford this. If Ken Griffin can donate $20 million to Bruce Rauner and other Republicans he can be asked to help reverse the financial crisis our city faces.
We should also increase the real estate transfer tax for anyone selling a home for more than a million dollars. These new forms of revenue could fill our budget gaps so that we wouldn’t have to increase property taxes on homeowners.
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?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: TIFS have been abused and should be used for its original purpose – to improve and develop blighted areas, and to create jobs both long and short term. We need to guard against the abuse of TIFs, such as awarding TIF funds to large well-connected private developers who would make the investment and initiate the project even without public money. Small business growth is needed in order to generate long-lasting economic vitality in our communities. This is where TIF Funds should be steered towards, not places like Wal-Mart or Target.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: Every Alderman has the right to some prerogative, because no one knows their ward like they do. However, every constituent deserves to have his or her voice heard, and as an elected official I hold community hearings and town halls so that I can gain all perspectives. This might not be the case in other wards. In order to guard against abuse, there should be Inspector General oversight.
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?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: I support the modernization of training for Law enforcement and all First responders because training is outdated. However, I can’t support anything that would make their jobs more difficult than they already are. While some of the issues related to the consent decree are due to lack of funding, our real underlying issues when it comes to crime is systemic. There is a lack of mental health services, education, good jobs, and parenting support. Addressing the root cause of those issues would allow us to be in a better position to provide training that is focused around community building, safety, communication, and awareness.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: We must put an end to Straw Sales; no one should be allowed to purchase 10 guns at a time then go to the street to resell them. The city needs to put all its weight behind this. Polls show that a majority of gun owners and non-gun owners alike favor sensible gun safety measures to save lives.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: We have a top priority and obligation to make every public school great for every child in every neighborhood across the city. We should not use public money to fund private institutions that are used by billionaires for tax write-offs, have little oversight, and have not shown a marked difference in performance.
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?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: Elected with strict campaign finance restrictions
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: No! There is a waiting list for seniors and veterans and there are very few family units that are available. We need to make sure there are safe and affordable rental apartments for people are living on a fix-income and are dependent on public transit.
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?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: I support Chicago as a “welcoming city” but there is much more work to be done. Chicago was built by immigrants who helped create our beautiful history. Our office works continually to inform undocumented residents of their rights. We have participated in ‘Fashion Show’ workshops to help our residents differentiate between Police and ICE uniforms. We partner heavily with a local worker center, “Centro de Trabajadores Unidos” to attend hearings on immigrant issues, advocate for residents and create civic engagement opportunities such as the Participatory Budgeting Process. We need to work better on language access issues at all levels of city government.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Susan Sadlowski Garza: Yes, absolutely, it is always good to have transparency and to have someone whose objective is to oversee how our government is working. Sunlight is always a good disinfectant. Bringing issues to the forefront within city government is essential to progress.
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.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Susan Sadlowski Garza: Dick Simpson because he was always the independent. Helen Shiller because she was not afraid to say NO and to stand up for what’s right.
Also running for 10th Ward alderman: