12th Ward candidate for alderman: George A. Cardenas

SHARE 12th Ward candidate for alderman: George A. Cardenas

12th Ward aldermanic candidate and incumbent George Cardenas. | Sun-Times file photo

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 12th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. George A. Cardenas submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is George A. Cardenas?

He’s running for:12th Ward Alderman His political/civic background:4th Term Alderman His occupation:Alderman of the 12th Ward His education:BA in Accounting from Northeastern University and a Master’s in Political Science also from Northeastern University Campaign website:georgecardenas.com Twitter: aldcardenas Facebook: votegeorgecardenas

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

George A.Cardenas:

1. Education

  • Increase neighborhood school investment
  • Bring all 12th ward schools to Level 1/1+
  • Expand high school apprenticeship programs and pathways to good jobs in the 12th Ward
  • Create an elected and representative school board

2. Economic Justice

  • Work with businesses large and small to combat unemployment rate in the 12th Ward
  • Raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour
  • See that Office of Labor Standards enforces legislation passed to confront inequities and income inequality
  • Bring transparency to TIF’s to make sure funds go toward neighborhoods most in need of investment

3. Housing and Community Development

  • Reinvigorate 35th Street commercial district
  • Build, preserve, and renovate homes that are affordable to keep families in the 12th Ward

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.

George A.Cardenas:

  • Boosted the local economy by recruiting new businesses and secured small business improvement funds
  • Brought infrastructure improvements to the 12th Ward
  • Maintained a responsive and open ward office
  • Helped fund a new play lot at Davis Elementary
  • Fought and secured funds for infrastructure improvements at Kelly High School
  • Secured $250,000 for a community center in Marshall Square
  • Ushered in public art
  • Hosted over 50 community events including Back to School and Health Fairs in the Little Village, Brighton Park and McKinley Park neighborhoods
  • Improved relationship among community and police
  • Increased programming at parks and neighborhood schools
  • Supported countless sports teams, civic associations and youth groups
  • Was a lead sponsor of the legislation to create an Office of Labor Standards
  • Led the fight to create a Mental Health Service Task Force
  • Opened new health care facilities
  • Provided thousands in scholarships for DACA students



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.

George A.Cardenas:NO. We have an obligation to pay the pensions that are owed to people.


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.

George A.Cardenas:I support a Chicago casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana, a LaSalle Street tax, a commuter tax, a municipal sales tax increase, a real estate transfer tax increase, video gambling

What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?

George A.Cardenas:I support a Chicago casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana, a LaSalle Street tax, a commuter tax, a municipal sales tax increase, a real estate transfer tax increase, video gambling


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?

George A.Cardenas:Lack of transparency is at the heart of this matter. The public deserves to debate how tax dollars are used. TIF revenue stream should go through the same public scrutiny as a typical property tax increase. TIF dollars were authorized to aid “blighted” areas, not projects located in the city’s wealthiest communities like we are seeing far too often. Pensions and our public schools remain underfunded, and too many of our neighborhoods continue to struggle. TIFs are continuously generating so much revenue that the city is declaring hundreds of millions of dollars of surplus, it’s well past time to cut back on the program. All new TIFs in Chicago show require proof that tax-increment financing is truly needed to spur development. Also all proposed porting should require approval by at least two-thirds of aldermen. And all ll expenditures and receipt of TIF revenue must be transparent, available on the web and subject to oversight.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

George A.Cardenas:Many times aldermanic privilege leads to inconsistent application of ordinances, and legislative inefficiencies. By adopting a more transparent and inclusive form of governing as it relates to zoning, and land use, we can determine the appropriate development of affordable housing across our city. I believe that any proposed affordable housing project should receive a City Council committee hearing. It is time to end the practices that continue to segregate our city.

Police reform

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?

George A.Cardenas:I believe we must overhaul the training, practices and accountability of the Chicago Police Department. A consent decree will not make a police officers job tougher, it will change the culture of our department in a positive manner, it will have a dramatic effect on excessive use of force complaints, and it will lead to fewer lawsuits. It is a critically important.


What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?

George A.Cardenas:We must continue to advocate to strengthen gun laws at the state and federal level. Only through better coordination with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies can we truly disrupt trafficking networks and increase federal gun prosecutions.


What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?

George A.Cardenas:Some charter schools are doing good for our students, however I do support a freeze on any new charters. I believe we need stronger oversight on charters to ensure that all our schools treat families, students and teachers with respect and fairness.

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?

George A.Cardenas:I strongly believe there should be an elected representative School Board. No CEO, or school board will ever have legitimacy in this city if they continue to make decisions on behalf of the Mayor instead of students, families, educators and residents across the City. The people of this city must have a say in electing those responsible for school governance.

Affordable housing

Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.

George A.Cardenas:No, but I am working to bring affordable housing in McKinley Park. We have to make sure that downtown developers are also helping rebuild, revitalize and reinvigorate our communities that have suffered from housing loss and gentrification.


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?

George A.Cardenas:What we want is a city where everyone is protected. I want all immigrants to feel safe in our city, and the current Welcoming City ordinance leaves way too many loopholes and leaves the door wide open for the deportation machine to continue. We must strengthen its protections against police getting involved in deportations. This, by no means will stop the police from doing their job to fight crime. We must look to other major cities including Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles who have gone much further than Chicago to make sure their undocumented residents are protected from efforts to deport them.


Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?

George A.Cardenas:Yes. I believe it is time to expand the jurisdiction of Chicago’s Inspector General to include the auditing and review of City Council programs, operations and committees.

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.

George A.Cardenas:No

Role model

Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.

George A.Cardenas:No


Also running for 12th Ward alderman:

The Latest
“I’m turning 41 this month, and something’s got to give,” Williams wrote in an essay released Tuesday by Vogue magazine.
Smith sees no way forward with GM Ryan Poles, though he left open the possibility of the McCaskey family stepping in to broker a solution.
The boy was attacked in the 9700 block of South Ewing Avenue Monday night.
A 17-year-old boy was shot in the chest, and an 18-year-old boy was grazed in the eye and shot in the leg.
The man, 38, saw the thieves inside his car in the 4600 block of South Lake Park about 12:15 a.m. and approached them, police said.