12th Ward candidate for alderman: Pete DeMay
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 12th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Pete DeMay submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Pete DeMay?
He’s running for: 12th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: I am a founding member of the 12th Ward IPO and the group Neighbors for Environmental Justice. I have also volunteered on many local political campaigns ranging from Chuy Garcia’s Mayoral run in 2015 to Theresa Mah’s successful effort to become State Rep. in 2016.
His occupation: Union Organizer
His education: BS Biology SUNY Brockport
Campaign website: petedemay.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
- Getting residents access to good, living wage, green jobs
- Attacking the root causes of crime and improving public safety
- Fully funding schools, parks and city services.
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.
Pete DeMay: In the past 2 years I helped form Neighbors for Environmental Justice, a group dedicated to environmental justice on the Southwest Side. We have held many forums and done a lot of grassroots organizing in support of cleaner air and water in Southwest Side neighborhoods. I have also done a lot of work with the 12th Ward IPO. Over the past two years we have canvassed to lift the ban on rent control and in support of candidates such as Alma Anaya, Beatriz Fausto Sandoval and Chuy Garcia.
Finally, my family is active in the immigrant rights movement. We are currently sponsoring a family from El Salvador that is seeking asylum here in the US. They live with us in our two flat in McKinley Park.
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.
Pete DeMay: The State Constitution should NOT be amended to allow for a reduction in pension benefits for city employees and retirees. I also oppose reducing pension benefits for new employees. The pensions are not the problem. The problem is politicians not making the payments in a timely manner. It’s time to raise revenue by taxing the 1% (they created this problem) so we can dig out of our financial hole and fully fund pensions. Our elected officials in DC also need to make the case that Chicago is too big to fail, and needs a bailout from this man-made crisis. Compounding interest is going to continue to doom us all unless there is a federal bailout.
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.
Pete DeMay: I am against a Chicago Casino. Casinos are essentially a regressive tax and we have enough of those already. I also oppose video gambling, yet another regressive tax. Let’s tax the rich man’s casino instead with a $3 per transaction LaSalle Street tax – that would be a good progressive tax.
I am in favor of legalizing and taxing cannabis, but residents should also be allowed to grow a limited number of plants tax free for personal use.
I oppose a commuter tax because it will really hurt commuters from the South Suburbs – people who have already been displaced from the city in many instances.
I oppose a municipal sales tax increase (it’s already too high!) but I am open to higher sales taxes on luxury goods and services.
I am against any further property tax increases – the last round of property tax increases that Alderman George Cardenas approved are hurting both homeowners and renters in the 12th Ward and displacing people.
I am in favor of a 5% real estate transfer tax on properties over $750,000. I am also in favor of a 6% real estate transfer tax on properties over $1 Million.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Pete DeMay: I am in favor of a municipal income tax of 1% on individuals earning more than $125,000 per year and households earning more than $250,000 per year.
We also need to reinstate the corporate head tax on profitable corporations.
Finally, like big banks and the auto industry, Chicago is too important, too strategic and too big to fail. We need a federal bailout to get back on track from this man-made crisis that the 1% and their puppet politicians created. We can’t continue on with budgets where nearly half of the revenue goes towards servicing debt. The federal government has money for the pentagon, endless war and border walls. They can afford a Chicago bailout. It’s time to put Chicago first.
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?
Pete DeMay: It is time to eliminate the TIF corporate welfare program. Free the funds so we can fully fund our schools, parks, and city services. We don’t need TIF to spur development. Global warming, the fact that Chicago is a key national transportation hub, an our proximity to fresh water will be enough to spur economic development here in Chicago over the next 50 years. We don’t need TIF.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Pete DeMay: I have no qualms about violating the unwritten rule of “aldermanic prerogative” if I feel it will improve the city as a whole. For example, I would have voted against the $100 Million “Cop Academy” because those funds would have been better spent on school counselors or summer jobs programs – things that would actually help curb crime. I will also vote to increase high quality affordable housing across all of Chicago’s 50 Wards – “aldermanic prerogative” be damned. We have a segregated and broken city to fix.
Finally, we need to reform City Council and that starts with having a much smaller council (think 15 seats) and a City Charter that protects residents’ rights. City Council is too tribal and inefficient now. It’s time to step into the 21st Century.
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?
Pete DeMay: I support CPAC and full civilian oversight of the Chicago Police Department. As with CPS, Mayoral control of the CPD has been an expensive and a complete failure. Chicago residents need a say in how their neighborhoods are policed now.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Pete DeMay: We can reduce demand for illegal guns. Poverty and unemployment are too high in the 12th Ward. Consequently, we have kids that turn to drugs, gangs and guns. By increasing the number of school counselors in CPS schools and creating a robust summer jobs program for youth, we can attack the root causes of crime and create healthy, more prosperous neighborhoods. Decades of disinvestment hasn’t worked in the 12th Ward. It’s time to invest in our kids and young adults to stop the hopelessness.
Chicago also needs a Green New Deal now. We can put thousands of unemployed and underemployed young people to work replacing lead service lines and working in green manufacturing – we just need the political will to get them trained and prioritize funding for such a program. Again, when basic human needs are being met, people aren’t looking to join gangs or purchase illegal guns.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Pete DeMay: I would like to see a moratorium on charter school expansion. I think all current charter schools should be subject to oversight by an elected school board, and that current charter schools should transition into becoming CPS neighborhood schools or CPS magnet 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?
Pete DeMay: I favor a fully elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Pete DeMay: The 12th Ward is quickly becoming unaffordable. To make matters worse, much of the rental stock is in poor condition. We need to ensure that there is more high quality, affordable housing being built in the Ward, and that 2 and 3 flat owners have access to capital to maintain and improve their affordable units. I am in favor of requiring that developers be required to build at least 30% affordable units (affordable being tied to the neighborhood AMI) in the 12th Ward with no opt out.
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?
Pete DeMay: I support the “welcoming city” ordinance but feel we need to do much more remove the carve-outs that allow the city to work with ICE to deport undocumented immigrants. Undocumented immigrants are our neighbors and we need to do everything in our power to protect them.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Pete DeMay: Yes. City Council is notoriously corrupt, and that corruption costs taxpayers millions of dollars. George Cardenas voted AGAINST giving the inspector general the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees. I will always have the courage and integrity to vote for more oversight of City Council.
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.
Pete DeMay: No. That would be 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.
Pete DeMay: Dick Simpson is a past Alderman I would like to model myself after. Scott Waguespack is also an Alderman I have a lot of respect for, as is Carlos Rosa. My real hero is Kshama Sawant on Seattle’s City Council. I think she is just great.
Also running for 12th Ward alderman: