14th Ward candidate for alderman: Edward M. Burke
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 14th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Edward M. Burke submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Ed Burke?
He’s running for: 14th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Alderman of the 14th Ward of the City of Chicago, 1969 – Present Democratic Committeeman of the 14th Ward of the City of Chicago, 1968 – Present
His occupation: Attorney at Law, Alderman of the 14th Ward of the City of Chicago
His education: DePaul University, Juris Doctorate, 1968 DePaul University, Bachelor of Arts, 1965
Campaign website: edwardburke2019.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Edward M. Burke: Public Safety, Economic Development, and Education
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.
Edward M. Burke: Over the past two years, I have worked to increase economic development opportunities for those that live and work in the 14th Ward. In June of 2018, I joined Max Hurtado, the President of Amigos Foods, for the ground breaking ceremony for a $25 million dollar food processing and warehouse facility on a ten acre vacant site located at 51st Street and St. Louis Avenue. This project will generate 150 union construction jobs and 50 new full-time jobs when it opens in 2020.
I also helped to bring the Esperanza Brighton Park public health clinic to the Brighton Park neighborhood. The Clinic, a partnership between Esperanza Health Centers and Mujeres Latinas en Accion, will offer high quality primary care services including pediatrics, adult medicine, behavioral health, pharmacy and lab services, women’s health, and wellness programs.
Adjacent to the Esperanza Brighton Park health clinic is the recently opened DaVita Dialysis Center which will provide kidney treatment services to the residents of our area as well as creating 20 new jobs for local residents. This center will operate in partnership with the Sinai Health System to treat over 60 patients a day afflicted with kidney disease.
I am especially proud of the opening of Mansueto High School, of the Noble Charter Network that took place in the fall of 2017. This modern facility, located at 47th and Richmond Streets includes 42 classrooms, space for 1,100 students and a soccer field. The construction of this high school has spurred much of the economic development currently in the 14th Ward, including the construction of a new McDonald’s restaurant at 2844 West 47th Street.
The newly approved Chicago Park District headquarters, to be located on the 4800 block of South Western Avenue will help bring jobs and a new recreational center for the Brighton Park neighborhood. This new facility will also include three soccer fields, an entertainment venue for music events, and a children’s playground and spray-pool area.
Finally, I was instrumental in the building of two smaller soccer pitches on the vacant yard area of City owned property thus giving the children of the 14th ward a safe place to play.
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.
Edward M. Burke: Presently, the Illinois Constitution has served the people of Illinois for almost fifty years. It is probably time to re-visit the issue of assessing the need for amendments. However, I am not convinced that these Constitutional amendments on pensions will solve the current fiscal dilemma which the City must confront.
The City has already changed the pension benefits for new employees by having them increase the amount they contribute towards their pension benefits.
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.
Edward M. Burke: Regarding a Chicago casino, yes, I would be in favor. Too much time has passed for the Illinois legislature to grant Chicago the authority to benefit from a casino. Under the Pritzker administration, I am hopeful that this will be accomplished.
Regarding legalized and taxed marijuana, I believe that the residents of Chicago are in favor of this as they indicated in approving a recent referendum on this topic. The incoming Governor has also indicated his support of this concept. As a parent, I have misgivings about recreational use and need to understand how the product will be used before indicating support.
Regarding the LaSalle Street tax of the trading floors, this will take action on the federal level in order for Chicago to ever attempt to tax them which I believe will be difficult to achieve.
The commuter tax, like a City income tax would require a change in the law that the Illinois legislature to approve prior to the City attempting to enact this tax.
I am opposed to an increase in the property tax. We must be able to find a different way in which to fund our government.
Regarding a municipal sales tax increase, we may want to seriously consider the exemptions of certain foods and drugs that drain revenues by millions of dollars each year prior to increasing this tax.
I would be opposed to a real estate transfer tax increase as it could stifle economic development which has made Chicago the envy of other big cities throughout the country.
Finally, I have no objection to legalizing video gambling in Chicago but it must be coordinated with Chicago getting a casino license.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Edward M. Burke: I fully support a commuter tax and also fines for drivers using City streets without auto liability insurance. Both are initiatives that I have introduced in the past and still believe could bring in additional revenue for the City of Chicago.
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?
Edward M. Burke: Greater transparency on decision making for the basis of TIF district creation and greater accountability for job creation is needed, but I am reluctant to make changes which would not allow the City other opportunities to react in economic downturns or for economic opportunities. Each of these developments require City Council approval and any member is free to ask any questions of any TIF redevelopment project agreements and may vote in favor or against the matter if they choose to do so.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Edward M. Burke: I am only one vote and it would take a majority of the City Council to agree to achieve any changes in aldermanic prerogative.
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?
Edward M. Burke: Police morale is a serious issue and the brave women and men of Chicago law enforcement need to be assured that this consent decree will not have a negative impact on their performance on the street.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Edward M. Burke: The City should continue its extremely successful enforcement program that the Chicago Police Department has utilized. It should be noted that Alderman Lopez and I hosted a gun turn in program on December 2nd which removed over 500 guns from the City’s streets.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Edward M. Burke: Eight Charter schools currently serve the 14th Ward and are among the 26 schools that educate the children in the ward. The parents and the children who attend these schools seem supportive of the programs that the Charter schools provide. And as we say in the law, “res ipsa loquitor”, the thing speaks for itself.
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?
Edward M. Burke: I believe that I sponsored a resolution to have a referendum question placed upon the November 1984 ballot to approve the election of the Chicago School Board back in the 1980s, but the ordinance was not successful.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Edward M. Burke: There is never enough affordable housing in our ward, but in the spring of 2017, the 14th Ward became the home of the Park Place Apartments in the West Elsdon neighborhood. Park Place Apartments is a 78-unit affordable family rental development that includes one, two and three-bedroom units designed to benefit families, professionals and senior citizens residing in our southwest side community. The opening of Park Place Apartments marks the completion of the first phase of a larger proposed redevelopment which will include 360 units of affordable independent senior housing, affordable family rental residences, and over an acre of park land with community gardens. This project was developed by Brinshore Development in partnership with the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, who will provide social services and programming for the residents of this development.
Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council has also partnered with UP Development to bring 30 units of affordable housing to the Brighton Park community. This development will provide affordable housing to low-income families, as well as “wrap around” services for residents.
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?
Edward M. Burke: Fourteen years ago, I was the principal sponsor which made Chicago one of the first big cities in the nation to recognize the Matricula Consular Identification cards. The City Council has since expanded this program to include other Latin American countries. The Program has been a great success and when President Vincente Fox of Mexico visited Chicago, he invited me to the Mexican Consulate to thank me for that groundbreaking legislation.
Chicago has been a welcoming/sanctuary city since 1853 when the Common Council acted to prevent Chicago officials from cooperating with U.S. Marshals to enforce the fugitive slave law. Our City should continue to honor that civic policy.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Edward M. Burke: There is a reason that our fore fathers created the three branches of government and that there remains a separation of powers between them. The Inspector General of the City of Chicago is a member of the executive branch and should not have the authority to audit City Council programs, operations, and committees. I have no objection to oversight of the City Council, just not by the executive branch. Please note that the Committee on Finance programs are audited annually by Deloitte and Touche.
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.
Edward M. Burke: I am not aware of any of the staff in my office, past or present, that have had outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the City. If some staff has secondary employment, they disclose this pursuant to personnel rules and if it presents a conflict to their job, they must resign their secondary job.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Edward M. Burke: Paul Howard Douglas, Alderman of the 5th Ward, has always been a great source of inspiration for me. Senator Douglas served our nation in many roles in his lifetime: he served as a Chicago Alderman from 1939 – 1942 when he resigned and enlisted as a U.S. Marine beginning his service as a Private in 1942. Serving in the Pacific, Senator Douglas rose to the rank of Major and was wounded in combat in 1943. After his military service, Senator Douglas taught economics at the University of Chicago and then served the state of Illinois as its U.S. Senator from 1948 to 1966.
To serve the public has always been a great privilege and to be able to stand and work in the same Chamber as a former Chicago Alderman, decorated Marine Officer, teacher and noted economist, and U.S. Senator is humbling to say the least.