14th Ward candidate for alderman: Jaime Guzman
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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. Jaime Guzman submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Jaime Guzman?
He’s running for: 14th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Volunteer I was an at-large member of the Independent Political Organization of the 22nd Ward from 2005 to 2010.
For the 2007 municipal election, I was a precinct captain for Alderman Munoz in the 22nd Ward. I managed Rudy Lozano’s state representative race (the first one) for 6 months in 2009.
In 2017, I circulated petitions for Chuy Garcia for Congress, Aaron Ortiz for State Representative and Alma Anaya for Cook County Commissioner.
Professional I served as an assistant (on the city side) to Alderman Munoz in the 22nd ward from 2005 to 2006, and again in 2011 on the political side.
From 2015 to the end of 2017 I served as Chief Legislative Analyst to then Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. I also staffed the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation between 2016 and 2017.
His occupation: Of Counsel, at Jauregui & Associates, P.C., at the Pilsen Law Center
His education: I attended Chicago Public Schools (CPS), John Spry Elementary and Farragut Career Academy, before attending City Colleges’ Harold Washington College, and subsequently transferring and graduating from DePaul University with a B.A. in political science. I also hold a juris doctor degree from Marquette University Law School.
Campaign website: electguzman14.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Jaime Guzman: Economic development & empowerment — If elected, I will create an aldermanic council for women empowerment, made up of women, to counsel on intersectional issues that need to be addressed both within the ward and citywide. I will create special purpose districts that invest in small business development, and art and culture programming. This type of programming will provide grants, consultant fees, and small business support for women entrepreneurs. I will create opportunities for all to engage in micro-enterprise such as cultural events, small business events along with women-centered networking events and financial literacy workshops. We need to empower women to create micro-economies within our communities and engage in commerce that not only acts as economic stimulators in the ward but also continues to push for women to lead, create and attain economic self-sufficiency. I will create a commission on social innovation to support female entrepreneurs that seek to make positive social change. The commission will be made up of majority women, and will counsel me on economic opportunities for women. This will result in legislation being proposed at the citywide level that is influenced by women and others seeking social economic impact.
Public safety — Our streets continue to see gun violence (and violence of other forms). Our young people are some of the most unemployed in the city, with less and less opportunities afforded to them. Victims of domestic violence have nowhere to go locally (the nearest provider and shelter is Mujeres Latinas en Accion in the Pilsen community). Stress, depression and other mental health issues need to be addressed. We should be investing in street intervention programs, diversified programs for youth (in and out of school) that include job training, and restorative justice approaches to problem solving. I will work hard to create an Art and Culture center in the ward. It will create educational opportunities as well as create paths for all people to enterprise their art (visual, performance, and literary). I will work to develop local support groups with the establishment of a sanctuary for victims of domestic violence or financial abuse. My goal is to have one in Gage Park, one in Archer Heights, and one in Brighton Park. I will work with young people to create safe spaces to discuss issues around identity, sexual orientation, peer pressure and interpersonal dynamics at home.
Civic engagement & more empowerment — We need to support children that are underperforming in school. We need opportunities for those within our adult population that are undereducated. People are needing to work two jobs to make ends meet. In other cases, young people are having to choose between working to contribute to the family or go to school. I will work directly with school leadership and parents to create opportunities for support to improve educational enrichment. I will vote to support a $15 minimum wage that includes wage tip earners. I will work to expand the Star Scholarship to other students (and not just those that have a 3.0 GPA) so that less and less students have to pay for college. Parents need more childcare support that fits their educational goals for their children. The Gage Park Library needs a full-time Spanish speaker within their staff. The Chicago welcoming ordinance should be replaced with a sanctuary city ordinance. I will work with the new Assessor’s office to ensure a fair system of property taxes for our ward. I will engage in leadership development by providing free workshops on civic engagement, free legal workshops on business development (including arts entrepreneurship), and schedule community forums to engage in thought provoking conversations that will result in tangible steps towards addressing issues related to women and economic independence.
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.
Jaime Guzman: I took part in the petition drives to get the following on the March 2018 Primary ballot: Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Congress, Alma Anaya for Cook County Commissioner, and Aaron Ortiz for State Representative. In 2016, I supported the efforts of Theresa Mah for State Representative by canvassing in the Pilsen community.
From April 2016 to November of 2017 I staffed the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation; an ad hoc commission that submitted legislation to the Cook County board to create important procurement set asides for social enterprises – those with double bottom line approaches, such as positive social impact (in addition to profit). As part of the commission’s work, I co-wrote an ordinance to request the county to fund a feasibility study to expand metra electric services to job poor areas in the south suburbs and southern most points of the city of Chicago. The idea being that although ridership is declining, a study that looked at populations and strategic intermodal connections as crucial for getting people from job poor areas into job rich areas should be conducted so that we can better understand not just loss in ridership but what infrastructure differences need to be made to improve upon the unemployment rate of the southland.
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.
Jaime Guzman: The state Constitution should not be amended to allow a reduction in pension benefits for current city employees or retirees. This process would be unfair to the recipients of those pension benefits. Now, I understand that many of those recipients have been beneficiaries of a long history of patronage in Chicago and one of the causes of the resulting government bloat and financial headaches. However, the greater factors in the inability to pay the pension obligations rest on poor legislating and detrimental executive prerogative. It is not the fault of a retired public employee that Mayor Richard M. Daley wanted to build a new underground rail-line to O’Hare airport and overspent so as to not see it come into fruition. Or, that the city fails in its contractual obligations resulting in ten in millions of liquidated damages. In 2011, the city had to pay $57.8 M on a breach of contract. Daley had to sell four city owned downtown parking garages to a private company to pay off the money he borrowed to build Millenium park. But the agreement had a non-compete clause that did not allow any other parking garages to pop up in the vicinity of the sold parking garages. The city then allowed another parking garage to open up, and the buyers of the first set of parking garages sued, and won for $57.8 million.
Another example is the failure of oversight by the chairman of the finance committee and the city council during the hired truck scandal years. With estimated losses of $40 million a year over a six year period, where ghost companies were invoicing the city for doing nothing – that is not a burden for a retired city employee to carry (unless they are partly responsible of course). I am in favor of reducing pension benefits to new employees. Public service and employment should be treated as such, as the public benefit coming first, and personnel/employee considerations second
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.
Jaime Guzman: I favor a Chicago Casino. There is a lot of leakage into Indiana on this topic. Many people go to our neighboring state to spend money. These are consumer trends that should not be ignored and all proposals for revenue generation should be on the table.
I favor legalizing recreational marijuana. However, this needs to be coupled with programs that help those mostly affected by the war on drugs. Recreational marijuana should be legalized throughout the state and the city should be allowed (by the state) to regulate and tax it for additional revenue. That additional revenue should go to schools, and programs that benefit those affected by the war on drugs – especially those criminalized by the war on drugs. Regulation should be split between the state and the city, so that the city can tax the sale of it and the state can tax the income behind it (in accordance with Home Rule power). What is just as important however, is the decriminalization of people that have suffered under the war on drugs and reforms should also benefit them by putting them on a path to self-actualize.
I favor a LaSalle Street tax. The biggest arguments against it include things like, “it’ll place us at a competitive disadvantage with other cities,” or that it will “drive out” the exchanges in the city. But Chicago has bigger problems. Crime and violence are high in some of our most neglected communities. That crime and violence shows up every now and then on the magnificent mile or our CTA trains or buses. Our pension obligations are making it hard to govern. What we need is more revenue, especially coming in from where there is an excess of revenue. Financial instruments have long been excused from a social responsibility. It is time we impose that and test the flight predictions. I find that argument funny especially when much of the trading occurs online now.
I do not favor a commuter tax – this is draconian. People that choose to add to the vibrancy of the city should be taxed for it. Besides, we might be running into some privileges and immunities issues under the constitution.
I do not favor a property tax increase. We over rely on property taxes for revenue. What we need is a fair system of property taxes that does not create situations where less affluent areas are paying more proportionately in taxes as compared to more affluent areas.
I do not favor a municipal sales tax increase. With Chicago’s 1.5% cut we are already at 10.25% in sales taxes locally. Granted, its not the soda tax but if there’s anything to learn from the soda tax is that the closer government regulation (through taxation) gets to potentially shifting individual consumer patterns – the less people will accept it.
I do favor a real estate transfer tax increase, especially like the one that the “Bring Home Chicago” campaign proposes. It is a 1.2 percentage point increase in the real estate transfer tax of properties sold over $1 million to fund assistance to the homeless. I like this plan because it could generate up to $150 million on an annual basis to combat homelessness. I also like the fact that only 3.5% of all residential transactions would be affected by this new increase in tax. I hope we consider raising it to 1.5 percent to help pay down debt.
I do favor video gambling. Generally, I favor taxes on gambling. Consumer trends are what they are, and we should not take a tenuous stance on activities that occur with or without taxing processes and should find a way to generate revenue without placing too much of a burden affecting consumer patterns.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Jaime Guzman: I would consider taxing legal fees stemming from tax appeal reductions (will elaborate more on that in person).
I would also consider places a fee on car dealerships that post on apps like “letgo” and “offer up.” Those apps are meant to be used by non-formal parties (individuals) to sell, trade, or barter. Many car dealerships are using them as another platform to offer automobiles for sale. Currently, there is no fee to do that. Car dealerships are circumventing taxing processes though, are able to over price vehicles and do not have to identify themselves as a car dealer when posting.
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?
Jaime Guzman: Things I like about TIFs: the small business improvement fund, which helps businesses with property acquisition, and build out, and the TIF works programs that allows businesses to tap into the TIF district funds for training and other professional development for employees. Things I don’t life about TIFs: the program/tool and its management is not transparent and at times used by entities that don’t need the help. An example is thethe central business district TIF where it has bee used too many times to subsidizing the renovations in the downtown offices of some of the largest corporations in the world. Aside from the 23 years and its used to support public and private development, here is another simple aspect of TIFs.
TIFs are state created special purpose districts, created the same way the Metropolitan Water Reclamation district was created, and the same way municipal units of government are empowered to create things like special service areas. However, the creation and the management of these things are two different things, and the management of special purpose districts lacks uniformity. In one, we can have an elected board (or commission), in another we can have an appointed commission – either one though, has to abide by the open meetings act and provide full disclosure of the use of funds and balances and hold public meetings. While TIFs are a great economic development tool, it requires good faith intentions (which have been lacking in many areas) and its probably time to pull the power away from the city or create a whole new economic development tool that is similar to other special purpose districts that must abide by the open meetings act, and that falls in line with its original mission – of being used to invest in blighted areas.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Jaime Guzman: Aldermanic prerogative is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, if it’s allowed to continue, with poor quality elected officials, it breeds corruption and unfairness. On the other, if taken away, it weakens the city council and makes a system of checks and balances between the council and the mayor less likely. In order to tip the scale on aldermanic prerogative, processes like participatory budgeting need to be uniform and implemented throughout the city. The 14th Ward does not engage in participatory budgeting. If elected, I will introduce participatory budgeting into the 14th Ward. I would not limit the process to menu money. I will expand it to include TIF district funds.
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?
Jaime Guzman: I’m not convinced that overhauling the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department will make the relationship between communities of color and the police better. I’m also not convinced that it will make it tougher for police to do their job. Making police officers personally responsible for their actions will. We need to abolish governmental immunity for police officers. Too often, misbehaving officers hide behind the veil of government. Those officers’ actions have resulted in liability that has affected taxpayers at amounts inching towards $1 billion. When it is proven that the officers used excessive force or behaved in some other way that is ultra vires of their duties and privileges, civil liability should be imposed on those police officers. This would require legislative action in Springfield, but this should be advocated for and I would support it.
Another approach should be to support more intermediaries between community and police, but especially those that are focused on creating programs that bring police and community together. Many non-profits provide programs, especially in the summer months, to bring young people and police together. When I worked in Little Village, I was part of group of people that implemented “B-Ball on the Block” – an 11-week summer program where every Friday we would take over a troubled block and bring positive community programming. It would include a basketball tournament for ages 8 to 18, art activities led by artists from the community, and a large-scale cookout. I worked with the commander of the district at the time to ensure that at least six police officers that worked the area would be there on Fridays and engage with the youth.
These sorts of interactions would pay dividends for our young people when they would encounter the same police officers on the street outside of the program. Generally, we need to bring people together more often. As far as the training academy, I think $95 million is excessive, and I’m not the only one. There are six precincts from Garfield Ridge (community known for a large public employee population that includes police officers) in the ward, and a handful of officers have told me that a new academy is needed, but $95 million is too much to spend on that. In its current form, the plan for a new training academy is insensitive and loses sight of a balanced approach to improving the relationship between communities and police.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Jaime Guzman: For too long, we’ve deferred to “leaders” of communities of color to end gun and intra-community violence. This practice has allowed other “leaders” to take symbolic policy stances or create short term and shortsighted programs that do more to perpetuate the perception of the propensity towards violence in disenfranchised communities. Programs such as gun-buy backs, community meetings that focus on more surveillance by police (or “greater presence”), as well the need to overspend on policing (such as the new cop academy) reinforce notions that addressing root causes of violence are too difficult and not worth trying. These notions are not driven by a sense of community, but by a sense that there are “others” that need to be criminalized, and others that deserve special consideration to be protected by asserting some form of privilege, either implicitly or explicitly. This approach has been tragic for Chicago. What we need is more street intervention programming, youth/parent and women empowerment programs, financial literacy and the creation of programs that seek to address some of the root causes of intra-community violence: poverty and inequality, social marginalization/lack of hope, and apathetic leadership.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Jaime Guzman: I am against the expansion of charter schools, and in favor of workers organizing and unionizing at charter schools. In Chicago, the substantive heyday of charter schools was in the late 80s and early 90s when actual parents were organizing to address overpopulation, to reduce classroom sizes, and all while being more active and having more control within the school. These parents would settle for using unused buildings at their local church or other readily accessible buildings. Today’s charter school movement (as formalized by entities like UNO) is led by profiteers and financially supported by developers. CTU is reminding us of what is important, and is invigorating educational movements as well as labor movements. The latest efforts of organizing of workers at charter schools is once again setting the standard for dual movement advocacy – fairness to students, fairness to teachers, and is a solid approach towards striking a balance between educational objectives of parents and educators and putting a halt on the cart blanche approach of charters.
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?
Jaime Guzman: I am in favor of an elected representative school board for Chicago. An elected school board would be accountable to the people that voted them in, and as a parent of a CPS student I would like the opportunity to vote in favor of or against people seeking to make decisions about the current and future policies benefitting or affecting education in Chicago. In addition, an elected school board is a great way to publicly debate important educational issues during the election season.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Jaime Guzman: As far as homeownership goes, I want to work with members of the state legislature to regulate real estate and mortgages more. In Archer Heights (one of the communities in my ward) I see many homes selling for a reasonable amount, but get purchased by “flippers” that then sell the home for double the purchase price. We need to place a profit margin cap on homes sold within a year of purchase. When homes are priced at twice the amount they were within a year that limits the amount of people than can purchase the home and does very little to provide more safe and affordable homes.
With mortgages, we need to put an end to sub-prime mortgages. In 2012, I was a law clerk at the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. During my time there, I supported the efforts of Illinois v. Wells Fargo (case where a pattern and practice of discrimination against people of color was alleged after learning that many had been placed in sub-prime mortgages resulting in foreclosures) by doing discovery work. One of the most disheartening things I learned through the work was the amount of African American families that were steered into sub-prime mortgages. In fact, African-American families were overrepresented in the amount of sub-prime mortgages (67%). What was more disheartening was learning that many of them qualified for prime mortgages, either on credit or income or both. I want to work with legislators to put an end to sub-prime mortgages once and for all.
For the homeless, I would support the Bring Home Chicago campaign, and vote to pass an ordinance that places a 1.2 percentage point increase in the real estate transfer tax of properties sold over $1 million to fund assistance to the homeless. I like this plan because it could generate up to $150 million on an annual basis to combat homelessness. I also like the fact that only 3.5% of all residential transactions would be affected by this new increase in tax. I will push the proponents of the campaign to include holistic support for CPS students with paid CTA transportation, school supplies and healthcare costs.
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?
Jaime Guzman: The Illinois Trust Act and the Chicago welcoming ordinance fall short of creating a true sanctuary. Unlike the Cook County detainer policy; which rejects any requests by the federal government to hand over any individual, the Trust Act and the welcoming ordinance allow the transfer of an individual with a judicial order. If we are to be genuinely concerned with preventing the separation of children and families, then we must be sincere in what we are not doing to prevent separations, and we must move from a political stance of “welcoming” and take it a step further into a moral stance of protecting families.
The political posturing that is a welcoming ordinance (and trust act) is not enough. We must create a true sanctuary law in Illinois and ordinance in Chicago that declines all federal government requests. The city of Chicago has allowed itself to be bullied by the federal government. In 2015, when then Secretary of Homeland Security, Jah Johnson was threatening sanctuary cities (local units) with cutting federal funding because they were not in compliance with section 1373 of Chapter 8 of the US Code, I was part of the team that worked at the county to fend off those threats to keep the Cook County Detainer Policy in place. The law is clear on what section 1373 is about, and it is clear on federal commandeering. Illinois and Chicago have the power to create a true sanctuary. I will support legislation to make that a reality.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Jaime Guzman: Yes. No agency, elected official, department or program should be exempt from the critical eye that an objective inspector general may bring. Many of these issues where transparency is lacking stem from the city’s internal ability to create administrative processes through policy that insulate programs and agencies/department from critical oversight. There is a lack of political will from the city council to make those changes, because although they empower department heads, they may also take power away and may more importantly, impose processes that lend to transparency and accountability. The city council’s legislative power allows them to make important changes to internal processes within agencies and departments, and the new council should open the books on all city council programs, especially the $100 million workmans’ compensation program.
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.
Jaime Guzman: I have not employed and will not employ staff who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Jaime Guzman: No. Aldermen tend to kowtow to mayors, and I have no interest in doing the same. With the majority of aldermen voting in line with the mayor’s proposals on city borrowing, budgets, and tax and fee increases, and with city government having a strong mayor/weak council dynamic since 1989, it is time that the city council push back, propose alternatives and slow down or stop bad policies in their tracks. The city council should stand up to the mayor. Professor, and former Alderman, Dick Simpson at UIC reminds us every year of how the majority of aldermen vote a majority of the time in line with the mayor. The city council needs to be more proactive. They need to counter the mayor’s ideas and place delays or put an end to fast moving mayoral prerogatives that carry long term effects. This should be especially the case when dealing with the financial sector. Financiers have duped the enough. If it isn’t the parking meter deal, or an underground line to O’hare, its credit swap deals, and it doesn’t matter who the mayor is – a strong mayor/weak council dynamic is getting old and its costing us a lot.