14th Ward candidate for alderman: Tanya G. Patiño
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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. Tanya G. Patiño submitted the following responses:
Who is Tanya Patiño?
She’s running for: 14th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: First-Time Candidate. I am volunteer soccer coach and I mentor youth. While a completing my undergraduate degree, I was a board member for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) where I fought for minority equity in STEM programming at the university. While at UIUC, I was also the President of a women empowerment organization, Hermandad de Sigma Iota Alpha. In that role, I trained women in self defense against domestic violence and sexual assault.
Her occupation: Senior Engineer at People’s Gas
Her education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; B.S. Civil Engineering
Campaign website: tanyafor14.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Tanya G. Patiño: I am running a grassroots campaign to be a progressive voice in the city council to fight for and be an advocate for working families and communities of color. I am running to represent my community and when elected I will be accessible and accountable to my constituents and community. I will not be afraid to represent my constituents and I am committed to getting things done for our neighborhoods. The top campaign issues I am advocating for are; education & social services funding (ERSB, TIF reform), housing security (reformed assessment process, rent control), workers’ rights ($15 minimum wage, Fair Workweek Ordinance, elected airport authority), and safety in our neighborhoods (welcoming ordinance with no carve-outs, erase the gang database).
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.
Tanya G. Patiño: I am a volunteer soccer coach. I coach and mentor youth. It was while I was coaching that I had a pivotal experience that changed my life and my perspective on serving my community. While I was coaching a team of 5 year-olds at a park, a shooting erupted 20 feet from the pitch. My kids were confused and some ran towards their parents. I had to physically throw kids on the ground to avoid getting hit by the bullets. Luckily nobody was hurt, but I constantly reflect on that moment. I remember the face of the young man shooting and the helpless faces of bystanders, both the faces of powerlessness. This is when I knew I had to do more –the children in our communities deserve better.
I realized that some of the elected officials in our community lacked the political will needed to deliver meaningful change for the benefit of our community. I decided to volunteer for candidates I believed in, like Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Bernie Sanders, because I knew we could demand more from our government. During the primary election to defeat 27-year incumbent State Representative Dan Burke, the brother of Alderman Ed Burke, I volunteered every day as an area coordinator, directed vital GOTV efforts and delivered key victories in priority 14th Ward precincts to elect State Representative-Elect Aarón Ortíz.
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.
Tanya G. Patiño: A strong pension system is critical to recruiting and retaining good public servants. Teachers and other public servants deserve to retire with dignity and security after a lifetime of hard work. The pension system has a funding shortfall. The total shortfall seems large, but with a renewed commitment to establishing new sources of revenue, this can be made up gradually. I would have to see what proposals are brought but would not discard a constitutional amendment. An interesting proposal would be to modify the pension and retirement for new workers, but under no circumstances would I support the reduction of benefits for existing workers and retirees. The city and state need to be willing to adopt a more sustainable pension system for the future.
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.
Tanya G. Patiño: Outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already increased property taxes and working families cannot take the additional hit. Under the existing and flawed Cook County Property Tax Process, a property tax increase only puts the burden on working families. I support the inevitable legalization of recreational marijuana for its criminal justice implications but also for the tax revenue generated. I am prepared to advocate for a corporate LaSalle Street Tax and other Transactional Taxes on financial institutions downtown. Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, financial institutions have controlled a favorable environment and the tax base they refuse to cover is left to city residents to make up. Chicago stands to lose billions in revenue by not enacting the proposal. The value of the of the trades on the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) is over $900 trillion.
I oppose another sales tax increase, Chicago already has one of the highest sales tax in the country, and would vote against any other regressive forms of taxation that hurt working families. I would be open to the idea of a Chicago casino and video gambling depending on the specifics of the ordinance and its impact on vulnerable low-income communities. Furthermore, Developer must be able to adequately demonstrate how a casino would financially benefit the city, how much, and under what timeline.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Tanya G. Patiño: I am committed to finding new, predictable sources of revenue that are not generated on the backs of working people. We must increase revenue by implementing a progressive graduated income tax, TIF reform, and reinstating the corporate head tax on wealthy downtown employers.
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?
Tanya G. Patiño: The TIF program has been full of questions and controversy over how much money is being spent and how. I will work with other progressive Aldermen to make the appropriate reforms and create much-needed changes in accountability and transparency. The City needs to roll the TIF surplus back into our schools and services not downtown. TIF’s that have fulfilled a clear outcome should be terminated. I would evaluate stagnant TIFs, terminate TIFs that no longer serve their intended purpose, and propose a moratorium on new TIF development. The only way we can replace the revenue is to dissolve and end some bad TIFs.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Tanya G. Patiño: Alderman Burke is the longest serving Alderman in the history of Chicago, 49 years. He has been the monarch in the 14th Ward since Richard Nixon was elected President of the United States. That is way too long for anyone to hold office. He controls a campaign war chest of at least $12 Million in at least 3 campaign committee. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called Burke a “walking encyclopedia of Chicago history”, but he is also a walking encyclopedia for pay-to-play, heavy-handed politics practiced for decades that has cost taxpayers millions and potentially billions of dollars. His era of old-school corruption ends now.
By now everyone is familiar with the Alderman’s business relationship with Donald Trump. His exposure and vulnerability have invited others to join the growing chorus of people speaking out. Other Aldermen are proposing ordinances to strip him of his powers, particularly the almost absolute control that he has over the city’s finances including the $100 million workers’ compensation fund. Former airport commissioner Ginger Evans alleged that Burke politically interfered on behalf of clients doing business with the City including some with mob ties. When elected, I am prepared to pass legislation to prevent others from trying to replicate his activities and will support independent efforts to investigate activities, including investigations by the Office of the Inspector General.
Unlike Aldermen who operate with impunity, I am running to bring much-needed honesty, transparency, accountability and progressive values to the 14th Ward. I will be an Alderman, accessible to constituents, providing first-rate city services to all residents, and fighting for a better quality of life in our community, not millionaires and billionaires.
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?
Tanya G. Patiño: Rebuilding the relationship between the community and the police is crucial to reforming the police department. I am an advocate for community policing. Police officers should be required to take additional de-escalation training and sensitivity education to better serve the neighborhoods they are assigned to. We have to repair how our communities interact with police. Trust needs to be built and only then can both sides work to heal. A federally monitored consent decree can deliver the training, equipment and supervision CPD requires. A decree establishes an enforceable plan for much needed sustainable reform.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Tanya G. Patiño: A regional approach is necessary to reduce the number of illegal guns in our streets. We have to build relationships with other municipalities and implement intergovernmental agreements that can crack down on the illegal transfer of weapons across state lines. Although working with neighboring entities will require a tremendous effort and coordination, it must be a top priority to find common ground ad adequately protect our children and our neighborhoods. Stiffer sanctions, fees, and other penalties alone will not prevent guns from entering the city.
A comprehensive approach to reducing violence and illegal guns is also dependent on proper education and early intervention. We have to tackle the root cause of violence in our city. Invest more in young people instead of prisons. I have been a volunteer soccer coach for years and when I talk with parents in our ward, I hear about the need for more after-school programs and public spaces for our youth. After-school programs keep young people off the streets and give them opportunities that might otherwise not be available for them. The city has an obligation to ensure there is a safe space for the children to gather. College and adult education and training opportunities should be more available to everyone, not just those that can afford it. We need to improve our public transportation system and infrastructure for minority communities, which will create good paying jobs and allow people better access to job opportunities or school. We have to maintain a dignified level for work in our communities where workers are paid livable wages with benefits and be treated fairly. We need to make sure the jobs available to our community pay a livable wage and treat workers fairly and with respect. Improving the quality and quantity of jobs available to communities of color will alleviate some of the root causes of crime and underemployment in our neighborhoods
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Tanya G. Patiño: Charters have been a failed experiment in attempting to undermine collective bargaining. I believe they have drained important resources from neighborhood schools in an attempt to privatize our school system. The incumbent Alderman has championed Charter Schools and has aggressively recruited them to open in the 14th Ward. There are 7 ACERO Charter Schools in the ward. I fully support worker organizing at charter schools and walked the picket lines in solidarity with the teachers at ACERO Schools in the 14th Ward during their strike. I believe in a moratorium on new charter schools until we can fully fund existing neighborhood 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?
Tanya G. Patiño: Chicago is the only city in Illinois to have a non-elected school board. I support an all Elected Representative School Board (ERSB) in Chicago because ballot referendums have demonstrated support for it. But more importantly, Chicago Public Schools should operate independently from the Mayor. ERSB is a critical need for Chicago.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Tanya G. Patiño: Parts of the ward are single family but most of the ward has double and triple units with multiple family members. This is an indication that families can’t afford to buy houses. Multiple families have to live together to cover the cost of housing. In some parts of the word the median household income is as low as $23,000 per year. The destruction of public housing and public schools has been led by machine politicians who have a long history of opposing racially diverse neighborhoods and minority empowerment. We need elected officials who put their community above the interests of their politically connected friends. I will fight to bring accountability and transparency to the Chicago Housing Authority. We need to rehab and repurpose empty, foreclosed homes and expand public housing. I support rent control to protect against rising rent costs along with other protections for tenants. Housing is a human right and we must make sure that all residents have access to affordable housing in the neighborhoods they live in.
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?
Tanya G. Patiño: I’m the daughter of immigrants and as a youth soccer coach, I talk with concerned parents with mixed status families every day. The 14th ward is 88% Hispanic and almost half of all residents are immigrants; Latinos are more likely to be living in immigrant communities with mixed-status families. Having more representatives from immigrant communities who have shared that experience will help ensure Chicago protects undocumented residents and their children.
I will fight to establish a new Welcoming Ordinance in Chicago with no carve-outs. It is well known and documented that carve-outs are flawed, which is why I believe that additional training and sensitivity courses need to be taught at the police department. I will fight to eliminate the gang database that unfairly targets communities of color. Community policing is key to repair the relationship between police and the immigrant community.
In addition to doing everything possible to fight Trump’s inhumane deportation machine, I also think we need to make sure undocumented people have the same opportunities to get attend public colleges and access other needed services as everyone else. Defeating a wealthy alderman with a strong business relationship with Donald Trump would deliver a powerful message from the immigrant community.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Tanya G. Patiño: Yes, I believe the Inspector General’s office should be able to and required to, investigate any elected official, including Aldermen if they are suspected to be participating in any suspicious activities. The IG’s office needs to be a watchdog on bad government and must be able to operate independently of other political influence. The IG should be allowed to audit and review 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.
Tanya G. Patiño: No, I would not employ individuals who 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.
Tanya G. Patiño: David Orr. He was one of the Aldermen that led the progressive Harold Washington coalition in the City Council against Alderman Ed Burke and Ed Vrdolyak racist attempt to obstruct the mayor in the 1980s. David Orr was and continues to be a very honest statesman and public servant. His dedication, strong and sensible leadership, and service to the city and county have left their profound mark in Chicago and Cook County.