15th Ward candidate for alderman: Raymond Lopez
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 15th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Raymond A. Lopez submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Raymond Lopez?
He’s running for: 15th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Alderman/Committeeman 15th Ward of Chicago
His occupation: Alderman
Campaign website: Lopez2019.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Raymond A. Lopez: As alderman I continue to making the following my priorities:
- Improving the safety of my residents
- Reconnecting the historic communities of Brighton Park, Gage Park, Back of the Yards and West Englewood with all the services & investment the City of Chicago has to offer
- Recruit new economic drivers in those communities.
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.
Raymond A. Lopez: I have become an outspoken advocate against the violence impacting not only my communities but the city as a whole. Calling out the generational culture of gang/drug violence has not been easy but was absolutely necessary. I will not fail in my resolve to end the violence in the 15th Ward and beyond.
Additionally, connecting residents back to their personal empathy, I have strived to highlight the need to make Chicago a “No Kill” city. Teaching residents and communities how to show compassion for animals will, undoubtedly help us learn again how to protect & nurture each other.
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.
Raymond A. Lopez: Pensions are promise that absolutely must be kept. I have voted for increased revenue to compensate for 23 years of delayed or non-payment. More must be done without forcing the current employees or retirees to accept changes in what was worked for.
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.
Raymond A. Lopez: I would support a casino but believe that revenue is a few years off. I introduced an ordinance that would legalize video gaming in Chicago, instantly creating a new revenue stream that could be dedicated to pensions while at the same time providing a needed boost to local businesses.
Tobacco taxes are on the continual decline while the emerging market of recreational marijuana was booming in other municipalities and states. We would be foolish not to pursue this option.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Raymond A. Lopez: I believe all options should be on the table. Additionally I believe that property taxes should be tied to CIP for future annual increases.
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?
Raymond A. Lopez: TIF funds have allowed me to reinvestment in many of the forgotten areas of my ward, compensating for decades of neglect. While I understand that many feel TIFs rob government agencies of money, that has not been the case in my ward and would caution against rhetoric.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Raymond A. Lopez: I support alderman having oversight and final authority of zoning in their respective wards; however, I do believe we must support ordinances that mandate a timeline for action either way.
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?
Raymond A. Lopez: I support the consent decree & efforts to make the department more accountable, engaging locally, and reflective of the communities the officers serve.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Raymond A. Lopez: Unfortunately, until the Federal Government addresses the easy access to guns across the country, we will continue to see weapons on our streets.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Raymond A. Lopez: Charters started as educational incubators within CPS. Their role has since changed and become more mainstream. We must acknowledge that fact and move forward. CTU has recently accepted their faculty as members and that philosophical shift should be noted in the overall discussion 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?
Raymond A. Lopez: I continue to believe that the City Council should act as the Board of Education as well.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Raymond A. Lopez: Housing is affordable in my ward, if you are willing to accept susbstandard housing. The difference be quality and quantity remains a challenge and absolutely needs to be addressed.
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?
Raymond A. Lopez: I support the immigrants, documented or not, and believe Chicago should be a welcoming city.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Raymond A. Lopez: The IG currently has the authority to audit & investigate members of the City Council. q
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.
Raymond A. Lopez: My staff are full-time employees of the city of Chicago and have no side jobs.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Raymond A. Lopez: Let me get back to you on that.