19th Ward candidate for alderman: Matthew J. O’Shea
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 19th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Matthew J. O‘Shea submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Matthew O’Shea?
He’s running for: 19th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Alderman, 19th Ward, 2011 – Present
- Democratic Committeeman, 19th Ward, 2005 – Present
His occupation: Alderman, 19th Ward
His education: B.A. Political Science, Saint Mary’s University – Winona, MN
Campaign website: mattoshea.net
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : 1.) Morgan Park High School is the neighborhood public high school for all families in the 19th Ward. However, an overwhelming majority of families choose to send their students to parochial or selective enrollment CPS high schools. Since 2011, I have fought for additional resources and new programs to Morgan Park. If re-elected, I will continue to work with the Principal, LSC and CPS leadership to improve Morgan Park High School.
2.) Ridge Park, an anchor in our community for more than 100 years, needs major investment. For the past several years, I have worked with the Chicago Park District and Ridge Park Advisory Council to make badly needed improvements to the building and grounds. Last year, we conducted a comprehensive needs assessment and have begun with repairs to the roof and window but look forward to continuing that work.
3.) The 19th Ward has some of the best housing stock you will find anywhere in the Chicago area. We have miles and miles of beautiful tree lined streets with an assortment of architectural style single family homes. Unfortunately, our commercial strips have never been as successful. I have, and will continue to work on attracting quality business and restaurant operators to compliment the communities of Beverly, Morgan Park and Mount Greenwood.
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.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I am active with several charitable, civic, and philanthropic organizations. During the past several years I have organized a community wide campaign to raise funds for the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation’s Get Behind the Vest initiative that replaces outdated bulletproof vests for Chicago Police Officers. Our campaign included dress down days at local schools, business profit sharing days at local restaurants and gas stations, and a pancake breakfast at a local church. These efforts have raised nearly $100,000 for the program and help keep our officers safe. I serve as board president for Special Olympics Chicago. There, I organized the high school student challenge for the Chicago Polar Plunge.
I have recruited hundreds of student/athletes from several high schools throughout the city to participate in the Chicago Polar Plunge in support of Special Olympics. As a board member for the John McNicholas Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, I worked with our junior board to host the Beverly Hills Turkey Trot 5K Race and Family Walk. This event raises awareness for pediatric brain tumor research at Lurie Children’s Hospital and engages young people in the process. As a volunteer with the Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry I help organize multiple food drives with local parishes in my community, recruiting volunteers to collect and distribute non-perishable food items for shelters and food pantries in several communities on the south side of Chicago.
I sit on the steering committee for Chicago Says No More, a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocacy Organization. With their help, I organized screenings of “The Hunting Ground” at area High Schools and at the Beverly Arts Center. “The Hunting Ground” educates young people about the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. Working with CSNM, I introduced legislation into the City Council creating an Employee Assistance Program for victims of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence that offers among other things paid time off to address any issues related their circumstances. This policy has since been adopted by several other Chicago employers and I am currently in discussions with many others.
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.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : A pension is a promise. I do not support efforts to diminish pensions for existing employees. I am open to further reduction in pensions for new employees.
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.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I support a Chicago Casino, recreational marijuana, video gaming, and a real estate transfer tax increase for properties valued in excess of $1,000,000.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Matthew J. O‘Shea: Graduated income tax and extension of the sales tax on luxury services.
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?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I support a moratorium on new TIF creation and the Chicago Teachers Union proposal that would divert all TIF surplus dollars to the Chicago Public Schools.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : Local aldermen have significant influence on land use issues in their wards. My constituents are highly engaged and hold me accountable for my votes and the status of development projects in the ward. To ensure residents have a voice in land use issues, I have created a local zoning advisory committee that screens zoning change requests. I have committed not to increase zoning without the support of this committee and would prefer that the decisions of the committee are not undone by aldermen from other wards or city hall bureaucrats. That being said, I do recognize that there are projects with impacts well beyond the boundaries of each individual ward. In those circumstances, I believe proposals should be evaluated on a basis of overall economic and quality of life impact to the city rather than on the opinion of the individual alderman.
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?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I am a staunch supporter of the men and women of the Chicago Police Department. That being said, the Department cannot do its job without the trust and cooperation of the communities they serve. It’s my hope that the federal consent decree will provide additional resources and training for our officers, and develop strategies to improve the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and the residents they serve and protect.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : Work in Springfield to pass restrictions on gun dealers and work with the federal government on prosecution of gun trafficking laws. These are the most effective means of combating the straw purchase of weapons, a leading cause of gun violence.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I do not support the use of public funds for charter schools. CPS needs to invest in 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?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I support a hybrid elected/appointed school board that gives voters a direct say in the administration of CPS but also ensure some mayoral influence and accountability in how the schools are run.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : Access to affordable housing is not an issue that I have received complaints about in the 19th Ward.
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?
Matthew J. O‘Shea : I support the current policy.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Matthew J. O‘Shea: Yes – all areas of City government should be open to scrutiny from the Inspector General.
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.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Matthew J. O‘Shea : My predecessor, Alderman Ginger Rugai. I admire her patience, determination, and devotion to our community.
Also running for 19th Ward alderman: