20th Ward candidate for alderman: Anthony Driver Jr.
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 20th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Anthony Driver Jr. submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Anthony Driver?
He’s running for: 20th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: I have experience with independent research, public/constituent engagement, public speaking, community organizing and advocacy; all which have attributed to me becoming very well versed. I have spent time as a policy fellow for the Estell Group, a bi-partisan Washington, DC-based firm that provides a comprehensive suite of government affairs and communications services.
Prior to joining the Estell Group I spent time as a researcher with the Ronald Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center, conducting research on state legislation that fuels the school to prison pipeline. I also have city hall experience in the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement and with grassroots activism.
His occupation: Entrepreneur and teacher
His education: B.A. Howard University (Political Science & History)
Campaign website: driverfor20th.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Anthony Driver Jr.:
- Rebuild trust in the 20th Ward by creating a culture of transparency and accountability.
- Reducing intra-neighborhood violence without increasing mass incarceration.
- Stop the ongoing displacement and provide 20th Ward residents with access to capital, in order to build upon vacant lots and open small businesses.
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.
Anthony Driver Jr.:
- I pushed for a referendum on the amount of lead in city drinking water that passed in 3 precincts in the 20th Ward.
- I partnered with a group of HBCU students (TechStorm) and Google to bring a technology and coding bootcamp to 20th Ward youth free of charge. Participants were taught coding, robotics, and elevator pitches. At the conclusion of the program we gave away Ipads to students returning to school the following week.
- I hosted a reentry seminar to assist returning citizens with finding employment and stability.
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.
Anthony Driver Jr.: No. Our City employees are the backbone of our city. The City of Chicago continues to invest in downtown and the North-side while shunning everyday working class Chicagoans. Our elected officials need to find a way to responsibly fund our pensions without cutting benefits or raising taxes. Legalizing marijuana and taxing it, as well as a Chicago public owned casino is a good example of how we can cut into that deficit.
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.
Anthony Driver Jr.: I do not in any form support raising taxes. Chicago cannot continue to overtax its residents and force our citizens out of the city. I support a Chicago casino and legalized and taxed marijuana. Since African Americans have been disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses in Chicago, I support a city ordinance or state legislation that mandates a percentage of all marijuana dispensaries must be owned by African Americans. Also, once marijuana is legalized we must look for ways to free our residents who are currently incarcerated.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Anthony Driver Jr.: For every dollar in tax revenue that Chicago sends to Springfield, we only get .80 cents back. I will work with state legislators to close that gap as well as the federal government to ensure that Chicagoans are getting back what they put into our tax system.
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?
Anthony Driver Jr.: All surplus TIF funds should be used to fund Chicago Public Schools. Our schools need more wraparound services and support staff. I support keeping TIF funds within the community they are designated to serve. I will work to stop diverting TIF money from blighted communities to vanity projects at the discretion of the mayor.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Anthony Driver Jr.: Aldermanic prerogative has been used in Chicago to perpetuate segregation and for developers to get out of affordable housing requirements. I will work to close the Affordable Requirements Ordinance loophole that allows developers to cheat their way out of low income requirements. I will also work to create a system of checks and balances on aldermanic prerogative such as public hearings and requiring impact studies.
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?
Anthony Driver Jr.: I support the federal consent decree. Chicago has tried multiple times to reform the culture of policing in the city and each one has failed. Federal oversight provides an avenue to ensure this process is successful and permanent. I also support CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council) ordinance, which establishes civilian oversight of the police department.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Anthony Driver Jr.: Currently, there is no legal way to get rid of an illegal gun in the City of Chicago. The City of Chicago has infrequent and sporadic “Gun Buy Back” programs, where the city issues $100 gift cards for turning in illegal firearms with no questions asked. While this is a good first step, the current system is inadequate. The onus is on the City of Chicago to provide a safe and legal means for residents to turn in illegal firearms.
I propose that each Chicago police station have a permanent gun drop box on site. Residents should be able to call 311 or 911 and inform the city that they would like to turn in a firearm. Residents should then be allowed to turn in the aforementioned firearm at the local police station. Lastly, I will be an alderman who comes out of the office and into the community. We cannot only legislate our way out of this issue. We must be willing to be active with community groups and residents who will join with us in removing illegal guns from our streets.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Anthony Driver Jr.: Originally, charter schools were supposed to act as a supplement to our neighborhood schools. Since then, that purpose has been lost. Charter schools were given autonomy in order to find innovative solutions and best practices that could then be filtered back in the CPS system. I believe this is the proper role of charter schools and we must get back to it.
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?
Anthony Driver Jr.: I support an elected school board. Chicago’s current system is antiquated and inadequate. It’s time for a change.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Anthony Driver Jr.: No, and the Obama Presidential Center is threatening to worsen that crisis. Chicago needs rent control and aggressive affordable housing ordinances to ensure residents are not being displaced. We also need a community benefits agreements between the OPC, the City of Chicago, and the affected community.
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?
Anthony Driver Jr.: I support Chicago being a sanctuary city and protecting immigrants. However, I also believe the city must do more to protect and serve everyone in our city.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Anthony Driver Jr.: Yes. This is a necessary check and balance that will serve to reign in corruption.
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.
Anthony Driver Jr.: No. I believe that in order to govern properly employees and officials must be impartial. Employing staff with a financial interest in the work they are doing is improper and hurts public trust.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Anthony Driver Jr.: David Moore is doing a fine job as the current 17th Ward alderman and provides exemplary leadership.