20th Ward candidate for alderman: Maya Hodari
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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. Maya Hodari submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Maya Hodari?
She’s running for: 20th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I am a very engaged community resident in the 20th Ward for the last 10 years. I am a hardworking striving to be of service to neighbors, and consistently working to improve our families’ quality of life. My activism includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Cofounded the Woodlawn Neighbors Association in 2008 to further neighbors acquaintance and improve our daily living conditions. Over time, this group evolved into a contingent of neighbors working on community beautification, safety, & housing as well as advocating for investment initiatives.
- Co-organized the first Woodlawn Community Summit and supported our neighbors’ successful leadership of the annual event since 2009.
- Co-organizer of various community informational forums, rallies, vigils, and events. I am passionate about expanding our neighbors’ connection to other neighbors and supporting everyday neighbors’ voice/activism in decision-making. I continuously advocate for more job/contracting opportunities for Southside families, more investment, and positive ways of linking neighbors to resources (such as property tax appeals, homebuying downpayment assistance, holiday decorations, grants for beautification, etc.)
- Member of the Chicago Mid-South Anti-violence Collaborative (2012-2014)
- Board Member, South East Chicago Commission (2011-Present)
- Board Member, Woodlawn Public Safety Alliance
- Strong Community Supporter of the Obama Presidential Center 8. Member, NHS-Woodlawn Advisory Committee
Her occupation: Director of (Real Estate) Development
- Bachelor of Arts in Economics – University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana
- Masters of Arts in Public Policy – University of Maryland in Silver Spring
Campaign website: 700neighborschicago.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
- Restoring our neighbors’ trust – champion of transparency in government. Renewing our spirit of community pride.
- Opportunity – Increasing employment and contracting opportunities for 20th Ward families.
- Making our blocks safer and cleaner.
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.
Maya Hodari: I am a co-organizer of various community informational forums, rallies, vigils, and events. In the last two years this included the following: Candlelight Vigil in honor of Xavier Joy; specialized meetings with 3rd District CPD Commander about neighborhood shootings; Clean/Green on 65th & Drexel and 63rd & Rhodes; 2 Property Tax Appeals Workshops; Fall Festival on 65th & Ingleside; Annual Winter Wonderfest holiday decorating event throughout Woodlawn; Neighbor Informational Forums on the proposed City of Chicago RFP for development of vacant land in Woodlawn.
- Board Member, South East Chicago Commission (2011-Present)
- Board Member, Woodlawn Public Safety Alliance (2012/2013-Present)
- Strong Community Supporter of the Obama Presidential Center. Testified at City Council Subcommittee Meetings.
- Member, NHS-Woodlawn Advisory Committee
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.
Maya Hodari: This is a very difficult issue. I have firsthand experience as my recently retired mother relies on her pension benefits to support herself while juggling her medical expenses. I’d like to have a robust conversation forums with 20th Ward neighbors about the tradeoffs and impact of searching for revenue streams to cover the unfunded pension liabilities.
Going forward, I believe the City should consider changing the pension benefits for new employee.
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.
Maya Hodari: I favor a Chicago casino.
I am open on the legalization of marijuana and taxed recreational product. I’d like to participate in more conversations about employment screening tools that would diminish an individual’s chance for a job if there was recreational use of marijuana 3 days before testing.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Maya Hodari: I am still researching innovative revenue strategies implemented in other localities.
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?
Maya Hodari: In the 20th Ward, there have been good examples of how Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has been useful to residents. The TIF Neighborhood Improvement Program (NIP) grants was of benefit to residents needing to make significant exterior repairs to their homes. They had the opportunity to use a portion of the property tax increment paid for their home. There are also abuses.
There needs to be much greater transparency in how Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is utilized within the established district. I’d like to establish resident-lead TIF Advisory Councils, enabling everyday neighbors to play a greater role in how TIF funds are award.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Maya Hodari: I’d like to introduce resident-lead advisory councils for TIF districts and proposed development activities. Additionally, I support participatory budgeting.
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?
Maya Hodari: I believe the Chicago Police Department’s mission is to serve and protect the citizen’s of Chicago. I know there are good officer on the force but the Agency has lost the public’s trust particularly in the African American community. I believe a more neutral broker may be good push for stronger practices and accountability.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Maya Hodari: We have to keep pushing hard to eliminate illegal gun trafficking to and in Chicago. I’m a proponent of using technology to track the transfer of weapons.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Maya Hodari: I am a strong proponent of CPS offering families strong neighborhood schools with high academic attainment. We need to provide our children excellent academic foundation that to ensure their successful future. We want them to leave high school and be able to pass an apprenticeship exam, get employment earning livable wages or go to college.
The Chicago Public Schools introduced charter schools to create more academic options (settings) for families and competition amongst schools. I believe the results of this strategy to expand education choices have not lived up to expectations particularly for primary grades.
Charter high schools in Chicago seem to have a higher percentage of students enrolled in college. Unfortunately, these students aren’t completing post secondary education.
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?
Maya Hodari: As a mother of an school-aged son, I support an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Maya Hodari: There are 3 critical indicators when considering strategies for developing new housing units:
- housing vacancy rate in each of the 5 neighbors (Back of the Yards, New City, Englewood, Washington Park & Woodlawn)
- amount of vacant land
- recent property sales.
Currently, the housing vacancy exceeds the City’s average and there is a larger inventory of vacant, unimproved land (the greatest volume being is Washington Park).
The 20th Ward has an opportunity to create new affordable (rental and for sale) housing alongside other residential product targeting a range of income tiers including market rate.
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?
Maya Hodari: I believe we should continue the tradition of being a sanctuary city.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Maya Hodari: I’d like to discuss this matter.
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.
Maya Hodari: No. I wish to offer opportunity to a wider range of 20th Ward families.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Maya Hodari: I am inspired by several current Aldermen. I do not believe its an easy job. Being a candidate, has given me a greater perspective of their commitment. I better understand the tireless dedication several demonstrate in bringing resources to their families