21st Ward candidate for alderman: Howard Brookins Jr.
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 21st Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Howard Brookins Jr. submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Howard Brookins Jr.?
He’s running for: 21st Ward alderman
His political/civic background: I was elected to serve the 21st Ward in 2003. I’m currently serving my fourth term as 21st Ward Alderman, and my second year serving as committee Chairman of Education and Child Development for the city of Chicago. Before serving as alderman I served as an Assistant Public Defender, Assistant State’s Attorney, Special Assistant Attorney General, as well as Chairman of the City of Chicago’s Committee on Economic Capital and Technology Development.
His occupation: Attorney, 21st Ward alderman
His education: I received my education at Illinois public schools, where I graduated with a degree mortuary science from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and went on to earn a law degree from Northern Illinois University.
Campaign website: 21chicago.com/
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Howard Brookins Jr.: My top priorities for my ward are to expand business opportunities, promote public safety initiatives, and ensure our schools are well funded. I also look forward to working with the new leadership in the Mayor’s office to restore Chicago’s financial foothold.
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.
Howard Brookins Jr.: Over the past two years I’ve worked hard to expand job opportunities for 21st Ward residents and pushed to increase public contract opportunities for African-American contractors. I’ve also voted to increase Chicago’s minimum wage and voted to expand affordable housing.
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.
Howard Brookins Jr.: I look forward to working with the new leadership in the Governor’s office to solve funding issues, but I am also prepared to do what we have to do to increase revenue for the city. It’s vital that we continue to provide the hard earned benefits our city workers are owed.
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.
Howard Brookins Jr.: I would support a Chicago casino and legalized and taxed recreational marijuana. These are common sense revenue solutions. I would however oppose a LaSalle Street tax as well as increasing sales and property taxes because Chicago’s tax burden is already too high.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Howard Brookins, Jr.: I will support the efforts of elected officials on the state level to push for a graduated income tax; which would benefit Chicago greatly.
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?
Howard Brookins Jr.: The TIF program has helped develop businesses in many of the city’s neighborhoods, however the lack of transparency, as well as the inconsistent nature of TIF funds generate trust issues with the process. I believe the city should find ways to make the process more transparent, and allow further debate in city council as to where these funds are spent.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Howard Brookins Jr.: Aldermanic prerogative gives alderman greater power to represent their ward, but it also continues to be used in ways that are discriminatory or exclusive. I would work with other council members to take a more city-wide approach towards ordinances.
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?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I fully support the consent decree. It’s a positive step forward that can help rebuild bridges that crumbled between the Chicago Police Department and Chicago’s communities.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I believe this issue must be addressed on the federal or state level, and I look forward to working with the new leadership in the governor’s office to solve this problem.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I strongly support charters. They have served communities where the public school system has come up short. I do support legislation that requires charters to be held to the same standards that CPS schools are held to.
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?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I support an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Howard Brookins Jr.: No there is not, and I think there’s a real shortage throughout the city. One positive change is the the new affordable housing ordinance, which I believe, helps City Council implement real changes that enforce its implementation.
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?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I support the Welcoming City Ordinance and the Chicago Police Department should follow the law.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Howard Brookins Jr.: I support an independent 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.
Howard Brookins Jr.: I have not.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Howard Brookins Jr.: Wilson Frost, because he was an attorney who was smart and effective, and left City Hall with a good reputation.
Also running for 21st Ward alderman: