22nd Ward candidate for alderman: Lisette ‘Liz’ Lopez
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 22nd Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Lisette “Liz” Lopez submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Lisette “Liz” Lopez?
She’s running for: 22nd Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: Community non for profit and grass root organizing
Her occupation: Clinic Outreach Director
Her education: BA Criminal Justice with Minor in Social Work; Working on MBA
Campaign website: LizLopez.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez:
- Bring innovative and tech savvy programs to assist with small business growth.
- Manage resident retention by providing families with quality healthcare, reformed public education, and bring in more community resources.
- Deterrence of neighborhood crime through an interdisciplinary effort.
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.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: As a director for a health company, I have worked in multiple capacities to bring health education programs into disenfranchised areas of the city (specifically Little Village, Vittum Park, Back of the Yards, Gage Park, Summit, Englewood, and Pilsen. I have expanded programs revolving senior education, Medicare education, and have assisted in providing access to mental health services for older adults. Further, a program I co-founded 5 years ago which assists youth in Little Village whom are at high risk or already gang involved, has continued to thrive. Through my program, youth ages 7-23 would paint murals over gang graffiti as a way to beautify our neighborhood. In addition, Native American peace circles were used to create safe spaces for those attending program. I am proud to say that 4 of our youth have gone to college after graduating from my program within the last 2 years. We have serviced over 300 youth in the program’s lifetime.
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.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: Our city’s pension issue is an inherited problem. The way to tackle this is by auditing ourselves and deciding what is not working once and for all. We also need to work on creating new innovated ways to bring in revenue.
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.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: I favor both a casino and the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana. A Chicago casino would not only provide the city with revenue, but it will also create new jobs for the city. In those states where legalized and taxed recreational marijuana has been implemented, we can see that they have generated millions of dollars already.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: I am for auditing and digging into finding out what works and what needs to be cut due to inefficiencies.
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?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: We have to do better with the monies that we currently have. Again, we have to audit ourselves before proposing any changes to be made. Over the past few years, the city population has in fact declined and can continue to do so if we do not evaluate the systems that currently exist.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: Create transparency and listen to constituents.
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?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: The Consent Decree and its remedial measures can only help an already beleaguered CPD. Clearly, the status quo is not working and I know we can do better. I am optimistic that further training and federal incite will make CPD better. Further, our CPD officers need to know that we support them.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: Data supports that gun violence is the leading cause of death in America.The issue behind our growing gun problem has more to do with the reasons behind why guns are being used in the first place. It would be fantastical to say that as a nation we will get rid of all guns and our violence problem will go away. My time working with marginalized youth and my professional work has shown me that our long men and women need mentorship programs, quality education, safe spaces, access to mental health where they are not demonized, ending the school to prison pipeline, providing family services, access to quality employment and vocational training. Until we provide these services to our youth, we will continue a disservice to them as they currently do not possess the proper understanding and tools for them to make conscious decisions when dealing with conflict resolution.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: I believe that before being able to answer this, we need to once again audit. Increasing transparency is the beginning. It is wonderful to give residents a choice as to where they want their children to be educated and how. The high accountability standard that charter schools have can be modified to fit the CPS model, but again, after a thorough audit and review.
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?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: As a mother of a CPS student, I believe an elected school board is important as Chicago’s neighborhoods need to be represented. It is difficult for the mayor who is not a part of the day-today processes of each neighborhood to select the best leader as is the interest of that neighborhoods residents.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: No there is not enough. We need to work on making housing affordable for our working families. I believe that this is another issue that requires further investigating where all players are at the table so that we can discuss and understand where inefficiencies are. At the same time, more resources and education needs to be provided to building owners and renters.
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?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: Prohibiting the police department to detain undocumented immigrants on behalf of the federal government is the expectation in the 22nd ward. I am for healing the relationships between the community and CPD and extending this protection to the residents will further build on restoring faith and trust in our officers. Further, our current adjustment of status process needs to be more affordable and resources need to be more available to those seeking assistance.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: Yes. There needs to be transparency within the City Council. A review would ensure honesty and integrity in city government. We would then be able to create better programming after weeding out inefficiencies, corruption, fraud, and other misconduct.
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.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: No. This can create a conflict of interest amongst parties involved and it could taint full transparency efforts.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Lisette “Liz” Lopez: No. In my current role as Clinic Outreach Director, I have worked with many political officials and my relationship, while professional, I would like to admire an alderman that is accessible for his/her community and holds themselves accountable at all times.