24th Ward candidate for alderman: Michael Scott Jr.
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 24th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Michael Scott Jr. submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Michael Scott Jr.?
He’s running for: 24th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Elected in 2015, I am currently serving my first term as Alderman of the 24th Ward. As a native of the North Lawndale neighborhood, I have focused my energies on building an exceptional West Side.
I reside in North Lawndale with my wife, Natashee and three children, Morgan, Nicholas and Michael III. I graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in 1994 and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Morehouse College in 1998. Being civically engaged was engrained in me at a very early age.
Through my parents, the late Michael, Sr. and Millicent Scott, both prominent leaders in the city of Chicago, I was raised into a legacy of building a strong family and successful communities. I strongly believe it’s not where you live, but rather how you live. That is why I have made it my life’s work to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Bringing resources and developmental programming to the underserved, I have proven to be a results-driven leader in the public and private sectors.
A life-long public servant, I worked for the Chicago Park District for 12 years prior to taking office. Throughout my tenure with the Chicago Park District, I served as the Park Supervisor at the Douglas Park Cultural and Community Center and the Area Manager for the Central Region.
His occupation: Alderman 24th Ward
His education: BA in Political Science and Government, Morehouse College ’98
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Michael Scott Jr.: Affordable housing, economic development, including job creation, and quality of life improvements are my top three priorities for the 24th Ward.
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.
Michael Scott Jr.: First and foremost, I have spent the past two years getting to know what is important to the working families and individuals that make up the 24th Ward. My top three priorities are a direct result of these conversations.
Housing plays an important role in providing stability to working and low-income families. I have brought more than 350 affordable units to my community including units for low-income seniors. I am also actively working to bring an additional 60 units of affordable housing into the Ward specifically aimed at families.
I have worked tirelessly to bring jobs to my community. I strongly believe that if you are in the work force, you are less likely to get involved in criminal activity. I have also helped to create hundreds of part-time and full-time construction jobs in addition to sitting on the boards of the Chicago Infrastructure and CHICAT. That is why I have worked to rezone land for commercial use, selling the last piece of Sears & Roebuck for development, and working to bring a new recycling plant to the Ward. I am working to bring a Business Development Center to the Ward to work with small business owners to take their businesses to the next level.
For quality of life improvements, we are in the process of completing a $2 million renovation on the Douglass Park Library, the only library in the Ward in addition to road repair, infrastructure upgrades and cameras to keep tabs on areas that are prone to dumping. We have also built a boxing ring in Franklin Park, are working to create an outdoor music venue, in addition to partnering with the Westside Cultural Foundation to put on programs such as the Chicago Westside Music Festival and the Alvin Ailey Dance Camp. I have also led countless outdoor roll calls, smoke outs, and block club events and co-sponsored ordinances to reduce prostitution and gang loitering.
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.
Michael Scott Jr.: We need to bring state legislators to the table in order to solve the overarching revenue issue. However, I do believe that a pension is a promise and something that we must keep to our hardworking public servants, teachers and the others. I would want to review any proposals to make sure that the burden does not fall solely on either the taxpayers or the government.
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.
Michael Scott Jr.: At this point, everything is on the table as an option for review. The city is currently in a tough financial situation and it is important to explore all of our options. The most tangible option would be legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana and a graduated income tax.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Michael Scott Jr.: Again, I think all options need to be on the table. At this point, I think we need to examine all of our options.
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?
Michael Scott Jr.: I favor the original intent of the TIF and how it is meant to provide an economic ‘shot in the arm’ to blighted communities. Over time, we have stretched that definition of blight and need to get back to basics in that definition. We also should put restrictions on developers who may be able to have a project done without the use of TIF funds.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Michael Scott Jr.: Community should be the ones that have the say, not the Alderman, as to what happens in their community. Aldermanic prerogative is not written in law so it is difficult to create a mechanism to rein it in. Therefore, it’s up to the voters to be electing individuals who best represent their values and needs.
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?
Michael Scott Jr.: Public safety is a big issue in my community and tackling it is much bigger than just overhauling the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department. Recent events have led to police finding it difficult to do their jobs without being recorded and portrayed as abusing their power but these same events have also led to wrongful arrest, hospitalizations and even worse death and pain for many families. Officers need to be culturally trained and develop an understanding of the neighborhoods and the people who are indigenous to that community. While training is important and necessary, the bigger issue here is that there still remains a rift between community and officers. In addition to an overhaul of training and practices, we also need to focus on building relationships between our police force and community members.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Michael Scott Jr.: It is hard to legislate out of this issue, however we need to look at strengthening gun possession laws. We also need to find a way to work with bordering states on their gun laws. Most importantly, as I said earlier, a job is the best way to reduce criminal activity, including the number of illegal guns on the street.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Michael Scott Jr.: I believe in quality, neighborhood schools. When I was elected in 2015, I inherited a ward with the most charter schools in the city. The 24th Ward is a mix of both charter and public schools both of which play an important role in the educational opportunities of our community. Charter schools have filled the gap where other schools were under-enrolled or under-performing.
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?
Michael Scott Jr.: I have found that the best decisions are made with community at the table. That is why it is important to have some type of hybrid that allows for community input along with skilled experts.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Michael Scott Jr.: At least 43 percent of the residents of North Lawndale live below the poverty line. There is absolutely a need to create more options for stable housing for residents in my 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?
Michael Scott Jr.: All of Chicago’s residents, regardless of where they’re from or what neighborhood they live in, should feel safe in our city. Chicago has a long history of supporting undocumented immigrants: Mayor Harold Washington helped to create this policy in 1985 and Mayor Richard M. Daley expanded the policy in 1989. There has been a long standing commitment by Chicago’s leaders to create equal opportunity and protections to all those who call Chicago home. This also applies to our returning citizens and other populations that have been marginalized for decades.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Michael Scott Jr.: Transparency is an important part to allowing people who may not otherwise be able to participate to get involved in government.
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.
Michael Scott Jr.: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Michael Scott Jr.: There isn’t one Alderman I would say that I model myself after but I do take bits and pieces from Alderman that I have admired. This includes Alderman Walter Burnett who works diligently at developing his community as well as former Alderman Zalewski’s class and professionalism. I also admire Alderman Austin for her leadership and her ability to speak up for the African American community.
Also running for 24th Ward alderman: