25th Ward candidate for alderman: Aida Flores
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 25th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Aida Flores submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Aida Flores?
She’s running for: 25th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I began my career as a public educator teaching Spanish (4th-8th grade) and then Social Studies at Benito Juarez High School. I have served as an Public Policy Education Fellow with Voices for Illinois Children. I moved on to become a school administrator in Boston where I helped found the first dual language college prep school in Massachusetts, Margarita Muñiz Academy. Upon my return to Chicago, I served as an administrator in both elementary and high schools.
Career highlight: during my tenure at Kelvyn Park School I was part of an administration that helped the high school improve from a Level 3 (lowest possible rating) to a Level 2 in a single school year after 19 years on probation. Likewise, I worked with various community stakeholders at Von Steuben High School to increase the school performance from a Level 2+ to a Level 1.
Her occupation: Management Consultant – Leading With Love LLC.
Her education: Georgetown University, 2008 Bachelor of Arts, History and Spanish National-Louis University, 2010 Master in Arts in Teaching Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2013 Master of Education (M.Ed.), School Leadership
Campaign website: FloresFor25.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
- Balanced Development throughout the 25th Ward
- Education: Strengthen neighborhood schools, expand educational opportunities, fully fund schools
- Working toward closing the affordable housing gap
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.
Aida Flores: I served as an assistant principal and Principal in the Chicago Public Schools. I have hosted workshops for parents on primary, secondary, and higher education. I have also worked with the community organization, 14th Ward IPO to host “Know Your Rights” workshops for undocumented families.
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.
Aida Flores: Our pension problem will not be solved by changing the state constitution or by reducing benefits for workers and retirees. Our pension problem will be solved when we stop electing irresponsible public officials.
As an elected official, I will ensure that the pension rules are fair to all parties, that the rules are followed, and that the city makes its annual required contributions so we stop burdening our children with debts from decades past.
Despite the failure of our politicians, defined-benefit pension plans are still a great deal for employees and employers when administered properly.
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.
Aida Flores: My favorite proposal is the legalization, taxation, and regulation of recreational marijuana, which I believe will generate significant revenue while at the same time eliminating a black market and the crime that goes along with it. Such a move would generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue and also allow us to shift law enforcement and detention resources wasted on non-violent drug offenders to other priorities.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Aida Flores: I strongly support a financial transaction tax because it could generate billions in new revenue without significant harm to average investors, and with no harm to poor and working class families who can’t afford higher taxes and fees. Institutional investors utilizing high-speed trading techniques should have been paying a higher tax from the start because they are artificially manipulating our markets. So, a “LaSalle Street” tax would be a win-win because it would generate revenue and discourage risky behavior in our financial markets.
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?
Aida Flores: I support more transparency with the TIF program, and stronger guarantees that TIF projects include tangible community benefits. I believe the TIF surplus should be declared and a sizable portion should be directed to the Chicago Public Schools and into the communities that are paying into the TIFs to minimize the surplus in those funds. I support the city imposing penalties on private recipients of TIF funds that do not meet their contractual obligations.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Aida Flores: I will work to include a community-centered participatory process where community members can have a real voice we on which developments move forward and on zoning and development issues facing the ward in general.
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?
Aida Flores: I view the consent decree as a floor for what we should expect from our police department. As a member of City Council, I will focus on shifting the culture towards community policing by working to improve block clubs, community centers, and ensuring social spaces like libraries, parks, and landmarks are intentional in bringing the community together.
I will advocate for police officers to be permanently assigned to a specific district so that they will have an opportunity to develop productive relationships with both community leaders and all citizens. I will also insist that police districts in our communities present a State of the District on a regular basis. I will also advocate for our police officers to have cultural training, but more importantly, to recruit police officers from the communities that they are policing so our officers truly understand and love the communities they serve.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Aida Flores: My favorite idea for reducing the number of illegal guns on our streets is a well-funded gun buyback program. Much of our gun violence is based on a lack of opportunity in our most impoverished communities. Since buyback programs are a proven way to get guns off the streets, I will support a robust program followed by a jobs program in the communities where those guns were removed.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Aida Flores: I support a cap on charter school development. I believe that existing charter schools should meet the standards of performance set by the state board of education. I support the effort to organize charter schools and believe every worker deserves to be represented by a union. Charter schools should work in collaboration to support neighborhood schools.I also believe it will be critical to have legislation to end the flow of dark money into school board elections.
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?
Aida Flores: I am in support of an elected Chicago Board of Education because it will help build trust between stakeholders and democratize the big decisions about the direction of our public schools.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Aida Flores: No. According to the Urban Land Institute, Pilsen (and the 25th Ward) has historically seen very limited new multi-family development outside of tax-credit-financed affordable housing projects. This situation reflects a lack of developable land as well as stringent affordable housing requirements. One exception is the 99-unit Woodworking Lofts development at 1432 W. 21st Street. Aside from several 100% affordable, tax-credit-financed housing projects proposed by the nonprofit Resurrection Project, no market-rate residential projects are pending. We must do better.
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?
Aida Flores: I support the city of Chicago being an official “welcoming city” and would advocate for strengthening the ordinance. The alternative is empowering local police to waste local resources to enforce federal laws and tear apart our communities. No community would be more harmed by reversing this policy than the 25th Ward.
As Alderwoman, I will work in collaboration with existing groups to fashion my ward office as a model for the city on how to support grassroots organizing and universal representation for individuals facing deportation proceedings; we will also provide resources pertaining to the rights of our undocumented residents; and will work with local schools to ensure that they are equipped to support our families and minimize any potential local law enforcement involvement, i.e. student arrests. I am also particularly concerned with the safety of government data on undocumented immigrants in Chicago and will work proactively to find solutions to protect the identities of undocumented families from ICE’s outrageous enforcement actions under the Trump Administration.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Aida Flores: Yes. Oversight of programs, operations, and committees is an important part of government accountability and oversight. A lack of checks and balances on programs will lead to continued mismanagement and ethics violations.
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.
Aida Flores: I have not and do not plan to employ staff in my office who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business with the city.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Aida Flores: I am inspired by progressive women like Susan Garza. I take inspiration from her courage to run and win against the entrenched political machine.