27th Ward candidate for alderman: Walter Burnett Jr.
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 27th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Walter Burnett Jr. submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Walter Burnett Jr.?
He’s running for: 27th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Alderman for 27th Ward
- Democratic Ward Committeeman
- Former Chairman of the Young Democrats of Cook County
- Board member of Choose Chicago
- Board member of Neighbors Space
- Board member of King Boys & Girls Club
- Board member of the Coalition for the Homeless
His occupation: Alderman 27th Ward
His education: B. S. Degree Political Science
Campaign website: aldermanburnett.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Walter Burnett Jr.: Continued economic development, integration economically & ethnically, improving schools, enhanced safety measures.
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.
Walter Burnett Jr.: Volunteer with Choose Chicago, Neighbors Space, Visit schools determine their needs, work on legislation to support affordable housing efforts. Help to bring McDonald’s, Google, supported efforts to bring Bulls Practice arena and Blackhawks practice center to the Ward, & previously Boeing & Groupon.
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.
Walter Burnett Jr.: No, I agree with reduction for new employees. I think people that have retired & plan on it, have based their entire career and family lively hood on those expected pension benefits.
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.
Walter Burnett Jr.: I am open to the idea of a casino and legalizing marijuana. Still evaluating the pros and cons of the LaSalle Street tax. Open to commuter tax, not in favor of property tax increase, no to a municipal sales tax. Favor a real estate transfer tax for properties over a million dollars. I am open to video gambling.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Walter Burnett Jr.: Maybe an income tax increase.
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?
Walter Burnett Jr.: I favor allowing TIFS to be exhausted, except for the ones intended for the development of public housing.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Walter Burnett Jr.: Nothing.
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?
Walter Burnett Jr.: I think we have done every thing we could have done, along with implementing the DOJ recommendations, in an effort to work on behalf of the civic organizations, but also with an intent on not discouraging the morale of the CPD. There is always room for improvements, as it relates to serving and protecting and ensuring that all communities, including police officers are treated with respect.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Walter Burnett Jr.: That’s a very difficult question, given the fact that we are surrounded by states that legally sell guns & given the fact that we have such a problem with active gang & drug activities. I think that we could try establishing more task forces such s collaboration with Tobacco & fire arms and target routes used to move the guns, in and out of the city.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Walter Burnett Jr.: I think the main objective of charter schools is it gives poor families a choice; a sort of social justice for families and options for corporations that wish to support a curriculum based solution of their choice. Just like neighborhood CPS school, charters are not perfect and require continued oversight.
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?
Walter Burnett Jr.: I would say a hybrid school board makes sense and offers input.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Walter Burnett Jr.: No, that’s why we continue to work to get additional affordable housing in the ward and through out the city.
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?
Walter Burnett Jr.: I support this policy. I am not sure what else we should do. But we should do what we can to protect law abiding people that come to this city looking for an opportunity to pursue the American dream. Many contribute to our tax base & we should do more to encourage all families to live and work in Chicago.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Walter Burnett Jr.: As far as I am concerned we work with them, & I have no problem working with them in greater detail.
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.
Walter Burnett 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.
Walter Burnett Jr.: I take a little inspiration from several, but not one in particular.