29th Ward candidate for alderman: Chris Taliaferro
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 29th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Chris Taliaferro submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Chris Taliaferro?
He’s running for: 29th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Northwest Side Community Coalition (Board Member 2014 – 2015) 29th Ward Alderman (2015 – present)
His occupation: 29th Ward Alderman
His education: Juris Doctorate (2007 – John Marshall Law School – Chicago)
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Chris Taliaferro: Public Safety — Although the 29th Ward has seen significant decreases in murders, approximately 31% decrease to date in 2018, and violent crimes, public safety and quality of life issues remain a top priority
Economic and Community Development — Since 2015, the 29th ward has seen nearly $200 million in contracts awarded, business development and grants awarded.
Education — The 29th ward has 14 public school that, altogether, have seen a significant increase in ratings. However, we are still challenged with infrastructure repair needs, enrollment challenges, classroom size challenges closure threats and equitable funding.
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.
Chris Taliaferro: I have served as 29th ward Alderman, representing the ward regarding legislative issues that affect the lives of ward residents, as well as ensuring that city services are equitably and adequately distributed to ward residents.
I also served as Chairman of the Board for a ward based organization, whose mission is to provide mental health services on Chicago’s westside.
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.
Chris Taliaferro: I am not supportive of amending the state Constitution to cut the benefits of current or future city employees. This perhaps would be an unprecedented move in Chicago and would certainly have a damaging financial impact to retirees and those expecting to retire. Although the City has argued that this does not equate to impairment or diminishment, it in fact does.
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.
Chris Taliaferro: Of the following proposed revenue sources, I have been an active for the Financial Transaction Tax. I am also supportive of a Chicago based casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana. It is imperative that all elected officials continue to push for fundamental and progressive changes to our tax system in order to meet our financial obligations, especially as it applies to our pension liabilities. I am also supportive of ensuring that the revenue realized through the aforementioned proposed resources be lock-boxed for the intended purposes.
Chicago’s next administration must immediately begin addressing the issue of elevated lead levels found in the drinking water of public buildings as well as residences. As co-sponsor of an ordinance to address the issue of lead service lines, I am supportive of and have proposed a real estate transfer tax increase on residences selling for more than $1 million.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Chris Taliaferro: I am in favor of a city of Chicago income tax similar to that of a state and federal income tax. This proposal would generate approximately $500 million annually at 1% and negate the need for a commuter tax.
I am also in favor of a graduated state income tax, which would raise as much as $2 billion more in state revenue, resulting in significant increases realized in Chicago.
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?
Chris Taliaferro: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a valuable tool for the development and betterment of our neighborhoods and communities. However, too often, we have seen TIF monies used to finance projects in more affluent communities. I am supporting of reform and have joined my progressive caucus colleagues in getting “Back to the Basics” and purpose of TIF. As such, each project should receive the highest of scrutiny in determining the use of TIF dollars. Further, TIFs should be used to supplement development in blighted communities and after the purpose of the TIF has been met, I would recommend imposing a panel review to extinguish the TIF, which would in essence return much needed funds back to our taxing bodies. I would also support a moratorium on the creation of new TIF until reform has been reached.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Chris Taliaferro: Aldermanic prerogative has been negatively used in many instances to hinder development of affordable housing in areas of opportunity. In September 2018, I chief sponsored and introduced the “Homes for All” ordinance, under the “Our Home, Chicago” package. The ordinance addresses the issue of aldermanic prerogative by implementing an automatic approval process for affordable applications if the Plan Commission, the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards and the City Council does not act within 90 days,
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?
Chris Taliaferro: I am a 23 year police veteran and served honorably prior to my election. I have witnessed, first hand, the hard work of thousands of police officers over the years. However, I am supportive of the Department of Justice’s review that the Chicago Police Department is in need of reform. The Department has done well in many areas and need specific reform in others. Also, the Department has unilaterally made tremendous efforts to implement recommended change and have seen numerous reforms implemented. True reform only occurs when issues are first evaluated, implemented, monitored, and then reported upon. This cannot occur in-house and must be independently monitored. To say that it would be tougher for police to do their jobs, to so degree, implies that civil liberties and rights must be violated to get the job done. I, and the police officers I’ve known over the years would disagree. Effective policing is difficult. Police need our support in giving them effective legislative tools to make our communities safer.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Chris Taliaferro: The most effective means to reduce the the number of illegal guns in our communities is quite simple. We must place tighter restrictions on gun dealers. This would include state oversight, mandatory reporting and annual state inspections prior to the renewal of licenses.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Chris Taliaferro: The initial role of charter schools, in part, was to provide an educational alternative to families in the communities they serve and to give teachers a broader responsibility in teaching. They have since morphed into schools where teachers lack educational responsibility, unionized support and for profit entities. They are often criticized for syphoning tax-payer funds for private educational use. Rather than being used to undermine public schools, I believe that a more appropriate role that charter schools should play is to act in concert with our public schools. Specifically, opportunities afforded charters should be equally enjoyed by public schools.
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?
Chris Taliaferro: The Chicago Board of Education should be a representation of the residents of the city that it serves. That representation should come in the form of an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Chris Taliaferro: The 29th ward is encompasses by a majority of the Austin community on the westside of Chicago. In working with the Chicago Housing Initiative to identify wards throughout Chicago that are considered “areas of opportunity” to increase affordable housing, we looked at the thresh-hold of less that 10%. As such, if a ward’s housing stock was less that 10% affordable, it was considered an area of opportunity. Because the 29th ward is greater than 10% affordable, it is by definition not an area of opportunity. Nevertheless, I am very supportive of additional affordable housing in the ward.
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?
Chris Taliaferro: I am supportive of Chicago’s Welcoming City ordinance and agree that Immigration and Customs Enforcement should not have access to people in police custody. Undocumented residents should be afforded the same human rights that we all enjoy and given an opportunity to adjudicate through the USCIS citizenship process.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Chris Taliaferro: I have advocated and voted in support of giving the Inspector General full investigative authority of City Council. Although I personally spoken to the Inspector General to weigh the pros and cons of the necessity of an affidavit prior to investigation, I believe that the Inspector General’s authority should be unfettered.
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.
Chris Taliaferro: No.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Chris Taliaferro: I have admired the leadership of many of my colleagues. Many of them serve in the Chicago City Council Progressive Reform Caucus. I admire their independence and commitment to progressive ideas and community first. Each, in one way or another, have inspired my leadership and I often seek advice and counsel when needed regarding the important issues that we face.