The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 29th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Dwayne Truss submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Dwayne Truss?
He’s running for:29th Ward alderman His political/civic background:I am an active member of the following organizations:
- Chicago Westside Branch NAACP
- Columbus Park Advisory Council
- Austin Community Action Council
- South Austin Neighborhood Association
- Illinois Raise Your Hand for Public Education
- Action Now
- I was one of the lead organizers against school closings.
- I was also an active member of No Games Chicago.
- My wife and I were the catalyst for the construction and the current academic focus of the new Westinghouse High School.
- I lead the organizing effort to re-consolidate the small schools at Austin back into a single neighborhood high school.
His occupation:State of Illinois Tax Auditor His education:B.S. in Accounting Campaign website:TrustDwayneTruss.com Twitter:@DwayneTruss Facebook:facebook.com/dwayne.truss
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Education and vocational training programs.
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.
DwayneTruss:As a member of the Westside NAACP, I organized a workshop on the Cook County Budget. As a member of the Columbus Park Advisory Council I served as a catalyst to get renovation work started on Columbus and Austin Town Hall Park. I helped Raise Your Hand organize a Special Education Workshop for parents. I successfully lobbied the Westside Black Elected Officials in lobbying the Mayor to appoint a westsider to the Chicago Board of Education. I was a lead organizer of the Westside Education Summit.
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.
DwayneTruss:The state Constitution should not be amended to reduce pension benefits. Current employees and retirees did not cause the underfunded pension liabilities. The applicable workers paid their fair share into the pension. It was the lack of responsible leadership and the diversion of tax dollars into unaccountable Tax Increment Financing (TIF) accounts. Property taxes are primarily allocated to pensions, debt service, and the funding the Chicago Public Library, therefore; the diversion of property taxes negatively impacts the pensions. Poor leadership and a complicit City Council gave away potential revenue when the parking meter contract was signed. I recommend that the next Mayor convene all stakeholders (including labor unions) to work together in order to develop the best solution together.
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.
DwayneTruss:Because of the large number of Chicagoan’s who travel to Indiana casinos, I am open to a Chicago based casino. I am open to legalizing and taxing recreational use of marijuana. We have to audit all TIF districts to determine which district can be closed so that those tax revenues can flow back to the various taxing entities. I propose a property tax surcharge on downtown properties. Downtown properties like Trump Tower have not paid their fair share of property taxes, and the downtown TIF districts take property tax revenues away from the City of Chicago.
I support a progressive state income tax. States like California and Minnesota are fiscally stable and have improved their pensions because they implemented a income progressive tax. Federal law would have to be amended to allow for a LaSalle Street tax. Financial firms would just move their operations to Indiana or Wisconsin on paper to avoid the tax. A commuter tax may backfire and invoke suburban municipalities to retaliate with a commuter tax on Chicago residents. I do not support an increase in the city sales tax because a sales tax is regressive. I support a gradual increase in the real estate tax for residential property over $1 million dollars. I support an increase in the real estate transfer tax on all commercial and industrial properties.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
DwayneTruss:As I stated about, I support a property tax surcharge on downtown properties.
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?
DwayneTruss:I favor an independent analysis to be conducted in order to justify the any future TIF district. As I stated before, I support closing any unnecessary TIF districts.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
DwayneTruss:I believe that there should be a balanced collaboration between aldermen and the appropriate city department in regards to aldermanic prerogatives. I support requiring public meetings in regards to decisions on zoning and or development. I also support expanding a working relationship with the city Inspector General office in order to minimize corruption. Unfortunately campaigns contributions from developers hold more sway over some alderman versus the voices of 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?
DwayneTruss:I support the proposed current decree which is being reviewed and considered by the federal court. I also support the inclusion of the Campbell lawsuit recommendations. The recommendations would require support services for those traumatized by police misconduct. I personally testified in federal court my support of the consent decree with the Campbell recommendations. Consent decrees have been documented to save taxpayers money over time and decrease crime. The city of Chicago has been borrowing money at high interest rates to settle police misconduct lawsuits. I believe that the requirements of the consent decree will provide the necessary changes in police culture and will improve the relationship between the Chicago Police Department and minority communities victimized by police misconduct. I believe that an improved relationship between the police and the community will improve the homicide clearance rate.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
DwayneTruss:I support mandating that all gun shops be licensed and that detailed records of guns sales be implemented. I support requiring gun owners to report when their guns are stolen. Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court has made it easier to own a gun and a state like Indiana makes it easy to make straw purchases and resell guns on the street of Chicago.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
DwayneTruss:I have never supported privatized public education. Charter schools are unaccountable and have not improved the education outcomes. There are too many external factors like poverty which impacts education outcomes. The expansion of charter schools in Austin has created an environment of “education cannibalism.” Schools are reduced to marketing gimmicks and bribes like free laptops to siphon students from other schools. The Chicago Public Schools should continue to close under-performing charter schools, and develop real transition plans to assist student in their transition to another school.
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?
DwayneTruss:I support an elected school board. If feasible, I support amending state law to limit the amount any candidate can spend on a School Board election in Chicago because it would make it almost impossible for an average parent to run.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
DwayneTruss:No. Because the Chicago Housing Authority has only issued about 2,000 vouchers annually, poor families are practically being forced to relocate to other states like Iowa or Indiana. Families who are being priced out of neighborhoods like Logan Square and Humboldt Park are relocating to Austin. Because many working families cannot quite afford to purchase a home, the demand for housing is driving rents up.
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?
DwayneTruss:We have to create an environment that will encourage undocumented families to send their children to school and seek necessary health and social services for their families. There has to have sanctuary status for undocumented families because those families fall prey to street gangs and are victimized by domestic violence because those families my fear that seeking police protection will lead to being reported to ICE. I look at the humanity of undocumented families, not their legal status.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
DwayneTruss:As long as there are checks on the Inspector General, the Inspector General should have independent authority to initiate investigations of Aldermen. Investigations should be based on ongoing audits of Aldermen. For example, the Inspector General should examine the correlation of zoning changes and issuance licenses to campaign contributions.
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.
DwayneTruss:No. I will have a strict prohibition on outside employment.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
DwayneTruss:David Orr and Sam Burrell are two past aldermen I admire. David Orr is a forefather of how government is suppose to work for the average citizen; not the wealthy and politically connected. I worked as an Administrative for former Alderman Sam Burrell. Burrell created an organized system for documenting and tracking service requests. Burrell made sure that his staff followed-up on all service requests.