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31st Ward candidate for alderman: Felix Cardona Jr.

31st Ward aldermanic candidate Felix Cardona Jr 2019 election rich hein

31st Ward aldermanic candidate Felix Cardona Jr. at the Sun-Times Jan. 11. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 31st Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Felix Cardona Jr. submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is Felix Cardona Jr.?

He’s running for: 31st Ward alderman

His political/civic background: I have been active in 31st ward politics for over 20 years. I have been involved in protecting the rights of labor union members, marching on picket lines with them, and helping with union-endorsed GOTV initiatives during political elections. I have also been involved in petition gathering drives. I assisted Senators Omar Aquino and Iris Martinez get on the ballot along with Congressman-elect Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, County Board President Toni Preckwinckle and many progressive judicial candidates.

His occupation: Full-time aldermanic candidate

His education: Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice

Campaign website: cardona2019.org

Facebook: felixcardona2019

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

Felix Cardona Jr.: Crime reduction, ward services and schools.

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.

Felix Cardona Jr.: Created work shops to assist ward residents with their real estate tax appeals process, volunteered with the Chicago Park District as a coach for their inner city youth programs and helped gather petition signatures for progressive candidates for public office.

Pensions

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. 

Felix Cardona Jr.: I do not support a comprehensive overhaul of our current state constitution. During a time of hyper-partisan politics, as we have in Illinois, a constitutional convention could lead to a constitutional crises. Fully vested city employees should not suffer a diminution of benefits that they have contributed towards and has been promised to them.

Instead, I believe that going forward, the city should establish different tiers of pension benefits. For those employees that have accumulated a certain number of years on the job, a combination (hybrid) plan could include both a percentage based on a defined benefit pension with the remaining percentage based on a defined contribution plan going forward after a certain date.

For all new employees, there should be only one option, a defined contribution plan. However concurrent with that new defined contribution system, I believe the law must be changed concerning those new employees’ ability to make contributions into the Social Security system. City employees are currently prohibited from paying into Social Security. In a climate of diminishing public pension systems, Social Security would play an important safety net for our future senior citizens.

Revenue

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. 

Felix Cardona Jr.: I support a casino in Chicago, legalized and taxed recreational use of marijuana and the expansion of video gaming to include venues in Chicago. However, I support these new revenue sources with a caveat. And that is that until we have solved our pension crisis, all revenues from these new initiatives be earmarked to shore up our pension funds and for no other purposes whatsoever. Once the pension funds are fiscally sound, then money from those new revenue streams can go into the city’s corporate general fund.

As for a LaSalle Street tax, and the commuter tax, I believe those are regressive taxes and could hurt the economy of our city and drive jobs elsewhere. I would strongly oppose any increases in the municipal sales tax and the real estate transfer tax. Those are exactly the finds of excessive financial burdens that are driving citizens out of the city.

What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose? 

Felix Cardona Jr.: I think my response to the question above states my position succinctly.

TIFs

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?

Felix Cardona Jr.: I support the elimination of the TIF program. I do not believe that it is a “primary development tool for Chicago” but rather a slush fund used by the mayor and the powers that be to favor private development and public pet projects. They siphon badly needed tax dollars from schools, police and fire services and infrastructure maintenance programs. I consider TIFs to be nothing short of pin-stripped patronage.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

Felix Cardona Jr.:  Sponsor legislation that would strip alderman of their ability to reign as feudal lords of their wards by insisting that things like liquor licenses and zoning changes could no longer be vetoed at their whim. Most of the criminal behavior associated with alderman have been directly linked to there ability to hold businessmen and developers hostage by threatening to withhold licenses and land-use changes that would otherwise be granted by responsible government bureaucrats in the normal course of business.

Police reform

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?

Felix Cardona Jr.: I believe that there must be a “happy medium” between those that would hand-cuff the police and those that don’t think that Commander John Burge did anything wrong. I submit the real answer lies in the education and training. Just like an order of protection does not stop a bullet, neither does a consent decree, in and of itself, make for better police officers. Spend the money up front in on our police force and we won’t be paying out million dollar judgments for their failure to protect the rights of the citizenry.

Guns

What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?

Felix Cardona Jr.: As for Chicago, the answer is simple; enforce the current gun laws on the books. However, as for our nation, I believe that the HIPAA privacy rules should be revisited as it relates to the inability of mental health providers to report dangerous individuals to law enforcement agencies. At what point do the rights of the public at large outweigh the privacy rights of the mentally ill and how can a just society balance the two? I believe the time is right for legislators to begin that discussion.

Schools

What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?

Felix Cardona Jr.: I am of firm believer in the system of public education in our country. All 4 of my children attend Chicago Public Schools. I am also a strong supporter of giving parents the options to take their children out of under performing schools and allowing them to use tax dollars to send them to better schools. It is a fundamental platform of my campaign. And I feel even better about that since charter school teachers are now allowed to unionize.

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?

Felix Cardona Jr.: I have always been a strong supporter of an elected school board. A board elected by the people and accountable to them every 4 years in staggered terms so as to avoid complete turnovers and the possibility of chaos.

Affordable housing

Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.

Felix Cardona Jr.: No, there is not. We have plenty of affordable housing for seniors but none for veterans. If elected, I will make affordable housing for our veterans a priority during my first term in office. They earned it.

Immigration

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?

Felix Cardona Jr.: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send those, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” (Inscription on the Statue of Liberty) If those were the words that welcomed our initial wave of immigrants that helped build this country, those words should guide us all today. Those words should still resonate with our representatives in congress and encourage them bury their unpatriotic partisan ways. It is incumbent on both national and local elected officials to find ways to balance the needs of law enforcement to keep our citizens safe but still keep true to the promise that is America.

Ethics

Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?

Felix Cardona Jr.: Of course. Without that authority is a useless agency.

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.

Felix Cardona Jr.: No. My staff will be full-time employees with no outside jobs or contracts. Ethically, I believe that alderman and their staff members should avoid even the appearance of improprieties that could present the possibility of a conflict of interest.

Role model

Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain. 

Felix Cardona Jr.: As a student of Chicago politics, I have come to admire three former alderman. Leon Despres (5th Ward), Dick Simpson (44th Ward) and Manny Flores (1st Ward) If elected I would hope that I could model myself after them.