35th Ward candidate for alderman: Amanda Yu Dieterich
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 35th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Amanda Yu Dieterich submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Amanda Yu Dieterich?
She’s running for: 35th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I am in my second term as an LSC member for Monroe Elementary. I was the co-chair of our fundraising committee for Brentano, where my kids go to school. I am a community advocate and am currently part of Moms Demand Action.
Her occupation: Small business owner of a design/branding studio
Her education: BS in Architecture, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign MFA in Design, Cranbrook Academy of Art
Campaign website: amandafor35.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: We need to make Chicago an affordable city, an accessible city, and an accountable city.
Chicago must be affordable for working families. We can address affordability by requiring that developers provide affordable housing for families in our wards, exploring equitable co-ops, and legalizing coach houses which would add housing stock while also providing homeowners with a new source of income.
Chicago must be accessible. In the 35th Ward the alderman rarely holds Ward Nights, often does not return calls and emails, and is not present in the ward. He puts up barriers to getting city services, making residents gather petition signatures for routine things like repaving our streets and upgrading our lights. Working families don’t have time for this, immigrants are hesitant to sign their name to a government document, streets with high inaccessibility like locked gates have low participation, and so these services are made inaccessible. I will have weekly Ward Nights, hold office hours that are working family friendly, respond to service requests, and take responsibility for proactively maintaining our roads, alleys, and sidewalks.
Chicago must be accountable. We need an elected school board that is accountable to our community and works with us to ensure equitable funding for our neighborhood schools. We need to ensure our police are accountable to the community by advocating for de-escalation and bias-awareness training. We need community-based, transparent decision making when looking at TIFs. We need aldermen who will live up to their rhetoric and are accountable to the people who they serve.
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.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: Through my work on a collaboratory project on parent engagement in neighborhood schools with Chicago Community Trust a few years ago, I found my voice in being involved with our neighborhood schools. I am currently in my second term as a local school council member at James Monroe Elementary and assisted in starting Friends of Monroe, a group dedicated to providing organizing, volunteer, and financial support for our local neighborhood elementary school. I have been a volunteer coordinator at Brentano Math and Science Academy, the neighborhood school where my kids are currently enrolled, as well as being the fundraising co-chair at our annual silent auction for Friends of Brentano.
When my husband and I moved to Logan Square nearly ten years ago, our street was experiencing gang violence issues. I worked with my neighbors to organize a neighborhood-wide yard sale, allowing neighbors to meet one another and start forming community. The next year, we added a block party to the yard sale and more streets joined. Now our block holds three large events each year, bringing our neighbors out of their backyards and onto their front porches. Since then, I’ve helped other blocks in organizing their block parties, block clubs, and other events. I am currently assisting Moms Demand Action, as they work to set up a Logan Square chapter.
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.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: Pensions are a promise, and we need to honor our promises. I do not support a change to the Illinois Constitution that would go back on our promises. Instead, we need to be actively looking at ways to fund our pensions by working with our state legislature in creating progressive solutions to fund our commitment.
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.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: I support legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana, and I believe we should explore revenues such as a progressive real estate transfer tax increase dependent on sale price, a commuter tax, and video gaming.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: I support a progressive income tax at the state level, and taxation of luxury services. I oppose regressive taxation that disproportionately affects working families and lower income Chicagoans.
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?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: When we look at TIF districts, we need to ask some important questions. How will the TIF benefit the broader community? Does the community support the projects the TIF is being created to fund? Will the investments be accessible to the entire community, or only a select few? What are the potential negative consequences? And, can we achieve the desired outcome without the TIF?
We must guard against TIFs being used as handouts to businesses, benefiting them while doing little to help the community. One way I would address this is to ensure that we have transparent community-driven decision making when considering TIF projects.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: Chicago has a history of redlining and racist housing policy, which shows that aldermanic prerogative does not work for everyone. We need an equitable citywide plan for affordable housing that is voted on by the entire council and not determined by individual aldermen. However, I maintain that when aldermen are present and engaged in their wards, they should know the needs and wants of their communities and should have a leadership role in determining how to meet those needs in a way that benefits all residents.
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?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: I support the consent decree. We need to reform the Chicago Police Department to ensure that police are protecting and serving our communities, and to reduce the fear and mistrust that communities of color feel towards these public servants. I support the requirements to increase de-escalation training, but I would advocate for bias awareness training as well as a more robust screening process for new applicants. I support efforts to make CPD more transparent and accountable. We have to start by building trust between CPD and the communities, especially communities of color, that they are sworn to serve and protect.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: We must reduce the demand for illegal guns in our city. We have to make direct investments in our communities, including increasing funding for neighborhood schools and instituting a moratorium on school closings especially on the south and west sides, rebuilding our crumbling roads and bridges, ensuring access to quality healthcare including mental health services, and making child care and after school programs accessible to working parents. We need to end the school-to-prison pipeline by requiring CPD to fully implement preventive diversion programs, which then also creates new careers in healthcare in the very communities that need investment the most. When we provide people with the opportunity to succeed in their community by expanding services and options, we are creating a safer community for all.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: Charter schools started off with the promise that with increased flexibility to innovate, they could come up with solutions to the challenging problems our public schools face and give parents a real option. However, when these schools, which receive taxpayer dollars, repeatedly fail to live up to that promise, they should be closed rather than getting a free pass. We must provide adequate funding to all public schools. I support a moratorium on charter school expansion because a quality education should be the standard for everyone, rather than basing a child’s educational opportunities on their parents’ ability to pay or how well they perform on an entrance exam.
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?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: We should have an elected school board, so that decisions about our kids are being made in a transparent, accountable way.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: No. In fact Logan Square, which is part of our ward, has seen rapid gentrification over the last four years while the incumbent alderman has missed important votes in City Council to address this issue. That is why I support a citywide plan to ensure that developers are offering affordable housing units for families in our wards, not just small studios. I support legalizing coach houses, which would provide more housing stock while giving homeowners a new source of income to help offset rising property taxes. I support equitable co-ops, which would give families a more affordable way to buy homes.
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?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: As an immigrant myself, I understand the innate fear we have in this political climate. Even when we have our citizenship, we are afraid that it may be taken away from us. It is even more difficult for our undocumented population right now. Immigrants contribute to our society — they live here, shop here, go to school here, and are our friends and neighbors. Chicago needs to strengthen our Welcoming Ordinance to remove all carve-outs, and CPD should be entirely prohibited from assisting ICE in any way.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Amanda Yu Dieterich: The taxpayers deserve an independent inspector general with the power to audit and review programs, operations, and committees. It is necessary to conduct independent audits to ensure that our programs are as cost-effective as possible, while showing the taxpayers that we are governing responsibly and transparently.
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.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: I would not employ staff in my office who have contracts 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.
Amanda Yu Dieterich: I have admired the way Alderman Pawar has worked with other aldermen to form coalitions to advance progressive causes, particularly around labor standards like paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, establishing the Office of Labor Standards, and especially the cause of piloting a basic income program. Alderman Waguespack has also been at the forefront of advancing progressive issues, and has a history of sticking to his principles. As a parent whose children go to a school in Ald. Waguespack’s ward, I saw first hand how well his office handles constituent service request, especially with winter shoveling from his office for the elderly and disabled residents, and the responsiveness to his constituents is exceptional.