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39th Ward candidate for alderman: Samantha ‘Sam’ Nugent

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Samantha "Sam" Nugent 2019 election Rich Hein

39th Ward aldermanic candidate Samantha "Sam" Nugent at the Sun-Times Dec. 19. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 39th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Samantha Nugent submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is Samantha Nugent?

She’s running for: 39th Ward alderman

Her political/civic background: Most recently, I served as the Director of Executive Engagement for a health care non-profit where I worked with stakeholders to ensure physicians meet the most rigorous standards to maintain their Board Certification. Prior to this, I was the Chief of Staff for the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (DHSEM). While there, I worked with partners across government, business, and non-profit sectors to develop programs that helped communities prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

Previously, I worked as the Government Affairs Manager for W.W. Grainger where I created large-scale outreach campaigns and worked alongside government to facilitate emergency preparedness. I also served as the Vice-Counsel for Political, Press and Public Affairs for the British Consulate where I served as a conduit between U.S. and UK leaders on key issues while managing policy and communications for the Midwest.

I have actively campaigned for Democratic candidates up and down the ballot for many years. In addition to serving as Lisa Madigan’s Director of Operations and Counsel, relevant campaign experience includes:

  • Chicago Advance Staff, President William Jefferson Clinton
  • Barack Obama for Senate – Fieldwork, Kankakee County
  • Hillary Clinton – Chicago Advance Staff
  • Gov. Howard Dean Advance team – Chicago and Iowa
  • Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) – intern

Her occupation: Candidate

Her education: Bachelor of Arts, University of Connecticut, J.D., Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Campaign website: samanthanugent39.com

Facebook page: facebook.com/samfor39/

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

Samantha Nugent: Public safety. Ward Services. Education

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.

Samantha Nugent: I served as the Director of Executive Engagement at the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), a nationally recognized not-for-profit organization. The ABMS serves the public and the medical profession by improving the quality of health care through setting professional and educational standards for medical specialty practice and certification in partnership with its 24 certifying Member Boards.

I volunteer regularly at my children’s school, serving as an “Art in Action” instructor. Through “Art in Action,” students learn about works of art from cultures around the world, how to look at art using art vocabulary and concepts and explore how history and society influence art and vice versa. I also help coach the Queen of All Saints Track Team and am a member of the Women’s Auxiliary. I served on the Queen of All Saints School Council from 2014-2017.

I currently serve on the Board of Directors for the Sauganash Community Association. I am a member of the Sauganash and Edgebrook Women’s Club and I volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

I support and attend the events of many local community organizations to include the Sauganash Edgebrook Chamber of Commerce. My family and I also  supported/participated/volunteered at the Paint Edgebrook Pink 5k, the Danny Did Kickball Tournament and Hearts and Hugs 2017 Gala, and the Bob Perkaus 5k Memorial – all local events, that do good and foster a strong sense of community.

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.

Samantha Nugent: I am opposed to any reductions in pension benefits for current employees or retirees.

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.

Samantha Nugent: I acknowledge Chicago is in desperate need of both new revenue, and that our residents can ill afford more property taxes. I support a Chicago casino, legalizing and taxing marijuana, sports betting, and video gambling. I don’t think we should be losing money to the suburbs, as many municipalities surrounding Chicago already have some form of legalized gambling. I’m open to a real estate transfer tax over a certain sales amount, at least $1 million. I wouldn’t go lower than that as I think we cannot make it harder for people to buy houses. I am opposed to any regressive taxes, such as an across the board property tax, or a municipal sales tax which hurts people who can least afford it.

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

Samantha Nugent: See above.

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?

Samantha Nugent: TIFs can be a great tool for economic development, but we need to reform the way we use them. First, we need the ability to sunset TIFs earlier than 20 years. Second, I would push for more transparency surrounding what the balances of the TIF accounts actually are, and make sure that it is easier to understand the decisions surrounding how TIF money gets spent. Finally, I would look at ways in which we could transfer excess TIF money back into the schools and parks to either offset capital projects or lower the residential real estate taxes that are crushing our working families.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

Samantha Nugent: My campaign has always been about the 39th Ward. I am running for Alderman to enhance public safety, spur smart economic development, invest in our local infrastructure, and provide quality city services. I have always led by example and as Alderman I will continue to do so. My Aldermanic office will be open and transparent and actively seek feedback from the community it represents.

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?

Samantha Nugent: As currently written, the draft consent decrees calls for additional training, personnel, and resources for the Chicago Police Department, which are needed. Ensuring our front line officers have the tools they need to do their job properly is essential to ensure both officer safety and the safety of the communities which they serve.

Any reform effort is going to require certain changes to the police department. It is important that the consent decree addresses the needs of the residents of Chicago and the police department. For this to be successful, mechanisms for officer feedback must be implemented to ensure this consent decree works in practicality.

Guns

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

Samantha Nugent: By the end of 2018, the Chicago Police will likely have seized close to 10,000 illegal guns in the City. This is horrifying. There are several things we can do here in Chicago to help reduce the amount of illegal guns in the city. This can include supporting universal background checks and legislation that would limit the number of guns a person can buy within a certain time frame. This can slow the amount of guns entering the City. We need to shut down “Bad Apple Gun Dealers,” who are are the source of 90% of the guns used in crimes. These “Bad Apples” account for only 5% of all licensed gun dealers.

Unfortunately, we have an influx of guns that arrive in Chicago from our neighboring states who have less stringent gun laws. To ensure our communities are safe we need universal background checks at the federal level and not rely on states that handle it piecemeal. As the federal government has yet to do this, I would work with my counterparts in Chicago and Illinois to support common sense gun laws.

Schools

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

Samantha Nugent: I am generally opposed to charter schools and I support a moratorium on any new charter 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?

Samantha Nugent: I support an elected school board.

Affordable housing

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

Samantha Nugent: Chicago as a city suffers from a lack of affordable housing. As alderman, I will support expanding affordable housing throughout the city. I am committed to working with community stakeholders, fellow aldermen, housing advocates, and development partners to identify and expand opportunities to invest in affordable housing across the city.

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?

Samantha Nugent: The issue of immigration is a complex one, however, immigrants, documented or not, have rights and deserve respect. Currently, the issue of detaining immigrants is a federal issue and therefore the federal government should enforce federal immigration law. Asking local police to enforce immigration laws will tax them even further and damage their ability to develop relationships within the community.

Ethics

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

Samantha Nugent: Yes, the Inspector General (IG) should have the power to audit and review City Council programs and committees. As the investigative arm of the City of Chicago, the IG should have the ability to ensure that all necessary policies and procedures are being followed.

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.

Samantha Nugent: No.

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.

Samantha Nugent: There are many local, state, and national figures from whom I draw inspiration. Personally, I admire the leadership of those who can bring their adversaries to the table, find commonalities, and work toward the greater good. President Lincoln’s cabinet, which brought together three of his biggest political adversaries, preserved the Union and ultimately saved the country. The story of his cabinet, as told by Doris Kearns Goodwin in the book “Team of Rivals” is a personal favorite and serves as an excellent lesson in diplomacy and relationship building. Lincoln surrounded himself with people who had large egos, questioned his authority and were unafraid to argue with him – and contemporaneously, they were the most able and competent political leaders of their time.