40th Ward candidate for alderman: Dianne Daleiden
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 40th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Dianne Daleiden submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Dianne Daleiden?
She’s running for: 40th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I ran for Alderman 4 years ago and then Committeeman a year later. I have been a participant in local organization and community board for these many years. I have served on non-profit boards, school boards and other entities that bring community voice to processes. I am a Math teacher. I know numbers, I read budgets and I negotiate with board members and leaders.
Her occupation: CPS Math Teacher
Her education: BS. Social Work; Masters, Education; ESL endorsed
Campaign website: www.Dianneforward40.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Dianne Daleiden: My number one priority to help traditional neighborhood schools. We are building a two-tiered education system in Chicago, with privatized charter schools and some elite schools getting the resources they need, while other schools suffer. If we really want to improve educational outcomes, we have to invest in traditional attendance based neighborhood schools.
My second priority is make sure that long time residents can stay in their homes. I am in the process of downsizing from a home I love because I simply cannot afford to keep up with the property taxes. I understand the city’s need for revenue, but I know we can raise the money needed to keep up services and educate our children from a source that is more fair than the property tax.
Last, I want to bring long-needed change to the governance of our ward and our city. For too long, decisions in the 40th Ward were not being made based on what residents need and want. Rather, our alderman has sought to garner power by cozying up to the mayor and doing his bidding, while giving developers and insiders breaks to fund his political operation. Chicagoans have a great chance to change this dynamic in 2019, and I will be part of that change.
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.
Dianne Daleiden: I have lived in the 40th Ward most of my life. As a long term resident I have served on numerous boards in capacities such as Finance chair, President, etc. In the last 2 years I have founded the activist group 40th Ward Alliance. This is a group that is strictly aimed at getting people in the 40th ward out to vote and participate in democracy. A few of the programs: DACA and the Sanctuary movement; Troy LaRaviere has spoken on school finance/racism in our system; David Orr spoke on the general state of politics in Chicago and Illinois; TIF with Tom Tresser; Rent Control and affordable housing in the City and Ward…etc. We are also now an official chapter of Our Revolution.
In addition to the 40th Ward Alliance I am on the neighborhood organization board where I now serve as Treasurer. I have also volunteered through that group in planning and execution of local events both for our organization and in conjunction with the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce.
I am currently an LSC member. I am currently a union activist and have participated in stopping the expansion of charter schools in the 40th Ward.
The most recent activity of which I am very proud is the citywide petition drive that I started to get non-binding referendum on the November 6th ballot that calls for city wide public hearings on the lead in our drinking water. I worked directly with members of the Progressive Caucus in this venture. We were successful in calling attention to the issue and I was invited to participate in the the Middle West Film Festival at the Davis Theater. At this event (where Michael Moore was also screening his film about the Flint Lead /Water crisis) I was able to speak with people about our efforts to stop the privatization and cover ups here in Chicago that could eventually mirror the plight of Flint.
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.
Dianne Daleiden: Pensions are a problem in Chicago for one reason only: for two decades, the city has not made the required actuarial contributions to the pension funds. The normal cost of pensions in all systems is reasonable (especially considering that those pensions are intended to cover both Social Security costs and regular retirement benefits). Cutting future pension benefits doesn’t make the debt go away, it just makes it harder for schools to hire qualified teachers, or the city to hire committed first responders.
We need to stop kicking the can down the road. The first step is to reamortize the pensions with a workable payment plan, not a perpetual “ramp to the ARC” that keeps getting moved. Second, we need to find and dedicate a progressive revenue source, like the LaSalle Street tax, and put the needed revenue off-limits for anything but paying the unfunded pension liability unless we are funded at an actuarially sound level.
The Illinois Supreme Court has said three times that when a government makes a promise to pay pension, it has to keep it. Gimmicks like a tier 3 pension system, or a new “ramp to the ARC” won’t change the simple legal and moral fact that the City must keep its promise.
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.
Dianne Daleiden: I would support a casino (although we can’t count on Springfield passing that legislation), a tax on legalized marijuana, a LaSalle Street tax, or a commuter tax. I think it will take a combination of two or more taxes to get the revenue we need to fund pensions and still maintain services (in some cases, improve them). So I am open to the mix of taxes, as long as they are progressive and the burden falls fairly on those most able to pay. For that reason, I oppose a property tax increase.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Dianne Daleiden: I support efforts in Springfield to pass a constitutional amendment for a progressive income tax. When implemented, the progressive income tax should be used to finally fund the state’s fair share of education, and to increase the local government revenue sharing fund.
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?
Dianne Daleiden: Most, if not all, TIFs in Chicago should be abolished. The concept was supposed to serve as an economic development tool for blighted areas. Today, 9 of the 10 biggest TIFs are in areas like the Loop and River North. TIFs serve as a way to fund pet projects and avoid the scrutiny of the regular budget process, and should be abolished.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Dianne Daleiden: We’ve seen abuses of the aldermanic prerogative in zoning in my ward. Because aldermanic prerogative has grown as a result of tradition rather than legislation, we can continue to expect abuses without reforming the system. The biggest reform is to mandate that all decisions made by an alderman on zoning or other matters within the prerogative be subject to an open public hearing in the community affected. Second, aldermen should be required to explain in writing the reasons for their decisions. Last, there should be stricter rules governing conflicts of interest. When an alderman or a family member have a conflict of interest because they or a client of theirs stand to financially gain from the decision, the alderman should recuse themselves from the decision and from lobbying their colleagues on the issue.
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?
Dianne Daleiden: No response
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Dianne Daleiden: Every day brings news of yet another shooting in Chicago, and this has to stop. We have to pressure Springfield to license gun dealers and crack down on those dealers who sell the guns that show up in crime scenes and shootings. We need to start enforcing the laws on straw purchases and other illegal transfers of guns.
Beyond gun control, though, there is a lot the city can do to decrease violent crime and shootings. Violence disrupters like Cease Fire have a record of being effective, and we should be funding those programs. We need police reform so that the areas affected most by violence don’t view police as the enemy. And we need to create jobs and opportunities for young people, and that starts with schools.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Dianne Daleiden: Charter schools were sold to us as laboratories where we could test what works and what doesn’t. Today, those “laboratories” constitute 121 of the 513 schools in the CPS system. That’s not a laboratory; that’s a full blown attack on attendance-based neighborhood public schools.
On the whole, when you have that many public schools their performance is indistinguishable from traditional neighborhood schools. I’m not sure what CPS thinks it gains from expanding charter schools, because the experience of other school districts is that they do not gain better results. On the contrary, as a teacher I see how the growing number of charter schools eats into the resources available to the rest of the system. The irony is that charter schools do not put the resources they get from CPS into the classroom. Instead, too much of the money ends up in the hands of professional school management companies.
I support a moratorium on new charter schools, and I support holding current charter schools accountable for educational achievement. If a charter school is not performing, we should not be funding it.
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?
Dianne Daleiden: There is no question that we need an elected representative school board. Our school board is responsive only to the mayor, and when the mayor has an ideological fixation with a certain result his school board ignores all evidence to cater to that whim.
Students, parents, and even residents without children all have a stake in making certain our schools are excellent. They should all have a voice to making sure that our school board works towards that goal.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Dianne Daleiden: There is affordable housing in my ward – a lot of it not under any program or official designation – but it’s under threat from high taxes and unrestrained development. I want to keep my ward affordable for working and middle class families. It starts with making sure that our property tax does not increase any more. But we also have to start looking at how we do development and consider a model of responsible and diverse development. We need to look at changing zoning laws that create incentives for building expensive housing over housing that is affordable. We should also look at our infrastructure to determine if it’s geared towards serving luxury housing, or housing that families can afford. Last, we need to create programs that help homeowners stay in their homes when faced with rising costs of maintenance.
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?
Dianne Daleiden: I support Chicago being a welcoming city, and would vote for expanding the welcoming city ordinance to make sure that city workers are not asking about immigration status unless absolutely crucial to doing their job. The police have enough to do without being an arm of a xenophobic immigration policy dictated by Washington.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Dianne Daleiden: Yes, the Inspector General should be able to audit and review City Council programs, committees, operations, and budgets. Just a few weeks ago, the FBI raided the aldermanic office of the chair of the Finance Committee. City Council needs a watchdog.
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.
Dianne Daleiden: I will not employ anyone who has a financial interest in companies or entities which do government business because it is a conflict of interest. I want to have staff that serves the people and is not looking for a favor or handout from 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.
Dianne Daleiden: I will join the Progressive Caucus. I will work towards making this a real force in City Council by way of voting as a block, co sponsoring more legislation with a wider base of support and by returning City Council to being a Legislative body.