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43rd Ward candidate for alderman: Steven McClellan

43rd Ward aldermanic candidate Steven McClellan meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Monday, January 28, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

43rd Ward aldermanic candidate Steven McClellan meets with the Sun-Times Editorial Board Monday, January 28, 2019. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 43rd Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Steven McClellan submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is Steven McClellan?

He’s running for: 43rd Ward alderman

His political/civic background: 

  • 43rd ward Alderman Candidate (2015, 2019)
  • Local School Council Community Representative
  • Community Affair Committee Chair for Neighborhood Association (2016)

His occupation: Director/Founder of Youth Producers

His education: Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Campaign website: votestevenmcclellan.com (not yet launched 1-23)

Twitter: @43rdwardchicago

Facebook: Steven L. McClellan

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

Steven McClellan: Safety (Mental Health), Education, Business Development

Revenue

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.

Steven McClellan: For the last 2 years, I have had the honor of serving on the Local School Council at LaSalle Language Academy, where we have hired a new principal to continue providing quality education to students that will prepare them for the future. We are currently working on developing green space to the neighbor by building an athletic field on our playground for student and neighborhood kids to enjoy. I briefly sat on a neighborhood association as community affairs committee chair where my duties were to create community events and act as liaison between the constituents and fire/police departments. In addition to all this, I pride myself on developing quality after school programs that have been very popular in EVERY school in the ward (except for St. James). I have devoted 10 years of my Saturday mornings coaching football and basketball at the Menomonee Club for Boys and Girls, where I am known as “Coach Steve.” Lastly, I have worked with neighbors on the 1800 block of Hudson/Cleveland alley repair where my role was to help raise 90k in neighborhood contributions as well as coordinate parking arrangement at the Buddhist Temple and St. Michaels church.


SUN-TIMES 2019 CHICAGO VOTING GUIDE


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.

Steven McClellan: No. I do not believe current city employees and retirees should have to suffer due to the mismanagement of funds by our current/past elected officials. Regardless to the amount of the pension, retirees are on a fixed income and lowering the amount they receive is not fair to them or the work they have done. However, I do think they we need to take a look at pension reform for the new crop of city employees so everyone understand what they are getting themselves into. If we change the amount of benefits our city employees receive, I think this will lead to a drop in morale and overall production.

While I do not think pensions are a sustainable business model, I do nothing think a reduction in benefits is the answer to fixing our problem. We need to come up with innovative methods to generate revenue instead of continuing to kick the can down the road.

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.

Steven McClellan: I am in favor of a Chicago casino and legalized and taxed recreational marijuana.

Casino: I think a Chicago owned casino license can really help the city with our current pension crisis. While I am aware that gambling is a form of addiction, I am not in favor of Indiana collected up to $40,000,000 a month from gambling Chicagoans. We have come to the point where we need to starting thinking of alternative way to generate revenue and a casino, on the far south side could benefit the city. The struggle would be trying to figure out what percentage goes to the state, regulation and what private company will operate the facility.

Marijuana: I am all about the a legalized recreational marijuana tax ONLY if they city can impose it’s own taxation that will directly go into the pension fund.

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

Steven McClellan: N/A

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?

Steven McClellan: I think the TIF program is beneficial to Chicago if the money is used in neighborhood that need a jumpstart in economic development. As far as school are concerned, I think we can use this money to go toward more social workers and special education teachers. There are too many communities with school underperforming. TIF’s need to be used in lower income communities that will prepare ALL Chicago to compete in our future economy.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

Steven McClellan: I am in favor of aldermanic prerogative ONLY if we elect the right people to represent our community. The people of the neighborhood elect a public official to speak on their behalf, but unfortunately our current alderman have taken advantage of this process. Who would be making these decision and how will they be held accountable? If we continue electing “leaders” with the most money in their account, nothing will change.

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?

Steven McClellan: It is needed. I value the work our police officers do, however there are a lot of officers patrolling street they do not live in and are afraid. I think proper training, oversight/monitoring will help our officers patrol our streets, not make it tougher. In 2016, I was pulled over in Lincoln Park by 2 Englewood officers looking for drugs and asking me why I’m “in this neighborhood.” Guns were drawn, I was yanked out of my car, cuffed and put in a squad car. They finally looked at my drivers license 30 mins after I was illegally detained.

Guns

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

Steven McClellan: Provide more opportunities for those more likely to engage in criminal activity where guns used. If we provide resources such as mental health facilities and job opportunities, I strongly believe we will see a decrease in the use of illegal guns.

Schools

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

Steven McClellan: n/a

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?

Steven McClellan: I think a hybrid would be a good solution but the board must represent the CPS population.

Affordable housing

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

Steven McClellan: No. Affordable housing is not a priority in the 43rd ward and less than 1% of our city budget is going toward affordable house. The increase in property taxes are hurting property owners causing them to move out and be replaced by millionaires.

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?

Steven McClellan: How can we be a sanctuary city for immigrants when it’s not sanctuary for our current residents?

Ethics

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

Steven McClellan: Yes. They need a complete overhaul and oversight is needed. Too much reckless spending and cronyism going on at City Hall and it needs to stop.

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.

Steven McClellan: City contracts: No. This has the potential to lead to corruption. I’d like for my staff to be focused on improving our community, not lining their pockets. On the flip side, I run an after school programs in the neighborhood and would struggle with no longer engaging the youth.

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.

Steven McClellan: Scott Waguespack. In 2015, he told a room of candidates that our individual wards are a microcosm of the City of Chicago. That stuck with me and I respect his style of governing.