45th Ward candidate for alderman: James ‘Jim’ Gardiner
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 45th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. James “Jim” Gardiner submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is James “Jim” Gardiner?
He’s running for: 45th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: After attempting careers as a Local 1 Ironworker and Local 399 Stationary Engineer, I dedicated my life to public service, and have never looked back. Once I began listening to my heart and soul, the idea of feeding my passions was far more attractive than attaining a “job”.
Looking back on my record of public service, I am proud to state that I truly helped our city, and the people within it, grow and become greater. As a Chicago Park District Employee, Chicago Public School Special Education Teacher, Chicago Firefighter, coach and mentor, I can say that I have served our people in many different areas of life. I am willing and eager to serve our city further.
His occupation: Chicago Firefighter/EMT | Chicago Public School Teacher Basketball Coach
His education: Bachelor’s Degree in Education, St. Xavier College Work toward Masters Degree in Special Education, University of Illinois at Chicago
Campaign website: gardinerfor45th.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
James “Jim” Gardiner:
1) Respectful dialogue between community leaders and groups. We need someone who can better represent and lead our community so we can attain the next level. We have been stagnant for far too long and that needs to change. With great leadership comes great communities.
2) Improve public safety while encouraging community input and actions to deter the rise in crime and gang activity. By creating a more welcoming environment for community members and police to voice their concerns, we can better utilize resources that have yet been tapped.
3) As a growing community that is getting younger, our Ward deserves the opportunity to shop and support local businesses. Economic development is a must in order for people to fill more embedded in the community.
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.
James “Jim” Gardiner: I am a Chicago Firefighter who is based in West Garfield Park on Truck 26. Our unit has been awarded and recognized on 46 different occasions for actions that helped to save lives, and preserve personal property. The city council has spoke on our behalf while in session, and recognized acts of bravery that involved extinguishing fires, removing people from life threatening situations, and performing medical services to people in need.
On my days off from the firehouse, I find joy in teaching teenagers at local high schools, Taft and Schurz. I also coach basketball for 7th and 8th grade students, and mentor students who one day wish to become a police officer or firefighter through the CPFTA program.
Lastly, I am very proud to mention that started a neighborhood project at a local park to help revive what was once an overgrown and dying garden and reinvigorated with fresh flowers and mulch to beautify our neighborhood and make our park more inviting for families and seniors.
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.
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe that employees, past and present, of the City of Chicago have worked hard to receive the pensions that they earned. I also believe that if Chicago wants to continue to employ the best and brightest, compensation and benefits should not be reduced or amended.
I believe that we must create new revenue streams to alleviate these liabilities. I believe the we could expand our medical marijuana program and legalize marijuana for recreational use in a way that tax revenues can defer these costs. I also believe that gaming in Chicago can be a way to reduce these liabilities. We can introduce casino machines in airports after security checkpoints to build revenue streams from the already flourishing tourism revenue in Chicago.
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.
James “Jim” Gardiner: I support a Chicago Casino and video gambling with those funds being restricted to paying down pension liabilities.
I also support legalized and taxed recreational marijuana with those funds also being restricted to paying down pension liabilities.
I am not in favor of the LaSalle Street Tax because I do not believe that it will generate enough revenue to make up for the negative impact on financial transactions. We cannot afford to build our economy, not dissuade growth.
I am not in favor of property tax increases, municipal sales tax increases or real estate transfer tax increases.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
James “Jim” Gardiner: Other acceptable revenue streams have been addressed in the previous questions. I also believe that there are ways to optimize our existing expenditures to help us pay down unfunded pension liabilities.
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?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe that Chicago’s TIF program, if executed properly, could be an effective instrument for economic development. My fear is that many projects that are recipients of TIF funds are developments that would not have the greatest impact on our community.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe that it is the Alderman’s job to be a voice for his/her constituents. As long as the Alderman is representing the shared views of their ward, and their actions are not in malice, it is in everybody’s best interest.
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?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I do not believe that the consent decree is the answer to crime in our neighborhoods. I believe that our police department can benefit from reform in training and practices, but I believe that these reforms should be completed within the current structure of the department. However, I am an advocate of civilians taking an active role in working with the Police to create safer neighborhoods by sharing ideas and information that can be used to help better utilize the resources we currently have.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I do not believe that stricter gun ownership laws will reduce the number of illegal guns. However, as a Chicago Public School Educator, I believe the education of our youth on the dangers and downfalls on illegal gun ownership is critical in the reduction of gun crimes.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe that charter schools are putting a financial strain on our struggling public school system. I believe in a moratorium on charter schools and a renewed commitment to our public school system.
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?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe in an elected school board that gives the parents of CPS students insight in to the education of our children and direction toward a stronger school system.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
James “Jim” Gardiner: I would like to see further data on the current need for affordable housing in the 45th Ward and the City as a whole.
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?
James “Jim” Gardiner: As the son of immigrant parents, I believe Chicago is correct in being a “welcoming city.” We are a nation built upon rich diversity of its population. I support the ordinance that prohibits Chicago police from detaining undocumented immigrants. I believe in the City Card for Undocumented Immigrants and I believe in making the process toward becoming a US citizen easier for these people as long as they are contributing of society.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
James “Jim” Gardiner: I believe that there should be oversight of the City Council by the Inspector General’s office.
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.
James “Jim” Gardiner: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
James “Jim” Gardiner: There are many Alderman that I have looked up to through the years but I am determined to be my own inspiration while serving the 45th Ward as Alderman.
Also running for 45th Ward alderman: