45th Ward candidate for alderman: Robert A. Bank
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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. Robert A. Bank submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Robert Bank?
He’s running for: 45th Ward alderman
His political/civic background:
- Past President of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association (JPNA).
- 2004, I ran against Tom Lyons for 45th Ward Committeeman, and garnered over 19% of the vote in my first political race.
- In 2007 I unsuccessfully ran against Pat Levar. Although I lost both of these races, I helped create a greater political awareness in our ward.
His occupation: AT&T Wireless Technician
His education: Some college
Campaign website: our45thWard.com
Twitter handle: @BobBank45
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Robert Bank: Rising Crime. Rising taxes. Poor shopping/retail
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.
Robert Bank: I was a charter member of the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association (JPNA), and it’s President. I have been a Scout leader, coached youth sports and I have participated in Clean and Green programs.
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.
Robert Bank: I am against lowering retirees pension benefits, because there best earning years are behind them. I believe new employees will have to contribute a great deal more to their retirement benefits. The 3% COLA per year seems excessive, that formula needs to recomputed. A 3% raise every year is unsustainable.
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.
Robert Bank: I am in favor of a Casino in Chicago. I currently am not in favor of recreational marijuana. A LaSalle Street tax ie a tax on financial trading would be nice, but it may backfire and end up chasing financial trading out of the city. I am against a commuter tax, property tax increase or a sales tax increase (we’re at 10.5% already!).A real estate transfer tax increase is plausible. I am against video gambling altogether.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Robert Bank: I actually believe if we lowered the sales tax and property tax on businesses, we may be able to increase sales and industrial/commercial activity enough to cover the initial tax loss and then some.
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?
Robert Bank: I would end the Downtown TIFs, I believe this is already being considered. I would have more transparency on TIF money with detailed yearly reports available to the public. Right now TIFs are just big slush funds for alderman with little transparency or oversight.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Robert Bank: I would end spot up-zoning which leads to large overbearing buildings and more congestion. I think the Alderman should have the right to overrule zoning changes in his or her ward.
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?
Robert Bank: I am against the Consent Decree because it makes police second guess themselves. Continued police training will help more.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Robert Bank: Gun buy-backs, and educating the public on gun safety.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Robert Bank: I do not see why we have charter schools using public money; can we not have all these programs under the CPS umbrella?
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?
Robert Bank: There is good argument on both sides, but for now I would like to have an Elected School Board and see what results that brings in.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Robert Bank: Yes, there are apartments for rent for as low as $600/month.
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?
Robert Bank: It is up to the Federal government to enforce immigration. I will cooperate with whatever the judges orders are, however I will not condone using the Chicago Police or Chicago tax-payer money to catch illegal immigrants. Law enforcement experts say crime increases when undocumented people are afraid to report crimes.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Robert Bank: I support the IG to have oversight of City Council functions, committees and programs, but not individual alderman because it could become a political which hunt.
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.
Robert Bank: No, my staff will be dedicated to the citizens of our ward and not conflicted outside interests.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Robert Bank: I respected Tom Allen and his successor Tim Cullerton, both of the 38th Ward. I found these men to be a cut above. I feel they ran their offices professionally and sincerely cared about the residents and tried to solve their problems. I also feel these two alderman did not put zoning up for sale.
Also running for 45th Ward alderman: