46th Ward candidate for alderman: Justin Kreindler
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 46th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Justin Kreindler submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Justin Kreindler?
He’s running for: 46th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: I am a founding member of the Future of Choice Board with Planned Parenthood Illinois Action and a consistent volunteer since 2005. I have volunteered for hundreds of hours of phone banks to support progressive, pro-choice candidates across the state of Illinois.
In 2008, I was the director of a massive voter registration initiative in Philadelphia where I open an office and hired a staff of 60 people. Together we registered 55,000 low income African American voters in the most underserved communities of Philadelphia.
In 2008, I also led a student voter right protection initiative on college campuses around the state of Ohio. I ran over 40 voter rights workshops for students.
I have been a volunteer with Landmarks Illinois’s Skyline Council since 2011, working to engage young people in the interest of historic preservation.
I canvassed door to door through my affiliation with Planned Parenthood Illinois Action to support many pro-choice candidates around the state.
I have volunteered with over two dozen Chicago Public Schools over the past 7 years. I was also instrumental in the creation and implementation of a volunteer mentoring initiative involving 40 volunteers, 10 schools and over 100 CPS students.
I sat on the board of East Lakeview Neighbors (ELVN) until I declared my candidacy for Alderman.
His occupation: Nonprofit Director
His education: BA in History from Lewis and Clark College (Portland, OR)
Campaign website: justinfor46.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
1) Providing housing options for people of different income levels
2) investing in and doing outreach on behalf of our neighborhood schools
3) ensuring that we have peaceful communities that utilize non-violent policing tactics to restore the public’s trust in police.
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.
Justin Kreindler: I was instrumental in the creation, design, and implementation of a volunteer run mentoring initiative involving 40 volunteers, 10 CPS schools and over 100 CPS students through my job. I have organized, attended, and photographed 3 volunteer service days with Standdown Chicago, a veterans support organization where we helped pass out season appropriate clothing, shoes, and other personal items. I also assisted with clean up at the events. I was a consistent and dedicated volunteer on the Duckworth campaign for Senate. I knocked on doors on her behalf about 14 times, and I twice marched in the Chicago Pride Parade with her and her group. I phonebanked several times and petitioned on behalf of Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA). Until I recently aged out of the group, I was an active member of PPIA’s Future of Choice board, of which I was also a founding member. I sat on the board of East Lakeview Neighbors (ELVN) until I declared my candidacy for Alderman.
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.
Justin Kreindler: Government jobs typically pay less than the private sector. Thus, in order to attract the best talent to government jobs, the defined benefit retirement has been a significant enhancement. It is unfair to revoke benefits that were previously promised when a government employee decided to take a job with less pay but a decent retirement. For future employees, a defined benefit retirement plan is still an important incentive but should be up for discussion. There are billions in unfunded liability at the moment which poses a conflict. We need highly qualified and dedicated people to do our public service jobs, but we also need to figure out how to pay a fair wage and sustain a defined benefit program. I don’t have a defined answer for all this, but will listen to both management and labor and try to make decisions that are fair and in the best interest of our great city and its people.
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.
Justin Kreindler: I support recreational marijuana as long as there are business opportunities, job skills training, and business incubator grants for young people and people from communities that have historically been excluded business investment dollars. While we must be careful with our projected revenue from marijuana sales, legalization offers a unique opportunity to shut down an untaxed, unregulated, and sometimes dangerous distribution and sales network. This policy is long overdue. We must also ensure that anyone with a marijuana related conviction on their record be pardoned and anyone who is currently imprisoned on marijuana related charges be freed. I support a real estate transfer tax of 1.2% on properties over $1 million as proposed by the Bring Chicago Home to set aside $150 million annually into a legally dedicated fund to combat homelessness,. This new tax would be progressive and would truly benefit those most in need and be covered by those most able to afford it.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
1) A public bank for the city of Chicago. There are many excellent reasons why the city of Chicago should be its own banker, should be able to make loans to working families, and should charge no or very low fees for services to consumers and to the city. Aside from the tremendous savings for the city as a result of bypassing the profit making big banks, there may also be an opportunity to promote a Prize-linked savings account model to supplant the state lottery and promote savings.
2) Public-private partnerships. Chicago recently announced they will sell the parking lot across from the Uptown Theater for $1. In lieu of these types of corporate giveaways and outright privatization, the city should remain a minority owner and investor in projects set up to ensure that the city, which truly holds all the cards, is taking minimal risk and receives long term revenue streams. This same mechanism could be used with TIF funded projects that fund privately held businesses or ventures. In these instances, TIF becomes a shareholder in the project rather than serving as a public handout to wealthy developers.
3) A close examinations of whether some of our elite hospitals in prime locations have abused their tax exempt status. We must also begin to assess property taxes on the value of the hospitals not offset by donated or discounted services, specifically Prentice and Northwestern Memorial.
4) Increasing our city’s population. The best way for Chicago to raise revenue is to increase our city’s population. With more people paying into the system our overall burden can be shouldered more broadly.
1) a broadly applied property tax increase. My neighbors have recently faced a higher property tax rate at the same time that most of us have seen our property assessments skyrocket.
2) any regressive fee, tax, or toll that disproportionately hurts lower income people.
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?
Justin Kreindler: I would support a moratorium on the creation of any new TIF district in a high income area until new funding sources are identified. However, in the event that a worthy community development project in a community that has faced disinvestment arises, it would be unfair to block it. I would also require more sophisticated modeling to project the amount of money a TIF might collect over its 23 years before a TIF is approved. Finally, I would eliminate TIF districts where the purpose for the TIF’s creation has been completed and the lender has been paid thereby eliminating any long term surplus.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Justin Kreindler: Aldermanic prerogative or privilege is simply a tool. Like any tool, it can be used for good or evil. As Alderman, I would use Aldermanic Privilege to block housing development over 10 units that does not include 20% affordable units and 30% 3 bedroom units. Under our current Alderman, our ward is being saturated with ultra-luxury condos. While we welcome our new neighbors, we are seeing our property taxes skyrocket and rents ratchet up to levels unfamiliar to the Uptown and East Lakeview communities. I would use Aldermanic privilege to rebalance housing in our ward: more specifically, I would encourage the construction of mid-market housing through the approval of building permits and re-zoning. This would ensure the economics of mid-market work for all parties involved. I will work with my neighbors to develop neighborhood specific and publicly available rubrics to ensure that our ward takes a balanced and equitable approach to development.
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?
Justin Kreindler: In a 2016 poll, the Chicago Tribune found that only about a third of Chicagoans trust our police. If our neighbors do not trust police, then they are less likely to call them for help and less likely to help the police. My number one priority as Alderman will be to advocate for change in how the Chicago Police Department interacts with the public, how they speak to suspects, and how they approach every human interaction on a daily basis. I will fiercely advocate for any and every measure that will help restore the trust in our police and ensure that there is real accountability for any police misconduct. Chicago must go beyond the Consent Decree and pilot at least 6 different nonviolent programs for police, looking to other cities that utilize nonviolent tactics and get much better results that we do which is why I also support CPAC. There is no one specific crime that could be prevented by relaying on nonviolent policing. However, the the benefits of building long term positive relationships with people in our community cannot be overstated.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Justin Kreindler: I do not have any solutions to offer that haven’t already been tried to reduce the number of guns used for dangerous or criminal activity. We need to focus our attention and our city budget on the people who are at risk of shooting and being shot. Chicago’s budget showers money on police while comparatively little is spent on early child education, after school programs, mentoring initiatives, job skills training for gang-involved or formerly incarcerated youth, or any other kind of investment in the lives of young people (outside of the CPS budget). We must offer alternate pathways for young people in Chicago. That is our best bet to decrease the use of guns on Chicago’s streets.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Justin Kreindler: First, I support a moratorium on awarding any new charters. It is time for Chicago to revisit the way Charter Schools operate. In some parts of the city Charters schools have so effectively syphoned off students from the neighborhood school that, for all intents and purposes, those charters have become the neighborhood schools. I would propose a system by which after a certain period of academic, and social and emotional success, a charter school then becomes the official neighborhood school and becomes part of CPS. In these schools, all staff would be asked to stay and teachers would join CTU. Certainly, there are logistical challenges related to charter operator management fees and the ownership or leasing of buildings. But if our goal is to ensure that each of our children get a terrific education to prepare them to be civically engaged, mindful, inclusive, and prepared to live a healthy life, then we should be able to find a way to figure out these challenges for our children.
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?
Justin Kreindler: As Alderman, I will fight for an elected school board to manage CPS’ $6.4 billion budget. Candidates for citywide school board should have to sit on a Local School Council (LSC) for at least one year prior to becoming eligible to run for school board. Just as all elected officials in Chicago are required to get petition signatures, the requirement for petition signatures to run for an elected school board should be that at least half of their LSC endorses the candidate or some other petitioning requirement to demonstrate that they are truly committed to our children’s development and well-being.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Justin Kreindler: Chicago faces a massive shortage of affordable housing units. This shortage cannot be addressed without the participation of all 77 neighborhoods. As Alderman, I would use Aldermanic Privilege to block housing development over 10 units that does not include 20% affordable units and 30% 3 bedroom units. Under our current Alderman, our ward is being saturated with ultra-luxury condos. While we welcome our new neighbors, we are seeing our property taxes skyrocket and rents ratchet up to levels unfamiliar to the Uptown and East Lakeview communities. I would use Aldermanic privilege to rebalance housing in our ward: more specifically, I would encourage the construction of mid-market housing through the approval of building permits and re-zoning. This would ensure the economics of mid-market work for all parties involved.
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?
Justin Kreindler: I am proud that Chicago is a welcoming city, and that most local neighborhoods of Chicago are part of the same set of Welcoming America initiatives. Chicago depends on immigrants to drive growth, to pay taxes, to send children to our schools, and to help keep our neighborhoods vibrant. I support the Chicago Key Card program, which is clearly seeing demand outstrip the city’s capacity for issuing the cards. Chicago must do everything in its power to protect our neighbors from unjust policies.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Justin Kreindler: Yes. City Council should always strive to enact best practices and ensure that we are evaluating and improving upon our work. If a program is not achieving the desired result, then city council should know that and work to improve programs, operations, or the work of committees. I am a strong advocate for transparency in government and independent audits, evaluation, and review are essential for effective and transparent government.
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.
Justin Kreindler: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Justin Kreindler: I plan to join the Progressive Caucus because I believe that several of the members of that caucus have shown real conviction, courage, and leadership in standing up for the least privileged among us.