46th Ward candidate for alderman: Marianne Lalonde
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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. Marianne Lalonde submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Marianne Lalonde?
She is running for: 46th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I served as an energy and environmental policy fellow in the United States Senate. I worked in the personal office of Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH.)
During my time in the Senate, I worked directly on Toxic Substances Control Act reform, the 1st chemical reform since the 1970s, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2016. I also wrote report language that was incorporated into the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 that made it easier for government scientists to take leaves of absence to begin start-up companies, bringing technology and new jobs into the private sector.
Since 2017 I have served as president of the Lakeside Area Neighbors Association, one of 14 block clubs that make up the 46th ward.
Her occupation: Scientific Research Consultant, PreScouter
Her education: BS, Chemistry, Case Western Reserve University; PhD, Chemistry, Northwestern University
Campaign website: marianneforuptown.com
Twitter handle: @marianneuptown
Facebook page: facebook.com/marianneforuptown
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Marianne Lalonde: The most important issues our ward faces are: 1) preserving equitable access to community assets including parks and open spaces, 46th ward schools, and Lake Shore Drive, 2) making the ward more welcoming to working families by preserving each and every unit of affordable housing in our ward, supplementing our current supply with additional, family-sized units, and proactive prevention of violent crime through youth engagement, and 3) the need to fill our empty commercial spaces through an inclusive economic development strategy.
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.
Marianne Lalonde: My primary involvement in the neighborhood is serving as president of the Lakeside Area Neighbors Association. Our mission to is ensure our community remains safe, inclusive, and welcoming to all who live, work, and play in our area. We support local organizations through volunteerism, and fellowship between neighbors both within our block club and in other block clubs through planning neighborhood social events. We also participate in civic processes including voting on the 46th ward zoning and development committee. In my role as president, I already listen to and address neighbors’ concerns about overflowing trash cans, pet waste, parking, and other issues, much like how an alderman must attend to the day-to-day needs of community members.
I am dedicated to serving the homeless population in our ward and am a member of the Associate’s Board at Sarah’s Circle, a women’s homeless shelter. In addition to volunteering at the interim housing facility, I serve on the events and fundraising committee. Last year, Sarah Circle’s main fundraiser, Winter Walk, raised over $100,000 to help homeless women in Chicago.
As a member of the Clarendon Park Advisory Council, I recognize parks as an asset that every member of our community can enjoy regardless of their economic status. As a council, we promote ways for the community to better utilize the Chicago Park District’s programs and facilities, provide communication to the Chicago Park District on matters relating to their parks, and assist in locating alternate funding sources to enhance park facilities. Our current major project is securing a plan and funding for the renovation of the Clarendon Park community center.
I served on the Committee to Save Uplift High School because I refused to see another school lost in from the community. We recently saw Stewart School, a historic elementary school in our community, closed and sold to luxury developers. Uplift High School is the most predominantly African American high school on the north side, and remains at risk of closure due to declining enrollment. As a member of the committee, I helped select new administration, testified at the Board of Education to preserve AP coursework, and helped win a Sustainable Community Schools grant. I now serve on the Uplift High School Sustainable Community Schools leadership team implementing goals associated with the grant proposal.
I am also a member of the North Lake Shore Drive Study Task Force. The Task Force is redesigning Lake Shore Drive from Oak Street Beach to the Hollywood terminus, and current plans include elimination of the Wilson on/off ramp in the 46th ward. For the last year, I have been fighting to retain the ramp. This summer, I collected 1200 signatures to include a question on the November election ballot to inform and poll members of the community on the planned closure. Over 94% of the votes collected were in favor of keeping the ramp.
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.
Marianne Lalonde: I am against an amendment to make a reduction in our workers’ pensions. Unfunded pension liability didn’t happen overnight, it happened over the past several decades due to poor leadership. We can’t sacrifice the promise of retirement security for dedicated public servants who make our city work. As a city, we need to prioritize addressing the unfunded liability of public pension funds, but a review of whether Tier 2 pensions are fair and provide adequate retirement income should be part of the process.
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.
Marianne Lalonde: Our city’s collective debt must be addressed through increased revenue overall in order to fulfill the pension promises we have made to those who make our city work – including public service workers like firefighters and teachers. We should first explore novel and non-traditional revenue sources, including marijuana legalization and taxation, the legalization of video gambling, and a LaSalle Street tax, before relying on traditional sources of revenue including property taxes. Property tax increases are driving families out of their homes, and we must work to advocate for additional vouchers that protect the working class, families, and senior citizens from losing their homes. I support a real estate transfer tax on commercial, but not owner-occupied residential, property. I’m opposed to increasing the municipal sales tax as well as a commuter tax – with declining population in the city, we rely on commuters to provide additional city revenue and we should not make it more challenging for them to travel into the city. A casino is not an ethical revenue stream – it represents a city betting against its own citizens.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Marianne Lalonde: The best revenue sources are ones that are progressive, meaning they are based on ability to pay with the biggest burden falling on those who can best afford it. For Chicago, that requires changes in state law. I support the move towards a progressive state income tax. I also believe that the federal government, which already has a progressive income tax, should increase its revenue sharing with cities.
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?
Marianne Lalonde: I fully support the Chicago City Council’s Progressive Caucus’s move to take a more active role in controlling TIF funds. TIF should only be used in areas that are blighted, vacant and/or obsolete, and areas where the project could not move forward financially but for the requested TIF subsidy. I also believe that TIFs should be prioritized for projects that serve the entire community – for example, public schools and parks, versus private developments. Here’s an example of how TIF was misused in the 46th ward: one of the greatest assets in Uptown is Clarendon Park. Clarendon Park brings neighbors from all different backgrounds together – from the Clarendon-Garfield Model Railroad Club, to Kuumba Lynx, a hip hop after school program, to community gardeners. At the center of our park is a beautiful, historic community center from 1916 that has unfortunately fallen into disrepair. This community asset should be given the attention and resources it deserves. Instead, TIF money from this area, adjacent to the second highest poverty census tract on the north side, was used to subsidize a luxury high rise (811 Uptown) across the street. The developers used some of the TIF money to pay into the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund, so they wouldn’t have to include as much affordable housing on-site in their development. This developer took property tax revenue meant to benefit low-income families, and literally used it to make sure low-income families wouldn’t have a place in the new residences he was building. This kind of displacement divides our neighborhood into 2 segments that coexist—not a cohesive community.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Marianne Lalonde: The right balance for aldermanic prerogative is ensuring that residents’ concerns can still be communicated and addressed in alignment with city-wide priorities. I support legislation that will limit the power of aldermanic prerogative to be used to block affordable housing construction.
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?
Marianne Lalonde: The Chicago Police Department needs real reforms. All Chicagoans regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or mental health status have the right to feel safe and protected by a police force that is accountable for its actions and representative of the communities it serves.
At its most basic, reform means changing a culture of silence and tolerating the abuse of civil liberties. I do not believe that micro-managing the Police Department will succeed in changing the culture, but I do believe that the City Council and independent bodies must set the standards under which Police operate.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Marianne Lalonde: At the city level, we should require gun owners to own a title and insurance for their guns. Ultimately, we need increased national gun violence legislation including registration and tracking of guns. Our actions as a city and state will always have limited impacts as long as gun purchases in neighboring states are less restrictive.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Marianne Lalonde: Funding for public schools should always be prioritized over that of charter schools. The best research seems to indicate that when there are only a few charter schools, they tend to perform better than traditional charter schools, mostly because of selection bias. As you increase the number of charter schools, on average they perform no better than traditional public schools. However, the charter schools do take away resources from traditional neighborhood schools and tend to spend less in the classroom. We see that in Chicago. We have so many charter schools (about 40% of our high schools are charter schools) that we don’t see much of a difference on average in outcomes. Charter schools are used as a convenient gimmick to avoid real education reform, and I think it is time to stop the experiment.
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?
Marianne Lalonde: I support an elected representative school board. For two decades, education policy has been dictated by the Mayor with little to no input from parents and the community. The result is a system that is dominated by for-profit entities, whether it’s charter school management companies or private contractors who do not hesitate to offer kickbacks in exchange for lucrative contracts. It’s time to give the people a voice in education policy.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Marianne Lalonde: There is not a sufficient amount of affordable housing city-wide, which includes the 46th ward. We have the opportunity to serve as a leader and role model in the field of affordable housing and demonstrate to other wards in the city the benefits of a truly mixed income and mixed race community. As a ward, it is imperative to preserve each existing affordable housing unit, to promote the prosperity and dignity of residents by ensuring current units are well-maintained, and to create a development plan that keeps current residents in the ward. For new developers, this means incorporating on-site affordable housing units into their properties rather than opting out by paying into the Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. It is also important that larger, multi-bedroom affordable housing units be created that will give neighbors the opportunity to invest in our ward long-term, through raising their families in the 46th ward and supporting 46th ward public schools.
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?
Marianne Lalonde: As the daughter of an immigrant, and someone who aspires to represent a community of immigrants, it is of the utmost importance to me that we remain a “welcoming city.” Chicago’s laws should apply to all residents of the city regardless of documentation status.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Marianne Lalonde: Yes, we need a strong, principled authority to review city operations and ensure they are ethically done.
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.
Marianne Lalonde: I would not employ staff who have outside jobs or contracts with entities that do business in 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.
Marianne Lalonde: There are 3 past and present aldermen I take inspiration from: 1) current 47th ward Alderman Ameya Pawar, 2) former 44th ward Alderman Dick Simpson, and 3) former 16th ward Alderman Anna Langford, the first African American woman to ever serve on Chicago City Council. I hope as Alderman I work like Ald. Pawar to make active and productive changes – in his two terms he passed 10 major pieces of city legislation, including the TIF Accountability and Earned Sick Time ordinances. I hope to have the agility and political know-how of Ald. Simpson, who was not only able to win his first election against a well-financed opponent, but also to persuade long-time politicians to support progressive reforms he introduced, such as ending salary discrimination in the city budget for women doing the same jobs as men. Finally, I want to act with the empathy and inclusiveness of Ald. Langford, a civil rights crusader and intra-council mediator who was instrumental in persuading Harold Washington to run for mayor.