47th Ward candidate for alderman: Gus Katsafaros
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 47th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Gus Katsafaros submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Gus Katsafaros?
He’s running for: 47th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: No political background.
His occupation: Restaurateur
His education: Trade School/Coyne American/Electrician
Campaign website: Gus47.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Gus Katsafaros: Real Estate taxes, Well funded and safe schools, Crime prevention
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.
Gus Katsafaros: As far as civic service I have been an active supporter of Common pantry, Heartland Alliance refugee services, the twelve step program and all the area schools and churches with regard to their fundraisers that help the underprivileged in our community. I am also a strong supporter of our neighborhood first-responders. I am the owner of a local brunch spot in the ward that employs 15 area residents.
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.
Gus Katsafaros: No, I believe in creating new revenue sources in order to make our pension shortfalls, not reneging on our obligations promised to our former and current employees. As for new employees, maybe we should take a closer look at pension benefits offered before digging ourselves in a deeper hole.
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.
Gus Katsafaros: I favor legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana and video gambling. Both are accepted vices by the majority of Chicagoans and both can be successfully be applied through proper licensing to responsible businesses. These will create real revenue without the negative fallout that casinos have caused in other municipalities or adding to the public’s tax burden through additional taxes. Legalizing recreational marijuana will also lift the legal and financial burden of trying individuals of non violent crimes like smoking marijuana, not to mention keeping countless members of the African American and Hispanic communities, who cant afford attorneys out of jail.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Gus Katsafaros: I oppose any revenue that is generated by more blind taxing of citizens. I would favor a Chicago public bank that would provide banking services to marijuana growers and provide responsible financing to city projects. I am in favor of a geothermal program that could provide heat throughout the city and charge for the service just like the city water works does with water and sewer service.The energy source is easily accessible and inexpensive to tap and completely renewable. The majority of the network piping can be installed through the existing sewer system.
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?
Gus Katsafaros: I believe TIFs should go towards schools and their pension shortfalls as well as public works projects that will benefit a community. Not a slush fund for the mayor and aldermen to use as an incentive to developers who in return contribute to their campaign funds.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Gus Katsafaros: I believe it should be done away with all together. No elected official should have such power over their communities. Power should lie with the people of a community not their public servant.
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?
Gus Katsafaros: I believe that some components of the consent decree are needed and a good addition to current policy. There are however many components that will make the job of law enforcement harder and has already discouraged many police officers from performing their duties. I speak to police officers often and I’ve heard time and time again, that moral has never been so low. We need to find a middle ground and involve the FOP in the drafting process of the consent decree. Not to mention figuring out where the money to finance the $200,000,000 estimated cost of the consent decree will come from, and that figure does not include the new proposed police and fire academy.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Gus Katsafaros: Mandatory jail sentences for repeat gun offenders. The continued funding of alternative policing programs like Ceasefire Chicago that have had success in the past.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Gus Katsafaros: I don’t see one that makes sense, they are private entities that operate with public funds, are subject to minimal regulation as opposed to their district counterparts, and pay teachers far less than CPS does. Many don’t provide classes for special needs kids which in turn creates an added burden to area district schools.
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?
Gus Katsafaros: I don’t believe any officials or department heads should serve at the pleasure of the mayor. I am a firm believer in an elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Gus Katsafaros: No, I believe that we have an abundance of high end single family homes that were formerly 2-3 flats. This and the conversion of multi-unit apartment buildings to condominiums has caused a shortage in affordable rentals.
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?
Gus Katsafaros: As the son of immigrants I can relate to the hardships faced by Chicago’s undocumented community. My own father was deported in 1968 and returned from Greece legally with my mother in 1970. I believe steps should be taken to provide city ID’s and state drivers licenses to law abiding immigrants so they can accomplish menial daily tasks that all of us take for granted, such as driving to work without the fear of going to jail and being treated like some common criminal, or opening a bank account. At the same time I believe a real path to citizenship should be provided to these folks, who are a huge component of our local workforce, as it has been provided in the past to European immigrants.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Gus Katsafaros: Yes, I believe the IG should have that power, the reason being transparency to the people that we are supposed to be working for.
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.
Gus Katsafaros: NO
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Gus Katsafaros: Bernie Hansen, former Alderman of the 44th ward has been a family friend and role model to me for decades. I admired his hands on management of his ward, and how he was always available to his constituents. If he wasn’t in his ward office he was visiting a constituent that needed help. This is the type of hands on (Alley Alderman) that I plan to be. People still call him for help and advice to this day.
Also running for 47th Ward alderman: