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47th Ward candidate for alderman: Michael Negron

Michael Negron 47th Ward alderman candidate 2019 mayoral election Rich Hein

47th Ward aldermanic candidate Michael Negron at the Sun-Times Jan. 21. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 47th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Michael Negron submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is Michael Negron?

He’s running for: 47th Ward alderman

His political/civic background: Policy Director, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Office 2011-18; Special Counsel to the General Counsel, U.S Department of Defense 2010-11; Special Assistant to the General Counsel, White House Office of Management and Budget 2009-10; Counselor to Elizabeth Warren, Congressional Oversight Panel for the TARP 2008-09; Social Media Staff, Obama for America 2007-08; Commissioned Officer, U.S. Navy 2001-2009.

His occupation: Lawyer

His education: J.D., Harvard Law School 2007; MA, University of Memphis 2004; BS in Foreign Service, Georgetown University 2001.

Campaign website: http://www.michaelnegron.com

Twitter: Negronfor47

Facebook: Negronfor47

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

Michael Negron: Public schools, housing affordability, and public safety

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. 

Michael Negron: As a senior advisor to Mayor Emanuel, I worked on a number of initiatives to serve our city over the past two years. Here are representative examples: – I played a critical role in passing the earned sick time ordinance; – I served as lead staffer in establishing the city’s legal protection fund for undocumented residents; – supported the city’s efforts to secure reform of the state’s education funding formula to deliver more funding for low income school districts like Chicago; – I worked with Ald. Ameya Pawar to secure capital funds to support investments in Lake View High School, Amundsen High School, and Audubon Elementary. In addition to these initiatives, I also served on the Coonley Elementary School Local School Council for 2 years from 2016-18 as a community representative, resigning from the council when my daughter enrolled in kindergarten.


SUN-TIMES 2019 CHICAGO VOTING GUIDE


Pensions

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.

Michael Negron: No, the constitution should not be amended to allow reducing pension benefits. I believe that pensions are a promise to our public sector workers that we should not break. Moreover, amending the constitution in this manner would take years and, even if successful, the result would be litigation under the federal constitution. With respect to future employees, organized labor has shown an ability to be creative to solve complex problems and must be at the table to develop solutions to secure retirement benefits while protecting taxpayers.

Revenue

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.

Michael Negron: We need more progressive revenue sources to help address our pension obligations. Our state’s combination of a flat income tax, high sales taxes, and heavy local reliance on property taxes is the basis for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranking of Illinois as having the fifth most regressive tax system in the United States. I believe we must consider new sources of revenue including legalizing recreational marijuana, adopting a graduated real estate transfer tax, and expanding legalized gaming options including a Chicago casino. I do not support a LaSalle Street tax because I believe it would be highly vulnerable to legal challenge and that it would ultimately drive trading firms out of Chicago. I believe a commuter tax is unlikely to survive constitutional challenge and that it would invite our neighboring suburbs to retaliate with their own taxes. I will oppose a sales tax increase as regressive and would only support a property tax increase as a final option once we have exhausted other options for addressing our deficit.

What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose? 

Michael Negron: I support a state-level progressive income tax. A graduate tax could be structure to offer some relief to middle- and low-income residents while asking more of higher income brackets. On the other hand, I will oppose any attempts to implement a new city of Chicago income tax. A city income tax would likely lead many of our residents to consider leaving Chicago.

TIFs

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? 

Michael NegronTax Increment Financing (TIF) has an important role when it comes to investing in infrastructure, schools, parks, workforce training, and small business improvements. This role is amplified when you take into account the State of Illinois’s failure to pass an infrastructure plan for nearly ten years. At the same time, more transparency and accountability are needed in the city’s TIF program.

As alderman, I will advocate for the next mayor to make more information about the TIF program available to the public, going beyond the existing TIF portal by making it more user-friendly and offering information about potential uses under consideration but not yet formally proposed. I will also only use the diminishing TIF funds in my ward on infrastructure, schools, and small business projects and advocate for a similar approach citywide. I will support continuing the recent practice of TIF surplus declarations to send funds back to our schools. Lastly, I will advocate for ensuring that projects funded by TIF are governed by fair labor standards.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

Michael NegronAldermanic prerogative should be curtailed for affordable housing projects to limit the ability of individual aldermen to prevent the development of affordable housing in their wards. In my ward, I will ask developers subject to the ARO to either build their required affordable units on site and/or to invest in preserving 2- and 3-flats in our communities.

Police reform

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? 

Michael NegronTrust is central to the ability of police to be effective in serving communities, and I believe that the next mayor and City Council must continue the work of police accountability reform. This must include good faith adherence to the consent decree by all parties, as well as reforming Chicago Police Department governance to expand the role of civilians in oversight.

Guns

What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?

Michael NegronChicago suffers from a high volume of illegal guns that flow into the city. In fact, according to a gun trace report prepared by the Chicago Police Department, CPD recovered 6 times as many guns per capita compared to New York City and 1.5 times as many guns per capita as Los Angeles. With a new governor and Democratic supermajorities in the General Assembly, we have a window to pass state-level common sense gun control and get illegal guns off of the streets. These reforms should include banning assault weapons, requiring gun owners to register their weapons, and regulating gun dealers.

Schools

What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?

Michael NegronOur focus as a city needs to be on supporting open enrollment neighborhood schools. While high quality charter schools have an important place in a school district of our size, we have opened too many in recent years to the detriment of district-run schools. Furthermore, I fully support the right of charter school teachers to unionize.

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? 

Michael NegronI support an elected school board. We need more transparency and accountability at the Board of Education and an elected school board will help us start restoring trust in CPS.

Affordable housing

Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain. 

Michael NegronNo, more residents in my ward are facing higher rents, reduced supply of affordable housing, and rising property taxes. My priority as alderman would be to support initiatives that slow gentrification, preserve existing affordable housing and, through a combination of existing and new tools, increase the development of new affordable units. As a City Hall staffer, I played a significant role in the 2015 reform of the affordable requirements ordinance (ARO), the 2014 single-room occupancy preservation ordinance, the transit-oriented development ordinance, and a number of homelessness reduction ordinances developed in close partnership with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

I will advocate for new initiatives to preserve 2- and 3-flats in my ward, including leveraging the ARO to require developers to invest in preservation, seeking tax and assessment relief for building owners who commit to keep their units affordable, and new financing sources for affordable buyers of these buildings. I will also advocate to reform the long term homeowners’ exemption – which few are able to take advantage of – to become a flat 5% cap on the amount a property tax bill can go up in a single year for residents who have owned there homes for ten years or more and have annual incomes under $100,000. I also support legalizing accessory dwelling units – or “granny flats” – to allow homeowners to build or rehab apartments on their properties. Lastly, I support revisiting the ARO to reconsider affordability requirements, reduce or revamp the buy-out option, and encourage the construction of larger family units.

Immigration

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? 

Michael NegronChicago is a city of immigrants and I am committed to ensuring that our undocumented residents and their families feel safe here. This is personal for me, my mother moved to Chicago from Guatemala as a teenager on a tourist visa that expired, leaving her undocumented for a time. To strengthen protections in Chicago, I would support removing the carve outs from the city’s Welcoming City Ordinance. More broadly, I support Alderman Ricardo Munoz’s gang database ordinance, which would create new protections and rights for residents. I would also support increasing funding for the city’s Legal Protection Fund – a program I helped create at the city – to increase its capacity to serve more undocumented residents. Finally, I will support changing state law to allow undocumented residents to access all college financial aid and scholarship programs.

Ethics

Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not? 

Michael NegronYes. No public official should be free of independent oversight and extending the purview of the Inspector General to audit and review City Council programs, operations, and committees is a necessary step to strengthen the public’s trust in the city’s institutions.

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. 

Michael NegronNo.

Role model

Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain. 

Michael Negron: Alderman Ameya Pawar has been an excellent representative for the 47th ward. He has championed local issues such as our neighborhood schools while maintain a strong voice in citywide issues including increasing oversight of City Council, reducing income inequality, and increasing investment in affordable housing.


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