47th Ward candidate for alderman: Thomas M. Schwartzers
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent 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. Thomas M. Schwartzers submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Thomas M. Schwartzers?
He’s running for: 47th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: At a very young age, I began volunteering for various organizations – from animal rescue groups to senior center charities. I began my career in public service first as a Chicago Police Officer then transitioning over to the Chicago Fire Department as a FF/EMT where I have been for more than ten years. I have always been active in my union organizations and have been a volunteer at Animal Care and Control as well as numerous other rescue groups such as New Leash on Life and Chicago Canine Rescue. I also held internships with Chicago Bureau of Forestry and the Chicago Park District.
His occupation: Chicago Firefighter/EMT
His education: Brother Rice High School, University of Illinois-Champaign Bachelors of Science, University if Illinois Chicago _Graduate Certificate Emergency Management/Public Health, John Marshall Law School-Juris Doctor (In process of completion)
Campaign website: tomfor47.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: My top priorities include:
Education — continuing the progress that has been made in the 47th Ward with neighborhood schools and Grow Community
Public Safety and Gun Violence — As somebody involved in public safety as a law enforcement officer and a Chicago Fire Department FF/EMT, I can work with the departments to provide the best and most efficient services to effectively reduce the crime plaguing our city.
City Service — As property taxes continue to rise and neighborhood affordability becomes difficult for many, providing the best city services is a priority and making sure we are using the best practices to get the most value for 47th Ward Residents.
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.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: For the past two years, I have served the city, and specifically the 47th Ward, as Firefighter/EMT at a Firehouse that covers the 47th Ward. I have volunteered for animal rescue groups operating in the city at street fest each summer. I volunteer for a Lakeview High School group, and have been an active member in the Graceland West Community Association. I also volunteer in many other capacities in the neighborhood.
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.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: The State Constitution should not be amended for benefits that have been promised to retirees and current city employees. For future employees and current employees, all sides involved need to have an active and participatory voice in ensuring that the city pension obligations get resolved to meet its funding needs.
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.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I favor the Chicago Casino, legalized and taxed recreational marijuana as well as video gambling. These three, if done effectively and planned out, can be valuable sources of revenue which can shift some the burden away from small business and homeowners that have been effected by increased taxes and fees. I believe the casino needs to be centrally located and a plan drawn out that details actually how the revenue will be used. I support the legalization of recreational marijuana but believe we need a comprehensive plan that restricts the funds realized through taxes toward specific uses. I believe video gambling will need a ward-by-ward vote. Some wards such as border wards of the suburbs might be in more favor of it and less in other parts of the city.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I would support a variety of measures if the burden isn’t placed on the homeowners and small businesses.
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?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I would support the continued transparency efforts that have been put in place to ensure the citizens are aware of the uses of TIF funds. Although quite controversial, TIF’s have assisted in the primary growth and development of blighted areas. I would continue to the support and advocate for the use of TIFs in school, park systems, and blighted areas not only in my ward but throughout the city. Also a complete review of all existing TIFs. I would evaluate ending TIFs early that are no longer needed (sunset provisions)
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I believe that alderman are best suited to make decisions in the ward but believe that public input and review are also part of our process.
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?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: As a former Chicago Police Officer, I believe the consent decree will make it tougher for police to do their jobs and increases in crime will occur. I think we need to bring the communities and youth of Chicago together with CPD and build a stronger relationship. This can be done by expanding officers in schools and CAPS programs, CPFTA Chicago Police Fire Training program, after school programs and other efforts. Limitations placed on CPD will only push this objective further away.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: We need to get federal, state and county authorities more involved. The continuance of allowing violent gun offenders to quickly re-enter the streets will not assist in reducing crime or the number of illegal guns. By going after the sources of these guns and increasing the penalty for crimes involving illegal guns, I believe we can greatly reduce crime in Chicago.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I believe a moratorium should be placed on any new Charter Schools and the current ones in place should be held to strict review to ensure they are held to the same level of education and policies as CPS schools. If they fail to hold these standards then removal from the system should be enforced.
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?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I believe in an elected school board but only if every ward or community has a representative in it. It wouldn’t be fair to have a certain section of the city to have complete control of the elected school board. An equal voice for all of wards in the city would be advocated for on my behalf.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: My ward has a low amount of affordable housing (approx. 2.5%) and would be in favor of affordable housing initiatives.
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?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: I believe in upholding the City policies that are in place.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Thomas M. Schwartzers: The inspector general should have the power to audit and review programs to ensure that all contracts and programs are not done for political motives but for the benefit of the City. Operations should be left in the hands of those that have knowledge of City Operations as well as committees.
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.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Thomas M. Schwartzers: There are many alderman that I would model myself after, I would model myself after Alderman Pawar when it comes to schools; Alderman Sposato when it comes to labor; and other alderman that assist in helping small businesses.
Also running for 47th Ward alderman: