49th Ward candidate for alderman: Maria Hadden
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 49th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Maria Hadden submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Maria Hadden?
She’s running for: 49th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: I am a first time candidate, but have been working to facilitate government/community collaboration for the past 10 years (see recent civic work).
Her occupation: Non-Profit Executive
Her education: BA in Peace and Conflict Studies from Ohio State University. MA in International Public Service Management from DePaul University
Campaign website: mariafor49.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Maria Hadden: My overarching goal is to promote community voice and transparency in government to better serve the people of Chicago. More specifically I want to work with my community to create an actionable plan to (1) foster development without displacement, (2) champion our public schools to bring resources needed to help students thrive, and (3) build a strong local economy supporting our local businesses.
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.
Maria Hadden: Over the past two years, I have continued and expanded the work I have done to promote participatory budgeting and civic engagement in government in my neighborhood, the city, and across the country. In Chicago, I’ve been a leader in bring this inclusive government process from the 49th Ward to other wards, neighborhoods and high school classrooms in Chicago, through the PB Chicago program.
Outside of my professional work I have engaged with my community in a variety of ways. I’ve volunteered on the Cook County Commission on Social Innovation and served as the Vice President of my co-op board. Currently, I serve on the boards of the BYP100 Action Fund and Voqal where I support fundraising efforts and engage with local organizations and members. I worked with neighbors to raise $150,000 for a new health clinic at one of local elementary schools, volunteered in community efforts to support immigrants being threatened by the current Presidential administration, organized community events in response to gun violence, and sponsored and participated in a variety of our neighborhoods run festivals. I’m also a member of Network 49, our Ward’s independent progressive political organization.
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.
Maria Hadden: Absolutely not. We made a commitment to these workers that we as a city have an obligation to keep; backing down on those promises is not an option. Further, we must maintain the same level of investment in current and future city employees. The mismanagement of funds by prior city councils is not an excuse for not supporting working individuals. We must be dedicated to generating new revenue streams so we can continue to invest in the people responsible for serving our communities, public employees. The 49th Ward is home to many current and former public employees and I will fight on their behalf on this issue.
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.
Maria Hadden: We must promote progressive revenue streams that do not put the burden on working class families in Chicago. This looks like supporting the LaSalle Tax to increase money coming from the finance industry and lesson the burden individuals who generate goods and services. This also includes legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana. While the tax itself is not inherently progressive, beginning to repair the damage that the war on drugs, has caused on low income families, especially brown and black families, will be. Additional from this tax can be used for reinvestment in these communities.
The prospect of a casino, video gambling and commuter taxes are not ideas I’m excited about though I am willing to consider them given the scope of our revenue situation. I would need to see comprehensive studies of how casinos impact the community members as well as the local economy. Increases in property taxes or sales taxes are also revenue sources that I would only consider if other more progressive revenue raising options were off the table. Both are regressive modes of taxation that will impact working families more than it effects wealthy individuals.
I would support a real estate transfer tax as was proposed by members of the progressive caucus.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Maria Hadden: I believe that in addition to the official roles related to the budget that city council serves, aldermen also have a responsibility to use their power to lift up the voices of people in their community and advocate for them at all levels of government. From conversations I’ve had in the 49th Ward, I know individuals support a progressive income tax. While this is only possible at the state level, I will use my position to make sure their input is heard.
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?
Maria Hadden: TIFs are used in most other places in our country without abuse or controversy. However, in Chicago they are often mismanaged resulting in public funds going to subsidize developer costs for projects in areas that are not truly blighted. We need to see a significant reform in how TIF money is allocated before approving any new ones. For example, the “Back to Basics” TIF ordinance would limit the use of TIFs to redevelopment projects in areas that would truly be unable to move forward without TIF support. If a company or institution behind a project could afford it on their own, they should not be getting a blank check from the city. While this does not solve all problems and will need clear definitions of what does/does not qualify, committing to getting back to the main reason TIFs exist – to spur development in low income areas – is a major step to fixing this problem. Another way we can reform the TIF system is by allowing for the reallocation of dollars from TIFs that have been filled to other development projects such as capital improvements in schools or building out our cities green infrastructure.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Maria Hadden: As with other areas, I believe the community must be welcomed to take a leading role in decision making processes to ensure accountability and transparency. I have spent the last decade fostering civic education and engagement around the city and around the county, and I will bring those principles to city council so that the community can see and understand what is happening and hold me and my colleagues accountable.
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?
Maria Hadden: I believe that the Chicago Police Department is in desperate need of reform to increase accountability, improve the ability of CPD to serve communities and build public trust. While some important, progressive ideas are included in the decree, there is still a need to continue working with communities and experts to create meaningful change. We need to start revamping training to include crisis intervention, conflict de-escalation, and implicit bias to civilian oversight. We need to make sure we are creating systems that protect and serve all Chicagoans.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Maria Hadden: People own guns to feel safe. So while gun buyback programs offer great, non-confrontational opportunities to reduce the number of illegal guns, for communities to fully participate in them we must reduce their perceived need to own them for protection. To do so, we must be investing in these communities. If somebody has access to employment, housing, medical care, and mental health services, they are much more likely to feel secure and safe, which reduces their perceived need to own an illegal gun. By investing in schools, job training, affordable housing and other social services we can make this a reality. We can not rely on the current practice of CPD being the only entity extracting guns from these individuals during altercations.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Maria Hadden: Our priority must be our neighborhood public schools. In the 49th Ward we have some incredible schools that the community has rallied behind to support, despite being systematically underfunded. The teachers, staff, and (most importantly) the students in my neighborhood and around the city deserve advocates on City Council approving budgets that fully fund these schools. This includes investing in capital improvements, bringing in resources for special programming to boost enrollment, and ensuring every school has a nurse and social worker on site everyday. The people of the 49th Ward have made this clear, by voting overwhelmingly to support a freeze on charter expansion in the 2014 election. I will make sure their voice is heard on city council.
While this is a major priority for me, I understand that public charter schools also serve many students in our city and we need to make sure that their administrations are being held to the same standards to ensure all children have a chance to thrive.
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?
Maria Hadden: During the large amount of time I spend going door to door, when this issue comes up, people agree – we need to promote accountability and transparency in all aspects of city government so that communities know why decisions are being made. One of the best ways to accomplish this level of public accountability in CPS is to switch to an elected school board system. If elected, I will support legislation to establish this body.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Maria Hadden: The 49th Ward is one of the few remaining affordable places to live on the northside of Chicago. However, the ever expanding gap between wages and cost of living is an untenable situation and the City needs to act to address this issue. While there have been a few recent success stories where our community has worked together to maintain affordable housing, the status quo of reacting to every new proposal is not sustainable. Instead, I want to work with my neighbors to develop a plan for what we want to see happen in the ward over the next 5, 10, and even 50 years. By being proactive and going to local developers and saying “This is what we want/need, how can we work together to achieve this?” we can change this narrative to foster true development without displacement.
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?
Maria Hadden: I fully support the welcoming city ordinance. We must do everything in our power to protect and support undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago. I will fight alongside these individuals, as well as with community organizations serving these individuals, legal rights groups, and other members of city council to strengthen how we build a city that works for for everybody.
Specific to my Ward, I have seen some amazing community organizing around these issues already. I look forward to lifting up the work of groups like Protect RP in promoting a safe and accepting community for our undocumented neighbors.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Maria Hadden: Yes. For too long the City of Chicago has operated inefficiently and not transparently to the detriment of the people we serve. Just as departments need to be held accountable, so do we. I want to create a culture in the 49th Ward, where individuals are educated and empowered to hold me accountable to ensure I am fulfilling my promises and evolving over time to reflect the changing needs of my community. In order to this, residents need access to good, trustworthy information.
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.
Maria Hadden: No. I am running as an independent progressive who will always put the concerns of my neighbors over the interests of outside interests and political insiders. I will employ members of my community who will help me be as responsive as possible to all 49th ward residents to make sure everybody’s concerns are heard and acted on. This campaign is not accepting donations from developers or any entity that could compromise my ability to be the independent leader my community deserves.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Maria Hadden: A past alderman I look up to, and am thrilled to have the endorsement of, is David Orr. As a former 49th Ward Alderman, Chicago Mayor, and Cook County Clerk, David has been a leader in reforming government to work for everyday people living in my ward and around the city. Just as he did over forty years ago, I am running as an independent candidate. And just as he has done for the past 40 years, I will work to improve the lives of people in the 49th Ward and Chicagoans across the City.
Also running for 49th Ward alderman: