4th Ward candidate for alderman: Sophia King
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 4th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Sophia King submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Sophia King?
She’s running for: 4th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background:
I am the current 4th Ward Alderman (2016-present) appointed in 2016, elected in a special election out of a field of 5 in 2017 with the help and endorsements of the Chicago Federation of Labor, SEIU AFSCME and IBEW Local 134.
I am a former educator: Deputy Director of Sports Administration and Facilities Management at CPS; Chemistry Teacher at the Latin School; Part of the small schools movement and co-founded Ariel Community Academy.
I have been involved and fighting to improve the community for over 30 years: Founded Harriet’s Daughters (to increase jobs in the African American community); President of Kenwood Park Advisory Council; Vice-Chair of Planned Parenthood Chicago Area; and Co-Founded The It’s Time Organization (TITO), focused on gun violence prevention.
Her occupation: Alderman 4th Ward
- Bachelor’s in Chemistry, University of Illinois
- Masters in Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University
Campaign website: friendsofsophiaking.com
Twitter handle: @aldsophiaking
Facebook page: facebook.com/aldsophiaking/
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Sophia King: Jobs, good neighborhood schools and public safety are among the most pressing concerns we face as a community. There is a direct correlation between concentrated poverty and crime. Access to strong public neighborhood schools is an essential part of this ecosystem. We need to make sure that we continue to bring jobs and economic development to under-resourced communities. And we must continue to find opportunities to hire and train our most vulnerable populations. I am mindful of local hiring as development comes into the community.
I am also committed to true parity and opportunity in contracting and senior level positions. In addition, I have dedicated myself to working with my community and its many self-made leaders to promote our neighborhood public schools, and in turn, our youth. We are building stronger after-school and sports programming in the 4th Ward, providing much needed relief to kids and their families who need options to keep them off the streets and in school.
As co-founder of Ariel Community Academy in the North Kenwood/Oakland area, I have learned a great deal about the challenges and triumphs of our city’s educators and their students. Safety in our neighborhoods will require the cooperation and participation of all community members, from law enforcement to the local neighborhood watch. Finally we need to look to create long term, sustainable, progressive revenue streams in order to fully fund education, vital city services and pensions. My legislative priorities will continue to be to bring parity to how we prioritize and spend precious city resources, including jobs. I will also continue to focus on ensuring that our neighborhood schools’ curricular and co-curricular programs are funded, and that our communities are safe.
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.
Sophia King: I have dedicated myself to working with my community and its many self-made leaders to promote and bring resources to our neighborhood public schools, and in turn, our youth. We are building stronger after-school and sports programming in the Fourth Ward, providing much needed relief to kids and their families who need options to keep them off the streets and in school.I am also proud of inviting community groups and civic organizations in the development of Michael Reese so that they have a voice in the development of their 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.
Sophia King: I oppose a constitutional amendment to reduce protections for pensions for public employees. Instead, we need to focus on long term, sustainable, progressive revenue sources to stabilize our pension funds. A pension is a promise and elected officials we are held responsible to fulfill those promises. Further, I am keenly aware of the degree to which our retired city employees make up the backbone of the middle class in many of our communities. To destabilize the retirement security of those retirees–who also cannot rely on Social Security–would, in effect, be devastating to our local economies and have widespread negative repercussions. I think there is room for negotiations with new employees who have no expectation or agreement and can plan accordingly for their future.
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.
Sophia King: I support the legalization and regulation of marijuana in the State of Illinois. However, we need to ensure that the funds collected from taxing marijuana go towards funding public services such as mental health clinics. We must also ensure that Black and brown communities that have been disproportionately harmed by mass incarceration around the use and sale of marijuana are able to benefit financially from new economic opportunities that stem from legalization. Finally, I support efforts to ensure labor neutrality in new dispensaries so that workers in that industry are able to organize to bargain collectively.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Sophia King: I strongly believe we must work with Springfield to pursue a fair, progressive income tax that asks the very wealthy and big corporations to pay their fair share. I also have advocated that the City Law Department allocate more resources to appealing under-assessments of properties, especially downtown skyscrapers, during the Berrios administration. Finally, I support the legalization and taxation of recreational marijuana.
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?
Sophia King: While TIF can be a smart and effective investment tool, the City of Chicago has a history of failing to ensure that TIF money goes to projects and developments in areas that need it most. I strongly support TIF reform efforts, including the Progressive Caucus’ “Back to Basics” ordinance and initiatives to codify a process by which TIF will automatically be surplussed and funds be directed into CPS when CPS is in financial distress. I also support the Garza-Cardenas TIF surplus reform ordinance that would ensure TIF surplus dollars are automatically directed to funding CPS when the school district is considered to be in financial distress.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Sophia King: I believe that there can be more transparency and a review process for aldermanic prerogative. In my ward, we hold public meetings and have a local committee to delve deep into development projects to ensure that the voice of the people is heard on developments large and small. To this extent alderman represent the voice of the community in City Council on various projects. However, Aldermanic prerogative can be used as a tool to prevent the construction of affordable housing based on racial bias. Affordable housing is the responsibility of the entire city and not just a few concentrated areas. The council should introduce policy that ensures this responsibility is spread equitably throughout the city. I support proposals that mitigate misuse of aldermanic prerogative.
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?
Sophia King: The consent decree is a necessary part of police reform in the City. Police need to provide good community policing and respect people’s civil liberties while doing so. The two are not mutually exclusive. The community oversight component to police reform is a huge priority that the City Council still needs to address. We also need to increase true community policing while holding bad police more accountable. People need to see that the police are engaged in the community other than when it comes to locking someone up. I have police that are exceptionally engaged and know their residents and are involved in the community. This needs to become the norm. In addition, as the DOJ report calls for, we need to increase the diversity and training of the police force especially during its growth.
However, the climate and process are keeping black and brown officer from joining the force. Veteran officers also need updated training. Lastly, police need to bear some financial responsibility when their misconduct costs the taxpayers money. These are often police with a history of violations. These patterns of violation and discrimination should and can be addressed early and often. The police contract is a serious issue as well as an opportunity to address some of these problems.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Sophia King: I support the efforts to crackdown on straw purchases and guns that are brought into the community from surrounding states. At the core, however, we must address the fact that this is also largely a demand issue. If we made the appropriate investments in mental health and early childhood education as well as programs for youth and employment there would be less of an appetite for illegal guns in our communities.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Sophia King: I support legislation that would continue the moratorium on charter schools until we adequately fund our already functioning public schools. As alderman, I have not encouraged new charter schools in the ward, and have focused resources on neighborhood schools. I support efforts by charter teachers to organize and bargain collectively.
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?
Sophia King: I support efforts in the Illinois General Assembly to create an elected, representative school board for the City of Chicago
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Sophia King: The 4th ward is one of the wards in the city with the most affordable housing units. However, I understand the demand and have been a strong proponent of affordable housing in the ward by making sure that affordable housing is available at new developments. I also support efforts to lift the rent control ban at the state level. I was a proud sponsor of the Chicago Affordable Housing Equity Ordinance (O2018-6119) that expands affordable housing options for low income households, especially families with children, across all Chicago. In addition, I believe that affordable housing is the responsibility of the entire city and not just a segregated few, which is why I strongly encouraged developers, under my tenure, to provide affordable housing (CHA units) to two downtown building in which they could have opted out under the old Affordable Requirements Ordinance.
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?
Sophia King: I was proud to have supported Chicago’s Welcoming City Ordinance (O2017-1018). As alderman, I will continue to work to ensure that Chicago remains a city that is welcoming of all immigrants.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Sophia King: Yes. I believe no alderman is above the law and we should look toward strengthening ethics and transparency in City Hall.
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.
Sophia King: No
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Sophia King: There are a number of alderman past and present that have inspired me. I have taken note of their positive leadership and style and used it to inform my own.
Also running for 4th Ward alderman: