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50th Ward candidate for alderman: Zehra Quadri

zehra quadri 50th ward alderman candidate 2019 mayoral election al podgorski

50th Ward aldermanic candidate Zehra Quadri in 2015. | Al Podgorski /Sun-Times file

The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 50th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Zehra Quadri submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):

Who is Zehra Quadri?

She’s running for: 50th Ward alderman

Her political/civic background: My primary civic commitment has been to successful delivery of services by the ongoing operations of ZAM’s Hope Community Resource Center, which I founded in 2000 to help women in need of social services in the Rogers Park area. In order to raise the level of awareness for both public and private assistance needed to support the services ZAM’s Hope provided, I became more involved in government, politics, and the local business community through my volunteer work on political campaigns.

Her occupation: Executive Director, ZAM’s Hope Community Resource Center. Former Cook County Grant Management Administrator

Her education: Aligarh University, India — B.S., 1986 Political / Social Science

Facebook page: facebook.com/Zehrafor50thWard/

Top priorities

What are the top three priorities for your ward?

Zehra Quadri: Re-establishing communication and trust between government and residents, attracting new businesses, reducing crime.

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. 

Zehra Quadri: For the last 20 years I have served as the Executive Director of Zam’s Hope, a 501c3 I founded to help single women raising families to find shelter, safety, food, skills and jobs. We have expanded our services to help all members of the 50th ward community and beyond.

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.

Zehra Quadri: I support amending the Illinois Constitution to allow union representatives and the city to voluntarily negotiate a settlement which will allow the current and future retirees to collect the overwhelming majority of their pension and benefits. If no amendment is approved and no negotiations are successful, the city goes bankrupt and no one gets anything, which is a worse scenario for all residents and employees.

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.

Zehra Quadri: I would provide support for a time limited use of any revenue increases until the city pension and debt crisis has passed, at which time the tax increases or fees increases should be ended or reversed. I would not support a commuter tax because a reverse commuter tax would be instituted by suburbs and collar counties, which negates the advantage to Chicago residents.

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

Zehra Quadri: No specific tax or fee. There are too many already.


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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? 

Zehra Quadri: I believe at least 80% of TIF fund balances should be emptied out to fund our current pension and school system deficits. Moving forward, TIF districts surpluses should be increased by creating a cap on the amount allowed to be used in each TIF fund. Anything above the cap would revert to its intended property tax purpose, the operations of the City of Chicago.

Aldermanic power

What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?

Zehra Quadri: I would to abolish it. That;s what the Zoning Committee is for. If an Alderman opposes a project in his or her community, he can appear before the Zoning Committee and explain why.

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? 

Zehra Quadri: Proper oversight in Chicago government, on politicians, employees and especially those with guns, needs to be thorough and strict. Chicago is a tough and violent city and the cops can’t be cream puffs when dealing with hardened criminals, nor can they indiscriminately abuse, beat or kill residents. There needs to be a reasonable middle ground that allows the cops to enforce the law and serve as a effective protective barrier for vulnerable citizens while acting within the law themselves. It’s a tough job and they have my suppoort, but the bad apples in the police department should be weeded out by the cops themselves.

Guns

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

Zehra Quadri: Anyone caught with an illegal gun in the city should be forced into exile. You forfeit your right to be a Chicago resident or visitor if you are caught with an illegal gun. Goodbye and good luck if all other towns enact the same ordinance.

Schools

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

Zehra Quadri: Competition is not bad for any system. Charter schools should be allowed, but in an ideal world, CPS would do its job better and no Charter Schools would be needed.

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? 

Zehra Quadri: I would support an elected school board in the form of the Chicago City Council taking responsibility in conjunction with the Mayor under a Chicago Department of Education. As long as city officials are held responsible for the success or failure of the school system, we should have control. If the schools continue to fail, fire your Alderman on Election until they make it a priority and a success.

Affordable housing

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

Zehra Quadri: Yes. We do not have the fanciest housing options, but it is certainly affordable.

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? 

Zehra Quadri: I am a legal immigrant who wen through the long and difficult immigration process, but I think we should be a sanctuary city in practice until our Federal immigration system is reformed and streamlined. The current anti-immigrant rhetoric, against both legal and illegal immigrants, is shameful and counter productive to our national economy and morality.

Ethics

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

Zehra Quadri: Yes. Exhibits A, B, C and D are Burke, Munoz, Cochran and Solis.

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. 

Zehra Quadri: No. It’s unethical and a conflict of interest for city employees.

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. 

Zehra Quadri: I don’t know enough Alderman personally to make that choice, but I did admire greatly Senator Paul Simon for his personal ethics, policies and work ethic.


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