6th Ward candidate for alderman: Deborah A. Foster-Bonner
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the 6th Ward aldermanic candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Deborah A. Foster–Bonner submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Deborah Foster-Bonner?
She’s running for: 6th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: President Reunite Chatham, Beat Facilitator Beat 631, Greater Chatham Initiative Public Safety Member, National Housing Service Advisory Council Member, Secretary LSC Mark Sheridan Academy (1997-2000)
Her occupation: Accountant and Investment Advisor
Her education: B.S. Accounting, Roosevelt University
Campaign website: deborahfor6thward.com
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: The top priorities of the 6th Ward are Economic Development, Crime Reduction and Youth Development and Engagement.
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.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: Beat 631 Facilitator — I act as community liaison between the Chicago Police Department and the members of the community
NHS Advisory Council — This council shares resources to assist in the purchase and revitalization of homes in the Chatham community.
Greater Chatham Initiative Public Safety Committee — The committee addresses issues that arise in the community and the city and how they can be addressed. Consult with other community organizations on how we can reduce crime. Currently focusing on the current crime surrounding gang funerals in the area.
CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) — Organized community members to learn what is required to survive a natural or man-made disaster. Identified what resources were needed for the community to become self sufficient for 3 to 7 days. Trained approximately 50 people and expanded the communications outside landline and cellphone services.
American Red Cross — set up training for 15 people in CPT and received certification.
Worked with Cook County States Attorneys Area South to identify resources and set up communication lines to better address concerns from the community and better understanding of what possible outcomes are. How we can work better together to address underlying problems instead of atmosphere of one and done for our youth. Also held seminars that addressed Senior concerns related to property, health and safety.
Sponsored several seminars with Cook County Recorder of Deeds to address the growing fraud in the community. Signed up community members for alerts to changes related to their property and how to properly document and file to secure assets.
Worked with Cook County Sheriff’s department to address problem areas and provide Seniors with training and understand of how to protect themselves and their loved ones. This included providing and video footage of crimes.
President of Reunite Chatham a community organization that provides information, resources and training based on the needs of the community. We focus on ways to bridge the generational divide the youth and seniors. Gathered more than 150 property owners in installing private security cameras in the area that assisted in a reduction of crime as well as provided information in the resolution of crimes. We have shared this information with other communities so that they could also install private security cameras in their communities.
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.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: Currently the the pension funds Chicago tax payers are on the hook for a 58.5% funded. For comparison a healthy pension fund has a funding ratio of at least 70%. The funds that are controlled by the city are funded as terrible levels as low as 28%. We need major pension reform in the city, but taking away a cost of living adjustment that retirees have been planning on is not a suitable solution. I can agree that any cost of living adjustment going forward should be tied to the consumer price index. Indexing the cost of living adjustment to CPI will ensure that taxpayers do not give retirees a raise if inflation decreases, but will also protect retirees if inflation increase(a risk to which pensioners are currently exposed).
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.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I would support a Chicago casino only if it is located downtown and tax revenues are used equitably across the city. There is a proposal to put a casino on the South-side of Chicago, which would effectively amount to a regressive tax on the poorest and predominantly black residents.
Marijuana has already been decriminalized under distribution amounts in the city and there is a national wave of legalization occurring. Our new Governor has stated he supports the legalization of marijuana and he will most likely pass legislation to legalize its use. No matter one’s personal feelings about the substance, the law is mostly likely changing and the city should collect a tax on marijuana as it does with alcohol and tobacco.
The LaSalle Street tax or Financial Transaction Tax(FTT) would be great national policy, but on a municipal level I do not believe it will work. Much of the world’s derivative markets are housed in Chicago with the three major American clearinghouses (ICE, OCC, CME), as well as many major banks and proprietary trading firms. As part of their risk management they must have redundancy units in other locations (typically New York) in case there is a natural or man-made disaster in Chicago. This fact drastically lowers the cost of moving these functions if a tax were enacted. A FTT was tried in the 1980’s in Sweden. The Swedish experiment saw trading volumes in derivatives decrease by 98%. While I completely agree with the goal of this tax, I do not believe that it is the correct way to accomplish that goal. If presented with other information information that disproved this view, I would be open to changing my stance.
A commuter tax would put our city at a competitive disadvantage to attract businesses to the Chicago and the Chicagoland area. It may also lead to a taxing war between the City and suburban municipalities, where the suburban governments tax our residents working in their jurisdictions.
A sales tax increase would be regressive and place the largest burden on the poorest residents of our city. I cannot support any revenue sources that come from more regressive taxation.
No property tax hikes can occur until we first have a more fair and equitable taxing system at the city and county levels. Black homeowners on the south and west sides of the city are unfairly assessed and lack the same access to the appeals process. Various ethics reforms need to be enacted, chief among them that elected officials or their firms cannot represent clients in property tax appeals.
I would support a Real Estate transfer tax on all properties or portfolio of properties that sold above a value of $500,000. This tax must be progressive and not be imposed on young people trying to build wealth or any resident that wishes to own an affordable home.
Video gambling should be legalized and taxed in Chicago. Other states that have legalized it have not seen the behavioral issues that many fear.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I believe the city should take a very serious look at creating a municipal bank. While this idea may should extreme to some, it has more than one precedent. The State of North Dakota, which has a smaller population than Chicago, has operated a bank for 100 years. The Bank of North Dakota routinely sees a 20% return on their investments which exceeds that of JP Morgan Chase. Germany has a very robust banking sector with public banks comprising over 30% of the sector.
A Chicago municipal bank would be a commercial bank making loans to the city and helping to capitalize community banks. At a high level it would work by depositing the city and possibly even the county tax revenues into the bank. This would give the bank a stable deposit base on which it can make loans in the Chicagoland area. The city would then conduct all of its financing needs through the bank which, as a public utility, would provide low interest rate loans to the city. We could also refinance our pension debt obligations with the bank and extend the payments over a longer period than a private bank would be willing to allow.
In all a public bank would provide a decrease in the cost of financing to the city, as well as allow the city to gain revenue through interest. I want to repeat that there is no I functional reason as to why this proposal can not work, the only blockade is the political will. With our city pension payments looming and the threat of increased taxation, the next few years may see a growth in that will.
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?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: In the 6th Ward there are 2 major TIFs; 67th and Wentworth and 87th and Cottage Grove. Due to a bad deal implemented by a former mayor, $1.8 million dollars from the 87th and Cottage Grove TIF is ported to the neighboring TIF to pay for South Shore High School leaving roughly $600,000. The 67th and Wentworth TIF has existed since 2011 and has generated $0 in revenue due to the lack of property value growth.
TIFs are supposed to be self financing instruments where the money collected by the TIF goes towards projects that will in turn increase the property values and increasing the money the TIF receives. The issue TIFs in truly blighted communities face is that their TIF generates little to no revenue. We could help these under-performing TIF districts by injecting capital into them.
I propose that we lobby Springfield to change the state TIF laws to allow porting of money between non contiguous districts. We should then use the non committed TIF funds to inject $1.5 million into the under-performing districts until they self generate $2 million. This program would spread economic development monies more equitably across the city and allow the 6th Ward to participate in true economic development.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I believe the community should be able to have ultimate prerogative on the zoning and development projects in their ward. I believe Aldermen should hand over as much power over to the community as possible. This is why I support Participatory Budgeting for the Aldermanic Menu money. I also plan to institute a community licensing and zoning board, that would be empower to make decisions on business licenses and zoning. I plan to give as much of the power of the Alderman’s office to the community as I possibly can.
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?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I became a beat facilitator, to gather an understanding of how the community and police department worked together to provide a safer community. There have been times when the police and the community worked well together. However, when they don’t it destroys whatever good has taken place. The Consent Decree is a tool that can be used to get us where we want to be, a safer community. It requires accountability, training, relationship building and transparency to close the levels of distrust. Alternative Policing is required.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: For years there have been stories about the shipping trains being robbed while sitting in the rail yards. One simple fix is to either protect the rail yards to a greater degree with the CPD or pass an ordinance requiring shipping trains secure their cars carrying firearms. Illegal guns also flow from out of state in high numbers. In order to stop them we must have tougher gun trafficking laws at the state and federal levels. Chicago also needs to use it’s influence to get Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin (where a majority of out-of-state gun originate) to coordinate on regional gun trafficking laws and enforcement. This will present a challenge, but it is not fair to Chicago and Illinois the we should suffer for their gun laws. I believe in the right for any citizen to defend themselves and am a gun owner myself, but sensible gun laws are needed to keep our communities safe.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: Charter Schools should be allowed for communities that may want to take greater community control over their curriculum, but we should not allow our public education to be privatized. We can not allow outside corporations to get public dollars to teach our children and the result is no better or worse than the public schools. We should focus on revitalizing our public education system.
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?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: The mayor currently has too much control over the school system. The current school board is captured by the mayor. I support a fully elected school board.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: CHA and Section 8 vouchers are routinely used within the 6th Ward. The housing stock is robust in some areas, but scarce in others. The 6th Ward has not yet seen the increases in rents that other “gentrifying” wards or areas are seeing.
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?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I do not believe that the Chicago Police Department should be used as an extension of ICE. I would support retaining this policy. I do believe some consideration should be given to the black non union labor class whose wages are affected by immigration. Studies show that immigration is a net positive to a community, but net still means some gain and some lose. I propose that we tax the companies that benefit from immigration and create jobs programs for those groups whose wages are negatively affected. This should result in a wage boost for both the immigrant and native populations. Immigration policy should be fair to all groups.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Deborah Foster–Bonner: Yes, the power to audit and review city council falls within the jurisdiction of the Inspector General’s Office. The City of Chicago has an issue with lack of transparency and accountability. These city processes should be periodically reviewed for ethics violations. We need to use the checks and balances of our government more effectively.
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.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: No this would present a clear conflict of interest
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Deborah Foster–Bonner: I will take some inspiration from Joe Moore who was the first US elected official to enact Participatory Budgeting for his Aldermanic Menu money. I truly believe that the office of the Alderman is something that belongs to the community. The community should have the power to decide how they are represented in ways other than a vote once every 4 years. For this reason, I think Alderman Moore’s participatory budgeting is an excellent example of an elected official organizing, then getting out of the way and empowering their constituents.
Also running for 6th Ward alderman: