6th Ward candidate for alderman: Roderick T. Sawyer
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 6th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city and their ward. Roderick T. Sawyer submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Roderick T. Sawyer?
He’s running for: 6th Ward alderman
His political/civic background: Alderman 6th Ward (2011-present), Democratic ward committeeman (2012-present), Former LSC Chairman McDade Classical School (2000-2010), Former Board Member eta Creative Arts Center and South Shore Drill Team. Active in numerous civic and community organizations.
His occupation: Alderman 6th Ward
His education: B.S. Finance DePaul University (1985), Juris Doctorate, IIT Chicago Kent College of Law (1990)
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Roderick T. Sawyer: Continuing to work on our commercial corridors to improve out sales tax base, Partnering with various assist agencies to provide job training and placement opportunities for our residents and improving our housing options for both our current and prospective 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.
Roderick T. Sawyer: As alderman, I have walked picket lines in support of those seeking a living wage, participated in numerous positive loitering events, offered free space to community organizations and employers, provided clothes for the homeless, and my staff and I consistently volunteer with the Chicago Food Depository, just to name a few.
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.
Roderick T. Sawyer: Although I do support reforming pensions for new employees, I do not support a constitutional amendment to reduce current retirees pensions. That pension was a promise to those employees. Since we failed to keep up with our obligations by making timely payments, it is incumbent upon us to find alternatives to fund their pensions, not just strip them of it.
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.
Roderick T. Sawyer: I believe most of these (with the exception of a real estate tax increase) warrant further discussion. A Chicago casino, video gambling and recreational marijuana may provide positive revenue streams after several years. Although I have been an early advocate for both the LaSalle street tax and commuter tax, I believe that these two in particular need to be fully vetted, as a possible unintended consequence may result in net loss of revenue.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I believe that our current sales tax system is archaic. We need to expand our sales tax base to include more services, such as cleaners, pet groomers and professional services and reduce the overall rate.
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?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I believe TIFs are a poor excuse for a substantive capital development program. Location based development will continue split the city into TIF rich and TIF deficient areas. Until this program has the ability to provide resources to all parts of the city, it should be disbanded.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Roderick T. Sawyer: Although I believe that an alderman has a unique perspective as it relates to the development of their respective wards, I do believe that there are occasions where the greater public good should play a bigger role, such as affordable housing.
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?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I believe it is long overdue. I have been a consistent supporter of the consent decree and more effective training for our officers. In order for our police to be effective, new training methods are a must.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Roderick T. Sawyer: Even though Chicago has one of the most strict gun laws for any municipality, we, as a city have to advocate for a nationwide gun registration system similar to that of automobiles. We should be able to track a gun from its manufacture to its disposal.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Roderick T. Sawyer: Charter schools should have never been considered a replacement for Chicago Public Schools. I have always believed that the role of charters were specifically for specialty schools in limited roles, such as advance placement, ESL, diverse learners or trades.
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?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I have been a supporter of an elected school board throughout my tenure as alderman.
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Roderick T. Sawyer: My ward does not have an affordable housing problem. Our challenge is providing a proper mix of affordable housing for a wider mix of incomes. We have to pay close attention to unscrupulous developers attempting to flood areas with subsidized housing with the sole intention to maximize their profits.
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?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I support the Welcoming City ordinance as long as it does not result in unlawful protections for anyone participating in criminal or anti-social activity.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Roderick T. Sawyer: I do not have any problem with the inspector general auditing and reviewing programs, operations or committees if the intentions are to implement “best practices” for those areas.
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.
Roderick T. Sawyer: No.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Roderick T. Sawyer: I have learned so much from my father, Eugene Sawyer (Former alderman of the 6th Ward), on the importance of service to your residents and the ability to bring resources to your community. I have also learned from my colleagues, such as Ald. Pat Dowell, who has been a leader in advocating for African American participation in contracting opportunities. Ald. David Moore has a servant’s heart and is always finding ways to support his residents. Ald. Gilbert Villegas and I have collaborated on numerous ordinances to improve opportunities for minorities and veterans and I appreciate his determination and commitment.
Also running for 6th Ward alderman: