8th Ward candidate for alderman: Jewel R. Easterling-Smith
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent the candidates running for 8th Ward alderman a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing the city and their ward. Jewel R. Easterling-Smith submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Jewel R. Easterling-Smith?
She’s running for: 8th Ward alderman
Her political/civic background: Member of various Civic Organizations: Rainbow PUSH, NAACP (Southside Chapter, Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras, South Shore Garden and Betterment Association
Her occupation: Educator
Her education: Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership-The American College of Education, Bachelor’s of Science in Managegment from DePaul University, Certification in Nursing Home Administration from Chicago City Colleges
Campaign website: Friendsofjewel.org
What are the top three priorities for your ward?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: My top three priorities for the 8th ward are ensuring that residents can directly benefit from the (1) economic development within the ward by way contracts, finding a way to (2) disrupt the rise of the housing vacancies, and eliminating the (3) food deserts and lack of quality dining options.
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.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: For the past two years, things that I am doing to better serve Chicago include: establishing 501c3 “Adopt MY Block Crime and Violence Prevention” to promote and provide residents with the tools to improve the safety on their block. In addition to, spearheading the 91st and Constance Block club on the street I reside. I joined the movement with WVON 1690AM radio personality Mark Wallace’s “Citizens to Abolish Red Light Cameras and voter mobilization effort “10×10 to Win” for 2019 Chicago elections.
In 2017, I assisted Rainbow Push with water distribution for the residents of Flint Michigan and I helped to organize the first Black and Brown Elected Official’s summit for their Annual International Convention. I worked on the Consent and Decree agenda, as a Political Action Committee member of the NAACP (Southside branch?) and help coordinate voter registration drives. Lastly, I serve as an Education Committee member for COAL (Coalition of African American Leaders).
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.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: As the wife of a Chicago fireman, I cringe at the thought of my husband’s pension being reduced. His pension should not be altered due to the lack of prudency and fiscal restraint/responsibility to ensure fully funding their pension obligations to current employees and retirees with no change to the state Constitution. However, I do support a reduction for new employees.
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.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: I am in favor exploring a Chicago casino and the legalization and tax of recreational marijuana. Both have some potential negative social impact that must be considered. The casino would allow Chicago to capture the potential lost revenue to the state of Indiana and Horseshoe Casino in Hammond. As the societal acceptance grows and the decriminalization of marijuana is occurring across the country, it only makes sense for the third largest city in the United States, move towards the legalization of recreational marijuana. Also, I liked to further study a possible a real estate transfer tax increase
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Jewel R Easterling–Smith: I am opposed to increasing property taxes, a commuter tax, and any increase in parking fines.
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?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: I would work to ensure that TIF monies are used for their intended purpose. I’m favor of making sure what is happening with the closure of two Target stores on the Southside doesn’t occur again. I am also in favor of removing the sole control of how TIF funds are allocated from the Mayor.
What will you do to rein in aldermanic prerogative?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: The 8th ward aldermanic office needs to have more Transparency so there can be more accountability to the residents. Secondly, the office must be inclusive of the thoughts and concerns of the community. Lastly, ever corner of the 8th ward needs to feel like there is some equity with the resources and economic development. I will work diligently to ensure my aldermanic prerogative is best used to represent the community.
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?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: I too believe it is long overdue for Police Accountability and Reform. There is a toxic relationship between the CPD and certain groups of citizens. Moreover, underlying issues are evident and need to be addressed; i.e. mental illness and drug abuse are often masked as criminal behavior. What must occur, is training to recognize the difference and the appropriate responses.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: Form a taskforce to determine “how” illegal guns are infiltrating our city and provide possible reduction strategies based on the root cause. It is not enough to impose stiffer laws on those who are carrying illegal guns but stiffer gun trafficking should be imposed as well.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: Being a product of as well as an Educator with CPS, I am in favor of traditional, free and appropriate education for all. I understand when charter proponents advocate for choice, but I think public schools should be in a position to meet the needs of its neighborhood children. Of late, it appears Charters may be in trouble…staff strikes for better conditions.
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?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: I support an elected school board or some hybrid. I believe constituents should have a choice in who is selected and have a voice in holding that elected board accountable for being transparent, inclusive, and fight for equity to all
Is there enough affordable housing in your ward? Please explain.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: Some would argue that “affordable” and “low income” of one of the same- they are not. With a growing population of retired and senior residents, whose income have been reduced, I feel there is not enough affordable housing in our area. To ensure that current residents to be able to remain, and for the community to attract new residents, affordable housing is needed. There is a need for housing that will allow residents to live comfortable without having every dime earned go toward housing.
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?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: In keeping with the foundation on which this country was built, I support the policy. However, policies and practices should be put in place 1. to help undocumented immigrants obtain citizenship in a timely manner, and 2. ensure equitable resources are provided for those who are citizens as well i.e. education, jobs, tax breaks and other incentives.
Should the inspector general have the power to audit and review City Council programs, operations and committees? Why or why not?
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: It is important to have some form of checks and balances in any organization. Inspectors should have the power to audit as long as specific guidelines of why, when, and how audits and reviews are conducted and occur that are fair and transparent– yes
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.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: Yes, I would with conditions. I take under consideration the position, and conflict of interest. l would follow the guidelines and policies for employment.
Is there a past or current alderman whom you model yourself after, or would model yourself after, or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Jewel R. Easterling–Smith: I am running for Alderman because a young, energetic American woman by the name of Lorraine Dixon. She was strong, confident, worked diligently on behalf of the people who elected her. During her reign, she was noted for having an office of which I have built my platform: Transparency, Inclusion, Equity.
Also running for 8th Ward alderman: