The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent mayoral candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city. John Kenneth Kozlar submitted the following responses Dec. 23 (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is John Kozlar?
His political/civic background:
- 2011 candidate for Alderman, 11th Ward
- 2015 candidate for Alderman, 11th Ward – forced a runoff election against Patrick Daley-Thompson
- 2010-2017 president of a nonprofit organization – Canaryville Little League – where we reinvested over $650,000 in renovations for thousands of boys and girls
His occupation: Lawyer
- 2007- Mount Carmel High School
- 2011 University of Chicago
- 2015 – John Marshall Law School
Campaign website: JohnKozlar.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/JohnKozlarforMayor
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.
John Kozlar: First and foremost, we have to come to the realization as a city that we have a serious problem concerning our financial crisis, and must fix it now. Election after election, we talk about the issues facing out city, yet we continue to ignore our fiscal crisis and kick the can down the road. I am the only candidate that has this idea: all NEW employees, who start in the year 2020, will go on a 401K plan. This will stop the bleeding, and allow us to reassess our pension crisis. I will bring in one or a couple of the Big Four auditing firms, so they can conduct full, impartial, and independent audit of city finances. I do not think it is necessary to alter our current city employee or retiree contracts, but that is if we make the necessary changes now to protect our current employees and retirees. With a budget of $10.67 billion, it may be important for us to reallocate funds appropriately, so that we are able to meet our contractual obligations. With this said, the city needs a mayor who is capable of negotiating on behalf of all Chicago residents. We have had too many one-sided contracts pertaining to city finances, and this must come to an end.
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
John Kozlar: I support having a Chicago casino, as long as it is city owned and operated. This will allow for maximum revenues for Chicago as well as employ many of our residents. I also support video gambling in our city. However, I do not support any of the listed taxes (above), as we cannot tax our way out of the problems our city faces. The more we tax our citizens, the harder it will be for our families to live in the city. Chicago has become very expensive for many of our citizens, resulting in generations of Chicago families leaving our city and state. We need to stop taking the money out of our tax payers pockets, because of the careless and incompetent decisions made by our elected officials. Marijuana will be legalized by the State of Illinois, at which Chicago will then tax it. My concern will be making sure that this substance stays out of the hands of our children and those most vulnerable throughout our city.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
John Kozlar: The City of Chicago Budget is $10.67 billion. I do not think our problem is solely revenues, as we also have a spending problem, and must reallocate our funds equitably and responsibly.
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?
John Kozlar: I believe the consent decree has some good recommendations when it comes to more training, however, I would rather listen to a group that has professional experience in policing. Individuals who have policing experience did not write the consent decree, resulting in unnecessary and illogical recommendations. I believe the intent to make the Chicago Police Department more efficient is a good intent. We just need better policy changes in place, without the need of making the Chicago Police Department less equipped to do its job to serve and protect our neighborhoods. I have my full ideas listed on my website at http://www.JohnKozlar.com.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
John Kozlar: The best way to reduce the use of illegal guns is to hold those who have illegal guns accountable. As a city, we need to be stricter with those who terrorize our neighborhoods. Criminals in Chicago make it harder for our citizens to live in a safe environment, as gunfire plagues our streets. We need to enact every measure allowable by law in order for our police to do their jobs, and for our neighborhoods to be safe for everyone.
We also need to invest in our children earlier, so they do not get into the culture of illegal gun violence. The best paths away from illegal gun usage is a good quality education and a career oriented mindset.
In addition to your thoughts on how to stem the problem of illegal guns, what else should the next mayor of Chicago do to reduce the rate of violent crime in our city?
John Kozlar: The best way to reduce crime in our city is for our police and communities working together. Right now, there is too much tension going on between our communities and police department. We need to restore this trust immediately, which will result in criminals feeling less safe, as community members will not allow the violence to occur in their streets. My specific plan is a 60/40 policing. What I mean by this is that in order to police in a given district, 60% of the police officers have to live in that district. By living in the district, police will be seen not as outsiders, but instead as community members who know the residents, who will be raising a family within the district (thereby wanting their neighborhood to be a safe environment for all), and who will be investing in the district. This policy will drastically reduce crime in Chicago.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
John Kozlar: The following steps should take place in education when it comes to school selection: 1. Let the parent(s) and student pick the school that he or she will like to attend, 2. Let the principal pick his or her teachers with the LSC members in that specific school, 3. Let the best schools remain for all of our students. Competition within our education system is much needed, so that schools in every area can be good schools. Some students simply may not want to attend a public school or a charter school, so we should make it possible for them to receive the best education as possible. Our current problem is that we force children to attend under-performing schools, because of economic and environmental barriers. The bad schools need phase out, with the good schools flourishing all across Chicago. With holding our individual schools accountable, there will be less and less of low-performing schools in the 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? Please explain.
John Kozlar: I believe in a 9 member Chicago Board of Education. 5 of which will be elected, and 4 appointed by the Mayor of Chicago. In order to be elected, the candidate must have some previous relationship with Chicago Public Schools (ie teachers, parents, principals, LSC member, etc). This will filter out money being poured into the election process, where only wealthy or well-funded candidates can win. There needs to be accountability from the Mayor’s office, which is why I do not feel it should be a completely elected school board. This will create a checks and balance in decision making, but give the elected officials an upper hand as more are elected, compared to appointed by the mayor. The current “all-appointed” Chicago Board of Education is not effective, and we need to make it better.
What else would you do as mayor to improve the quality of public school education?
John Kozlar: We need to invest in our children’s future, earlier. If students are exposed to different professions at an earlier age, they will have a better idea of what they would like to before they get to college. My specific program is called “Little Professionals League.” If we can have Little League Sports, we can Little Professionals. Students will have the opportunity to shadow different professions while they are in high school (ie teachers, doctors, lawyers, carpenters, etc), allowing them to see first-hand each profession, and determine if this is something that is interesting to them to pursue in life.
We should also pay our teachers more, so that the profession can become more attractive, and recruit the best of the best for our students. I would also initiate a bonus-styled system for our teachers and staff, so that we can reward our teachers, principals and staff for going a good job. We tend to give credit solely based on tenure, and not skills, which needs to change in our educational system.
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?
John Kozlar: The first people we need to deport are all of our corrupt politicians. Chicago should remain a welcoming city for all law-abiding individuals. We should not kick any families who follow the law out of our communities. We need a better federal process to make our immigration policies sufficient. As Mayor, I will work with our members in Congress to move comprehensive and efficient immigration policies forward.
What are the top three environmental concerns facing the next mayor of Chicago?
John Kozlar: In no particular order, we need to do the following better when it comes to our environment: 1. Have a better water system in place. Chicago has dangerous lead pipes throughout of city’s waterways, which are outdated and no longer advanced. This includes protecting our Lake and River. 2. Our air. Chicago has had a tendency to allow certain companies to pollute our air. I will put an end to operations that negatively impact the quality of our air in Chicago, so that no one develops an illness or defect due to air quality. 3. The amount of waste in our city. We can always do better when it comes to recycling and preventing toxic waste from seeping into our important sources of energy. In each of these concerns, I will recruit individuals and companies who are at the forefront technologically advancements, so that we can bring our waterways, air quality, and waste practices into the future, and allow Chicago to be a safe and efficient environment for all.
Chicago is famously a city of neighborhoods, which is part of its charm, but also in some ways a weakness. It can make it hard to build bridges across racial, ethnic and social lines. What would you do to build those bridges?
John Kozlar: One deficiency in Chicago is that we only invest in certain areas (namely downtown), and forget about the neighborhoods that make up our city. I will be a mayor who invests in all of our neighborhoods, so that our residents will feel that they are being included in our city’s development, instead of feeling left out. We have boarded up storefronts and empty lots on the South and West Sides of Chicago. This is because of a lack of investment from our city government, and further creates disenfranchisement across racial, ethnic, and social lines. When we all work together, and invest resources within our communities, we can then build bridges and have Chicago be one city.
What past or present Chicago mayor would you model yourself after or take inspiration from? Please explain.
John Kozlar: Harold Washington. Harold Washington was an individual who was up against all odds to become Mayor of Chicago, and he made history when elected. People discounted him, yet he still advanced our city because he cared about the individuals and neighborhoods within our city, and not just the special interest groups and wealthy donors. I will be a mayor of the people of Chicago, as I have lived here my entire life and someone who believes in the power of all people working together to make our city a better place for all.
Mayor Washington had many challenges in front of him, before he became mayor, yet he met them all with professionalism and enthusiasm. As I bring in a fresh, new approach to Chicago politics, I look forward to meeting the challenges ahead with the same passion as Harold Washington.
Other than “Boss” (because everybody says “Boss”) what’s the best book ever written about Chicago, non-fiction or fiction. There are no wrong answers, of course, so we hope you’ll have some fun.
John Kozlar: The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair.
- I remember doing a research project in grammar school about Chicago’s stockyards. One of the books that I read was The Jungle, and truly enjoyed the historical references throughout the book. I am a big fan of history, and the fact that I grew up not too far from the very location where the stockyards once stood, added to the excitement as I read about Chicago’s history.
Also running for mayor: