1) City Pensions
Q: Chicago's fire and police pensions are greatly underfunded, and the city is required by the state to make a $550 million payment into the pension funds by the end of 2015. Do you support restructuring the pension systems, inevitably reducing benefits, to put the funds on sound financial footing?
Yes or No:
Please Explain: The constitutionality of pension reform at the state level is still an open legal matter. The outcome of this legal decision will do much to provide a blueprint for pension reform in the City of Chicago.
Q: Chicago's pension systems for municipal workers and laborers already have been restructured, reducing benefits, but the city has yet to identify where it will find the revenue to sufficiently fund those systems. Under what circumstances would you support a property tax increase to raise the needed revenue for the fire and police pensions and/or the municipal workers and laborers pensions?
See above answer.
2) Chicago Public Schools pensions
Q: Large and growing payments required to keep the Chicago Teachers’ Pension Fund solvent are squeezing CPS' budget, forcing cuts elsewhere and limiting investment. The Chicago Board of Education has increased property taxes, but it is not enough to keep up with the high annual costs. What measures do you support to ensure a solvent retirement system and to improve the district's finances?
See above answer. Any pension solution will require sacrifice by all sides.
Q: In light of the financial issues discussed above, do you support any or all of the following measures, each of which would require, at a minimum, approval by the Illinois Legislature?
* A statewide expansion of the sales tax base to include more consumer services
Yes or No: Yes but with care. Essential services such as childcare and eldercare should be exempt. These services enable employees to work in a consistent and reliable manner.
* A tax on non-Chicago residents who work in the city
Yes or No: No, this will drive more employers to the suburbs.
* A tax on electronic financial transactions on Chicago’s trading exchanges, known as the “LaSalle Street tax”
Yes or No: Yes
Please explain your views, if you wish, on any of these three revenue-generating measures.
I’d like to add a revenue measure:
Unused Land tax. Far too often, out of state investors purchase empty lots and wait for a neighborhood to go up in value before the investor makes improvements to the property or sells it for profit. These lands are barren and often havens for crime and loitering that are beyond the control of those who actually reside near the property. There should be a grace period of a specific amount of time for an owner to have a low rate on an empty lot. After that grace period the property tax rate should match that of surrounding buildings. Owners must improve the lot with a building, find a non-profit gardening group, or find someone else to lease the land to for a designated amount of time to ensure the land is being tended in some positive manner.
Q: Do you support hiring more police officers to combat crime and gun violence in Chicago?
Yes or No: Yes.
Yes, to the degree that we are able to afford more police and fire, this should be a priority.
Q: What legislation in Springfield would you support to try to stem the flow of illegal guns into Chicago?
A: I’d require those who want to own guns in Chicago to have 30 hours of initial training in care and safety of firearms followed by training at a gun range and field training, so that users learn to not panic when using a firearm. Those who pass the training must update their license to own a firearm in Chicago every two years with a written test and 10 hours of hands-on experience at a firing range.
Having a way to legally own guns would curb the need for illegally owned guns. Very strict fines and jail time for those in possession of illegal firearms should be implemented.
5) Elected school board
Q: An advisory referendum on switching Chicago to an elected school board, rather than an appointed board, is expected to be on the ballot in more than 30 wards on Feb. 24. Currently, the mayor appoints all seven board members and the Schools CEO. Do you support a change to an elected school board?
Yes or No: Yes but with caution.
I am supportive of efforts to bring more accountability and local control to Chicago Schools.
6) Tax-increment financing districts
Q: TIFs are the primary economic development tool of the city. In a TIF district, taxes from the growth in property values are set aside for 23 years to be used for public projects and private development. Do you support increasing the annual TIF surplus that the mayor and the City Council have declared in each of the last few years, money that goes to the schools and other city agencies?
Yes or No: Yes.
Q: What reforms would you propose for the city's TIF program?
A: The use of TIFs needs to be examined on a case by case basis. TIFs should be used to revitalize blighted areas and possibly create new local jobs.
7) Neighborhood economic development
Q: What would you do as alderman to boost economic development in your ward, and bring jobs to your community?
A: I will work to make the business licensing process clearer. Accessing permits for business construction should be more transparent and user friendly. Business owners should be able to count on a dependable and predictable system, instead of having to deal with the whims of the alderman and misinformation from city hall departments.
8) Size of the Chicago City Council
Q: The City Council has 50 members, but civic groups and other regularly argue for reducing the size of the Council. What should the size of the Council be? Please provide a specific number. And why?
A: We should reduce the number of aldermen and remap more efficiently.
9) A Chicago casino
Q: Do you support, in general concept, establishing a gambling casino in Chicago?
Yes or No: Yes.
We can see the Indiana casinos from Chicago, and many residents go there to spend money. We should keep this revenue in Chicago and dedicate it to improving schools and public safety. We should approve and develop any potential casino location in a responsible manner.
10) Red light and speed cameras
Q: Does the city have an acceptable number of red light and speed cameras currently, and are they properly employed?
Yes or No: Maybe.
Please explain: It depends on the location of the camera and whether or not it will help improve public safety.
11) Ward issues
Q: What are the top three issues in your ward — the ones you talk about most on the campaign trail?
A: Strengthening education opportunities for local youth, investing in and rebuilding our aging infrastructure, and improving city services for residents and businesses.
Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board questionnaire responses
Office running for: Alderman, Ward 32
Political/civic background: Board member and founder, Friends of Goethe School (FOGS) Former board member of Rebuilding Together-Metro Chicago Former Army Reservist 3rd Term Local School Council member at Goethe Elementary School
Occupation: Small business owner
Education: Glenbard South High School, Class of 1990; Journeyman Carpenter
Campaign website: www.facebook.com/FriendsofEliseDoodyJones