Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board questionnaire responses

Anne Marie Miles

Office running for: Alderman, 5th Ward

Political/civic background:I ran for Alderman of the 5th ward in 2011. My civic involvement includes the following: I volunteer for a number of community groups, including the South Shore Opera Company, The University of Chicago Comer Childrens’ Hospital Service Committee, the Jackson Park Yacht Club, the Jackson Park Advisory Council, Cabrini Green Legal Aid, and the Office of the State Appellate Defender. I worked with the Union League Club to prepare a brochure entitled “Before you decide: A Criminal Record can Follow you forever” which is distributed to at-risk young people in Chicago. I sit on the Education sub-committee and Finance Committee of the Union League Club. I was involved in Participatory Budgeting for the 5th ward, for the 2 years that it has been offered.

Occupation: Attorney                        Campaign website:  www.annemariemiles.com

Education: text: B. A. (Political Science, Gonzaga University; M.P.A. Long Island University; J.D. Fordham University School of Law; LLM (Tax) John Marshall Law School





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Anne Marie Miles is endorsed by the Sun-Times. Read the endorsement here.

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:  Yes.
Please Explain:
We know that there is a looming crisis with our pensions.  It does no one any good to pretend that it doesn’t exist.  The longer we put off making the hard choices, the less money will be available.  If the pension crisis is put off for another 4 years, we will lose the money which would be accrued from increased pension contributions, decreases in pension payouts and there will be less municipal money as more money will be going to higher interest bond payments.

Not knowing whether you will receive the pension you expect is demoralizing.  And at time when we are asking our police to be more sensitive to the community we must help them feel secure.

Unlike my opponent, the incumbent, I will not be voting for pension holidays.

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?
The pension crisis does not just affect Chicago but many other municipalities and governmental units including the State of Illinois.  There must be a unified solution which provides a mix of funds.  All stakeholders must come to the table prepared to negotiate to solve the crisis.  
We must also look at other methods of revenue generation, increasing the sales tax base, the Lasalle Street tax, and other more equitable progressive methods of taxation.  As a last resort, and only in combination with the foregoing, would I consider a property tax increase if the amount was reasonable and it was guaranteed to put the pension plans on a solid basis.

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?

A: For our children to reach their full potential and compete in the global marketplace, we need to provide them with good public schools.. Our children need and deserve schools that are properly funded. Concomitantly our promises to our teachers must be kept.  This balancing act is very difficult especially with all the unfunded mandates that must be met.  

Senate bill 16 is an attempt to help alleviate the pressure on local school taxing authorities by making the funding of education in Illinois statewide.  I would support this bill, through conversations with state legislators, if it brought more money to Chicago Public Schools.

The pension crisis does not just affect Chicago but many other municipalities and governmental units including the State of Illinois.  There must be a unified solution which provides a mix of funds.  All stakeholders must come to the table prepared to negotiate to solve the crisis.  
We must also look at other methods of revenue generation, for example, decreasing the monies allocated to TIFs, requiring a “payback” of TIF monies under certain scenarios, as well as increasing the sales tax base, the Lasalle Street tax, and other more equitable progressive methods of taxation.  As a last resort, and only in combination with the foregoing, would I consider a property tax increase if the amount was reasonable and it was guaranteed to put the pension plans on a solid basis.
I would support a TIF surplus ordinance requiring non committed money in TIF districts to be returned to the taxing authorities.  

3) Revenue

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

* A tax on non-Chicago residents who work in the city
Yes or No:
Yes

* 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.

The pension crisis and public school funding does not just affect Chicago but many other municipalities and governmental units.  There must be a unified solution which provides a mix of funds.  All stakeholders must come to the table prepared to negotiate to solve the crisis.  
We must also look at other methods of revenue generation, increasing the sales tax base, the Lasalle Street tax, and other more equitable progressive methods of taxation.

4) Crime

Q: Do you support hiring more police officers to combat crime and gun violence in Chicago?

Yes or No:  Yes

Please explain:

I support putting more officers in the community in certain areas to combat the issue of crime and gun violence.  It does not have to be 1,000 new officers but more officers whether from reassignments or freeing up funds from non essential overtime or finding more funding.  The question becomes what is the minimum number of additional officers needed in a community to make a difference.  Is it 2 per shift? 4? Until we know what that number looks like and how many areas would need additional officers, it is difficult to make a specific recommendation.

Q: What legislation in Springfield would you support to try to stem the flow of illegal guns into Chicago?

A: I would support legislation which allowed for ‘home rule” powers for local municipalities, allowing for local rules on the sale of assault weapons and the imposition of taxes.

I would also support legislation that required guns to be titled.

I would support legislation that required gun owners to report any lost or stolen guns.

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

Please explain: I support an elected school board as it will give more power to the community and provide for more checks and balances.  

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: I would support a TIF surplus ordinance requiring non committed money held for more than 3 years in TIF districts to be returned to the taxing authorities.  
I would place a cap on the percentage of taxes which can be diverted from CPS or, alternatively, I would support a cap as an actual dollar amount.  Once the cap is reached, there can be no new TIFs created until the percentage is lowered by a certain percentage amount, say, half a percent.
TIFs should automatically be dissolved when they expire and cannot be reconstituted.  No more than 40% of any prior TIF may be included in a new TIF.

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: There are many vacant lots and abandoned buildings on Stony Island from 64th Street through 71st Street in the 5th ward, in fact, more than when I ran against the incumbent last time.  The same is true for 71st Street from Stony Island to Exchange.  The current Alderman, my opponent, does not have a business council and does not have any plan for creating or growing businesses in our ward.  In reality, by obtaining approval for the city to take over Jeffrey Plaza, she has just put the immediate future of 18 up and running businesses in jeopardy.  This is adjacent to where the Urban Partnership bank is boarded up.  Other local businesses dependent on foot traffic to and from Jeffrey Plaza are now also in jeopardy.   If she had planned to create an economic wasteland she could not be doing a better job.

Stony Island Avenue has the potential to be a powerful economic engine for the community. Every day, up to 60,000 cars drive along this major artery, making the Starbucks at 71st Street and the Save-A-Lot at 73rd Street the highest-grossing locations in  Chicago for their respective companies. This street should be prime commercial real estate, and my first order of business as Alderman will be to bring stores and jobs to this underserved area.

I have a business advisory council which will be expanded when I am elected and we will focus on bringing new business to the ward and working with existing businesses to expand them.  I will also seek a commitment to have a certain percentage of payroll going to 5th ward residents.  I don’t want 5th warders to only be employed in the lowest paying jobs.

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: I think that the number of Aldermen could be reduced but I would couple that reduction with the creation of an independent body that would draw the redistricting maps.  If there were a 50% reduction in the number of wards I would not want to see an 2nd ward that was bookended, so the independent body would be required to use area ratios.

9) A Chicago casino

Q: Do you support, in general concept, establishing a gambling casino in Chicago?

Yes or No:

Please explain:  I would have to see the cost projections and a detailed analysis of the impact of Casino.  I would want any revenues from a Casino to go to Chicago Public Schools.

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: No

Please explain:  Recently it has been shown that the red light cameras may not be nearly as effective as they have been touted to be.  We should not use these red light and speed cameras as revenue generators.  These cameras are placed in less affluent areas where the impact of a $100 ticket is more significant.
If more revenue is needed we must find fairer ways of generating the money than by having those with the least pay the most.

11) Ward issues

Q: What are the top three issues in your ward — the ones you talk about most on the campaign trail?

A: The Independent Voice of Chicago
Our 5th Ward has lost its identity. As home to one of America’s finest educational institutions and a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures, we long had a reputation as the city’s “check and balance” voice. Sadly, that has dissolved over the past 16 years.
We must regain our independent, free-thinking spirit and return to our role as the voice of Chicago’s conscience. For decades, our own 5th Ward Alderman Leon Despres spoke up for the values that we in the 5th Ward hold dear: economic and social equality. Lately that independent voice of conscience has given way to grandstanding theatrics and a lack of bravery.
The absence of that voice has left us with a city council that mandates where we buy puppies and what fruit or veggies we put in plastic bags to take home, but is incapable of addressing the serious issues confronting our city.

We need to face the hard facts. We need to do something about the fact that our children are being murdered while they play. We need to bring jobs and opportunities to our community. We need to fix the lack of access to services in neighborhoods. We need to create ways to evaluate prosecutors and to give youthful offenders effective second chances to become productive citizens.

Balance the Economic Development Needs of the Ward While Retaining Our Community’s Unique History
The 5th Ward is a unique multicultural community with a wide variety of economic needs and circumstances.

Many residents in Hyde Park are on limited incomes and are being forced out of the housing market by recent economic development. Yet others have come to Hyde Park because of this same economic development, which is already transforming 53rd and 55th Streets and will only increase as Lakeside starts to build. And in South Shore, there is a pressing need for more economic development in the face of recent massive economic disinvestment.

We welcome economic growth, but we must address its impacts. In Hyde Park, this includes a growing need for affordable housing and a concern that Hyde Park doesn’t become another overdeveloped, overpriced Lincoln Park. A major aspect of my role as Alderman will be helping to shape discussions about how to preserve Hyde Park’s history and retain its strong neighborhood feel.

In South Shore, there are numerous vacant lots and empty buildings, in fact, even more than when I ran last time, including the recently shuttered Dominick’s.  Stony Island Avenue has the potential to be a powerful economic engine for the community. Every day, up to 60,000 cars drive along this major artery, making the Starbucks at 71st Street and the Save-A-Lot at 71st  Street the highest-grossing locations in the country for their respective companies. This street should be prime commercial real estate, and my first order of business as Alderman will be to bring stores and jobs to this underserved area.
We need a grocery store in South Shore and, clearly my opponent, the incumbent, is unable to make that happen..  She has had 15 months notice of the closing, and yet she is unable to bring a grocer to South Shore.  Indeed her recent decision to have the city buy Jeffery Plaza accomplishes little other than put the future of 18 operating businesses in jeopardy.  We need an Alderman who can bring a grocer to South Shore.

Improve Our Schools and Keep Our Children and Communities Safe
For our children to reach their full potential and compete in the global marketplace, we need to provide them with good public schools, safe streets, and decent economic opportunities. Our children need and deserve schools that are properly funded, and that is something we are all working towards. Unfortunately, increased funding on the immediate horizon is unlikely, which means we need to make the best possible use of available resources.

We must prioritize those programs that have already been identified as making a significant difference in children’s educational futures, such as early education. I will look for better ways to target our investment in these areas.

I will also create an Absence Hotline so that my office can be informed about students with excessive absences. We will then follow up with these children’s families to ascertain the problem and offer whatever assistance may be possible.

Just as importantly, we need a city where the potential of our children is not cut short by a bullet or thwarted by fear and deprivation. Safety is a common concern for all residents of our ward and my office will work closely with the police and community groups to address this issue. I will set up regular communication and meetings with school authorities, parent and community groups, and the police so that we can identify and address important issues in a timely and effective manner.