1)  BE A BETTER COMMUNITY SERVANT & STEWARD

  • Knocking door-to-door when collecting signatures, I heard many disturbing stories from the residents.  Some residents told me of the fear they have being out in the evening because of the darkness they experience due to broken streetlights and alley lights.  They had complained to the alderman for months  about the broken lights and they were still waiting for them to be fixed.  Others told me of garbage cans with holes or broken lids not being replaced after weeks of complaining to the alderman.  The broken garbage cans provide a food source for rats and mice, in essence making it a breeding ground for those rodents.  Walking in some areas of the ward was like walking through an obstacle course as sidewalks are completely destroyed.  These are small fixes that should be addressed immediately to improve the quality of life in the ward.

2) ELIMINATE TOXIC POLLUTION FROM THE WARD

  • MAT Asphalt started production of asphalt in July 2018.  The construction of the site, at 4010 S. Damen, began in July 2017.  Our alderman, who is a member of the Zoning Committee, distributed a letter to the community saying he was unaware the plant was being built.  According to the Chicago Tribune and his website , he now heralds the plant as actually striking a balance between creating jobs and improving the quality of life.[1]   On MAT’s website, the facility is trumpeted as exceeding EPA standards and producing no odors that can be detected from Pershing Road.[2]   As many of the park visitors who come for a breath of fresh air and nearby residents can attest, that is false!  Not only are odors noticeable, they make your nose and throat itch.  I personally experienced this one October morning walking along Pershing, as a south wind blew across the park.  The facility may have created a few jobs, but it has been a toxic detriment to the quality of life in the area. 

  • The toxic hazard from asphalt production has long been established.  Carcinogenic byproducts are created during asphalt production, especially in the emissions coming from a plant.  When inhaled, these carcinogenic byproducts will cause the nose and throat to itch.   In 1997, the National Park Service (NPS) catalogued a report about asphalt into its Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia[3] .  The report clearly states the following: "Hazards to Humans:  Hazards include inhalation of compounds in heated or fresh asphalt...Current [National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health] research indicates that asphalt products are carcinogenic to laboratory animals and, therefore may be more toxic to humans than previously believed [366]...the [NIOSH] position is that any exposure to certain carcinogenic PAHs is too much and therefore the exposure should be limited as much as possible."  PAHs are Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons; they describe the bond new compounds form when complex organic substances are exposed to high temperature or pressures.  Though this may sound technical,  you do not have to be a chemist to understand the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s findings:  "The most significant endpoint of PAH toxicity is cancer.”[4]

  • If that was not damning enough, the report goes on to detail: "Asphalt cement - is the heaviest fraction of asphalt. Consistency ranges from between solid to semiliquid at room temperature.  In general, the heavier fractions of asphalt are characterized by high concentrations of aromatics…nitrogen, sulphur, oxygen, and trace amounts of metals…Asphalt cements are typically used in hot mix technologies."  The hot mix technology that MAT Asphalt touts as being odorless and comparable to the outputs of bakeries actually has high outputs of sulfur compounds (PAHs) that are cancerous.  I highly doubt bakeries are producing carcinogenic toxins.

  • In Lincoln Park, an affluent community on the North Side of the city, on the mere "...chances that contaminants are transported by wind to nearby neighborhoods when the ground up scrap metal is thrown airborne,"  the alderman transfixed the city's regulatory resources on closing a scrap iron metal plant.[5]   As reported, the levels of contamination were well under EPA levels.  That, however, did not stop the alderman from exerting his influence, pressuring Chicago's Department of Public Health to conduct weekly inspections of the plant.[6]   The pressure exerted was sufficient for the owners of the scrap yard to decide to close operations in Lincoln Park.[7]   Unfortunately, as the Chicago Tribune reported, it is relocating to the South Side.[8]   It is critically important to note, the recycling plant produces no carcinogenic emissions.  Yet, we have, in our ward, an alderman who has defended the asphalt plant that releases carcinogenic toxins into our immediate environment. 

  • It would be my top priority to work with community constituents to find solutions on how to eliminate toxic pollution from the 12th Ward.  As one of my college professors, Roberta Garner, said, it seems like the 12th Ward is going through a "trashification."  The current alderman is chairman of the Health and Environment Committee; he should clearly understand what damage he has caused to the health and environment of the 12th Ward residents by allowing toxic polluters to operate in our ward. Why should we put up with unnecessary and elevated hazards to our health? Just because MAT made campaign contributions to the alderman?[9]  Has he sold our invaluable health for a value bargain in the form of a $10,500 contribution? Are we less deserving than the residents of Lincoln Park to have an alderman that will fight to keep our environment healthy?  If you are concerned, Change.org has a petition to close down the plant. Please sign it.

3)  ELIMINATE CORPORATE TAX BREAKS

  • We must have an alderman that represents the interests of the 12th Ward constituents:  middle class, working class and working poor.  We cannot have an alderman that favors tax incentives, which is just a nicer way of saying tax breaks, allowing global companies to avoid paying their fair share.  Please note, these companies (Boeing, McDonalds, etc.) generate revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and some in the tens of billions of dollars.  How can our elected officials justify tax breaks for these companies, while at the same time increasing the fines, fees, and taxes for city services and basic necessities, such as water and garbage collection?  These increases punish those who could least afford it. 

  • These types of policies destroy the milieu of the neighborhoods that has made Chicago what it is today.  This is one of the primary reasons, year after year, Chicago has had a net loss of its working class and poor population.[10]   Lifelong residents can no longer afford to live here, because policies the alderman has endorsed create a city only the wealthy can thrive in.  The working class and working poor residents cannot develop wealth as long as government policies work against them.  We must have an alderman that fights for our basic rights and interests; not just for those of the wealthy and politically connected. When a billion-dollar company receives a tax break, it is the rest of the middle class, working class, and working poor residents that have to pick up the billion-dollar company's tab.  How fair is this?

4) FIGHT FOR AN ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD

  • As millions of dollars in tax breaks are given to huge corporations while local neighborhood schools are shuttered for being unfeasible to operate, it makes one wonder, “Does educating our youth matter to our elected representatives?”  For this reason, we must support having an elected school board, not a group of mayoral cronies who coordinate backroom meetings and under the table deals to close schools.  An elected school board that will be held accountable for their actions and will need to explain why they are eliminating schools that are neighborhood anchors; that represent a safe space in high-crime neighborhoods; that are an outlet for youth activities; and that provide dozens of good paying careers.   An elected school board is of critical importance, particularly because of instances where neighborhood schools close and charter schools open in the same neighborhood.  Furthermore, the building that houses the new charter school has a private owner that collects rent payments from the charter school through diverted Chicago Public School (CPS) funds.  What’s more puzzling, as the Chicago Reporter details, is that we have seen a new trend where a private school open in the same physical location that the shuttered neighborhood school occupied. [11]  If charter schools and private schools can educate kids in those neighborhoods, why can't CPS do it?  We need to have higher expectations and demand more from our city's schools.  A school board that is handpicked by the Mayor and only accountable to the Mayor's political interests cannot do that.

5)  END PRIVATIZATION OF PUBLIC RESOURCES

  • Charter schools’ inception had great intentions; but, like many initiatives in Chicago, once corrupt politicians figure out how to make them work for their political patrons’ benefit, they do just that.  Charter schools represent an alternative for parents who rightfully feel their local neighborhood school has let their child down.  I agree that parents should not fear for their child's safety or educational progress when sending them to neighborhood school.  A 2013 Northwestern University study found, however, that charter schools do not perform better than local schools.[12]   Why then do some parents feel it is better to send their kids to charter schools? 

  • The answer is simple:  Charter schools are given unfair advantages in dealing with issues that foster a safer environment for all students.  For example, a neighborhood school cannot mandate that a child who has lice stay at home until the lice is cleared but a charter school can. CPS schools also worry about their School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) score.  Entering incidents of discipline at the school can lower the score.  Lowered scores can result in monitors being assigned to the school or even probation for the school.  Probation is one step away from closure, creating the opportunity for another charter school to be built.  The SQRP does not exist for charter schools.  Why can the charter schools operate with different rules when dealing with problematic issues that affect students?  Again, the issue is not with the charter school itself.  The issue is a much larger problem:  The privatization of public assets.

  • Charter schools continue receiving funds from the taxpayers.  Regardless of what outcomes they produce (remember the Northwestern study) the politically appointed administration of those schools get paid.  This is not only true of charter schools but so many other services Mayor Emanuel has continued to privatize with the support of aldermen, like our current alderman, who vote yes for those contracts. [13]

  •  With support from our alderman, privatization started with Mayor Daley and has expanded under Mayor Emanuel.  In 2004, Daley leased the Chicago Skyway toll rights for 99 years for $1.7 billion.  Ten years later, that company sold their rights to another company for $2.8 billion dollars.[14]   They profited a billion dollars, for doing nothing, in 10 years in addition to all the profits they earned after raising rates.  When the Skyway was leased, it was lauded as a boon to the city that would last well into the future.  As The Civic Federation reported, most of those funds are were used up by 2010, but the private operators continue earning money. [15]

  •  Another privatization fiasco is the parking meters lease.  When the parking meters were leased for 75 years, it was, again, touted as a boon to the city.  One alderman had demonstrated that over the course of 75 years, the city itself could generate $2-$5 billion dollars if it maintained ownership of the meters, but the vote to sell the meters still passed. [16]  Our alderman, whose primary responsibility is to vote on issues that affect taxpayers, putting constituents first, managed to miss the vote -- essentially, making his vote a yes. [17]  One resident fought back and sued to  void the contract.[18]   Emanuel, however, legally thwarted those efforts, and, worst, he revised the contract:  according to Mick Dumke, he allowed the meter operators to extend hours of operations, privatized more meters and made the language "iron clad" to fend off any future lawsuits. [19]  What was supposed to be a boon to the city is now a deficit.  According to the Illinoispolicy.org, in 2018 the city will pay $20 million dollars to the parking meter operators on top of parking rate increases. [20]  As reported by Illinois Policy and the Civic Federation, all the money from that sale is gone.  Chicago taxpayers, however, will continue to make yearly million-dollar payments to the parking meter operators for the next six decades.  In 13 years, the private operators have recouped their investment, leaving 62 years of pure profit at the expense of Chicago taxpayers.  

  • The Teacher's Retirement System was solvent before Daley and his nephew started to manage it.  Now to remedy their errors, the current mayor and the rubber stamp aldermen continue the trend Daley started to allow private companies, with political connections, to take over city functions and profit off the backs of its constituents by increasing costs, cutting services and having low wage jobs.  In an ironic and shameless twist, sick of Mayor Emanuel saying he had to raise taxes and fees because the previous administration kicked "the can down the road," Bill Daley (the former mayor's brother) blamed Emanuel and all the aldermen (including ours) who voted for Mayor Emanuel's and Mayor Daley's budgets.[21]  Every time a city asset is privatized, we are told it is a great deal and the funds will provide essential relief for long term needs.  Yet, it is well documented that those funds have been depleted much faster than promised.  We need a representative that will not mortgage the future of Chicago on deceptive deals and say no to privatization of city resources at the expense of its taxpayers.  

6) ADDRESS VIOLENCE AND GANGS

  • Violence and crime plague the entire city.  Shootings have increased citywide over the last few years. Our ward has not been immune to this epidemic.   McKinley Park has had issues with gang violence, but Brighton Park and Little Village have had frighteningly alarming incidents involving high capacity assault rifles.  The shootings almost always have stray bullets that strike homes and individuals that were not intended targets.  The grief and terror permeates our community. 

  • For all the surge in violence in these neighborhoods, our alderman has not done much to address the issue.  He is the chairman of the Health and Environmental Protection Committee and a member of the Education and Child Development Committee, yet he has never created or helped establish a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the violence or corollary crimes produced by gangs in the ward that affect the health and environment of developing children and community residents.  There is no strategy to rehabilitate individuals committing these crimes, nor any ideas to appropriately intervene when the crimes occur or solutions to prevent the crimes from happening at all.  

  • To the contrary, the alderman has voted for budgets that reduce or entirely eliminate the resources needed to combat the problems of violence and crime.  In Mayor Emanuel's first budget, he voted to close down mental health clinics, reduce the hours of operations in libraries that provide critical educational resources for youth, and defund after school programs in high schools that provide positive outlets for at risk teenagers.  Is it a coincidence that there is a correlation between cuts in services needed most by youth and a Chicago Tribune graph documenting a surge in violence during the same time period?[22]   Does he not know that shootings severely impact the health and environment of those residents affected by them?  Does he not know that children with more educational and mental health resources will have better chances of becoming integrated and productive members of the community?  Clearly, he does not understand how those budget cuts he voted for correlate to an increase in violence and crimes or he doesn't care. Either way the communities of McKinley Park, Brighton Park and Little Village deserve someone who understands and will care.

7)  REFORMING TIF DISTRICTS

  • Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Districts as created in Chicago are bad news!  Once again, the politicians figured out how to take an idea with good intentions and manipulate it for their political donors and friends.  They drain much needed resources from communities that need them only to award those funds to private developers with political connections. Tifreports.com and CityLab.com have great explanations on what the TIFs are and why they fleece the taxpayer.

  • When a TIF district is created, tax rates in that district are frozen for 23 years; if property values in the district increase for any reason, such as a new development in the district, the new monies collected that exceed the frozen tax rate are deposited into a fund controlled by the mayor and spent at his discretion.  TIFs were created to provide incentives for developers to build in blighted areas that would otherwise not attract developers.  TIFs were not intended for wealthy communities such as the South Loop and Lincoln Park, where developers already want to build.  The arena that is home court for DePaul is a perfect example of the mayor rewarding political allies at the expense of taxpayers.  As Ben Joravsky eloquently stated, the mayor is using tax funds to buy land for a private university and a billion dollar hotel chain, so they can both avoid paying property taxes, because if the city owns the land it cannot be taxed.[23]  He also documented a series of other TIF abuses (links in midsection of the article).[24]

  •  TIFs in their current format are susceptible to corruption.  There needs to be reforms that dictate what blighted areas are and mechanisms for voters in the TIF district to designate what projects would get funding.  Also, any excess monies in the TIF fund should first go to schools and parks in the district that need to cover deficits in their budgets so that residents in the TIF district are not taxed twice.

8)  PROPERTY TAX CONTROL AND TAX RELIEF

  • Before we raise property taxes, we need to let the public vote on it.  This way the public could know exactly where the money will go to and how long the new tax increase will last. I also propose repeal the sewer tax, increases in water fee, increases in the garbage collection fee and CTA rate hikes.  J.B. Pritzker will immediately pursue state legalization of recreational marijuana use; if it should pass, the city can tax the sale of it and thus fund the repeals I proposed without interruptions in the quality of those services.[25]   More certainly, Chicago could impose a tax on trades executed by Chicago’s Financial Exchanges (Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Board of Options Exchange, Chicago Stock Exchange).  If the city is willing to tax little kids wanting to play video games with their friends online, it should be willing to tax grown men playing the markets online.[26]

  •  We have heard the frantic pleas from politicians saying the city is operating at a deficit, so property taxes and fees for city services must be increased.  Yet this is not a one-time appeal.  This happens budget after budget, mayor after mayor.  Before we have increases of any kind, there needs to be a forensic audit of the revenues generated by our taxes and fees to see how much is collected and how it is spent.  Then we can vote to see if taxpayers believe a tax hike is necessary.

CITATIONS

1.  Tony Briscoe, “Worried About Fumes, McKinley Park Residents Say Officials Failed to Notify Them About Asphalt Plant Being Built Nearby,” Chicago Tribune, 29 June 2018.  https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-met-mckinley-park-asphalt-plant-20180530-story.html

2.  “Environmental Impact, Frequently Asked Questions,” MAT Asphalt, 2018. https://matasphalt.com/environment/

3.  Irwin, Roy J, Mar Van Mouwerik, Lynette Stevens, Marion Dubler Seese and Wendy Basham, “Environmental Contaminants Encyclopedia Asphalt Entry,” National Park Service, 1 July 1997.  https://www.nature.nps.gov/hazardssafety/toxic/asphalt.pdf

4.  “Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)  What Health Effects Are Associated With PAH Exposure,” Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Centers for  Disease Control and Prevention, 1 July 2009.  https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/csem/csem.asp?csem=13&po=11

5.  Anil Mathews, “Residents Demand Relocation of Lincoln Park Scrap Metal Plant,” Scrap Monster, 16 May 2018.  https://www.scrapmonster.com/news/residents-demand-relocation-of-lincoln-park-scrap-metal-plant/1/67803

6.  Goudie, Chuck and Barb Markoff, “Pollution, Politics At Heart of Push To Move Century Old Recycling Facility Out Of Lincoln Park,” ABC 7 Chicago, 2 November 2018.  https://abc7chicago.com/politics/pollution-politics-at-heart-of-push-to-move-century-old-recycling-facility-out-of-lincoln-park/4599658/

7.  Goudie and Markoff , “Pollution At Heart of Push To Move Century Old Recycling Facility Out Of Lincoln Park, 2018.

8.  Michael Hawthorne, “Planned Move Of Scrap Shredder Alarms Southeast Side Pollution Fighters: We’re Tired of Being the City’s Dumping Ground,” Chicago Tribune, 7 July 2018. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-met-general-iron-scrap-shredder-east-side-pollution-20180714-story.html

9.  Briscoe, “Worried About Fumes, McKinley Park Residents Say Officials Failed To Notify Them About Plant Being Built Nearby,” 2018.

10.  Whet Moser, “Two Graphs Show Why The Chicago Area Is Losing Population,” Chicago Mag, 28 March 2018.  https://www.chicagomag.com/city-life/March-2018/Two-Graphs-Show-Why-the-Chicago-Area-Is-Losing-Population/

11.  Kalyn Belsha, “Private Schools, Poised To Grow In Illinois, Move Into Closed Chicago Public Schools,” The Chicago Reporter, 24 April 2018.  https://www.chicagoreporter.com/private-schools-poised-to-grow-in-illinois-move-into-closed-chicago-public-schools/

12.  Valerie Strauss, “Chicago Charters Do Not Do Better Than Traditional Public Schools, New Study Finds,” The Washington Post, 7 April 2014.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/04/07/chicago-charters-do-no-better-than-traditional-public-schools-new-study-finds/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3dc9a06917cf

13.  Rick Perlstein, “How To Sell Off A City,” In These Times, 21 January 2015.  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17533/how_to_sell_off_a_city

14.  Chris Lentino, “Chicago To Pay $20 Million To Parking Meter Company In 2018,” Illinois Policy , 2 November 2017.  https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicago-to-pay-20-million-to-parking-meter-company-in-2018/

15. “Expiring Parking Meter And Skyway Funds,” The Civic Federation, 10 November 2010.  https://www.civicfed.org/civic-federation/blog/expiring-parking-meter-and-skyway-funds

16.  Joravsky, Ben and Mick Dumke, “FAIL, Part Two:  One BILLION Dollars,” READER, 21 May 2009. https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/one-billion-dollars/Content?oid=1123046

17.  Joravsky, Ben and Mick Dumke, “FAIL, Part One:  Chicago’s Parking Meter Lease Deal,” READER, 9 April 2009.  https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/features-cover-april-9-2009/Content?oid=1098561

18. Dumke, Mick and Ben Joravsky, “How Mayor Emanuel Locked The Parking Meter Deal In Place,” Reader, 6 June 2013.  https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/mayor-emanuel-locks-in-parking-meter-deal/Content?oid=9931786

19.  Mick Dumke, Mayor Emanuel Says He ‘Reformed’ The Parking Meter Deal, But He Actually Sold Off More of the City Streets,” READER, 19 February 2015. https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/02/19/mayor-emanuel-says-he-reformed-the-parking-meter-deal-but-he-actually-sold-off-more-of-the-city-streets#5

20.  Lentino, “Chicago To Pay $20 Million To Parking Meter Company in 2018,” 2018.

21.  Fran Spielman, “Rahm Emanuel, Richard M. Daley Tensions Boil Over; Bill Daley Defends Brother,” 27 April 2018.  https://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-news/rahm-emanuel-richard-daley-tensions-bill-daley/

22.  Chicago Tribune Crime Team, “Chicago Shooting Victims Maps and Charts,” Chicago Tribune, 3 December 2018.  https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/data/ct-shooting-victims-map-charts-htmlstory.html#6

23.  Ben Joravsky, “Rahm’s New TIF program Looks A Lot Like The Old TIF Program,” READER, 28 May 2013.  https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/mayor-emanuel-ignores-tif-reform-panel/Content?oid=9828570

24. Ben Joravsky, “Hey, 40th Ward – Do Us A Favor And Ditch Alderman O’Connor,” READER, https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2015/02/20/hey-40th-warddo-us-a-favor-and-ditch-alderman-oconnor

25. Tom Schuba, “With Pritzker And Madigan On Board, Dems Push Again For Pot Legalization,” Chicago Suntimes, 18 November 2018.  https://chicago.suntimes.com/cannabis/mike-madigan-illinois-democrats-marijuana-cannabis-legislation-heather-steans-kelly-cassidy-bruce-rauner-jb-pritzker/

26.  Joe Barnas, “Chicago Slaps Playstation Users With Expansion Of 9 Percent Amusement Tax,” Illinois Policy, 18 November 2018.  https://www.illinoispolicy.org/chicago-slaps-playstation-users-with-expansion-of-9-percent-amusement-tax/

©2018 by Samuel Alcantar for the 12th Ward Alderman.