Candidate Full Name: Matt O'Shea
Office: 19th Ward Alderman
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
1. What is the most important issue that you will address in your ward?
The most important issue facing the 19th Ward community is economic development. The residents of the 19th Ward want to see more quality businesses in the neighborhood. Since I became Alderman four years ago, we have had a number of successes, such as the opening of Home Run Inn Pizza, Baracco's on 111th, a new Walgreens on 111th, a new Dunkin Donuts, Horse Thief Hollow, Buona Beef, Pizzeria Deepot, the re-opening of Janson's Drive-In, The Quilter's Trunk, Safeguard Storage, and Orange Leaf Frozen Yogurt. Among major accomplishments, we saved a major economic engine in the Ward - the Beverly Arts Center- from going into foreclosure and closing permanently. We also secured the funding to build the Morgan Park Sports Center which will open in the summer of 2015. The facility will be located on a lot in the 19th Ward that has been empty for the last 30 years. This facility will be a combination gymnastics center and indoor ice skating rink. By bringing this new facility to the Ward, it is my hope that top-name businesses will follow and open in the adjacent lots across the street.
There are definitely challenges in bringing additional businesses to the Ward. The 19th Ward is a border ward surrounded by the cities of Merrionnette Park, Oak Lawn, Evergreen Park and Blue Island. Businesses can operate just outside the city limits with far fewer regulations and taxes while still attracting Chicago customers. I have been vocal in my belief that a minimum wage ordinance will kill future development in border wards such as mine.
I have been a strong advocate for business friendly policies and regulations. It is inherent that we simplify doing business with the city and cut some of the red tape surrounding the opening a business. The permitting process in the city of Chicago is arduous, at best. We need to improve on this. In the last four years, I worked with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to reduce the number of business licenses making it easier for businesses to open. I also voted to eliminate the head tax, negotiated an exemption for small businesses in the City's plastic bag ban, and was one of the most public opponents of the City's minimum wage.
2. What are your plans for helping fight crime in your ward?
Since I became Alderman four years ago, crime in the 19th Ward has decreased significantly. Burglaries are down by 44%; robberies are down by 38%; motor vehicle theft is down by 35%; and aggravated batteries are down by 25%. I have worked with the residents in the 19th ward to communicate that the police can only be successful with strong support from the community. The most important thing residents can do is to call the police if they see something suspicious. I host quarterly meetings with residents and our 22nd District Police Commander. In between these meetings, I also host seminars to educate residents on when to call 9-1-1 and what information will best help the police. We have established phone trees for 9-1-1 calls on high crime blocks. I have also hosted several burglary prevention seminars for residents to hear directly from convicted burglars on what they look for in a target home.
The foreclosure crisis has also created new public safety problem. I aggressively pursue problem homes through building and demolition court. At any time, my staff and I are tracking 10-12 problem homes. During the past two years we have secured several demolition orders for homes or garages that were known staging areas for drug sales.
I am actively involved with the 22nd Police District, and speak to the commander several times a week. I want to be sure that the concerns of our citizens are being heard and responded to.
3. What, if any, city assets would you consider privatizing to raise money?
Privatizing public assets is a dangerous budgeting tool. Given the problems that followed other privatization deals, I believe a series of reforms should be enacted to protect the taxpayers before any additional assets are sold. However, given the state of the city's budget and the looming pension crisis, we need to be exploring new sources of revenue. I believe the privatization of any city assets is something that requires a thorough review process, and input from the citizens of Chicago. I believe there should a contract review period prior to any city asset being sold, which would allow for a thorough examination of any proposals as well as the intended allocation of revenue generated from the sale.
4. Do you support or oppose the vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019?
I strongly oppose the $13 minimum wage, and have been very vocal in my belief that this change will cripple border wards such as the19th Ward. In fact, I was one of only five alderman who voted against the increase in city council. The minimum wage increase will have a far greater impact on Chicago's job market than the head tax ever did. This increase, now done absent any state action, sets the stage for a startling wage disparity between Chicago and our neighboring suburbs, and will drive business out of the city.
5. Are you in favor of Chicago's Red Light Camera program?
I support Chicago's traffic light program, although there are valid concerns about this program. They are an important revenue source for the city of Chicago, and in my Ward speed and red light cameras have significantly slowed traffic down. However, the city of Chicago has the most aggressive red light camera system in place, and the fastest yellow light times. In the majority of cities, the average yellow light time is 3.5 seconds. In the city of Chicago, the average yellow light time is 3 seconds. It has been recommended to the city that these times be adjusted to increase yellow light time, and I concur.
There have been issues with the overall program and questions as to whether technology is working correctly. CDOT should be conducting regular audits to ensure that the technology is working correctly, that cameras are placed fairly, and that interaction between the city and any vendors is appropriate. If CDOT is not willing or able to conduct these audits internally, I believe OEMC should oversee the program. The Inspector general should continue monitoring the program until issues have been addressed.