Candidate Full Name: Robert Fioretti
Office: Chicago Mayor
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
It's the next Mayor of Chicago that will deal with the full consequences of the financial decisions being made today. What strategies will you use to make headway with the budget difficulties?
By taking common sense approaches to shoring up our budget problems. We can no longer continue to kick the can down the road. Our scoop-and-toss practices put off for today a problem for which we pay dearly tomorrow. I will conduct a forensic audit of the budget to eliminate waste. I will also declare a TIF surplus, and use monies not already allocated to shore up holes in the budget. We must also look at re-negotiating contracts that have been bad deals for the citizens of Chicago. Toxic swaps have cost CPS dearly, along with sweetheart deals and no-bid contracts. By renegotiating, we can ensure that we get the services we pay for at the price we deserve.
Additionally, we must be open to discussing other sources of revenue. A commuter tax could be one way we can help shore up our budget without breaking the bank for most Chicagoans. More than 600,000 people come from the suburbs to work in the city. The combined income is over $30 billion a year. A small 1 percent tax could generate $350 million in revenue. Additionally, a small transaction tax on sellers and buyers of futures, future options and securities option contracts traded by the Merc and Chicago Board Options Exchange has the potential to produce significant revenue. We need a full debate on how we pay for the things this city needs to create safe streets and strong neighborhoods.
2. Will you raise property taxes?
No. We have a plethora of other solutions to find revenue. Getting our financial house in order is going to require a new mindset in City Hall. Revenue is on the table. Budget cuts are on the table. Ways to grow our tax base are on the table. In my opinion, the only thing that should be off the table is a property tax increase. Other ways include a top to bottom audit of our City. This was a recommendation by the Inspector General's office in 2010 and it is about time we make it happen. An audit will tell us about the waste, fraud and abuse we know is happening in our City. It will help us decide where we can make efficiencies, like combining departments or shrinking the mayoral staff, or large things like moving to a comprehensive grid system for nearly all city services.
3. How do you feel about privatizing city assets?
Privatizing city assets has been a disaster. From the parking meter deal to the latest revelations regarding CPS board members making money off our children, selling off city assets has only done good for the wealthy elite. The continued push to let the market handle resources that the public depends on has left taxpayers footing the bill for the private sector's mistakes. Cash up front, consequences later deals have cost Chicagoans billions and left our budget with gaping holes that our children will pay for if continued.
4. How will you improve the Chicago School System?
First, by making sure that those whose voice matters most - parents, students and teachers - is heard with an elected school board. Our children deserve world class neighborhood schools and a public education system that will prepare them for the future. Currently, our public schools are starved for resources and a ballooning budget deficit threatens to shortchange our children's future. I'll shore up the CPS budget by ending toxic swaps and wasteful spending on excessive standardized tests and prioritize these funds to restore needed resources to the schools that have suffered.
Additionally, we need to make strong neighborhood schools our number one priority. Too many of our charter schools are subject to state and federal investigation for unethical business practices That's why I believe an indefinite moratorium on further charter school expansion is also in order until a long-term facilities plan is enacted.
Finally, with the help and input of business leaders and employers, I will overhaul the vocational program at CPS with the help of input from the business community to determine what will adequately prepare students for the future.
5. How would you work the Chicago Police Department and community members to make residents feel safe in their neighborhoods?
We need to make certain our police both reflect the diversity of and understand the intricacies of the communities they serve. By putting a focus on community policing, we can restore trust that has been lost between neighborhoods and law enforcement. Restorative justice must be a key component of this process, as a measure that builds accountability between the community and offenders. Additionally, I support piloting a body camera program to add an extra layer of accountability. Most importantly though, we need to refocus our efforts on taking a holistic approach to crime. By getting to the root causes - poverty, lack of opportunities and lack of services - our communities will naturally become safer places for people to work, live and play. Strong neighborhoods make safe streets.
6. Do you support or oppose the vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019? Why?
I voted in favor of the $13 an hour ordinance, but only because it was the sole piece of legislation put on the table by this administration. I'm in favor of a $15 an hour minimum wage ordinance today, not $13 by 2019. By then, $13 an hour will be just pennies above the poverty line. Workers deserve wages that lift them out of poverty, not keep them in it. The proposal put forth by the Progressive Caucus and myself would have raised the wage for workers at companies making more than $50 million in revenue this year to $15. They can certainly afford it. Smaller businesses though, would have been given more time to adjust to the increase. It's a proposal that's equitable to everyone, and if elected, I intend to make it happen.
7. Are you in favor of Chicago's Red Light Camera program? Why?
No. Recently, I signed a pledge saying that if elected, I will work to remove them. The program is not about safety; it's a revenue scam that's cost taxpayers millions. We can't balance the budget on the backs of our citizens with fines and fees.
Red light and speed cameras have been brought to us by fraud, abuse and an ongoing federal investigation. The entire program is fraught with failed oversight, corruption and unfair enforcement. Studies show that the cameras do little to nothing to create safety and we should focus on other ways to make our streets safer.