Monday, December 22, 2014

IVI-IPO candidate questionnaire: Revenue & Budget

Revenue & Budget

20. Will you vote to hire independent analysts to conduct a forensic audit of past City spending?

Possible answer:

Meh. To me, efforts to examine past spending should focus on money that can be recovered.

I would like to get a detailed audit of TIF districts. Because TIF spending is supposed to go to activities that increase the tax base, I suspect City of Chicago will have a case to recover money spent on consultants and other activities that did not lead to increasing the tax base of the TIF districts.

We know how the money was stolen. The big chunks were stolen by privatization deals where the city got less in the contract than it should have, eg the parking meter deal.

I would love to put out a reward for information showing that the parking meter deal wasn't negotiated in an adversarial way, but with the City of Chicago negotiators deliberately working with the other side to construct a deal that had as its goal fleecing Chicago taxpayers.

You get evidence that this occurred then City of Chicago has a legal theory to invalidate the contract.

But fishing for information with a "forensic audit" sounds like Adam Adrzejewski's shtick on State of Illinois finances. Adam Adrzejewski screamed "forensic audit" with great discipline. He didn't win the GOP primary. I don't think it's going to work as a campaign gimmick in Chicago.

In the event there are 20 other "reformers" on City Council that want to make a "forensic audit" their top priority, I would try to talk them out of it. But if they insisted, I would probably vote with them after explaining why I thought it was a dumb idea.

21. Will you vote for a budget ordinance which would require public questioning of city department heads concerning their departments' specific budget requests?
Possible answer: 
I think there should be a way for citizens to generate questions during budget hearings. But I'm skeptical of creating a "right to question" the department heads during budget hearings.

Citizens who have questions should first go to their alderman. If the alderman doesn't have the answer, refuses to research it and won't ask in the hearing then there should be a process for people to ask a question if they have a base of support (and no other alderman is willing to ask the question).

The aldermen should be the primary questioners during budget hearings. In theory, this is what they get paid to do.

22. Will you vote for a budget ordinance which would require making budget copies available to the public 30 days in advance of hearings?
Possible answer:
Yes. This is important. Aldermen in the minority have limited resources to provide effective oversight. Having a reasonable amount of time would allow for better, more specific, amendments to the budget.

23. Will you vote for a budget ordinance which would require restoring city-wide community group budget hearings several months prior to the publication of the budget, as were held under the Washington and Sawyer administrations?
Possible answer:
Maybe. How did these hearings improve the budget? Are they used in other cities? How do they affect the budget in those cities? 

This was a technique used to make information more widely available in the era before the Internet was widely available.

When communicating information, the City of Chicago should make use of technologies that have been developed since 1990.

24. What additional revenue sources, if any, would you propose? 
Proposed answer:
a. Commuter tax
b. Tax on transaction fees charged by CBOT/CME
c. Tax on foreclosed properties that are vacant
e. Fees on landlords/property managers that don't rent to Section 8 people in sufficient numbers
f. Increase neighborhood zone parking fees
g. Tax big box stores
h. Gasoline tax
i. Increase fees for foreclosing on a property
j. Legalizing and taxing marijuana
k. Legalizing sex work and selling licenses

25. Do you support casino gambling for Chicago? 
Proposed answer:
Absolutely, if my cousin owns it.

But seriously: no.

26. Will you vote to require a citywide referendum before any gambling is instituted in the City? 
Proposed answer:
I think the Illinois Lottery already exists in Chicago. And church bingo. And charity poker tournaments.

I don't think a citywide referendum is the appropriate hurdle for a gambling venue. I think it should be the communities in the immediate area that will be affected. A casino on a brownfield in Ward 10 doesn't affect any neighborhood north of Roosevelt.

27. Will you vote to roll back Mayoral and Aldermanic salaries to pre-2007 levels? 
Possible answer:
No. This is cheap populism. I would rather limit outside income by setting a stricter "conflict of interest" rules.

Why is the pre-2007 salary levels the right amount? Why not go back to the Harold Washington era salaries? Or the Richard J. Daley era? 

28. Will you vote for an ordinance limiting future Mayoral and Aldermanic salary increases to the same percentage as the lowest raise for any class of city employees? 
Possible answer:
Yes, but what keeps City Council from undoing this at the same time they vote themselves pay increases? Their senses of shame and decency?

29. Do you agree with the criticism that City government is top heavy with management?  
Possible answer:
I want to put together a program where people can submit tips to save money, including cutting positions and reducing salaries (over $75K). If a tip can be implemented then the person submitting the tip gets some of the money saved.

I don't know if city government is top heavy, but I'm open to finding out. Tony Peraica put the salaries of Cook County employees online. Might worth putting city salaries online.

30. What measures will you vote for to reform the city pension plan and ensure its solvency?  
Possible answer:
Step one is to get Illinois General Assembly to allow excess TIF money to be applied to pensions.

Step two is to raise taxes. See my answer to that question.

I will say I vehemently disagree with raising taxes on mobile phones. That's an even worse option than raising property taxes. I'm disappointed no one from Progressive Caucus voted against that.

31. How would you modify (if at all) the benefit and contribution levels and eligibility requirements for public employee pensions? 
Possible answer:
The game of political insiders getting three to six pensions in the same household bothers me.

If someone is building toward a second government pension they should have to pay into the system at a higher level, significantly higher level. If you're working b/c you love the work, God bless you. If you're keeping someone else out of a job b/c you want to double or triple dip, fuck you.

32. Should discretionary funds for ward services and infrastructure e improvements be allocated...
Possible answer:
Basic services should be paid for by the City of Chicago. It's a failure of the Emanuel administration that ward discretionary money had to be used for basic street repair.

The ward should all be the same size. I consider it of dubious Constitutionality that there is wide disparity in the size of the wards.

Part of the money should be assigned by the size of the ward. And part of the money should be sent based on AMI or some other measure of wealth/income.

33. Will you institute participatory budgeting to allow ward residents to vote on discretionary spending in your ward? 
Possible answer:
Yes. Getting people together to talk and empowering them in a meaningful way is a good thing.

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