Alderman, 19th Ward : Matthew J. O'Shea
Jan 11, 2011
Updated: January 20, 2011 4:28PM
Birth date: 08-26-1969
Political affiliation: Democrat
Neighborhood: West Beverly
Occupation/Firm name: Aide/Alderman Ginger Rugai
Marital status: Married
Campaign HQ address: 10402 S. Western Ave.
Campaign website: www.mattoshea.net
What is your campaign budget?
What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?
Chicagoans want better schools, and safer streets. In these difficult economic times neither residents nor businesses can afford a tax increase. Therefore, the City Council must identify alternate funding sources to address these concerns. Surplus TIF dollars and a taxpayer-owned casino in Chicago are two potential revenue streams that the new City Council should explore.
The city's TIF districts have a balance of over $600 million. Next year's tax collections are projected to add nearly $500 million to that figure. As Alderman, I would support declaring a surplus and returning that $500 million to the original taxing bodies. This would provide critical funding to our public education system and to the city's general operating fund.
The Chicago Board of Education's portion of a $500 million TIF surplus is $270 million. These funds can be used to maintain or reduce class sizes, prevent cuts to physical education and arts programs, and make necessary capital improvements to deteriorating buildings.
Further, the city's portion of the TIF surplus ($95 million) should fund a police hire-back pilot program. This will immediately increase police presence and help curb the violence on our streets without a tax increase. As a hire-back program relies on existing officers, it also avoids the delay of sending a new class of recruits through the academy. The hire-back program should not detract from the city's ongoing efforts to hire permanent police officers.
While hiring additional officers will help stem the tide of violence, it does nothing to address the larger, more complex social problem of how and why people become violent in the first place. We must confront the major factors that lead to violent behaviors. Since many of these problems can be traced to the breakdown of the family unit, the City Council should explore providing incentives for behavior that stabilizes a home for children. This concept also would help improve performance in many failing schools.
What are your top priorities for your ward?
19th Ward residents share many of the same concerns as other Chicagoans. Above all else, our residents want better schools, and more police officers on the street. Given the economic challenges faced throughout the city, our residents seek elected officials who can accomplish these goals without a tax increase.
In recent years, many of our public schools have faced overcrowding problems. Cassell School and Mt. Greenwood School are busting at the seams with over 40 students in some classrooms. To make the case for expansion, I personally toured both campuses with the principal and CPS administrators. Today, construction is in progress on a$3 million annex at Mt. Greenwood School. As Alderman I will continue the fight for expansion at Cassell School.
As the 19th Ward is home to more police officers, fire fighters, and union workers than any other, pension stability is another priority. The new Mayor and City Council must take immediate action to address the pension crisis. First, practices that contributed to this problem like the use of early retirement programs, and skipped or reduced employer contributions must be discontinued. New revenue sources must then be identified as this deficit is far too large to be closed with a tax increase. Ideas for stabilizing the four pension funds are outlined in greater detail in the pension section of this questionnaire.
Economic development is another key local priority in the 19th Ward. Despite a sluggish economy, our area has recently seen meaningful development. After years of planning, two major projects are currently in progress and will be completed by spring of 2011. The first, a new retail area anchored by Walgreens at the northwest corner of 111th and Kedzie, and the second, a firemen's memorial park on 106th and Western Ave. The success of these two projects can be used to spark interest in adjacent properties. This strategy has already worked along our 95th Street corridor, where the construction of a Borders bookstore led to new developments on four adjacent blocks.
The city is in serious financial trouble and can't afford the level of service it currently provides. For 2011, Mayor Daley, with City Council backing, balanced the budget without raising taxes or fees, relying instead on some cost-saving measures and one-time fixes, including using proceeds from leasing the city's parking meters. Do you support this approach? What should be done differently going forward?
Please be specific about your plans to reshape government: what services and departments would you scale back or cut? Can you identify new revenue sources? How can the City reduce personnel costs? What kind of concessions should the City seek from the unions?
I support any efforts to balance the city's budget without imposing additional taxes or fees on the public. However, instead of using one-time fixes or draining reserves to balance future budgets, we must explore cuts and new revenue sources to offset the cost of existing city services. I cannot support a tax increase to balance the city budget in the current economic climate.
Corporate sponsorship of existing programs is one potential source of new revenue. The popular jumping jack program, with its relatively low cost and high level of interaction with the public would be a logical place to start. If successful, corporate sponsorships could be phased into other city programs. The city could explore using vehicles to generate advertising revenue in the same way the CTA uses their buses. Additionally, the shared cost model currently used for sidewalk replacement should be expanded to other elective city services.
In addition to new revenue sources, a detailed, line-by-line audit of the city's budget is needed to ensure existing resources are being used efficiently. According to the budget office, more than $5 million dollars is spent annually to produce promotional materials touting various city programs and events. This information could be provided to the Aldermen electronically for distribution via ward e-mail blasts, websites, and Facebook pages. This shift not only would help the budget, but also would have a positive environmental impact. Many of these materials are designed by costly public relations and marketing consultants. These contracts are a modern form of "pinstripe patronage" and should be eliminated as well.
The $6 million dollar condo refuse rebate program also should be cut. This program provides a $75 per unit annual subsidy to condo associations who are ineligible for city garbage pickup. No such subsidy is offered for renters who live in buildings that are ineligible for pickup. Therefore, renters, who are likely less financially secure than condo owners, absorb more of the cost of garbage collection.
Expansion of this program to include renters is certainly not an option. Therefore, the program should be disbanded, and renters and condo owners should be treated equally. Eliminating this program not only saves the $6 million in rebate funds but also removesthe administrative burden from the City Council's Committee on Finance.
Reorganizing the City Council's 19 Committees could generate savings for the taxpayers. Below is a possible consolidation plan could save the taxpayers $758,245.
Combine Housing & Real Estate with Historic Landmark Preservatio.
Combine Special Events & Cultural Affairs with Parks & Recreatio.
Combine Economic, Capital & Technological Development with Aviatio.
Combine Energy, Environmental Protection & Public Utilities with Healt.
Combine Traffic Control & Safety with Transportation
Private contractors working for the city should make concessions to help balance the budget. Moving forward, the city should require all contractors to reduce the value of their services by a percentage equivalent to the furlough package taken by city employees. Private employees working on behalf of the taxpayers should not be exempt from the furlough process.
Efficiency in infrastructure projects also has potential to generate savings as well. Often times, major street projects are completed, only to be torn up days or weeks later by another government agency or public utility. Last year, we resurfaced a major segment of 103rd Street only to have the Department of Water Management tear up the street two weeks after completion to access a water main. This year, we resurfaced Central Park Ave., only to be notified weeks later that the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District was going to tear up the street to address a problem with their sewer connection.
Taxpayers foot the bill to undo and redo work that has recently been completed. There needs to be better communication between various government units and public utilities. Instead of operating in a vacuum unaware of what other taxpayer funded crews are doing, information should be shared to prevent duplication of effort.
The city's four employee pension funds have been called a "ticking time bomb," with Mayor Daley's pension commission predicting that the four funds will run out of money in 20 years. "There is no low- or no-cost solution to this problem," the commission wrote in a report earlier this year. "Deferring action is not a viable option." What is your plan for bringing the pension funds to solvency?
The city must honor its commitment to employees by providing the benefits they were promised when hired. Reducing these benefits for the existing employees is unconstitutional, and should not be explored. If employees are asked to increase contributions, it must be done as part of a comprehensive long-term plan.
According to the report of the Commission to Strengthen Chicago's Pension Funds, there are "two related but distinct elements to this problem: the structural features that created the current actuarial funding deficits, and the deficits themselves." The General Assembly has already taken a strong step in solving the structural problems by creating a two-tiered pension system. The City Council must now do its part to address the pension crisis.
First, the use of early retirement plans for city employees should be discontinued. When early retirement is offered, pension funds pay out more dollars to accommodate recently retired employees, and collect fewer dollars because new employees are not hired to replace the retirees. Not only are employee contributions lost, but the employer contributions are also lessened. Early retirement plans may have helped solve budget problems in recent years, but they created future pension problems that now need to be addressed.
Another problem is reduced or skipped payments on the part of the city. For several years, the laborers' pension was fully funded and the city was allowed to skip payments. Similarly, reduced payments were made to the municipal employees' pension when it was funded over 90%. Had those payments been made in full, each fund would be much healthier.
If employees increase their pension contributions they should be given a legal guarantee that the city will not skip or reduce its scheduled payments. If the city skips or reduces a payment the increased contributions would be automatically refunded to the individual employees. This arrangement could make an increased contribution more palatable to the employees, while making it more difficult for payments to be reduced or skipped.
While increased employee contributions may be inevitable, they cannot be explored unless a revenue stream is identified to increase employer payments. As previously mentioned, one potential source is a Chicago-owned casino that would be used to offset the pension deficit. While I am hesitant to support gambling expansion, if done properly, I believe it could address many of our problems.
Does Chicago need 50 aldermen? If not, what's a better number? What City Council committees could be combined? What other ways can the City Council save money?
The budget situation forces us to examine many difficult scenarios to save taxpayer resources. Consolidating wards carries the obvious downside of decreasing representative for residents. While it is not something I am eager to explore, it is an option that should be considered.
A better option for reducing expenses related to the City Council is consolidation of committees. As previous mentioned, consolidating committees could generate over $750,000 for the taxpayers. I also support a 10% pay cut for all elected officials and department heads instead of furlough days. Difficult times call for leadership by example. Our key officials should be voluntarily reducing their pay, without reducing their service to the taxpayers. As a current City Council employee, I have frequently had trouble getting an answer, or clarifying a point, because a necessary staff person is on a furlough day.
Chicago was designed as a weak mayor, strong council form of government yet Mayor Daley wields considerable power over the City Council. What measures would you recommend to strengthen the council? On which issues should the mayor lead? On which should the council lead?
There are a variety of steps we can take to increase the power of the City Council. First, the Council Committees, should have some form of authority with the sister agencies. How effective can the Committee on Education be if they have no tangible role with the Chicago Board of Education? One idea would be to reserve a position on the various boards of these agencies for the chair of the corresponding City Council committee. A more aggressive stance would be to require City Council approval of sister agency budgets. Neither the mayor, nor the City Council should lead on any one issue. Instead, committee chairmen should work with the mayor as partners on specific issues.
One practice that significantly compromises the independence of the City Council is leaving office mid-term, circumventing the voters, and installing one's successor via mayoral appointment. While this practice cannot be ended, public policy opposing it can be enacted. Creating a vacancy that must be filled via the appointment process should carry a pension penalty for the outgoing office holder. Exceptions would need to be created if the vacancy comes as a result of death, serious illness or election to higher office.
The city's tax-increment financing program has been criticized on several fronts, including the proliferation of districts, how money is diverted from schools and other basic city services, how TIF funding decisions are made and for an overall lack of transparency. How would you improve the TIF program? Does the TIF law need to be changed in any way?
In the 19th Ward, an open community meeting is hosted when a developer seeks TIF dollars. Meetings typically include representatives from the developer seeking the subsidy, the Department of Community Development, the Alderman, civic organizations, and neighbors. Developers present their plans, explain why TIF dollars are needed, and how it will benefit the community. Residents then have the opportunity to ask any questions or raise any concerns before funds are approved. Any developer seeking TIF dollars should be required to participate in meetings to open this process up and inform residents about the use of tax dollars.
The basis of the TIF program is that tax revenue generated by developing blighted areas will significantly exceed the original TIF subsidy. The Department of Community Development should project how long it will take for the initial investment of tax dollars to be recouped by the city, and that information should be made public. This timeline should be updated regularly so community members can monitor progress.
In the 19th Ward, TIF dollars have successfully sparked development along some of our most blighted commercial strips. The first major project came in 1998, when a TIF subsidy helped attract a 25,000-square foot Borders Book Store to 95th Street, replacing an outdated fast food chain and a strip of small failing retail shops. The Borders and its parking lot occupy two full blocks of 95th Street and has attracted further development. Since Borders opened, four adjacent blocks have been demolished and redeveloped without additional TIF dollars.
Currently, we have two projects in progress using TIF dollars. While construction is not complete on these projects, there is already increased interest in redeveloping adjacent blighted properties. In our community, TIF dollars have been spent wisely and have helped rejuvenate commercial strips.
When used properly, TIF districts are a valuable tool for economic development. Like many city programs, the challenge becomes ensuring they are used as intended. The above mentioned reforms should make it increasingly difficult for TIF dollars to be spent inappropriately.
Mayor Daley has focused on privatizing city assets. Are there any other assets the City Council should consider privatizing? If so, would you make any changes to the way privatization deals are negotiated and passed through the City Council?
Privatizing public assets is a dangerous budgeting tool. Given the problems that followed the parking meter deal, a series of reforms should be enacted to protect the taxpayers before any additional assets are sold. First, an annual cap on withdrawals from reserve funds should be established to ensure that long-term reserves remain long-term. Next, a 60-day contract review period for the City Council should be required before any asset can be sold. This period would allow for a thorough examination of any proposals as well as the intended allocation of revenue generated from the sale. During the review period, an independent budget analysis group like the Civic Federation should evaluate the proposal and present a report to the full City Council. Finally, the taxpayers should have a clear cause of action should the private company fail to properly operate the city asset.
With these safeguards in place, I would consider privatizing other city facilities depending on the circumstances involved. I do have strong reservations and would prefer to explore other options. Unfortunately, the budget crisis requires that we examine any potential source of revenue.
The Chicago Police Department is understaffed, with no lasting budget solution in sight. Given the current staffing levels, what changes would you recommend to use resources more efficiently? Do you support realigning beats in a way that moves police from lower crime areas to higher crime neighborhoods? What should happen to the diminished CAPS program?
As previously mentioned, I support using TIF funds to fund a hire-back program. Beyond that, new deterrents should be explored to increase public safety. Allowing officers to take vehicles home is one potential deterrent used in other cities. Often time the mere presence of a police car is enough to prevent crime, especially crimes of opportunity. Surveillance cameras have also been helpful to police in my community and I support their expanded use. These options do require funding; however both are less costly then additional police officers.
Realigning beats is a lengthy, expensive process that the city cannot afford at this time. Instead, I support maintaining the integrity of existing beats and supplementing existing forces in high crime areas with specialized units. Draining resources from lower crime beats is unfair to the taxpayers in those areas, jeopardizes public safety, and should not be explored.
Working in public safety first in the Cook County Sheriff's Office, and later in the ward office, I witnessed first-hand the successes of the CAPS program. CAPS officers in the 22nd District worked with residents to address issues of domestic violence, problem houses, neighbor disputes, and gang and drug activity. Replacing sworn personnel with civilian employees in CAPS offices was an unfortunate but necessary step to ensure greatest possible police presence on our streets.
It remains to be seen if the public will react to these civilian employees with the same trust and confidence as they did with police officers. After a suitable transition period (6-12 months), individual commanders should evaluate the success or failure of the program in each district. If CAPS is no longer worker with the available resources, then a new model for community interaction should be explored.
The next mayor will choose a new CEO for the Chicago Public Schools. Do you think the CEO needs to have education experience? Should the new mayor continue the Renaissance 2010 program of shutting down failing schools and creating new ones? Should the new mayor continue Ron Huberman's "culture of calm" effort, which aims to improve the culture of the toughest schools and provides mentors and extra support for kids at greatest risk of being shot? What should CPS do to improve neighborhood schools that are struggling to educate the large numbers of students left behind, the students that don't make it into test-based, charters or other specialized schools?
Since running our school system is such a large and important job, CPS leadership should be shared equally by a Chief Executive Officer and Chief Education Officer. Both positions should be confirmed by the full City Council. Before candidates for these positions seek confirmation, they should first present their credentials and vision for education to the public at an open meeting. This will provide parents, elected officials, community members, and the press the opportunity for thorough review before an appointment is confirmed.
Most importantly, the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Education Officer should be selected jointly. Their strengths, skill sets, and experiences should complement one another and they should work as partners to improve our schools. The Board of Education should work with the Mayor and the City Council Education Committee Chairman to outline specific long and short term goals for the public schools. The School Board, Chief Executive and Chief Education Officers should be evaluated based on progress made on these goals.
Renaissance 2010 is a very ambitious plan for improved public education. However, a 2009 University of Illinois study found that "test scores in the Renaissance schools slightly lagged those of students with similar backgrounds who attended neighborhood schools." A California-based independent research institute found that same year that "Renaissance 2010 schools have performed about on par with Chicago Public School-owned schools." Creating these new schools diverted resources from existing schools. Moderate and well-performing schools in communities like mine lost resources through the Renaissance 2010 program, but, families in my community saw no increase in education options to correlate with the lost resources.
Instead of creating new schools, the Board of Education should work to address the problems in existing schools. In recent years, many of our under-performing schools have benefited from a switch to Track E schedule. Track E, or "year round" schooling, increases retention and provides high school students preparing for AP exams additional weeks of instruction before tests. This schedule should be considered for more under-performing schools.
In the long term, our students need more instruction time. The Board of Education should commission a panel of experts to study lengthening the school day. While there will be many hurdles involved with this concept, commissioning a study is a good first step.
Ron Huberman's "culture of calm" program had excellent goals; evaluating a program after only one school year is challenging. Providing additional resources to at risk high school students is a worthy endeavor. However, the cost of this program exceeds $40 million. In lean budget years, there may be ways to use these dollars more efficiently. Early childhood development and extra resources for children in grades K-5 would potentially reduce the overall number of at risk high school students.
Ultimately, it is too early to know if this program has been successful. Given its large price tag, the incoming CPS leadership team should carefully examine this expense to ensure dollars are being spent wisely.
Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where would you like to see casinos located?
I am hesitant to support casinos in Chicago; however, the current economic conditions force us to consider the possibility. Any expansion of gambling should be limited to one casino, and done in a way that maximizes overall benefit to the taxpayers. Plans to create a casino should include careful planning and input from city and county law enforcement agencies. A Chicago casino should be government owned and located in the downtown area.
This model would not only generate additional tax revenue from increased tourism, but also allow the taxpayers to benefit directly from casino revenue rather than a tax on casino profits. Finally, casino expansion legislation should direct revenue to the four municipal pension funds.
Nationwide gambling revenue is declining. Given that, the massive gambling expansion bills currently under consideration by the state legislature are irresponsible and would oversaturate the marketplace. However, Illinois license plates continue to line the parking lots of Casino's in neighboring Indiana and Michigan casinos. A Chicago based casino could capture existing customers who currently leave the area to gamble. Given the condition of the City and State budgets, we must keep those dollars circulating in our own economy.
The expansion of gambling is extremely sensitive and personal for many people. Public input is needed before any plan moves forward. Therefore, I would not oppose a referendum on gambling expansion as suggested by Governor Quinn in 2007. This could give taxpayers the ability to choose between potentially significant tax increases and casino gambling.
Aldermen have considerable influence over TIF, zoning and other decisions, both large and small, related to development and services in their ward. Do aldermen have too much influence?
Aldermen do wield considerable power in their ward. However, the problem is not with their level of power, but rather lack of influence given to the community. To address this disparity, a variety of steps have been taken to empower the public in matters of zoning, TIF usage, and other government activities.
For the past 35 years, the 19th Ward Alderman has shared authority with a local zoning advisory committee. Any request for a zoning change is first evaluated by this committee. This committee, a cross-section of ward residents with diverse backgrounds and experiences, advises the alderman on zoning issues. No zoning change moves forward without the support of the advisory committee.
The 19th Ward design review committee is another community group that screens potential development for the Alderman. This committee is comprised of area residents working in development, construction, architecture, and building or landscape design. They evaluate proposed developments to ensure they maintain the character of our historic community. The group works with developers to make improvements without exploding project costs. Presenting plans to the design review committee is mandatory for any developer seeking Aldermanic support of a project.
As previously mentioned, I will also seek community input before committing TIF dollars to a developed. As Alderman, I will ensure that the public maintains a strong voice in the development process. I will also seek new mechanisms to increase community participation in government activities.
If elected alderman, do you plan to maintain an outside job? Would you pledge not to hold any job that represents a conflict of interest, including those that involve spending public dollars?
As Alderman, I will not maintain outside employment. I will serve the people of the 19th Ward on a full time basis ... 24-7.
Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from your employees? Would you pledge not to hire relatives on your staff?
I would not accept campaign contributions or gifts from my employees, nor would I hire relatives to work on my staff.
Does the City need to change the way it hands out contracts? Should aldermen reclaim oversight of City contracts? If so, contracts above what dollar amount?
In an effort to prevent public corruption and further loss of public trust, I would discontinue the use of non-emergency no-bid contracts. To create a clearer balance of power between the executive and legislative branches without stymying municipal government, I support City Council oversight of contacts in excess of $2.5 million.
Do you support an inspector general just for the City Council? Would you support giving the city's existing inspector general power to investigate aldermen and their staffs, including subpoena power?
I believe the Aldermen must honor their commitment to appoint an inspector general for the City Council and staff. I would not support empowering the existing inspector general to investigate the City Council as I believe it is a threat to the balance of power.
Should there be new limits on who can lobby City Hall officials, including aldermen? Should former City Hall employees be prohibited from doing business with the city after their departure? If so, for how long?
To close the revolving door between City Hall and the private sector, outgoing employees should be prohibited from doing business with the city for a period of two years.
What's the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?
"The Devil in the White City" is the story of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, Daniel Burnham, and serial killer Dr. H. H. Holmes. This true story draws in components of Chicago and American history as the backdrop for a crime story.
Please list your educational background
Christ the King Elementary School - Class of 198.
Mt. Carmel High School - Class of 198.
St. Mary's University of Winona, MN - Class of 1991
Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong
Beverly Arts Center -- Board of Director.
Mt. Greenwood Local Redevelopment Corp. -- Board of Directors (former.
Bucks for Burn Cam.
19th Ward Youth Foundatio.
Saint Vincent DePaul Society
Beverly Area Planning Associatio.
Maple Morgan Park Food Pantr.
Special Olympics Chicago -- Advisory Boar.
Saint John Fisher Holy Name Societ.
West Beverly Civic Associatio.
Father Perez - Knights of Columbu.
Mt. Carmel Alumni Associatio.
Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?
2004 - Delegate to Democratic National Convention - Illinois' 3rd Congressional Distric.
2005 - Appointed 19th Ward Democratic Committeema.
2008 - Elected 19th Ward Democratic Committeema.
I have been employed by the government, please see below.
Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government
1993 - Social Worker, Cook County Department of Social Servic.
2001 - Assistant to the Director of Operations, Cook County Sheriff's Offic.
2005 - Director of the Community Center, Chicago High School for Agricultural Science.
2008 - Aide, Alderman Ginger Ruga.
My wife and sister are both teachers in the Chicago Public School system.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed
Citizens for Michael F. Sheahan - $2,50.
Construction & General Laborers' District Council - $2,35.
Brackenbox, Inc. - $1,60.
Brian Livermore - $1,50.
Bruce Engstrom - $1,150
Please paste a brief biography here
A PROVEN COMMUNITY LEADER... For over twenty years Matt O'Shea has worked diligently to improve the quality of life in the 19th Ward. He is committed to being a full time alderman that shares our goals for safe streets, stable neighborhoods, quality schools, and a clean environment. As your Alderman, Matt will work hard each day to make our communities the best place for all of us to call home.
A RECORD OF SERVICE... Currently an aide to Alderman Ginger Rugai, Matt previously served as Director of the Community Program at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences. He has also been active in many civic and charitable organizations including the Beverly Area Planning Association, Mt. Greenwood Local Redevelopment Corp., Beverly Improvement Association, Bucks for Burn Camp, Maple Morgan Park Food Pantry, Mt. Greenwood Special Rec. Program, Fr. Perez Knights of Columbus, St. Vincent DePaul Society, St. John Fisher Holy Name Society, and the Beverly Arts Center. He is a volunteer with Special Olympics Chicago, Misericordia Heart of Mercy, and the Ronald McDonald House at Christ Hospital.
In 2008 Matt formed the 19th Ward Youth Foundation, a charitable organization that provides safe, healthy activities for children in our community. The foundation has hosted many youth programs including the 19th Ward Nerf Football League, Family Ice Skating Party at Mt. Greenwood Park, movies in the park, children's winter film festival, and the Beverly Hills Turkey Trot.
Matt is a graduate of Christ the King Grammar School, Mt. Carmel High School and St. Mary's University of Winona. He and his wife Cara raise their three children, Brigid, Patrick and Eileen in Saint John Fisher Catholic Parish.