Alderman, 15th Ward: Raymond A. Lopez
Jan 11, 2011
Updated: January 25, 2011 1:43PM
Birth date: 05-26-1978
Political affiliation: Democratic
Neighborhood: Chicago Lawn
Occupation/Firm name: Skycap/Southwest Airlines
Marital status: No response
Campaign HQ address: 3100 W. 63rd Street
Campaign website: www.ElectRaymond.com
What is your campaign budget?
What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?
Integrating Customer Service with Public Service. All too often residents are viewed as mere contributors to the tax base and not treates as valued and necessary Customers trying to obtain a service.
What are your top priorities for your ward?
Crime, the decline of educational performance and the lack of consistency are among the highest issues needed to be addressed. Also, our 15th Ward is need of an Alderman that is accessible and accountable to all residents.
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?
The City of Chicago must prioritize where its committments are to the people of Chicago. We must decide what role the City of Chicago should play in every day residential life: is it more important to provide education versus commercial development? Is it more important to have a proactive or reactionary police and fire departments? Are we committed to recycling or standard garbage pick up? These are questions being asked, but not in the context of the larger picture. I think that before the City of Chicago entertains the idea of “new revenue” known as tax increases, we must have a complete accountability for all funds taxpayers contribute. For example, it is hard to believe the City’s assertion of being broke when TIF district funds have record surpluses. With regards to personnel reduction, we must fully incorporate technology in City Hall. We must also look at the duplicity of positions within the annual budget that pay for the same employee position to exist across multiple departments.
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?
First and foremost we must honor our obligations to those employees with defined benefit pension plans. I would support the doubling of the city’s contributions to these funds in order to solidify their standing. I am also in support of possible 401(k)-style retirement plans for future employees (myself included). This would empower employees to make the right decisions regarding their futures and cut down on the ballooning of pensions if an employee changes jobs simply for a pension boost.
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?
I think the more representative a government, the better. While some argue that fifty alderman is excessive, I disagree. We do need the alderman to be 100% committed to the duties of being alderman. I think we should hold off on discussion of committee reductions until after we set priorities for the City of Chicago. Then we will be able to align committees around services as needed.
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?
The City Council must be willing to be the deliberative arm of government; the mayor must be the head administrator of the government. The City Council must have oversight on all contracts. The City Council must be allowed to choose its own leadership. From a business model, the City Council must act like the Board of Directors with the mayor being our unifying CEO.
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?
I would treat TIF District funds as we do Special Service Areas. I would require a board of commissioners be chosen from within the district to ensure said district is working towards its stated objectives. We need to review the transferability of funds from adjacent districts. We need to dissolve those districts that achieve their stated goals early. We must be willing to repatriate surpluses to those taxing bodies originally excluded by the TIF District.
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?
I do not support additional privatization at this time. We are too focused on the short term cash benefits without completely understanding the long term effects of such sales. If I am outvoted on future issues, I would support the payment structure being annually for the term of the lease and not an up-front lump payment.
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?
If we consider the Police Department to be a high priority, we must commit ourselves to fully funding it, with the possibility of a dedicated revenue stream if necessary. However, if we are to ask taxpayers to pay for the adequate funding of Chicago Police, we need to discuss the redistricting of the police districts to compensate for changing demographics. I have called for the complete funding and adequate staffing of the CAPS program as it was originally intended. If we are unable or unwilling to do so, we acknowledge CAPS as being no longer functional an end it immediately.
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?
I think having a CEO with educational experience is a definite plus, particularly if they are hired from within the CPS system. This would boost morale and help bridge the gulf between administrators and front-line teachers. I have a serious problem with this concept of judging schools based on educational fads. We are constantly changing the rules by which we evaluate performance without having established any longer term goals. We must address the socio-economic factors that have an impact on the education of students. It is impossible to ask students to learn when, especially in our 15th Ward, children are walking past murdered classmates and gang warfare on the streets.
Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where would you like to see casinos located?
While I support most efforts to create jobs and spur economic development, I do not support the expansion of gambling within the City of Chicago. The short term gains are far outweighed by the long term impact on the community, mainly the poor.
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?
I think that alderman that do not incorporate the community on decision making over zoning, TIF funds, etc., are doing a disservice to the community. As 15th Ward Alderman, I have vowed to creating the 15th Ward Zoning Committee. This group will be comprised of community and business leaders to meet with me monthly to discuss zoning applications or changes, housing and commercial development, etc.
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?
It is my intention to be a full-time Alderman of the 15th Ward.
Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from your employees? Would you pledge not to hire relatives on your staff?
I would not expect contributions or gifts from employees, but I would not be against nominal gifts. I am well aware of the perception of hiring family members within the office. Every effort would be made to hire qualified residents of our 15th Ward.
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?
I would support the aldermanic oversight over all contracts.
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 strongly support having a single city Inspector General with oversight over all employees, elected or otherwise.
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?
We need to have restrictions on City employees leaving to join lobbyist groups or contract vendors. I would support an ordinance requiring a five year ban on joining any such group after leaving the City.
What’s the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?
While not exactly “about” Chicago, I would say “unofficial” Precinct Captain’s Handbook written by Richard J. Daley is the best Chicago book. It has had the greatest impact on generations of politicos, political neophytes, political families, organizations, etc.
Please list your educational background
St. Camillus Elementary School
St. Laurence High School
University of Illinois-Chicago
Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong
Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?
Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed
Please paste a brief biography here
Briefly, allow me to state that I am a lifelong Southwest Side resident, educated in the Catholic school system. I am proud of the values and commitment to service that these institutions instilled in me and hope to share that passion with our 15th Ward.
For the past eight years, I have been a part of the Southwest Airlines family, providing superior Customer Service on a daily basis to the flying public. Prior to that, I served nearly three years as a Special Assistant within the Mayor’s Office of Special Events.
I have been active in my community for a majority of my life. I was a precinct captain at age 18. I served as a Community Representative on an LSC at the age of 21. I lived in the Garfield Ridge neighborhoods for many years before moving into the Chicago Lawn neighborhood roughly four years ago.