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Alderman, 27th Ward: Walter Burnett Jr.

Updated: January 20, 2011 4:28PM

Birth date: 08-16-1963

Political affiliation: Democrat

Neighborhood: West Loop/New Haven

Occupation/Firm name: Alderman of 27th Ward (full time)

Marital status: Married

Campaign HQ address: 1452 No. Sedgwick

Campaign website:

What is your campaign budget?


What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?

My priorities is to offer assistance in stabilizing the Real Estate Market, particularly as it pertains to foreclosed properties. I would like to see TIF funds used to acquire and rehab these parcels. I think once that is achieved we can more effectively retain business and attract new ones.

What are your top priorities for your ward?

Well, my priorities for thw Ward are the same, but with greater focus. I want to ensure that the business community is stabilized and taking advantage of government resources that assit them with hiring and retention. I want to help facilitate community development with a heightened sense of safety. I think by effectively using the police, parks, block clubs, and other city resources, residents can help to improve the quality of urban living.

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?

This is an ongoing discussion, and results will be best achieved when law makers, department heads and executive take it serious and resolve to find cost saving meaures. I think we have to look at all dept.that don't directly impact vital city services such as Streets & San.& Health & Human Services. I know there is a lot of chatter about reorganizing how we collect garbage and how many workers accompany a truck, but these discussion must have context, we have to consider the variety of household we service and the core function of Alderman, being held accountable for their ability to keep their Wards clean. Money can be saved by looking at serious efforts to have households sort their waste and the city doing a better job of controling the revenues in the recycable market, instead of giving a contract to a private company where they benefit form the waste removal fee and the recyclable. The city should also move away from diesel powered vehicles and enter into collaborative relationships with local universities to develop bio-fuel alternatives that save money and improve air quality. The faster we move toward green technology the greater the potential for new revenue, based on new business development and job ceation. We should look to more consolidation of departments where there are duplication of services to help reduce personnel cost. Hire headhunter firms to process applications and pre qualify applicants. I think we should explain to union leaders that their members can keep their current benefits and not expect to get wage increases during the budget crisis, but they won't see an increase in their contribution to health insurance coverage. It's a maintain the gains approach.

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?

I can not discuss possible solutions, without stating how shameful it is that elected leaders allowed for the so called "pension relief" by under funding and diverting pension contributions. Therefore, any solutions must have iorn clad protections that such tactics can not be achieved in the future. Unfortunately, I think we are going to have to resort to property taxpayers because it is one of the most stable and reliable evenue streams. But, I would recommend that the increase be no more than 3-5% of property taxes. I would also identify some type of special use fee such as when customers use credit cards to pay city fees, or ALL revenue generated from "red light cameras," perhaps a small fee on city permits and license. If they vote casinos in, I would certainly advocate for a high percentage of those revenues to go towards pension contributions.As indicated there are no pain free solutions. And I think solutions should be designed to spread the pain as evenly as possible, as we pray for the economy to improve and thereby see investments improve.

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?

Well being a full-time hard working member of the City Council, I would say yes! I work, on average 12-15 hours a day. I am blessed to have a wife that is supportive. But, my point is I feel like the Mayor of the 27th Ward. I have to deal with developers,irate residents, uninformed residents, property owners, sanitation issues,(rodents,wild animals, water/sewer problems, new sidewalks, alley paving, new street light, crime & safety issues,poverty issues, housing (public/afforbable/market rate),business coming to the ward, fighting to keep them here, helping them to obtain resources to improve. Schools, (Magnet/charter/private/neighborhood) Parks, (dog parks,festivals, permits,picnics, street closures,noise,repairs, improvements...)Libraries, (getting them built, keeping them staffed). Some committees such as mine - Special Events is combined w/Cultural Affairs. We could combined Transportaion & Traffic. Health/Safety w/Police Fire, and others, I just have to give it more thought. Maybe we could save money on rental of district office by offering a tax beak to property owners that charge for 11 months instead of 12 months, & by working w/utility companies to get discount rates. Advocating on constituency behalf at every level of government fighting to get our fair share of appropriations. Sixty-thousand residents and the various neighborhoods is a lot to address even when you are an established long-term Alderman

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 council has to be more directly involvement in how contracts are issued, that alone should save money, as we openly debate whether some are needed or not. I recommend that the development of the budget is more inclusive of the legislative body, not in its present format where it is developed and delivered to us. Issues that directly effect the municipality such as tourism, crime, safety,reform of the permit and license procedures. Both are slow, cumbersome, and overly regulated.

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 think the TIF program has a degree of transparency, if you know where to look! Seriously, tax payers have aright to know what projects are being funded with TIF $. I offer tranparency in my ward and I allow for input from the business community. I would offer improvements that included organized community support. You just have t be careful, too much input often resdults in nothing of substance getting done. Sometimes, leaders need to lead while managing the fall out. I suspect as we face more looming budget crisis and the reality of diverted tax dollars, changes to TIF will become a reality.

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 think we should carefully analyze privatization proposals on an individual basis. Serious efforts much be considered with regards to what you get vs. what you give and the monitoring process. The deals should be negotiated by committee and voted on by the full body.

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?

I think we have to resign ourselves to the fact that staffing levels may never reach previous levels. I favor enhanced use of technology using mapping overlay systems to identify where crime occurs the most, thereby anticipating where it will re occur. If we use real time "Google Map"viewing it helps to keep the trail hot and identify potential suspects. Officers can then be dispatched with some info. as opposed to little or no info. and having to rely on eye-witnesses for everything. Allow officers to create electronic police reports for traffic/minor/home invasion. I think all procedures has to be reviewed and revamped where possible. Yes, I favor increase police presence in high crime areas. I support radical, multi-social approach to crime solving in poverty stricken, high drug use/sales neighborhoods. I think we could use CAPS, in conjunction with Human Rights/ to educate/rehabilitate property, people,perseptions and facilate crime reduction strategies that involve use of different ethnic groups to highlight similarities instead of focusing on differences.

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 it doesn't hurt to have a background in education. I am not sure it needs to be a pre-requisite. I think we have to address the issue of failing school and options should be available to the board. For too long CPS/City of Chicago have ignored the neighborhood school to the point of deterioration. The social ills that these students face are real, the "cultural of calm" or other programs benefit the students they are designed to help. We have to do a better job of improving the community at large, getting parents, business, residents more involved in the education of their children/neighbors.

Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where would you like to see casinos located?

On a personal level, I am opposed to gambling as a solution to our budget problems. If they come, I suppose an area of the city that's capable of attracting the most tourist,and capable of offering safety/security, such as the area that was proposed as a village for the Olympic, near the lake.

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?

No, Alderman should be able to influence what is developed and how it is developed in their ward that's why they were elected.

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?

I am a full time Alderman. I pledge not to engage in any employment that could give the appearance of conflict of interest.

Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from your employees? Would you pledge not to hire relatives on your staff?

I accept small birthday/holiday gifts from employees. I give them, as well. No I could not make that pledge, as my mother works on my staff, she shows up to work,does a good job and doesn't challenge me before the other staff members.

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?

Yes, Yes, I think anything over $100,000

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 think the legislative branch should have an IG if the Executive Branch has one. No, there are enough policing/prosecutorial bodies available to investigate/indite Alderman, as evidence by the many convictions. I would be afraid of personality clashes that could lead to witch hunts.

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?

I don't know. Yes that seems fair, what ever is consistent with other levels of government. Perhaps a year.

What's the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?

There are so many great books, I've read a few. Perhaps one that details the history of the Democratic Convention being held in Chicago.

Please list your educational background

B.S. Degree in Political Science.

Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong

I will forward a resume

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

I was employeed by Cook County Government.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government

My wife is employed with County government, and my mother works for City gov.

Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed

I do not know this information, would have to consult with my fundaising consultant there are hundreds of donors.

Please paste a brief biography here

Elected Alderman in 1995, Deacon at First Baptist Congregational Church, Board member of Boys & Girls Club, Bd. member with Jesse White Scholars. Father, brother, son, husband.

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