Friday, January 21, 2011

2nd Ward Aldermanic Candidates Mix it up at Town Hall Meeting

The 2nd Ward Aldermanic Forum was held Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at Mercy Housing, South Loop, 1521 S. Wabash Ave. The hour-long forum was hosted and moderated by Mercy Housing residents. There were six questions posed to all the candidates. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer each question.

The first question was somewhat general, asking the candidates how each would help folks living on fixed incomes in the city. The five other questions were on the living wage, city budget, Sweet Home Chicago (affordable housing initiative), jobs, and parking.

The candidates from left to right: Jim Bosco, Melissa Callahan, Alderman Robert Fioretti, Enrique Perez, Genita Robinson, and Federico Sciammarella
Before the forum began, but right after the above photo was taken, Melissa Callahan got up and did not return. She did not participate in the forum; there was no explanation given for her abrupt departure. All candidates presented themselves well, with little if any snipping or personal attacks.

Genita Robinson answers a question
Living Wage
The only candidate who strongly advocated for a living wage was Alderman Fioretti. Jim Bosco said the living wage is "great in theory, but bad in practice." Bosco said he could support a living wage ordinance if the city was in better shape. Enrique Perez suggested that one way to deal with the living wage issue is to raise the minimum wage, which would make things more "equitable" in his opinion. Perez also stated that no one knows what a living wage looks like.Genita Robinson said we have to move "beyond the wage people make." She emphasized retraining the city's existing displaced workforce and mentioned Chicago Career Tech, a job retraining program she is personally involved with. Federico Sciammarella said we have to concentrate on educating people to create careers and not wait for the next big-box retailer to employ us.

Alderman Robert Fioretti addresses the audience
As to the budget, all the candidates acknowledged that the city is in serious trouble, but offered no real solutions to the problem. Bosco called the TIF program a "ponzi scheme" that needs to be reformed. Bosco said a lot of the city's budgeting woes could be corrected with the elimination of the TIF. Fioretti said that TIF reform would not solve the city's budget shortfall. He suggested an audit of all city offices to streamline city government. Perez said that cuts to the budget can be made, but said he would not cut any department that affects public safety. Robinson said there needs to be more community input into the budget process. She said this was done during past administrations. Robinson also pointed to her experience with managing multimillion dollar budgets. Sciammarella suggested performance-based budgeting and called the current process a "shell game."

Federico Sciammarella talks about training for careers not jobs

Sweet Home Chicago
All of the candidates seemed to be in favor of affordable housing in Chicago and specifically in the South Loop. Some were not sure about some of the mandates, but rather favored better urban planning and development.

As far as jobs are concerned, Bosco said we need to find employers and bring them to Chicago. He suggested that it isn't a lack of a skilled work force, but rather the lack of employers in the city. Fioretti said that partnerships with public libraries and city colleges to retrain people is one way to improve the situation. He pointed to the job fairs that he's sponsored and also to the businesses he's brought into the second ward, including the new Target in the West Loop. He said that Target has promised to give residents of the second ward "first crack" at jobs. Perez suggested that there are tax breaks that businesses can apply for to bring jobs to the second ward. Robinson said that we need to make the city more business-friendly. Sciammarella said there is no comprehensive education plan in the ward. He emphasized that people need to be educated for careers rather than being employed by the next retailer that opens in the ward.

Enrique Perez says, "there is a better way."
The meeting was fairly calm until we got to the subject of parking. All agreed that the parking deal that Mayor Daley pushed through the city legislature was a bad one...even Alderman Fioretti who voted for it. If there is one issue where the Alderman is vulnerable, it is the parking issue. Saying he (and the other aldermen) were "lied to" didn't sit well with several of the other candidates. Genita Robinson said she was "surprised" by Fioretti's comments and asked where is the parking study we were told would take place. Robinson said if she were elected, a parking study would be completed.

Jim Bosco speaks with a potential supporter.
Wrap-up and Reception
The meeting ended at approximately 7:30 p.m. There was time afterward to meet and greet the candidates. There was also a food reception for those in attendance.

There will be another South Loop Aldermanic forum on February 12, 2011 at Columbia College. Click here for details.

1 comment:

  1. On the subject of parking, alderman Fioretti commissioned a study that was presented to the community this past summer (2010). I'm suprised that Genita Robinson wasn't aware of this. Let's hope we don't duplicate efforts if she is elected.


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