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Public Safety





Public Safety

How to Really ‘Get Tough’ On Crime

One of the most critical issues in my ward is the problem of crime, especially violent crime. Despite some recent drops in the crime rate, Chicago remains a violent city, with the eighth highest murder rate in the U.S. among major cities. The more under-served wards like the 12th, of course, suffer from higher rates than the City-wide average. We can and must do better.

Many politicians try to tell you that the way to get “tough on crime” is to put more police on the streets, make more arrests and lock offenders up in prison for longer and longer periods. I agree that we do need more police on the beat, but overall, this is not the best way to really knock down the crime rate. The best way to address the crime problem is to address the causes of crime: High unemployment, poverty, poor education, and the social effects of poverty and lack of education -- such as substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and the effects of growing up in seemingly hopeless conditions. Domestic violence and child abuse are major causes of later violent behavior when abused children become adults.

In some neighborhoods, gentrification and homelessness also play a role. Although we do need to improve the quality of our neighborhoods, we need to do it in a way that respects the housing needs of existing residents.

When kids grow up in a harsh environment in which they are abused or neglected, and being a drug trafficker or a gang-banger seems to be the only way to get ahead, most of them will get into drug trafficking and gangs. When kids grow up in an environment in which they are nurtured and encouraged to make something of themselves, and have a chance to get a decent education and a decent productive and rewarding job, most of them will take a different path, become productive members of society and stay out of trouble.

Therefore, the best way to “get tough” on crime is not to lock up offenders for long periods, and then refuse to help them when they get out. All that does is make offenders more violent. The best way to get tough on crime is to address the causes of crime. We need to build a City in which all of our children receive a quality education that gives them a chance to succeed. We need to build a City in which all of our parents have enough job opportunities to give them a chance to feed their families, pay the rent or the mortgage and be able to enjoy life, without being forced to hustle on the streets to get ahead.

That’s why education, economic opportunity, job creation and affordable housing are the other big priorities of my campaign. Please view my statements on these issues on my website.

Under education, I include adult education. If we want our children to succeed and become law-abiding, productive members of society, we need better-educated parents who know how to raise children in a nurturing home environment, provide good nutrition and good study habits. If we want more of the next generation to do better in school, we can’t put all of the responsibility on teachers. The home environment is also crucial to educational success. We also need to make adult education more accessible to our people to help them improve their job skills and living skills, including bi-lingual education.

Those are longer-term solutions. Shorter term, the Chicago Police Department needs to place more emphasis on the community policing model that improves communications between police and the community, gets the police to respect and respond to community needs more readily and improves community cooperation with police. More “beat cops” on the streets, who will actually meet with members of the community on a regular basis, will improve public safety and help build trust between community members and the police. The Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program has been fairly successful but the model needs to be more fully embraced.

We also need to focus on getting the illegally traded handguns off the streets. This should become a top law enforcement priority. Only law-abiding people should be allowed to possess handguns for protection in the home.

As your next Alderman, I will also take a personal “hands on” role in addressing the crime problem. Under our laws, an Alderman is a sworn officer of the peace. I intend to take that responsibility very seriously. Upon taking office, I will join Chicago police officers on patrol once a week, in a different precinct each week. I will gain first-hand knowledge of the problems facing each neighborhood and will make it clear that we are not going to tolerate gang activity in the 12th Ward.

When violent crime does occur, I will make sure that the City provides services to help the victims.  I will establish a Crisis Unit, led by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker or trained psychologist, to provide counseling, not only the direct victims and family members but also friends and neighbors who may also be traumatized by the violence. I want to make sure that our neighborhoods recover from violent crime and build greater unity and resolve to prevent further violence.

If elected as your next Alderman, I promise to fight hard for both the long-term solutions and the short-term efforts to eliminate crime and build a City in which people can feel safe and secure on the streets and in their homes.


How We Can Bring Good Jobs to Our Ward

One of the biggest problems facing the people of the 12th Ward is the lack of good job opportunities. Obviously, this is a national and state problem as much as a City problem, and to some extent we are dependent on our national and state governments to enact better economic policies. But that is no excuse for our City government failing to do what it can. Our City government has a lot of resources and influence at its disposal. It can and must do better at creating good quality job opportunities.

Part of the answer is to solve our City budget crisis in a way that allows us to maintain public service jobs, and to resist and roll back privatization, which is often used to replace better-paying union jobs with lower-paying non-union jobs. I address that issue in my budget statement on this website. We don’t want to be cutting public service jobs during a recession.

We also have to address the lack of industrial jobs. We have a number of closed industrial facilities in this Ward. I would like the City to use the power of eminent domain to condemn and reclaim some of these closed factories and facilities, and then work with community organizations, banks, credit unions and organized labor to reopen them as community-owned or employee-owned enterprises. These enterprises should include green-energy, energy-efficiency and other sustainability-related business, such as local agricultural food processing. Community-owned and employee-owned enterprises can provide stable sources of employment while empowering communities at the same time. With community stakeholders owning the business, the facilities and the money remain in the community.

A couple of these closed facilities could also be used to create healthy alternatives to gang activity for our young people. The closed CTA repair shop by Pershing, Rockwell and Archer could be converted into an indoor Skate Park for skateboarders and roller skaters. I would also like to convert a long abandoned old bingo building at Archer, West of Pershing, into a Boys and Girls’ Club. While these would not create a large number of jobs, they would create some, while reducing crime and improving the neighborhood.

We can also help create good new jobs by getting serious about promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy in housing and businesses, with emphasis on low-income housing and small businesses. Improving the stock and energy-efficiency of affordable housing helps create new jobs both directly (renovation jobs) and indirectly (energy bills go down; families have more disposable income to spend on other goods and services). It also helps reduce the demand for electricity and improves our environment. The Department of Community Development has been doing some home renovation but the program needs to be greatly expanded. We should be hiring a lot of young men and women to renovate and insulate homes and businesses, so that they will be busy with caulking guns, not handguns.

Where appropriate, the City should also provide assistance or low-interest loans to empower residents and small businesses to install solar or small-scale wind generators to help meet their power needs. We also need to streamline the permitting process for solar and wind-power installation. Currently, the City imposes far too many bureaucratic obstacles to installing solar and wind-power systems, which drives up the cost of installation. By helping to make solar and wind power more affordable, we can further drive down energy costs, stimulate the economy and help create lots of green-economy manufacturing jobs in the City and in this Ward.

We should also pass a “buy locally” ordinance for the City of Chicago, favoring purchases from local and area producers, to help keep money in the community, which is always good for economic health. Similarly, where appropriate, we should also assist communities that want to turn unused land into community gardens. Where lower-income and working people have an opportunity to grow some of their own produce, more disposable income can be used to buy other goods and services, stimulating the economy.

I also favor a stronger and broader Living Wage ordinance for the City. A full-time job should provide enough income to support a family but many jobs today don’t pay nearly enough. The recent increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25/hour affected less than 4 percent of the workforce. The inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage was 17% lower in 2009 than it was in 1968. We have the most productive workers in the world but they are the most overworked and underpaid in comparison to what they produce.

The current Living Wage ordinance affects City contractors and currently covers ten job classifications. I would fight for a Living Wage ordinance for all businesses that receive a subsidy or tax break from the City, for Big Box stores, and eventually for all employers above a certain size, with temporary exemptions allowed for new startups or businesses that are struggling.

Critics often argue that a Living Wage will reduce employment, since businesses won’t be able to afford the increase. However, studies of prior increases in federal and state minimum wage standards, and the impact of Living Wage laws adopted by a number of cities, demonstrates that this is not correct. Any temporary negative impact on businesses is soon compensated for by the stimulative effect of providing more discretionary income to the lowest-paid workers – who spend most of their income on goods and services. Indeed, experience shows that is one of the most effective ways to stimulate the economy. In addition, raises in the minimum wage tend to improve productivity. By phasing in the Living Wage increase gradually, any adverse impacts are minimized.

These are some of the most important steps I would fight for as your next Alderman to improve our economy and create more good job opportunities. But the most important thing to remember is that by electing me, the People’s Candidate, you will have someone in office who can’t be bought or sold, and who takes seriously the obligation of government to ensure that there are real economic opportunities for all. You can be sure that I will fight for all good policies that will improve the health and well-being of the people of the 12th Ward.


Where I Stand: City of Chicago Budget

The best way to serve the people of my ward is to fight for a City of Chicago budget that focuses on delivering the quality public services that our people and businesses need, efficiently, with the most “bang for the buck” – and paid for by a fair, progressive tax system.

We depend on our City government to provide for housing and economic development, cultural affairs, public health services, services for the disabled, support for families, the Chicago Public Library, public safety, building safety and regulation, consumer and environmental protection, animal control, transportation and other infrastructure, including water supply, and the administration of two major airports.

All of these services are important to the well-being of the people of Chicago and it is the job of City government to ensure that they are maintained at a high level of quality. During tough economic times, the need for many of these services is greater even as the income from tax revenues declines. So how do we meet this challenge? Here is how I would propose to do it:

On the spending side: We need a more thorough and independent audit of the budget to locate and eliminate unnecessary positions or expenditures that were created or given out as political favors. The process of cleaning up Chicago politics, by electing truly independent aldermen like me, also means a thorough house-cleaning of all areas of government – and that will save us money as well.

In looking at the 2011 budget just approved, there are some areas that I would especially want to put under a microscope. I would support some of the spending cuts recommended by the Chicago Inspector General, such as eliminating the subsidies for water and sewer usage for non-profits, which would save $15.2 million, or the free sewer service for seniors, which would save $5.25 million – although I would want to preserve it as a means-tested program so that seniors living on low fixed incomes could still receive the benefit. I would favor elimination of, or at least scaling way down, the Supportive Services for Commercial Area Development, saving $4.9 million, since most of the funding goes to subsidize local area chambers of commerce, which shouldn’t be funded by the taxpayers.

More broadly, I will scrutinize carefully the $6 million increase in the budget for the Board of Election Commissioners, for which little justification has been offered, and the over $48 million increase in the budget for O’Hare Airport.

As a general rule, I also oppose privatization and would like to see much of it reversed. Most government experience with privatization demonstrates that it has not been a bargain for taxpayers and that it often amounts to a scheme to enrich private corporations at taxpayer expense. For short-term infusions of money, the public sector gives away valuable assets or rights, then the taxpayers still have to pay the cost of administering and policing the contracts while the contracting companies make a small fortune off of public assets – and often take their profits out of the City, out of the state, or even out of the country. This kind of taxpayer subsidized profiteering has got to stop.

With some exceptions, such as construction, where it may make sense to let private contractors do the work, most public functions should remain in the public sector. Our tax dollars then go to directly pay the workers, who perform the services and generally spend most of their wages locally. This is a much more efficient and beneficial system than one in which the taxpayers pay for administrators to police and regulate contracts and then also pay for the contractors’ private profits, marketing, advertising and other private-sector functions, on top of paying workers, who are usually paid at a lower, non-union wage.

On the revenue side: I support a financial transactions tax (or transaction fees) on speculative trading in the City of Chicago. The speculators who trade on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board Options Exchange pay nothing on the sale of derivatives, while Chicago residents pay the highest sales taxes in the nation on necessities. A very minuscule tax on speculative trading could address this inequity and raise several hundred million dollars to meet our obligations, while also allowing us to reduce our over-reliance on sales taxes. In other words, I believe that we could raise enough revenue from a financial transactions tax on speculative trading to lower sales taxes on food or general merchandise and still raise more net revenue to fund public services.

Another possibility would be to make the existing sales tax more equitable by increasing the tax on luxury items while holding the line or reducing it on general merchandise.

In general, I support principles of progressive taxation: The tax burden should fall a little bit more on those most able to pay and a lot less on those least able to pay. The wealthiest members of our society have benefitted the most from the operation of the social order; therefore, they have the biggest obligation to support it. The poorest members of society, who have benefitted the least from the operation of the social order, are most in need of relief from the tax burden, so that they have a chance to lift themselves up. In addition, tax breaks for the poorest members of society means more money spent on local goods and services, where they help stimulate the economy.

We also need greater transparency, accountability and democratic decision-making on the expenditure of TIF money, while fighting to reverse the abusive practice of creating TIF districts that don’t fit the purpose, which was to help rebuild blighted communities. TIF money has been spent on pet projects favored by the Mayor and his allies, some of which have benefitted the people but most of which have benefitted his campaign donors and political supporters. The TIF money has practically become a slush fund for the Mayor and his friends. Most of the money has gone to prosperous neighborhoods like the South Loop and the West Loop, while our neighborhood schools are starving for funds. Last year there was more TIF money spent in the Near South TIF than 82 of the poorer TIF districts. The system has clearly been abused.

I would like to see a moratorium on the creation of new TIF districts until real reform is adopted at the state and/or City levels. Our schools need the money that is being siphoned out of the system. Meanwhile, the City Council and the public should play a greater role in deciding how the funds are allocated. There should be readily accessible public disclosure of the volume of TIF revenues available coming out of each TIF district and allocations of TIF revenue should be part of a deliberative budgetary process by the City Council, like the regular budget.


Alberto Bocanegra Announces Firm Support for Chicago Clean Power Ordinance

November 26, 2010

Candidate for 12th Ward Alderman, Alberto Bocanegra, Jr. announced today that he is fully behind the effort to pass the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. Alberto points out that the 12th Ward is right between the two old coal fired power plants, Fisk and Crawford. These plants are contaminating the air that residents breathe, causing unnecessary illness and death. "The time is long past when these plants should have cleaned up their emissions," Alberto said. Alberto points out that this ordinance would force big reductions in the fine particulate matter coming from these plants as well as reductions in carbon dioxide which is the main gas contributing to global warming.

"Midwest Generation needs to take the responsible course of action and implement controls on its contamination," said Alberto. He points out that the ordinance gives Midwest Generation the option of cleaning up their emissions or closing the plants. "We hope that Midwest Generation will choose to clean up its emissions. But if they choose to shut the plants instead, they must fair alternatives to any workers who are displaced, "Alberto emphasized.

Alberto pointed out the study done by the Environmental Law and Policy Center showing that the Fisk and Crawford plants have caused between $750 million and $1 billion in public health damages since 2002. "The residents of the 12th Ward should not be forced to bear the monetary and health costs of this outmoded technology," stated Alberto.

"For the sake of all residents of Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, this legislation needs to move forward as fast as possible," Alberto points out. Alderman Cardenas is now taking over the leadership of the Committee on Health since Alderman Ed Smith is retiring. Alderman Cardenas should push for a joint committee hearing between the Committee on Health and the Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection, and Public Utilities on this ordinance in early December. This is needed so that the ordinance can be passed by the current City Council early in 2010.

"I call on Alderman Cardenas to work for the health of his constituents; He needs to make sure this committee hearing takes place in December," demanded Alberto.


A Quality Education for All Children

I believe that every child in our community should have the chance to succeed regardless of how rich or poor their family is. We have many good schools in Chicago, but also have far too many schools with overcrowded classrooms, burned out teachers, and school buildings falling apart. We can turn this around by fully funding our schools. We can do this through stopping the misappropriation of TIF funds and make them more transparent, fairer taxes in Chicago and pressuring lawmakers in Springfield. TIFs in reality are just a slush fund for the mayor and the mayor’s friends. No one really knows where most of that TIF money really goes, so I will fight to make sure most of that TIF money goes into our schools. In addition, we need to continue to expand educational opportunities for our students, both children and adults, in our neighborhood. I will continue to oppose the Mayor’s efforts to close the City Colleges of Chicago and other efforts to reduce educational services to our community.

Embracing Diversity in Our Schools

Our city’s diversity is what makes our city one of the greatest in America. If you just step into one of our city’s classrooms you may hear Spanish, Polish, and many other languages spoken by students. If we truly want to ensure all students from all backgrounds succeed, we need to push for more multilingual classes and support services for our children and their parents.

Emphasize Democratic Community Control of Our Schools

Part of the problem with the Chicago public school system is that it is run by politicians and businessmen who hold too much control and whose decisions – even when they have good intentions – are out of touch with the needs of our community. As your alderman, I will strive to give back more power to local communities and local school councils. We need more direct participation from students, parents, and teachers in the decision-making process. I will also work to provide for an elected school board – not Yes-men for the mayor. This will make it more accountable to parents and the community. When so much power is concentrated in the hands of one person, it corrupts the system. Mayoral control of our schools must end. Let’s listen to our teachers and the parents in our community – not politicians who have not even taught in a classroom.

Keep our Neighborhood Schools Public

The Renaissance 2010 program implemented by Mayor Daley and former CPS CEO Arne Duncan has been a resounding failure. We do not get good schools and encourage learning when we close neighborhood schools, fire all school staff, and put in a charter school. This is a step toward privatizing our public schools. The purpose of education is to help children acquire knowledge, think for themselves, and develop into productive and happy adults. It is not about making money nor is it about blaming teachers. Yes, we need accountability, but we cannot get there by destroying the spirit of our communities and closing neighborhood schools. Instead, lets give teachers more resources and support. Let’s encourage students to enroll in after-school programs. Let’s give students more nutritious lunch options. There is still much more we haven’t done to create better schools public schools. I will always support our public neighborhood schools and I will continue to fight for students, parents and teachers. This is my solemn promise to you.



Issue #1
Public Safety.

Issue #2
Quality Education for All.

Issue #3
Establish a Residents Council.

Issue #4
Pass the Clean Power Ordinance.


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