Aldermanic Questionnaire: Caroline Vickrey

NAME Caroline Vickrey WARD 43
CAMPAIGN ADDRESS 719 W. Wrightwood
CAMPAIGN PHONE (773) 710-8088 FAX n/a

Briefly list your civic activities over the past ten years.

I have served on the Oz Park Advisory Council for the past 20 years. I was Chair of the Playground Committee when my children were young, working to rehab and update the unique and heavily used playground there, one of the most treasured in the city. I was heavily involved at Lincoln Elementary School for 14 years, serving in many roles, including as PTA President, as Director of the Sports Program, as longtime Tennis Coach, and I was elected four times to the Local School Council, where I served as Budget Chair and Vice Chair. During my time at Lincoln, I worked with a group of parents and community members to fundraise to green and rehab the playground, plant trees around the perimeter and install new pieces of playground equipment. I was also part of the team that hired a new Principal, and worked to upgrade the bandwidth and implement a long term technology plan for the school. I serve as a board member of the MidNorth Association, our local neighborhood association. I have volunteered for the Old Town Art Fair in past years and also for both St. Michael’s and St. Clement parishes.

As concisely as possible, state why you feel you should be elected Alderman.

We can do better as a Ward, and I can do better as an Alderman. Most importantly, I will lead by listening. I will work with the community, with businesses, with our police and with our schools to solve the problems we have in our communities. My long history of public service in this ward, building consensus, addressing valid concerns of residents, and working toward our common goals, will translate well into the Alderman’s role as an advocate for her constituents.

What are the three most important issues that will face the ward in the future?

We face much pressure from outside the ward on the development front. I want our ward to take a proactive role in development, to set up a master plan to affirmatively plan what we want for our ward going forward. My 43rd Ward Zoning Board will bring together leaders from all across the ward to create a broad plan for the ward. A second issue is our schools. Our schools are anchors of our community and we need to make sure that they are well funded so that they can continue to provide the high level of education they have been providing. Some of our physical facilities are in need of upgrade, most importantly that of our neighborhood high school, Lincoln Park High School. The third issue that faces our ward is our long suffering retail corridors. I want to focus the energy of my office on setting up a Community Development Corporation, which will take the role in coordination with the Chamber of Commerce and the Local Merchants Associations to attract new businesses and entrepreneurs to our ward.

What is your campaign budget? How much have you raised to date?

My campaign budget is as much as is needed to win. So far I have raised over $100,000. As of September 2014, I have more individual donations from inside the ward boundaries than any other candidate in the race.




Will you continue the practice of soliciting Wrightwood Neighbors recommendations with respect to zoning and development issues?, permit parking?, liquor licenses?, loading zones?



Are you in favor of an ordinance that would allow the collection of admission fees for the Taste of Lincoln Avenue that raises money for Local Schools, Arts and Social Service Agencies?



Will you strongly oppose any attempt to charge Wrightwood Neighbors for lost parking meter revenue during the Taste of Lincoln Avenue?




How will you communicate with Wrightwood Neighbors and its residents on local and citywide issues?

I plan to attend as many neighborhood organization meetings as possible, and if not send a delegate, as that is where the pulse of the community is.  But perhaps more importantly, unlike the incumbent, I plan to hold Ward Night on a weekly basis, making myself available to constituent questions and concerns, without filters.



What can be done to have more non-liquor based, sales tax paying retail tenants on Halsted, Lincoln, Diversey and Fullerton?

I plan to set up a Community Development Corporation to attract new businesses to the ward, which will work in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and The Local Merchants Associations to focus solely on studying demand and seeking out businesses that will fit well in the community and be patronized by the people who live here.  I believe that we need more restaurants that cater to families and the older demographic in the neighborhood and would seek out concepts from other neighborhoods to come to Lincoln Park.



How will you deal with problem bars in Wrightwood?

I will start as I will start all things, with a conversation.  I will talk with bar owners and with residents, encouraging business owners to be responsible members of the neighborhood.  We will monitor traffic and closing times to determine when problems spike to the highest levels, and if necessary, get police involved.



What will you do to reduce property taxes for residents of Wrightwood?

The pension crisis in the City of Chicago is the greatest threat to our fiscal stability and to the prospect of avoiding higher taxes.  We have an unfunded pension liability of $26billion, and a built in structural deficit of $500million in this year’s city budget, which requires us to sell of city assets and “scoop and toss” those assets into the future, further increasing our debt load, which currently consumes 23% of our entire city budget.  I hope to toe the line on taxes for all residents of the 43rd Ward, by ensuring that we spend our tax dollars in the most fiscally responsible way possible.  I pledge to assess each financial transaction that the City engages in with great scrutiny.  Every dollar that we spend is a dollar that is not going to our debt load and our pension system, which will in turn create burdens on our city , county and state budgets, and leads to situations like the one we now face which desperately demands new sources of revenue.



What are your plans to maintain the quality of the schools that serve the Wrightwood Community?

I will always support our public schools as one of our greatest community assets, and the schools of the Wrightwood Neighborhood – Oscar Mayer, Agassiz, DePaul and the many other private, magnet and selective enrollment schools that children of the Wrightwood neighborhood attend.  Families move to this neighborhood to access our fantastic schools, and we want to make sure that we have access to them. I pledge to preserve all playgrounds next to schools for children to play on before and after school, and to encourage high standards of excellence at each school in the ward.  I also want to make the improvement of the physical plant at Lincoln Park High School a priority in my administration, since most of our children will attend that school and it deserves better facilities.  I will lobby for better sports facilities for our children.  I will host an annual education summit to discuss education in the 43rd Ward and I’d like to create a better partnership between DePaul University and our local public schools than now exists to share the resources that we each have for each other in the community.



What will you do to encourage preservation in Wrightwood including protecting orange rated buildings?

I will fiercely protect our orange coded buildings as elements of the community that we treasure as unique and desirable.  It is my goal to protect the unique architectural integrity of our ward.  I also have a love and appreciation of modern architecture (I have architects in my family) and appreciate how the built environment can vastly improve a community for the better when designed right.




What are your top priorities for the Ward?

Development – Setting up a 43rd Ward Zoning Board to proactively set guidelines for our entire ward and the development process going forward.

Schools – To support excellent facilities at our schools to the greatest extent possible

Crime – To improve communication around crime in our ward with a reinvigorated Neighborhood Watch program, and by keeping members updated about important crime statistics in the ward

Retail Corridors – To spur new growth in our Retail corridors by working with a development corporation to attract new businesses



What is your long-range plan for development of the ward?

I plan to set up a 43rd Ward Zoning Board for the purpose of proactively drafting a set of guidelines for development in the ward going forward, to help make cohesive decisions together about development, rather than piecemeal, project based decisions.



What will you do to ensure that the redevelopment of the former Children’s Memorial Hospital site will have a positive impact on the community?

To the extent the project is still in limbo when I am elected, I will immediately bring all of the stakeholders in the process to the table to negotiate a settlement that is mutually agreeable to all parties to get the project moving forward as fast as possible.  I will work with the developer to ensure that the construction is safe and environmentally responsible and that traffic at the site is managed well going forward.



What will you do to revitalize the commercial streets in the ward?

I plan to set up a Community Development Corporation to attract new businesses to the ward, which will work in conjunction with the Chamber of Commerce and The Local Merchants Associations to focus solely on studying demand and seeking out businesses that will fit well in the community and be patronized by the people who live here.  We need to help our business community bridge the divide between the pre-internet and post-internet eras. Traffic and parking are a real issue that has not been addresses meaningfully in the past four years. I believe that we need more restaurants that cater to families and the older demographic in the neighborhood and would seek out concepts from other neighborhoods to come to Lincoln Park.


Are you in favor of restoring the #11 Lincoln Avenue Bus?

Yes, absolutely.


Will you institute participatory budgeting to allow ward residents to vote on discretionary spending (menu money) in the ward?




What criteria do you or will you use in determining whether or not to support a zoning change or variance?

The neighbors that are most directly impacted by new developments will have a strong say in the decisions made around them.  My newly formed 43rd Ward Zoning Board will review applications and advise me on larger projects before I render decisions.  With respect to variances and adjustments, I will look to the neighborhood organization’s specific guidelines on the issue and also the immediately adjacent neighbors to make determinations on a case by case basis.



What services need improvement in the ward?  How will you achieve this?

Police services need to be improved to the greatest extent possible within the existing city budget, and the Alderman’s office needs to do a better job of informing constituents of criminal activity in the neighborhood.   Tree trimming is greatly needed across the ward and eradication of rats need s to be addressed in a comprehensive way across the ward, by compiling information and coordinating baiting operations on a block by block, rather than house by house basis.



What should be done to address the rat problem in the ward?

Anything and everything.  Feral cats, birth control, coordinated and choreographed baiting efforts across wards.  Train the guns of the Missouri on this problem to find the sources of rats where they nest and prevent their recurrence by properly managing trash receptacles. Encourage enforcement of the city ordinance that mandates rat abatement before a new construction site is demolished.   Harness the energy of residents who have rats living in their homes and/or yards to help coordinate a mass effort to attack the problem.  Increase communication about what they city does versus what private services do, give information and encourage discussion.



What should be done to improve safety in the ward?

Police deployment needs to be reviewed and assessed regularly.  Police protection overall needs to be increased.  I am interested in Fioretti’s plan to put 500 more officers on the streets, and reduce the amount of overtime paid in the summer.  We need to better communicate about neighborhood crime hotspots, and reinvigorate our Neighborhood Watch program in the ward.  I will talk to Boys Town Crime Blog about starting a blog in the 43rd Ward to help residents  better communicate with each other about crime.  I will not hold publicity stunts with our police, lining up our first responders for a photo op.



What will you do to prevent overdevelopment of residential properties including breezeways, raised decks and lack of rear yard green space?

I look forward to a series of robust discussions and planning sessions in which we decide on what our priorities are as a ward for development.  I am quite confident that the residents of the ward will want to protect our open spaces and rear yards across the ward, and that generally 43rd Ward residents seek enforcement of existing zoning laws.  Every street and alley is different, and I know that our guidelines will reflect that reality, but I feel strongly that as a whole, we all want the same things for our neighborhoods.




Which city services or assets, if any, do you believe should be privatized (e.g. Midway Airport) and what are your criteria?

The income derived from assets such as Midway Airport is indispensable to our city’s revenue stream.  Foregoing that revenue stream must be met up front with an amount of equity that would be equal to the revenue lost from that asset for the next many, many decades.  The only reason we are talking about privatizing, other than eliminating union labor, is to get cash up front that we are desperate for, but we know that such transactions are often short sighted.  Privatization of city services such as garbage pickup should be assessed with the greatest of scrutiny.  The money that would be saved by privatizing will come out of the pockets of city workers who can least afford it, and somebody is making a profit off of that transaction.  These types of deals should be highly scrutinized.



What recommendations do you have to solve the pension crisis without putting an undue burden on property owners and retirees?

The pension situation in the City of Chicago is dire.  If nothing is done to resolve the problem in the next year or two, many of our pension funds will run out in the next five to ten years, and we will not be able to keep the promises that we have made to the workers of this city.  That being said, no combination of taxes and budget cuts will be able to make a significant dent in the $26billion in unfunded pension liabilities.  We need to get back on the right track to making responsible pension payments.  This probably means that we need to make some sacrifices in the short term financially.  Difficult decisions will need to be made.  Schools and police should not be shortchanged,  but every financial transaction that we make must be highly scrutinized and follow master plans for long term growth in a disciplined manner.  Before any taxes are increased, I would demand that we investigate public private partnerships for residents who seek repairs to the infrastructure on their streets to provide additional income while getting services directly to those residents.


Do you support casino gambling for Chicago?

No.   Casinos should be a 1st resort as a revenue source for our city.  Casinos will cheapen our city and make it look and feel like too many other cities in our country. I see casinos as a sign of a failing city and it amounts to a regressive tax on our local population.  Casinos may actually drive away some tourism.  Conventioneers see Chicago as a good place for conventions because it is free from the distractions of casinos, and it has features and attractions that are unique for travel.


Will you vote to require a citywide referendum before any gambling is instituted in the City?



Will you vote to increase the City subsidy to the CTA?



Do you support renegotiation of Chicago’s parking meter privatization deal?




How should enrollment in magnet schools be determined?

The current system of tiers is not quite as effective at creating a racially diverse mixture of students at magnet schools, and I am concerned that there is a significant amount of address falsifying that occurs with this system.  But it is probably more fair than the raciall quota system, even though I like seeing kids if different racial backgrounds mixed up at schools as much as possible.



Will you maintain a full time ward service office?



Will you be a full-time Alderman with no other employment?



Please specify the minimum number of hours per week you will spend performing your aldermanic duties.




Please describe how you will insure a smooth transition? (if applicable)

I will request a meeting with the incumbent upon my victory and request that information related to ward services be turned over.  I would request that she be present at briefings of all currently outstanding development projects.  If she chooses not to participate I will hold a series of meetings across the ward to introduce myself to my new constituents, and hold my first town hall meeting to get some discussions going on some new topics.


Will you continue leadership and participation in the Chicago Sculpture Exhibit Program?




Please describe your service office staffing plan, including the number of staff, full and part time, how you will pay for them, and the number of hours per week that your service office will be open.

I plan to have a Chief of Staff to manage my calendar and meetings around the ward.  I plan to have one staff member dedicated solely to responding to, cataloging and addressing constituent services, and another staff member responsible for communications.  I also plan to employ a legislative assistant to help me address budgeting and finance issues.


Will you accept campaign donations from people or businesses seeking zoning changes or variations in your ward?