2023 Chicago aldermanic candidates answer Tribune questionnaire: Joe Dunne
Joe answers the Tribune’s questions.
Current job: Affordable housing developer. Vice President of Real Estate Development, Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation
Previous political experience: I was elected to the Local School Council at Helen C. Peirce Elementary School for three terms, from July 2014 – December 2020. I have also served on the Edgewater Community Council.
Education: MBA, Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Northwestern University, 2003; BA, Columbia College, Chicago, 1994
Spouse’s occupation: Musician
Sources of outside income: None
The rise in violent crime remains a top priority for City Hall. Homicides, shootings and carjackings are all unacceptably high. Tell us how city government can be innovative in combating crime, and explain what measures you would propose if elected.
City government can be innovative in combating crime by implementing a multi-faceted approach that doesn’t simply rely on putting more police officers on the streets. This approach needs to include social services, housing, and economic development initiatives that target the root causes of poverty which underlie the rise in violent crime in Chicago. It also needs to include changes in the way we police different neighborhoods. Our high and low crime communities feel under policed, in part because police act differently in different parts of the city. We need to supplement police in areas where and when they are needed.
The long-term answer to reducing violent crime in Chicago is to focus on the redevelopment of the neighborhoods and residents who are most impacted. Significant portions of the South and West sides of Chicago have been chronically disinvested for decades. These communities have a lack of quality housing, underperforming schools, and little economic activity. As an affordable housing developer –having worked in Lawndale, Woodlawn, West Garfield Park, and other communities – I know that changing these conditions requires sustained investment. Simply building more housing, or recruiting business investment, is not enough on its own. We need to work with the community to build local outreach efforts for violence interruption, economic opportunity and job training.
As alderman, I will support funding for non-profits and community organizations that are engaged in violence reduction efforts at the local level. I will work with the Department of Housing and the Department of Planning and Development to ensure that the city’s community investments are aligned to have the greatest chance for long-term success.
I will also support implementing the University of Chicago Crime Lab’s Workforce Allocation Model. Changing the way we police our neighborhoods requires that we have consistency in the allocation of resources, consistency in the implementation of the federal consent decree, and consistency of leadership throughout the department so that officers on the front lines have clear direction.
Every person in Chicago deserves to feel safe in their communities and to know that their community has the appropriate allocation of public safety resources. We must stop pitting neighborhoods against one another for resources. Every single resident of the City of Chicago has a right to public safety and the ability to live, work, and play in their community.
The CTA, one of the nation’s largest transit systems, remains a troubled agency grappling with issues ranging from violent crime and ghost buses and trains, to flagging ridership. Give us your thoughts on what specific measures CTA should take to make train and bus service safer, more reliable and more equitable for Chicagoans.
Safety on the Red Line is one of the recurrent concerns I have heard as I’ve talked with residents of the 48th Ward. The CTA needs to address these safety concerns in order to attract more ridership on a daily basis. This includes safety on the platforms, in the stations, and on the trains. The CTA needs to bring back conductors or other personnel to provide a presence on the trains to deter crime. Having security personnel at the stations and/or on the platforms can serve as an additional deterrent to criminal activity. A visible public safety presence will go along way towards reassuring riders that the CTA takes the safety and security of its passengers seriously.
Reliable service is equally important, but perhaps more challenging due to staffing shortages. The CTA should coordinate recruitment with efforts to address disinvestment and crime on the South and West sides of the city. Economic investment in communities necessarily includes connecting residents to good paying jobs and the CTA should be a partner in the revitalization of Chicago neighborhoods.
The extension of the Red Line to 130th Street is perhaps the single biggest initiative to make CTA service more equitable for all Chicagoans. Extension of train service to the far south side will provide transit access to communities that have for too long been underserved. This initiative is also a perfect opportunity to work with the south side communities to ensure that the economic investment of the rail extension brings local benefits, including community hiring. As the Red Line extension is completed, economic development should follow including transit-oriented developments near the train stations. The CTA needs to be intentional at the outset to ensure that these opportunities and investments produce results that are beneficial to the existing community residents.
Ten years ago, enrollment at Chicago Public Schools was 403,000 students. In September, enrollment stood at 322,000 students. Enrollment at CPS has dropped for 11 consecutive years. What specific measures should CPS undertake to reverse the trend of ever-dwindling enrollment?
Equitably funding neighborhood schools is an important measure that CPS can undertake to reverse the trend of dwindling enrollment. The yearly variance in school budgets, due to per pupil budgeting, creates uncertainty for families as to school staffing and resources. Having served on the Peirce LSC for three terms, I am familiar with battling CPS annually to restore funding at neighborhood schools and being worried that good teachers and administrators would leave. Consistency in annual budgeting for all neighborhood schools would provide the stability that families need when making important decisions about their children’s education.
Supporting neighborhood high schools is another critical factor in reducing dwindling CPS enrollment. Families need options beyond the selective enrollment high schools, and many are choosing private schools or leaving the city altogether for suburban school districts. Having a continuum of strong local schools from Pre-K through 12th grade – like we have in the 48th Ward – helps provide stability in the neighborhood and steady enrollment for the schools.
Disinvestment on the South and West sides is a decades-long problem with myriad causes. Give us at least one innovative idea that you believe could play a role in reversing South and West side disinvestment, and explain why the idea is realistic and feasible.
Public investment spurs private investment. There are a myriad of examples in Chicago that demonstrate the multiplier effect of targeted public investments. However, public investment needs to be done intentionally so that local residents benefit, as opposed to being displaced. The construction of the 606 had a dramatic impact on private investment in Humboldt Park and Logan Square, unfortunately resulting in the displacement of long-time residents due to rapidly rising home prices and rents. Future public investments in the south and west sides need to be carefully done so as to avoid these outcomes.
The extension of the Red Line to 130th Street will be an economic engine for the south side and can result in benefits for local residents, rather than displacement. New stations near 103rd Street, 111th Street, Michigan Avenue, and 130th Street can be hubs of dense residential and mixed-use development creating opportunities for local businesses and job creation.
Public investment on the west side, whether through parks or infrastructure, would be one innovative idea and can be a similar impetus for private investment in these communities. These capital investments need to be accompanied by investment in the community and local community organizations. By working within the community to expand social services, violence interruption initiatives, and workforce training, the city can help assure that existing residents are prepared to benefit from future economic opportunities.
Do you support giving Chicagoans property tax relief? If yes, please explain how you would accomplish it. If no, please explain why not.
I absolutely support property tax relief for Chicagoans. Property taxes in Chicago continue to increase year-over-year, pricing out long-term residents and pushing landlords to seek higher rents to cover costs. These higher rents erode the naturally occurring affordable housing that has existed in Edgewater and other neighborhoods for decades, threaten to displace low- and moderate-income residents, and have a dramatic impact on the success of small local businesses. If we want to maintain the character of our neighborhoods, reduce out-migration from the city, and continue to have vibrant local business districts we need to reduce the property tax burden on Chicagoans.
To provide property tax relief I will vote in favor of repealing the automatic CPI increase to property taxes and will also propose expanded long-time homeowner and senior exemptions. We need a critical review of the city’s tax increment financing districts and should be sunsetting those districts that are no longer needed. The elimination of unnecessary TIF districts and the annual release of uncommitted TIF increment are two steps that should reduce the overall real estate tax burden in the city. I also strongly believe that we need to advocate for changes to the school funding formula in Illinois to reduce the over-reliance on local funding.
Give us your take on the city’s use of tax increment financing districts. Do you feel they have been useful, or do you feel that the problems associated with them outweigh their usefulness? What if any reforms would you want to apply to the city’s usage of TIFs?
I believe that the city’s use of tax increment financing districts is a mixed bag. There are many socially beneficial projects that could not have been completed without the use of tax increment financing. For example, TIFs are an important source of financing for affordable housing throughout the city. With limited federal resources for this type of housing, TIFs provide an important local source of funding that has enabled the preservation and construction of thousands of units of housing. From the preservation of the Bryn Mawr and Belle Shore Apartments, to the development of Parkside of Old Town on the site of the former Cabrini-Green, to the recently completed Lucy Gonzalez Parsons Apartments, I’ve personally been involved in the development and preservation of hundreds of affordable apartments that would not exist without a TIF subsidy.
However, there is no question in my mind that TIFs increase the real estate tax burden on city residents and business owners by diverting money from other taxing bodies. With rapidly increasing real estate taxes throughout the city, a critical examination of TIFs is needed. There needs to be more transparency in TIF reporting along with an annual release of uncommitted TIF increment. Further, TIF districts that have served their purpose should be allowed to sunset, returning the full tax-base of the district to the various taxing bodies.
Lead in drinking water is a major health concern for the city. It is estimated that in Chicago there are roughly 400,000 homes and small apartment buildings with lead service lines. So far, the city has replaced less than 300 lead service lines. Do you feel the pace of lead service line replacement should be expedited, and if yes, what is the best, most feasible way to accomplish that?
Yes, the pace of lead service line replacement should be expedited. The dangers of lead exposure, particularly for children and pregnant women are well known. There is no safe level of lead in drinking water and the existence of lead service lines has had a disparate impact on Black and brown communities.
The current options offered by the city for lead service line replacement are insufficient and haven’t produced meaningful results. The Equity Lead Service Line Replacement Program has had limited reach. Requiring residents who don’t qualify for the equity program to pay for replacement is unreasonable as the problem exists due to city requirements that lead lines be installed up until 1986.
The Department of Water needs to develop a systematic plan for the replacement of lead service lines, rather than the ad hoc process they appear to be following. Service line replacement should be coordinated with other public works, such as water main and sewer replacement or major street resurfacing. I would support the use of TIF funds for the replacement of lead service lines. The city should also pursue federal funding to assist in the replacement of these service lines.
If you are an incumbent, please explain what is it about your service on the City Council that makes you most qualified for the job. If you have never served on the council, please explain what is it about your background that makes you most qualified.
I will be the next alderman of the 48th Ward because of my understanding of the community, my strong connections with neighbors and community organizations, and the skills and experience that I have developed in my professional career.
I am a longtime resident of Edgewater and the third generation of my family to live here. My parents bought our home in Edgewater in 1972 and brought me there from the hospital. My wife, Jennifer, and I bought the house when my mother passed in 2003 and are raising our three children in the same house where I grew up.
I have a wide breadth of experience and I have been active in my community for decades. I have taken on volunteer roles in the community and have proven leadership skills to successfully guide the 48th Ward forward. I have over 20 years of experience working with community stakeholders, elected officials, and government agencies at the city, state, and federal level as well as a broad array of civic and not-for-profit institutions in Chicago.
I served on the Edgewater Community Council before shifting my focus to volunteering at Helen C. Peirce Elementary School as my eldest daughter enrolled in pre-K. From 2014 – 2020, I served as a parent representative on the Peirce Local School Council and was elected twice to serve as Chair of the council. I co-chaired the principal selection committee in the 2014-15 school year, leading the effort that resulted in the unanimous selection of the current principal.
I have also served on the board of Friends of Peirce (FOP) for 9 years, serving as both Vice President and President. In my time as the President of FOP, we improved the organizational structure and successfully expanded our fundraising efforts, enabling FOP to fund arts partnerships, new filtered-water fountains for bottle filling, hand wash/sanitizing stations, teacher reimbursements, and many other initiatives. After nine years on the board, I stepped down in June of 2022.
My professional experience stands out among the other candidates. I am the Vice President of Real Estate Development for Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation and worked as a Senior Development Manager for Holsten Real Estate Development. I develop high-quality affordable rental housing in Chicago and have worked in neighborhoods as diverse as Lawndale, Woodlawn, Edgewater, Uptown, Humboldt Park, Cabrini-Green, and others.
Before working in affordable housing, I served as the development coordinator/ deputy director of the Illinois Medical District Commission, focused on economic development on the Near West Side. I also served as a project administrator/ manager at the Department of Planning and Development and as the press officer for the Chicago Humanities Festival.
I have been endorsed by former State Senator Heather Steans and former Alderman Mary Ann Smith of the 48th Ward, who both serve as honorary campaign co-chairs. I have also been endorsed by the Chicago Federation of Labor and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.
I have a proven track record of working collaboratively to build consensus and deliver results. I have experience in strategic planning, budgeting, zoning, community development, and managing large projects as well as managing staff. I have a clear understanding of the job of alderman and know that being able to manage the details of the ward and deliver constituent services is as important as addressing the larger policy issues that come before City Council.
What is the most pressing issue facing the people of your ward, and how would you address it?
Public safety is the most pressing issue facing the people of the 48th Ward and something we need to address as a community. Community residents are concerned about safety on our streets and on the CTA. There is a perception that the police are not as present as they were in the recent past.
In order to address public safety, we need to rebuild trust between the community and the police department and to implement a sustained effort at reinvigorating community policing. Only with a true, solid partnership between the community and police does trust develop.
As alderman, I will work to ensure that the 48th Ward has the appropriate allocation of resources to address public safety. I will push for the reinstitution of foot patrols in our commercial districts, including the Bryn Mawr Historic District, and for officers to consistently work in the same neighborhoods and on the same beat. We need our police officers to know the community and for the community to know the officers working our streets. I will also push for increased security on the CTA, particularly at our train stations and platforms.
I also know that public safety is more than just policing. We need to increase funding for mental health services and professionals so that people in crisis can be met with the care that they need when a law enforcement response is not appropriate. The impact of COVID-19 has brought a sharp focus to mental health concerns. As alderman, I will push for the reopening of Chicago’s public mental health clinics and I will work with DFSS and local social service providers to make sure that we are outreaching to those in need, including people who are living in the parks and on the street.
I will continue to support the development of affordable housing as well as job training programs and local public schools to help address the social conditions that lead to criminal activity. Public safety is a complex issue, and we need to be utilizing all available resources to make Chicago safer for everyone.
Sum up why should voters elect you and not your opponent(s)? (Please limit this to policy and approach, not a biography recitation.)
The 48th Ward is known for its long tradition of community involvement and for neighbors working together to make the Ward a better place for all. The neighborhood that we call home did not just happen, it is the result of the hard work and dedication of many civic-minded neighbors coming together around our common values. As alderman, I will continue this tradition of engaging the community in collective action to address issues as they arise.
I’ve demonstrated this commitment over the years, including through my service on the Peirce Local School Council. As a parent representative for three terms on the LSC, I helped lead efforts to ensure that the community voice was consistently represented on the council. We held open community forums during principal selection to engage as broad a base as possible. We implemented regular surveys of the school community to guide the important decisions on the council. And we opened our meetings to public participation so that everyone had a voice. These are the values that I will bring to the City Council.
As an affordable housing developer, I know the importance of preserving affordability in our community and I know the challenges involved in making it happen. I’ve developed affordable homes in neighborhoods across the city and I know how to work with community groups, elected officials, and government agencies to get it done.
This is an uncertain time for the city and the ward. We are facing challenges in addressing public safety, rising property taxes, affordable rental housing, and economic development. We need steady leadership to make sure the ward remains a safe and welcoming place for all residents, and we need to work together to ensure that happens. I have the skills, experience, and track record to deliver results for the voters of the 48th Ward.