Ralph Pawlikowski – 38th Ward Aldermanic Candidate – Response to Community Questions

Honest, Hard-Working Husband, and Father of Three...

Who are you?

I am an honest, hard-working husband, and a father of three children. My wife and I have been together for 15 years. Our oldest child is in high school, and our two youngest are in grammar school. For several years now I work in higher education for a public university. While working full-time and helping to raise a family, I have successfully conferred two undergraduate degrees and one graduate degree. I have sacrificed a lot and worked very hard to get to where I am today. It has not been an easy road. I believe that hard work and smart work is the way to get the job done. In my free time I am heavily involved in the community as I volunteer and regularly attend several local advisory councils and boards. I am also a recent homeowner. Before purchasing a home, we lived in both apartments and a house that we rented for several years. I very well know the pain points behind renting in Chicago as well as owning a home in the city. All of my experiences in my journey have prepared and brought me to this point here today. I have learned many important lessons and what is important in life. I love my family, and the City of Chicago. The 38th Ward is definitely something that I am very passionate about and this area is very close to my heart. I cannot imagine living anywhere else, and I want Chicago to once again be a city where residents are happy to raise a family.

Why are you running for Alderman?

I am running for Alderman because politicians do not care about us. To top that off, we have lost what it means to be neighbors, we have lost what means to be friends, and we have lost what it means to be a family. The opposite should be the reason why people move into the 38th Ward. We should be neighbors that look out for each other; our families hang out together, all because we are friends first and because we care. We have lost all that. How many people can honestly say that they know every single person on their block? Even when there is a block party, guaranteed you probably don’t know every single person on your block. I envision a community where if I am shoveling my snow, I will shovel yours, and if I am mowing my lawn, I will mow yours too. We need to find a way to bring all that back to the 38th Ward because we don’t have it today. Additionally, there is a lot of work to be done in the 38th Ward. I am young enough and I am hungry enough to make it happen. The work that needs to be done includes, and is not limited to safety, infrastructure, and education. I think about the pain felt when neighbors’ basements flood or the pain felt when people have to go to the car mechanic because new infrastructure is needed in the community. We deserve updated electric, sewers, gas lines, and streets just like other Wards. I think about the pain felt when a kid gets jumped on the way home from school or someone gets robbed because we need more police officers in the neighborhood. We deserve more officers in our neighborhood and more crossing guards by the schools to make sure our kids are safe going home and to school. I think about the pain felt when parents move out of the Ward or send their kids to private school because of an education system that needs help. We deserve top-notch schools that set an example for other cities and states. We deserve someone that will be creative with the funding we are given from the City of Chicago and will work hard to get additional funding for the 38th Ward. There are better things we can do with the Aldermanic menu than just replace a few sidewalk curbs and street planters. We can pave more streets, we could redo sewers, and we could get extra funding for our schools. There is just so much more that we can do. There is just a lot of work to be done, and I am excited and ready to get the job done. I have lived in the 38th Ward for long enough to have made me want to run for Alderman in this community.

What is your educational background?

My educational background includes a Master’s Degree in Education with a focus on Adult Education and Training, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a focus on Marketing. I am a big supporter of education and feel strongly about the topic. Currently, we have schools like Taft, with Taft II slated to open in 2019. This is the supposed solution to overcrowding in the CPS High Schools. All this while we neighboring high schools, like Steinmentz, that need revamping and desperately need help, yet we have a Taft II opening. This makes little to no sense. Nobody really even knows when Taft II is opening and which neighborhood students will be going there. All we know is what is being reported in the local paper or the local neighborhood groups online. Our current administration is not providing us much in regards to a timeline. There is nothing on the any website that we can go to that shows where we are currently at. The entire process could and should be a lot more transparent. Bottom line is we are not receiving regular communication and updates as to on what is going on with Taft II. Why is the city even building a Taft II? Why did the CPS not try to restructure and re-district the schools so that there is less overcrowding at Taft? Why not send more students to Steinmentz and provide the school with the financial resources needed to get them to a better place? Taft and Steinmentz could and should be at the same level to where you would want your kid to go to that school. Right now Taft is overcrowded because Steinmentz is crumbling. No one wants to send their teenagers to Steinmentz if they do not have to, but if that was their homeschool then that is where they would have to attend. Residents from the 38th Ward are actually moving out and into the 41st Ward just so that their kids could go to Taft. It should not be that way. It should be equal opportunity within the school districts. Think of it like a business. We need to make sure all of your schools are working at the same capacity so that we are successful, as a Ward. And if we have one school that is struggling, then we should pump whatever resources are needed to bring up the school to the same level so that people move into our Ward, not a school district. Obviously the Alderman is not the deciding factor on CPS matters, nor does the Alderman make these decisions, but it is the voice of the Alderman on behalf of the constituents that can make this happen. Also, the Alderman is responsible for the communication to the Ward as to the matters between the CPS and City of Chicago. It is difficult near impossible to change the system if no one is speaking for the people. I am committed to get the job done in the 38th Ward and be a strong voice in the Chicago City Council.

Why should people vote for you?

People should vote for me because I am the right candidate for the job. People should vote for me because I am responsive. I am accountable. I am dependable. I am reliable. My goal is to be recommendable, so that when re-election time comes, there will be absolutely no question in the work that I have done. I will be recommendable for a future term. While I believe in term limits, I will put my heart, soul, love, and every hour into rebuilding the Ward I am currently in. People should vote for me because I am a hard worker that will get the job done. Imagine a healthier and stronger 38th Ward with me, Ralph Pawlikowski, as the Alderman.

Would you vote to raise property taxes?

Taxes are the important driving force behind the delivery of city services, and I am happy to pay my share of taxes. In my opinion raising property taxes should never be the go-to solution for financial problems; especially since it has never worked out the way politicians sell it to us. How many times have property taxes been raised to get us out of trouble? They continue to raise property taxes because their original solutions do not work. No matter how they spin it, and what mathematics are behind it, raising property taxes does not solve the problems! It barely puts a dent in it. There are other new sources of revenue that we can tap into. I will NOT vote to raise taxes on small local businesses, homeowners, gas mileage, and things we need to live and survive (ie: food, water). Most importantly I will NOT vote to raise property taxes! Adding additional taxes to the working person’s bottom line is something I WILL NOT DO! While a Progressive Income Tax sounds good when you say the name, it does not sound so good when you say the acronym, P.I.T., which is what it really is. Let’s explore new untapped revenue sources that will get Chicago, and the State of Illinois, out of the pit we are in.

Would the candidate make Forest Preserve Avenue a complete street?

It is important to take into consideration that the street we refer to as Forest Preserve Avenue is also Forest Preserve Drive too. This is important to note because we are a Ward that borders other towns. If you look at a map, Chicago surrounds what we know as Norridge/Harwood Heights. Sometimes when driving it is interesting to look around because one block could be Chicago and the next block is Norridge. With that being said, we have to work with our partnering town to accomplish anything that needs to be done on Forest Preserve. Also, it is important to understand that many streets in Chicago are not operated by CDOT (Chicago Department of Transportation.) The State of Illinois operates and is responsible for many of the streets that are in Chicago. This is one of those issues that require cooperation and a lot of collaboration between many entities. As the Alderman of the 38th Ward, I know that some of that work needs to be done is building relationships with our neighboring towns, like Norridge/Harwood Heights, River Grove, etc. Having a working relationship with our neighboring towns can help build up Forest Preserve to be a full street. Having a working relationship with the State of Illinois is will also help get streets fixed. I will never say that it is out of our hands. I will do my best to continue to get the job done one way or another. Forest Preserve is in need of adequate lighting and the necessities such as sidewalks and stop lights to make it a complete street. That would mean working together with the City Council and with our neighboring suburbs to get that done. I am the right person to get the job done.

Do the candidates support using City resources to implement Trump’s immigration policy?

The Trump administration is on a federal level, so in my opinion, the immigration policies and the funding for those policies should come from the federal government. I whole-heartedly believe that our undocumented residents should not be sent back. If they are non-criminals they should be given a path to citizenship. However that path may look, they should be given the path to citizenship. They have lived here, worked here, their children live here. We should not be kicking them out, nor should we separate children from their families. We should undocumented residents to become citizens so that they could pay taxes like everybody else. This is the new revenue source that everyone has been looking for. This will help pull us out of the pit, and finally solve our massive pension crisis and balance our city budget. Think about it, as it only makes sense. Chicago should be one of the U.S. cities that are a front-runner saying, “These are our policies as a state, as a sanctuary city, and every immigrant that has no criminal record will have the ability to become a citizen and this is the path for their citizenship.” Guess what that will do? Helping undocumented citizens become legal to pay taxes will increase revenue through taxation, without a P.I.T. (Progressive Income Tax). No more taxing and re-taxing our citizens by jacking up our property taxes. This is how I will work with the federal government. I will not support using City resources to implement federal policies, but I will absolutely 100% be there and everywhere to be the voice that we deserve. I will do this not just for Chicago, not just for the State of Illinois, but for the United States of America. Because guess what? We have millions, not hundreds of thousands, but MILLIONS of undocumented citizens from all over the world, and not just Mexico, but from all over the world. They have lived here their entire lives, and are not all violent criminals, but do not pay taxes because they are illegal residents. Why are they still illegal some people may ask? The answer is because there is no real path to citizenship for them. Because if they go try to apply for citizenship, they are told that they are here illegally, go home. Just like that the government will kick them out after many of them lived here for many years, if not decades. Our current immigration policies are non-sense. I am not a fan of illegal immigration either, however, if anyone made it this far seeking refuge we should have the compassion to allow them piece of mind that they can sleep in safety. Every problem we face is actually an opportunity if we change the way we look at things.

What are the ideas and plans to give Harlem Ave a face-lift and fill the empty storefronts? Would the candidates do anything to improve the attractiveness, business appeal, and walkability of the business district along Harlem Ave.?

Harlem Avenue does need a face lift in some parts. This is very similar to many other parts of the 38th Ward. We would need to upgrade our infrastructure to support the needs of businesses and residential buildings. With infrastructure upgrades the 38th Ward will be more attractive for businesses to compete with Norridge/Harwood Heights. It is important to make sure that our sidewalks are safe to walk on; some parts of the 38th Ward do not even have sidewalks. In order to make it all work together, we may have to upgrade not just Harlem Avenue but many parts of the 38th Ward. We may have to add additional traffic signals where needed, lay sidewalks, replace sewers, etc. At the end of the day, it is about bringing city jobs back to the 38th Ward to work on our infrastructure, and then everything else will follow and fall into place naturally.

Would community policing be brought to our Ward? Not just vehicle patrol but foot patrol? I heard that was taken away for budget purposes? But yet there’s one officer per car responding to calls?

The platform I am running under is Safety, Education, and Infrastructure. Community Policing would be under the Safety part of my platform, as it very important to many constituents including myself. I do agree that the 38th Ward has experienced some changes, and those changes have not all been for the greater good of our Ward. We have seen a lot of crime increases in our communities, which is interesting because we have a lot of police officers that live in the area. One of the first actions as Alderman would be for me and my team to gather signatures from the residents so that we have a signed petition for City Hall that overwhelmingly shows we want more police officers in our area. Some people may also say that it is difficult for one officer driving in a vehicle to see everything going on in an area. Ideally it would also be best practice to have two officers in each police vehicle. It is less productive and less safe to have one police officer per vehicle while responding to major crimes. There should be two officers per vehicle to back each other up. When there is an officer doing the work of two officers that is when things can get out of control fast. In respect to foot patrol, is something that is not typically in any neighborhood in Chicago, especially taking into consideration that a large number of crimes involve a vehicle in one way or another. It is important for the officers to be able to apprehend the suspects as quick as possible. Foot patrol is something that is prevalent for festivals, large events, busy business/entertainment districts, but not necessarily residential neighborhoods. I support neighborhood watch groups, or an auxiliary police, to do foot patrol and call 911 for backup, as needed. You may see police on bicycles in some neighborhoods, but not so much foot patrol. I am all for extra and additional policing strategies. Many experts will agree that foot patrol is not very efficient, because if help is needed it will take the officer on foot much longer to get to the scene than a patrol officer on bicycle or in a vehicle. How much good is that going to do for the Ward and the people? For that fact, it is my opinion that is better to have more officers in vehicles and on bicycles or on foot. The weather is also another consideration. As we all know, the weather in Chicago is very inclement, and that would make it more difficult to have officers on bicycle or foot patrol. Also, if you are in need of an officer how long is it going to take them to get there by walking vs. biking vs. vehicle?  This topic is something that clearly requires some more work in City Council, and I am open to the suggestions and possibilities of making this happen, especially if the majority of residents are for it. We definitely can do some improvements in respect to how many police vehicles are in the neighborhood, and how many officers are in each vehicle. I am a strong supporter of our first responders and I will do everything possible to help keep them safe while increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

Do any of the candidates have a plan to help bring some sort of relief from all this new airplane traffic going right over our homes? After 10 p.m. and before 5:30 a.m. and these planes are going right over the house?

The first job of any and every Alderman is to be the voice of their Ward, especially for issues like airplane noise. We have public meetings hosted by the community for issues like airplane noise. There is also a committee in City Council that deals with aviation. Unfortunately, the current administration is no longer part of the Committee on Aviation; however that does not mean that our voices should not be heard. I will join the Committee on Aviation and work directly with the other members of the committee to insure that we continue to fight for quieting the skies, and what that looks like for us living in this neighborhood. One of my main goals that I would like to accomplish in the committee is to enter in some sort of legislation that will ensure quieting the skies continues to move forward. This only makes sense as Alderman of a Ward that is so close to O’Hare Airport.

It is also important to mention that we should also take Mother Nature into consideration. With that respect, when it is thunder storming and down-pouring outside, the planes have to come in at an altitude lower than normal, thus we hear them more because it is louder. Part of the legislation process is being able to balance that out. For example, when is it okay for airplanes to come in at a lower altitude, and when is it not okay. Part of quieting the skies is being able to work together as a community, with the airlines, with the Mayor, with the other Aldermen. With all of these moving parts we can quite the skies by coming to a middle ground and creating solutions that are safe for everyone because our Ward flies too.

Today’s world with its tech advances in navigation also drives traffic into the residential streets in an attempt to relieve pressure on the main streets. Will any of you address this?

The busiest times for traffic are during the morning and evening rush hours. There should be signs posted prohibiting thru traffic on residential side streets. The signs should be “no right turn” and “no left turn” during specific hours. Just to be clear, those signs are not intended to make it harder for people that live in the area, but rather to make it more difficult for outside traffic from going down that street. Those signs would be posted on main streets in a way to avoid disrupting the people that live there. It is only intended to direct large amounts of traffic away from going down the streets. There are always other options if the community decides they would like a round-about or a speed bump installed. I would not make the community do the leg work to prove that the majority of the neighborhood wants a speed hump or round-about. No suggestion is a bad suggestion. Every suggestion should be given consideration by your Alderman.

What ideas do you have on handling the looming pension payment crisis?

Almost everyone wants to know how to solve the pension crisis. Many people have suggestions, while some people will admit do not have any answers, and others are hoping for someone smart to be elected into office that will get the job done. My question is, “Why are we trying to re-invent the wheel?” Many cities and states have already successfully pulled themselves out of financial pits, and they did it without the use of a Progressive Income Tax, which is a pit in itself. California figured it out. Colorado figured it out. Washington figured it out. Many other cities and states figured it out. Even other countries are catching on quick. Why are we not asking our partnering U.S. cities and states for their help and advice on how to get it going? We already know what needs to be done, it is just a matter of how to get is going and getting the right people in place to get the job done. The real question to consider is “What is holding us back from replicating what other cities and states are doing to get out of debt?” That is really the bottom line. Working with our fellow city councils and state governments is the solution. There are enormous amounts of new revenue that could come to Chicago to help forever resolve the pension crisis. But our first step should be asking for advice from cities and states that have successfully pulled themselves out of debt. It is realistic that all states are going to depend on the legalization of marijuana, not all states are going to depend on opening a new casino. Additionally we have the looming immigration crisis where families are being separated. Many have been here for many years, if not decades. The majority are not violent criminals in their everyday lives. They simply came here illegally, but probably to seek refuge. Many have been here their entire lives, started families, work, and pay sales tax in addition to other taxes. Why are we allowing them not to pay income taxes? A lot of people are upset that undocumented citizens are taking jobs. I am against illegal immigration, but can we at least get them to pay income taxes? That is a new source of revenue! Imagine how much good this additional funding would help, especially considering how we have millions of undocumented citizens. We have several different ways that we can increase revenue, but our first step should be asking our neighboring cities and states how they did it. Asking the subject matter experts makes sense. Let us work with the cities and states that have been there, and done that.  Additionally, let us put the right people in office that will get the job done. Increasing property taxes is not the solution, and it has proved not to work time and time again, no matter how the they spin it or what they call it.

Do you support an elected school board?

Yes. Choices are never a bad thing. Having multiple candidates for a specific role is a good. Being able to resume someone, and interview them before they do the job is an ideal situation. Having multiple interviews is also a good thing, as that is what companies do. Why wouldn’t Chicago Public Schools do it as well? Choices are a great thing. Because that is exactly what life is….a bunch of choices. Hopefully we make good choices as we grow as a society. As a people, as a country, we make choices every day to move forward in the world, as the nation everyone wants to come to. We have choices. We should be able to choose if we want something that has a tax on it. We have the choice to send our kids to regular, selective, charter, or private schools. Why wouldn’t we have the choice as to who our school councils is.

Will you be a rubber stamp for the strongman/woman Mayor or work to empower the City Council and bring reform to Chicago?

Chicago needs reform but it has to start with the local Alderman. The Alderman all should work together. It cannot just be an Alderman working with one or two surrounding Wards. It has to be the entire group of Aldermen working together. The only way to empower reform is to have multiple people with the same values to progress the system. With that said, the Aldermen have to be on-board. For example, if one of the Aldermen is having an event and they need volunteers, why isn’t the first person volunteering another Alderman? This is what it should be like in the Chicago City Council. I get and I understand, we are busy working in our own Wards on our own issues, but how are we going to help transform the City of Chicago if not by working together? Let us think about the big too. Yes, of course, my main focus and priority is the 38th Ward, but in the big picture I work with every single Alderman across the city so we can really make an impact. It is the City Council votes that will be the deciding factor IF and WHEN any reform actually does happen.

Which candidate will you be supporting for Mayor and why?

There are a lot of candidates running for Mayor of Chicago at the moment. That election is February 2019 along with your local Aldermen. While I am keeping a close eye on their views and values, I have not made a decision as of yet, as I hope you have not either. However, since our Illinois State Representative position is just 4 weeks away in November 2018, I will be voting for Ammie Kessem for our 19th District Illinois State Representative position. I believe she is the right person for the job, and the better of the two candidates. Ammie is also against the P.I.T tax. She is pro-homeowner, she is pro-union, and she is pro-taxpayer. Once I do make a definitive decision closer to the February 2019 election, I will make the announcement who I am voting for as the Mayor in the City of Chicago.

How is your health? Should the public know anything as to something which may prohibit you from serving the whole term? If so, what is the concern? If you should need to step down, who would you back to replace you as Alderman?

Recently went for a physical recently. Besides having a few extra pounds according to my BMI, my doctor says I am very healthy. I am a family man, and we have three kids of our own. I have seen my wife through some pretty hard times many years back. It is nothing that the public really needs to know about because she is healthy and well now. She has been healthy now for over 10 years. My kids have had some hospital stays during their infancy, and that is all said and done as well. They are happy and healthy kids now in grammar and high school. We are a happy and health family. There is absolutely nothing that will keep me from being a strong voice for the 38th Ward. Currently, I am a public servant for higher education and it would not feel comfortable holding two public service roles. Once I am hired I will be perform my Aldermanic role on a full time basis. Since I am healthy, my wife is healthy, my kids are healthy, and we are blessed in that way, there is no reason in mind for anyone to replace me until my terms are over and I get the job done. I plan on serving my term(s) in full. I also plan on being recommendable at the end of each and every term.