Three questions for Ald. Deb Mell
Since making news last winter over a string of illegal campaign donations in the form of office rent, Ald. Deb Mell has moved east from her and her father's former space on Kedzie Avenue to a less controversial location on Irving Park Road.
Mell inaugurated her new office with a public open house Monday afternoon, and more than a dozen members of 33rd Ward Working Families were pleased to accept the invitation.
Within minutes of our arrival, the police were on scene, having presumably been summoned by a nervous staffer. While the officers watched from across the parking lot, Mell spoke with our group for about 20 minutes as we shared our ideas and concerns and asked her to take stances on three important questions of neighborhood affordability and education.
The mayor's property tax hike
One of your campaign promises was to oppose any property tax hikes. Will you keep this promise and vote against the mayor’s property tax proposal?
Mell, despite unambiguously opposing a property tax hike on the campaign trail, refused to rule out a vote in support of a record-breaking increase. While most media reports anticipated a hike well north of half a billion dollars, Mell said she was waiting on the final figure from the mayor. "I am not committing either way on the property tax issue at this time," Mell told us. "Next question."
A moratorium on charter schools
This was another important campaign promise. Will you sign on and vote for Alderman Sawyer’s resolution to halt charter school expansion?
Mell accepted our position on this. "I’m still opposing charter schools," she told us. "I’ve already told Ald. Sawyer [I would sign on]." She pledged to make her support official Tuesday.
Transit-Oriented Development and affordability
While Transit-Oriented Development sounds like good policy, it has troublesome consequences for affordable housing and consolidates even more power in the hands of the mayor. We do not want to see 330 sq. ft. "microstudios" that rent for $1,000 per month as are currently being developed in Logan Square. Will you support keeping Albany Park affordable by taking your name off this ordinance?
No way. "I voted in committee to pass the ordinance in city council," Mell said. "I support the ordinance."
"Any time we get density, that increases affordability," she argued, disputing that the ordinance is used to gentrify neighborhoods by promoting development that favors small, luxury rentals. Mell admitted that the ward is becoming more expensive but blamed Logan Square's struggles with affordability on the existing TOD ordinance and said that this time around, things will be different. The new ordinance "includes a lot of stuff that will make it better," she said, without citing specific improvements.
Mell told us she'll side with 1st Ward Alderman Proco Joe Moreno, in whose ward the controversial new Logan Square developments reside. "Proco Joe is a champion of affordability. That's what he said in committee today."
For more on Transit-Oriented Development, follow our friends at We Are/Somos Logan Square.
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