Vote for Change on Tuesday Feb 28th
49th Ward Alderwoman Candidate
A life-long Chicagoan
- A business owner
- A Rogers Park homeowner
- A daughter of immigrants
- Believes in working together.
- Former President of the Rogers Park Business Alliance
- Listens to the people.
- Wants to represent everyone in the ward.
Questions from the Voters
I’m running for the people. It’s as genuine as that. I have my own business to run. I was happy volunteering. I have an old house that needs a lot of work. I have hobbies I want to get to. I certainly didn’t need to add to my To Do list.
However, over the last six years, I have spent hundreds of hours volunteering to help make our community better. I think we’re a special community. The diversity and the lake are two of our favorite things about Rogers Park.
I am a daughter of immigrants. I grew up in Little Village where we celebrate and protect our heritage. That’s why, after the 2016 election, I was focused so much on Clark Street. My mantra being: the way to fight gentrification is to strengthen the existing businesses.
Despite what you hear, I’m not trying to hurt Rogers Park. I’ve given to this community and helped anyone that needed help. My business doesn’t make money in RP, I only spend money in RP. I support our small businesses because I’m a small business owner. My wife and I bought The Leopard House to keep it from developers. We are invested in RP and have no desire to destroy what we love about our neighborhood.
When the pandemic hit, we were RP strong. Most of our businesses survived the pandemic. What they are not surviving is what is happening post pandemic. They’re not surviving the effects of the encampment, they’re not surviving the uptick in thefts, break ins, and shootings. Crime drives businesses and residents out so it’s imperative to reverse the trend lines.
I do not see myself as a politician, in fact, I struggle with those aspects. I’m not running for political ambitions; I’m running to be a civil servant. I’m a problem solver, that’s how I’m hard-wired. I’m a relationship person, it’s how I’ve been trained over my career. I listen to all sides, and I look for the common ground. Those are the transferrable skills I intend to bring to the role, if elected, to help solve our problems.
We will fix our problems working together.
I was asked this question by the Phoenix reporter but my response failed to make it to the article though it’s very important to discuss.
As I answered in the forum, “no”, but here’s why that shouldn’t be a Yes or No question. The way the ordinance is currently written, the 2% tax would apply to all real estate transactions over $1,000,000. That’s in addition to the general real estate transaction fee applicable to all real estate sales.
If the ordinance was written to qualify any single family real estate sales over $1 million, I would support that.
If the ordinance was written to apply to commercial or office spaces in say downtown or Streeterville, I would yes, let’s tax that.
I voted for the graduated state income tax for wealthier households and was disappointed it failed on the ballot. I do believe that we undertax the wealthy and overtax the middle class. My wife and I are both self-employed, we’re not in the top 5% of ward income earners, we’re solidly working middle class who have to hustle to keep up with the cost of living in Chicago in 2023.
The Bring Chicago Home ordinance as currently written would tax rental properties over $1 million. One million dollars in 2023 dollars is not a big number. In Rogers Park, an 8 flat rental can sell for $1 million. That 2% tax can be an expense rolled into the financing of the property. It would be passed down into the rental costs of the apartments hurting renters. We have enough challenges with rent affordability. We don’t need this additional expense to renters.
We cannot control the fact that building anything new today is expensive and out of reach of lower incomes. That’s simply a reality. Rents will not go down no matter what we do because that’s how the economy works, costs go up.
What we can do is mitigate the factors that increase costs and rents.
Adding additional taxes will hurt renters. Overtaxing the middle and lower incomes is pushing families out of the city hurting our schools. We need to be smart in how we raise funds to deal with our problems today, and tomorrow.
I live near Touhy Park and have seen the condition of the park before the pandemic, during the pandemic and post pandemic. At one point, during summer months, the park had over 60 tents. Even after a number of housing efforts and after being told it was being re-opened and that only 2 people lived there, five tents remain. We cannot allow this to continue and have it grow again when the weather improves.
We fight so hard for the right of people to live in tents when the energy is best spent fighting for their rights to have roofs over their heads. A tent is not enough, it’s not humane, it’s not safe for anyone.
I am committed to creating a task force to address the encampment, with the goal to find housing for the people in the park, as well as the support services they need to get healthier. They will all be included in the plan. Everyone will be provided with a timeline and what we plan to do but there will a date in which the park curfew will begin to be enforced again. That is non-negotiable.
We need to return the park to the community. It’s the right thing to do.
We will take every measure possible to ensure that people are offered the care they need but we will encourage people to choose safer places than living outside.
While it’s too premature to think ahead, what I can answer on that is this:
Of my team of volunteers, none of us are from the politics industry so I don’t “owe” anyone favors. No Chicago politics here. Second, I have built many teams in my career, and this is my philosophy, build a team that can take over if ever needed. I believe in hiring smart with succession potential in mind (not nepotism, rather knowledge and skill building), so that the foundation is competent and strong. I’m a committee person, put capable people at the table to help make sound decisions.
Thankfully, I do know previous staffers who have knowledge in the ins and outs so I have people I can reach out to for help and guidance, as that will be my learning curve. I know what I know, and I know what I don’t know, and have no ego to keep me from picking up the phone to ask and learn.
Hiring would be a team effort but staffing employees alone is not going to be capable of completing all the work it takes to have a high performing ward office. That’s where my team of volunteers would come in. I want to build out committees throughout the ward to serve as targeted task forces. This is where I would challenge our community to step up and help build the ward we all want to see.
We will have people on task teams for education, housing, elderly, violence reduction, safety, lakefront, sustainability, local economy, policy, etc. There is a lot of work to do in this community, and it is going to take community engagement to reach our goals.
Finally, the Board of Elections complaints were settled and I’m free to share details with the public.
A neighborhood PAC, made up of many of your neighbors, ran a poll to determine if the 49th Ward wanted an alternative to our current Alderman. Even I contributed to it.
I decided to run on October 3rd and announced on October 4th. I made a video in my kitchen on my Surface Pro. I put together graphics and sent off to have a banner and some print materials made. I used my own money to do this.
On October 24th, barely three weeks into my campaign, I received a certified letter letting me know that three complaints were filed against me with the Board of Elections, alleging violations of the elections code. Welcome to politics!
Allegation 1: I didn’t file to set up a campaign committee. The trigger to file a committee is when you hit $5,000, either donated or spent. At that point, I had not started fundraising and had spent $1,200 out of my pocket. The attorney advised I wait to see if I get on the ballot and do my best to run a tight ship in the meantime.
Allegation 2: I didn’t have a “paid by” disclaimer on my printed materials. At this time, I had not formed a committee because I was under the $5,000 threshold, thus, my materials were not paid for by anyone but me. Of the four candidates running, not ONE of us, including the incumbent, had a disclaimer on their signs, despite her having a campaign committee. I let it go.
Allegation 3: That I did not declare the September poll as an in-kind contribution. The poll was not for my benefit and was conducted before I had decided to run for Alderman. The PAC cannot contribute to something that does not exist, ie, my campaign committee at the the time of the poll. In fact, the PAC has never given my campaign a single dollar. The financials are publicly available, yet the current Alderman’s supporters claim otherwise. My campaign contributors are your friends and neighbors, voters and stakeholders from this ward.
The PAC never gave a single dollar to my campaign, even though these are the financials that the opposition has been waving around for the last six months. It has been the source of all their allegations against me. In truth, I am funded by small contributions.
After deciding to run on October 3, I hired an elections attorney and followed all of his legal advice. Never was I instructed to claim the PAC’s expense as my own. Never was I instructed to ask the PAC to issue a letter assigning the expense of the poll to me – because it was never mine. The poll was to determine if the 49th Ward wants an alternative to our current Alderman.
At the initial hearing in November, a surprise witness was brought in and testified to having recorded my initial public event. I’ve never been provided that video recording. It was not part of the evidence sent with the complaint I received, and to this day, I have never seen this recording. The witnesses, however, was paid $1,200 by the incumbent’s campaign committee in December as a “staff expense.”
The incumbent’s attorney threatened fines in the tens of thousands for this offense. This issue was ultimately settled 6 days before the election for $1,100. Yet this was the threat hanging over my head for the duration of the campaign. Perhaps they hoped I would drop out. I did not. It is clear that the incumbent wanted to distract from her lack of accomplishments and preferred I spend money on legal fees rather than focus on what matters, the people.
The incumbent is right about one thing. Chicago politics can get dirty.
Vote for Change on Tuesday Feb 28th
Learn more about Belia Rodriguez, running for 49th Ward Alderwoman