Reclaim Oak Park/The People’s Lobby Candidate Questionnaire

Questionnaire was filed on November 27, 2018. The People’s Lobby endorsement was received on December 14, 2019.

1. Why do you want RECLAIM OAK PARK’S endorsement?

As an activist, I believe in Reclaim’s mission to build an equitable village for everyone. As someone who has lived a life of survival, as a former low-income single mother, I know how it feels to feel like the government doesn’t care about you, and isn’t working for you. We need elected officials in Oak Park who have walked in our shoes, who inherently understand social and racial justice issues, and who can use their background to help fight for a fair and equitable Oak Park. Reclaim’s endorsement would be an affirmation of my candidacy and a signal to the people of Oak Park of the values that I’m fighting for.

2. What would you say this election is about? What is at stake in people’s lives?

Oak Park is at a tipping point. Two years ago, we voted in two village trustees that turned out to be Republicans – right of center on most issues. With Trustee’s Tucker and Button-Ott leaving, we need to ensure we have a balance on the board between trustees that are centrists/right of center, and trustees that are truly progressive. Not maintaining this balance would mean a further erosion of the progressive values Oak Park claims to care about. Electing people who do not understand or have not walked in less-fortunate circumstances means that we will continue to have racial equity issues in our community. The opportunity gap will widen, and our children of color will pay the ultimate price of being raised in a community that truly doesn’t care about them.

3. What is the core message of your campaign (in three sentences or less)?

In 2008, I moved to Oak Park as a low-income single mother making $23,000 a year. I wouldn’t be able to move here today, as during the last ten years, rents have risen, the opportunity gap between white students and students of color has widened, and more people of color have felt less and less safe to live as members in this integrated community. I’m running because people like me aren’t represented on this board, and voices like mine are usually never heard from in local politics. I’m running to fight for an Oak Park where anyone, from any background has an equal chance at achieving success.

4. How will you win your election? (Please provide some basic strategies and metrics)

Due to the volunteer work and advocacy work I’ve done in our community, I’ve built relationships with my fellow progressive women. I plan to mobilize our groups of women to canvass, organize, and educate voters about the choices they have in this election. I also plan to fundraise by having voters host house parties, where any donation will be welcomed, and voters will leave being more informed about my candidacy.

5. We value close collaboration with our endorsed elected officials. How do you imagine working with RECLAIM OAK PARK to make positive change after you are elected?

I expect Reclaim to hold me accountable for what I say and do if I am elected to public office. It is an activist’s job to hold elected officials accountable, and I fully expect Reclaim to do it.

6. We have provided the Reclaim Oak Park’s Vision. Can you publicly support and campaign on this vision? Are there any pieces of the vision that you disagree with or do not fully understand? Please identify those areas and explain in one or two sentences where the confusion or disagreement lies.

I fully agree with and will support and campaign on Reclaim’s vision.

7. What we believe: We have provided you a copy of Fair Economy Illinois’ People and Planet First Budget. Can you publicly support this budget? Are there any income or expense items that you do not fully understand? Please identify them and explain in one or two sentences where the confusion or disagreement lies.

  • a. Do you support a progressive income tax for Illinois? If so, how is a progressive income tax important for the future of Oak Park?

    Yes. The current constitutionally mandated flat tax is regressive and has contributed to Illinois’s budget woes in recent years. According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, implementation of a progressive income tax could bring in as much as $2 billion in extra revenue to the state. This would relieve the burden on local communities to maintain funding for essential social services, and would provide Oak Park a bit of breathing room in its budget.

  • b. Do you support the LaSalle Street Tax for Illinois? If so, how is the LaSalle Street Tax important for the future of Oak Park?

    Yes. The LaSalle Street Tax is overdue for Illinois, and implementation of it under the Pritzker administration would mean a projected $10 - $12 billion dollars per year of more money for the state of Illinois. Due to the budget crises of the last several years, villages like Oak Park have had to cut funding for essential services. Implementation of the LaSalle Street Tax would provide funding for these essential services and remove the fiscal burden currently present on small city governments.

  • c. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, more Illinois residents will now have health insurance, but since there are no cost controls, many are still vulnerable to bankruptcy due to high costs, including high premiums and deductibles. Are you in favor of a publicly administered, universal health care system (i.e. "single-payer") at the state and federal level

    Yes. If implementation of the Medicare for All plan is politically infeasible at the federal level, I fully support the creation of an Illinois Medicare for All program. In order for Illinois to implement a state-level program, we must first address the tax code, so that we move away from the constitutionally mandated flat tax, and move towards a progressive income tax structure that pulls in more taxes from corporations and wealthy individuals.

8. What we believe: We believe that workers should be able to meet their basic needs through the wages they earn.

  • a. Do you support increasing the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour and indexing it to inflation? Will you support any state or county legislation that increases the minimum wage that comes to a vote?

    Yes

  • b. Do you believe Oak Park employees and all people working in Oak Park should be covered by the Cook County Minimum Wage and Sick Leave Ordinances?

    Yes

9. What we believe: We need elected officials who will strengthen our collective democratic institutions - government institutions as well as labor and community organizations.

  • a. What is your opinion about the potential consolidation of Oak Park’s taxing bodies?

    I am against the consolidation of Oak Park’s taxing bodies, and believe we need to maintain independently elected boards for each of our taxing bodies.

  • b. Do you support the rights of workers to form unions and bargaining collectively?

    Yes

  • c. Will you specifically support the rights of Oak Park’s municipal workers to organize and bargain collectively?

    Yes. I believe that allowing the municipal workers to unionize and collectively bargain, only strengthens our community by supporting the workers that keep our village clean and safe.

10. What we believe: Climate scientists are nearly unanimous in saying that global climate change is happening at an alarming rate and is driven by the use of fossil fuels.

  • a. Do you support ending all government subsidies to carbon-based industries?

    Yes

  • b. What can we do as a village to make sure all Oak Parkers have the basic resources they need regardless of income (food, water, clean air, sustainable energy sources etc)?

    The people most impacted by climate change are those that are the most disadvantaged around the world. In Oak Park, we have members of our community that live below the poverty line, and need assistance to ensure the availability of basic resources for their families. The village can work together with non-for-profit agencies to help provide funding to ensure that all people in Oak Park have access to food through the food pantry, reduced or subsidized water costs, and a village supported clean energy plan.

11. What we believe: A strong and adequately funded public education system is vital to the future of our nation and will shape opportunities for our children and young people. Increasingly our public education system is threatened by vouchers and corporate for-profit schools.

  • a. Do you oppose the use of public tax dollars to fund private, for-profit schools directly or indirectly through student vouchers?

    Yes.

  • b. The recent documentary on OPRF has thrown our high school into the spotlight and made many of us realize racial inequality is not just a problem for the school board but for all of Oak Park. Will you use your platform as elected official to support the equity work being done in D97 and D200 by parent and student groups?

    As a mother of 2 students in the OPRF school systems, I’ve had to advocate for my children at various stages of their schooling and that advocacy has never gone well. I know what parents and children of color face in this system as we try to educate our kids at the highest levels. I believe that we need a holistic approach to fully close the opportunity gaps present in our schools. This approach would involve all six taxing bodies coming together to identify initiatives we could implement to reduce the opportunity gap, such as providing more support for low-income families, and increasing the availability of affordable child care resources.

12. What We Believe: Oak Park should be racially and economically integrated and that housing access is central to this

  • a. Will you support a strong inclusionary zoning ordinance that includes the following provisions? Affordable housing set asides of 20%, or fees in-lieu of at least $100,000 per unit has to be mandatory for all new planned developments in Oak Park.

    Yes.

  • b. Rent control is a viable option to reign in skyrocketing rental rates. What is your position on rent control?

    I support rent control measures to reign in ever-increasing rental costs. I moved to Oak Park in 2008 making $23,000 as a single mother, and I moved into a barely affordable studio apartment. I don’t think I could make that move today as rent prices have increased to the point where we are pricing out the residents that deserve to live here.

13.We Believe the Oak Park Housing Center should be a funding priority and should continue to advocate for renters, for housing equity and for

affordable housing. What is your position?

The Oak Park Housing Center has played an instrumental role in maintain the integrated community so many residents value in Oak Park. Reducing funding for this center is antithetical to the progressive values Oak Park should strive to uphold. Unfortunately, there are trustees on the village board that want to cut funding for the center, and I believe this is the wrong move to make. If elected, I will protect the OPHC’s funding.

14. What We Believe: Our democracy is threatened by the role of money in politics. The very wealthy and, particularly, large corporations have undue access and exert undue influence on the decisions that affect the lives of citizens and communities.

  • a. Do you support revoking the personhood status of corporations?

    Yes

  • b. Do you support overturning Citizen United through a constitutional amendment?

    Yes

  • c. Do you support the public financing of elections?

    Yes

  • d. Do you commit to meeting with Reclaim Oak Park quarterly to discuss our issues and how best to work together to promote the common good?

    Yes. I also think Reclaim should host quarterly roundtables with all taxing bodies in Oak Park, so that we can work together on the issues at hand.

15. The U.S. has more of its people incarcerated than any other nation in the world and has four times the rate of incarceration of any OECD member

nation. Many of the incarcerated are people of color and many of them for non-violent drug offenses. What do you believe are the root causes and

appropriate government responses to crime and violence?

In order to find the root cause of our current issues with the criminal justice system, you’d have to look back at the systemic disenfranchisement of communities of color in the United States, the laws that have been written to control them, and the freedoms that have been taken from them. In the modern era, we continued this systemic oppression and disenfranchisement by halting economic investments in communities of color, underfunding schools, and closing the essential health centers people rely on to maintain their health. All of this has led to the most unbalanced prison population in proportion to the general population in the United States. Our governments – city, state, and federal, need to finally agree on the need for criminal justice reform measures that would increase community policing, ending money bail, expunging records of low- level drug offenders, and increasing the resources of the Justice Department to investigate civil rights violations for the police.

16. Do you believe in restorative justice? If so, what opportunities do you see for restorative justice in the Oak Park Police Department, including how they refer cases to the courts?

I believe in restorative justice, and the ability for restorative justice, if applied correctly, to bring compassion and reform to the criminal justice system. I’d like to see Oak Park implement a peer jury system for low-level offenses, where instead of referring cases to the court, we could refer them to a peer jury, consisting of young people, parents, and members from the community who would get together to discuss the issue at hand and work together to find a resolution. The E-team has started this work with creating a peace circle at the library, and I think the village board should extend the program and fully support it.

17. Locally, we have seen the fallout of nationalist and fascist rhetoric that has infiltrated global politics. How do you plan to build solidarity to fight for the things that our community needs while creating a culture that celebrates difference rather than silencing it?

This is such a vital question that I think several local leaders are falling on the wrong side of. As a woman of color who is unafraid to call out the white-supremacy based policies that have been enforced over generations, I’m well aware that I will, like most women of color, get accused of playing to “Identity politics”. My identity however, is has never been a political act, and my run for office won’t change that. I’ve served in the military, where the uniform doesn’t hide our diversity, and our military might is strengthened because of it. If we cannot speak openly about our differences, then we will never be able to come together as a community. If people of color continue to feel silenced, then unity will never be possible. Building solidarity, for me, means recognizing the differences amongst us, accepting them, and utilizing them to build a diverse, intersectional movement to fight for what we need in our community.

18. Do you support a woman's right to make her own decisions regarding her reproductive health, including the right to choose an abortion?

100% yes. I’ve always been, and always will be pro-choice with no restriction on when a woman can get an abortion. I also believe that a woman should have the right to choose what is right for her regarding her reproductive health, and that we should work to remove the barriers currently in place for women that restricts women from getting the birth control, morning-after pills, and healthcare they need.

19.It’s important to run on the right values and platform, but it’s equally as important to have a plan to win:

  • a. How many votes do you need to get to win?

    Assuming the turnout of the last election remains roughly the same (at 33%), and also assuming that there are more than 5 people running for the three available seats in this election, I would need at least 20% of the vote to win a seat on the village board. That amounts to anywhere from roughly 6,000 – 7,000 votes.

  • b. What is your plan to reach those voters?

    I’ve built strong connections with various groups in Oak Park, such as Oak Park Progressive Women, and Oak Park Progressive Women of Color. I would draw from a volunteer base within those groups to help canvass in every neighborhood in Oak Park, and hold voter outreach events to help educate voters on the issues and my candidacy. The first outreach initiative is to get on the ballot, a plan for which I’m working with local women who are helping me organize a volunteer campaign to get the required number of signatures in the 2 weeks we have remaining.

  • c. How much money do you need to raise in order to reach these voters?

    I’d like to raise at least $5,000 for this run for office to pay for voter outreach initiatives. This is a people powered campaign, and my main strategy is to reach voters through volunteer outreach.

  • d. How much progress have you made toward your fundraising goal? What is your plan to raise the remainder?

    Having just started my campaign this week, I have yet to make progress towards fundraising for my campaign. My plan is to hold events with local groups, grow my volunteer base and canvass for votes and donations.

Arti Walker-Peddakotla