Candidate for Chicago City Council

About the Candidate

Name: Casey Mark Smagala
DOB: Dec. 27, 1988
Family: Single
Occupation: Director of Development and Community Engagement, Albany Park Community Center
Political Experience:

  • State Representative Robert Martwick, 39th Ward Liaison, 2014 ‐ Present.
    Led door‐to‐door canvassing efforts for petition drives and successful elections.
    Gathered over 2600 signatures in the 39th ward during petition period.
  • Ram Villivalam for IL State Senate, 39th Ward organizer and canvasser, 2018 – Present.
  • Colleen Daly for Judge, 39th Ward organizer and canvasser, 2017.
  • Omar Aquino for IL State Senate, Volunteer field organizer and canvasser, 2016 ‐ Present.
  • Jin Lee for School Board, Campaign Manager, 2012.
  • 39th Ward Democratic Organization, Volunteer canvasser, 2011 ‐ Present.

Candidate Statement

Hi, I’m Casey Smagala. I’m running for Alderman in the 39th Ward to go to work for my neighbors in the Northwest Side.

I work in the Ward for at-risk kids and under-resourced adults at the Albany Park Community Center. It’s a $3.5M nonprofit I’ve helped run by raising resources for our pre-k, summer camp, and after-school programs for the kids. We help their parents on a path to employment through GED, Citizenship, and job training programs.

My career in our community and path into public services is not about politics, it’s about paying forward the privileges I was granted.

I had good parents growing up, but they continually battled addictions that led to incarceration. While my folks were overcoming their bad habits, I was fortunate to have strong neighborhood schools, I could always find a local job, and I lived in a safe community. As I go door to door to talk to my neighbors, these are the same things they want for their family and they are local initiatives I’ve been leading.

I served four years on our local school council and chaired our education committee to strengthen our schools across the Ward.

I’ve been a board member and active volunteer for our chamber of commerce to recruit and retain businesses to the Ward.

As an immediate response to our uptick in crime in the community I helped found and participate in a mentoring program for at-risk youth at a 39th Ward elementary school.

At the neighborhood level, I’ve taken our biggest challenges head on. I’ll do the same for our city wide issues. I encourage you to watch the detailed videos on my website and social media about my proposals to get our debt under control, generate new revenue to fund our biggest priorities, and fill your city service requests in a timely manner.

I want you to love where you live. You should have neighborhood schools you can trust, local places to shop, and safe streets. I’m the only candidate in this race who has lead on these initiatives.

On February 26th I hope you’ll vote for me, to get to work for you, as the next Alderman of the 39th Ward.

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

The 39th Ward is enormously diverse, with strong social networks and a thriving small business community. But like many areas of the city, it faces challenges. We must strengthen our neighborhood schools, recruit and retain additional businesses, and make our streets safer. I’m the only person in this race who has taken these challenges head on in my career.

Strong neighborhood schools are the heart of our community, something I understand better than my opponents. As my parents battled addiction and incarceration, my neighborhood school was my sanctuary. At Albany Park Community Center (APCC), I work for some of the 39th Ward’s most at‐risk kids. This is why I ran for and won a seat on the Local School Council (LSC) at Roosevelt High School (RHS) and helped lead a positive turnaround while building capacity at our neighboring CPS. At RHS I helped select a new principal, built the Friends of RHS to help raise resources for the school, and formed an Advisory Council to their Career and Technical Education programs. These efforts lifted RHS out of probation for the first time in 15 years to a level 2+. My peers elected me Chairperson of our Education Committee on the Northwest Side. As Chair, I lead efforts to vertically align our neighborhood schools and organize workshops for education leaders and parents to share resources, best practices, and strengthen fundraising efforts. Among the candidates for 39th Ward Alderman, my experience with our neighborhood schools is unmatched.

For our Ward and our city to be successful, we must support our small businesses. I’ve served our local chambers of commerce for the past six years as a board member and volunteer. To help recruit new business, I’ve built vacant storefront reports, founded two street fests in 39th Ward neighborhoods, and visited business incubators to lobby businesses on behalf of our neighborhoods. To retain businesses, I’ve helped them recruit job seekers in our Workforce Development Programs at APCC and students in our Career and Technical Education Programs at RHS. My opponents will tell you they have plans and ideas for economic development in the Ward; I have an established record of getting it done.

Like many neighborhoods in Chicago, crime is a major concern in our community. Last summer, four young men lost their lives to gun violence in 39th Ward neighborhoods. One was shot a block from my apartment, another had relatives at APCC, and another graduated from RHS. I take crime in my community personally. That’s why I’ve stepped up to offer alternatives for young people. This past fall we began a mentoring program for 15 at‐risk boys at Volta Elementary School ‐ the 39th Ward’s lowest performing public school with the highest percentage of low‐income families. I helped recruit the mentors, raise the funds, and structure the program with our licensed social workers at APCC. As Alderman, I will work tirelessly to ensure at‐risk kids have access to after school programs that keep them off the streets.

In addition to youth programs, we need additional officers in the 16th and 17th police districts. Geographically, they are two of the largest in the city, but deploy some of the fewest officers. Break‐ins and theft are on the rise in the 39th Ward in part because criminals know our lack of officers creates a long response time. My opponents may talk about crime in our communities, but I have taken direct action to prevent it.

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

Chicago’s pension liabilities have placed our city in a fiscal crisis, which bold thinking and political courage are required to fix. As the city’s debt has grown, it has imposed increasing tax burdens on all of us and limited our ability to adequately fund services. But threatening the retirement security of middle‐class workers who dedicated their lives to public service is not a moral solution to the problem. The pension problem is a math problem, and we should use math to solve it. I support changes that will modernize our system and ensure that we are paying back the debt in a way that minimizes the burden on taxpayers.

1. Reduce our long‐term liabilities by allowing the city to offer discounted benefit buyouts. This would allow us to reduce unfunded future liabilities, making our long‐term obligations more manageable.

2. Provide a one‐time cash influx into the pension fund through a pension obligation bond. The city should not use debt to avoid obligations. However, bonding could be an effective one‐time tool to manage the repayment of debt. The police and fire pension systems have funded ratios of approximately 24%, and these funds can’t generate enough returns at this level to pay pension checks. Therefore, we are selling off principal to pay pensions. A sustained recession would render these funds insolvent. Instead, the city can and should use bonds to add a large influx of cash into the systems. If a recession hits, this will insulate the pension funds against large sell‐offs and preserve the solvency. When the market returns, funds will have the assets to capitalize on returns. Bonding can also be used to level out the pension payment schedule, ensuring the city can meet its future obligations.

3. Promote a long‐term sustainable solution in the form of a progressive income tax at the state level. I’ve been working closely with Representative Martwick on his progressive revenue plan. I will work with my colleagues and other municipalities to ensure that a portion of the revenue is returned to municipalities through the Local Government Distributive Fund (LGDF). Higher revenues from a progressive tax should be used to fund pension obligations.

4. Support a tier 3 pension system. Traditional pension plans are obsolete because they dramatically reduced pension benefits for those individuals who work fewer than 30 years at one company. My generation does not find a job after college and keep it until retirement. Millennials spend 3 to 7 years in one position, and then move to another. A tier 3 pension system, with a 401k style complement, would give members of the next generation the portability they need, the retirement security they deserve, and the ability to help care for both aging parents and children. Additionally, this type of system would save the city money on the funding side and remove barriers that currently exist for those who wish to pursue a career in public service.