It was a question everyone else had trouble answering.

That is except Shanika Finley. The Realtor, one of six candidates running for alderman in the 37th Ward, didn’t hesitate to answer the question that had stumped three other candidates, including incumbent Emma Mitts.

Did the candidates support exempting the Chicago Public Schools from losing revenue in future tax-increment financing (TIF) districts? Finley offered the most complete answer at the Feb. 10, candidate’s forum sponsored by the Chicago Westside Branch of the NAACP.

The 31-year-old was the only candidate who took the allotted one minute to explain her position: That when the taxes of a property owner living in a TIF district go up from one year to the next, that extra money gets placed into a TIF, meaning local public schools lose out on those funds.

“I believe that the TIF funds need restructuring,” Finley said. “We need TIF funds, yes; but we also need our education system to be where it is.”

Finley hopes it’s that attention to complex public policies that will win her a seat on the City Council.

A graduate of Lane Technical High School, Finley is a lifelong resident of Austin. She graduated from Oakland University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems. She’s served in a variety of volunteer capacities, including working for AmeriCorps and mentoring young girls at the Austin YMCA.

Over the last couple of years, she’s gotten an even closer look at Austin-she lives just a block from Ald. Mitts. Finley has made fighting drugs in the 37th Ward her top campaign priority. Finley would also like to implement job creation and vocational training programs for ex-offenders.

-Margaret Smith, Austintalks.org

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