Candidate Questionnaire: Rev. James T. Meeks, 54

State Senator (D), 15th District Lives in Roseland
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1. How do you define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago? And what do you see as the city’s role in funding the arts and fostering growth in the cultural economy?
The arts and culture are essential to the general welfare of our citizens and a financial engine that helps tourism, the hospitality industry, thousands of local performers, and men and women in the crafts and trades. People from around the world come to visit Millennium Park, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum, etc.

In my opinion, Chicago is the nation’s center for cutting-edge theater with more than 100 active companies. I’d like to see our local television and film production business grow. The experience of national producers with our local professionals has been outstanding.

2. Where do you stand on the proposed promoters’ ordinance, which aims to increase the regulatory and insurance requirements on local event promoters?
Declined to respond

3. Where do you stand on legalizing cook-on-site food trucks, as many other cities have done?
Food trucks overall have the potential to create new employment opportunities and small-business growth, so it’s definitely a boost to the local economy. If they obey the health and safety rules, I’m in favor of it.

4. Where do you stand on the merging of the Department of Cultural Affairs with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events?
With the city facing its biggest budget deficit, every efficiency has to be considered.

5. What was the last live local performance you attended? When? And what did you think of it?
Two weeks ago, I saw Macbeth at the Lyric Opera House. During the performance, I couldn’t help but think of my high-school teacher who incorporated Shakespeare’s work into the classroom. I also loved the live performance of The Lion King because it sends a strong message about identity, heritage and having the courage of your convictions. I also took notice of the fact that many values are passed down through the generations.

6. What was the last local cultural institution you visited? Are you a member of any cultural institutions?
I recently visited the Art Institute of Chicago.

7. What is your favorite local band? How about your favorite theater company? Restaurant? Artist? Comedian or other performer?
Army & Lou’s and Leona’s are two of my favorite restaurants.

8. What will you do to bring the arts to underserved communities, as well as to children, around the city?
The best place to start is in the schools. There are a number of studies which highlight the fact that strong arts programming in schools helps close a gap that has left many children behind.

9. Do you see Lollapalooza as a boost for the local music scene or a challenge to local venues?
I think it’s a boost to the local music scene, and in working with organizers, we have to look into making sure more local bands are given visibility.

10. Do you favor privatizing city festivals?
Declined to respond

11. Where do you stand on allowing a casino within the city limits?
I oppose it.

12. Would you support the sale of naming rights to Soldier Field or Wrigley Field? How about more advertising signage at Wrigley?
Declined to respond

13. Do you have a personal connection to the arts community (i.e., are you an artist yourself, or do you have friends/family in the arts community)? If so, what is it?
Yes. My youngest daughter just released her first song on iTunes.

Through my involvement with the schools, I have been introduced to the world of classical music. I have also become entranced with the concept of teaching children to play the violin utilizing the Suzuki method. Finally, I have had the opportunity to be introduced to the age-old art of storytelling and how children are mesmerized by the development of the characters and the delivery of the “message” through a dramatic presentation.

14. Should the number of available liquor licenses for bars and clubs be increased, reduced or stay about the same?
They should stay the same until further review.

15. Mayor Daley cites the Theater District as perhaps his most cherished cultural accomplishment. What cultural achievement would you hope to see as your most important legacy?
Arts programming in the schools.

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