Candidate Full Name: Gary Mandell
Office: Illinois State Representative, District 11
Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Web Site: www.mandellforstaterep.com
Campaign Name: Committee to Elect Gary Mandell
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 180333, Chicago, IL 60618-0676
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
1. Please tell us about yourself, your background and why you believe you are qualified to hold this office.
I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Chicago permanently in 1982. I have been living in the 11th District since 1995, and my wife Diana and I have lived in the North Center neighborhood since 2012. Our son Shaun works in advertising and is a Lakeview resident.
I graduated cum laude from The Wharton School of Commerce and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in accounting, and earned my Masters of Business Administration with a specialization in finance from the Graduate School of Business at the University of Chicago.
I am a Certified Financial Planner and a Certified Public Accountant. In 1984, I founded The Mandell Group, an independent, full service financial planning and portfolio management firm serving nationwide clientele.
I have spent my entire professional career helping people develop, maintain and live by a balanced budget, while saving for their children's college education and for their own retirements.
In other words, I have been training for the past 35 years to address the issues that are plaguing the State of Illinois right now. I understand economics and finances. My career has centered on counseling against deficit spending as well as the need to focus on saving now for tomorrow's obligations. At its core, this is about making hard decisions about what or what not to spend money on. It is also about prioritizing what goal is immediate, and what can wait. It isn't always easy, and it frequently means people can't always do everything they want to do when they want to do it.
These are the lessons that the current elected officials of our State either never learned, forgot or ignore. Your elected officials need to learn to put these lessons into practice in order to get Illinois back on solid footing once again. I have the necessary training and skills, and believe that I am capable of representing the people of the 11th District.
2. Governor Bruce Rauner and other politicians are pushing for term limits for Illinois legislators. Do you favor term limits? Why or why not? If yes, what type of term limits do you favor?
In an ideal world, there would be no need for term limits. A politician would serve not as his career, but for service to the common man. But as we have seen politics is not an ideal world.
Therefore, when elected, I would introduce and/or support legislation that promoted a reasonable form of term limits. The current lack of these limits has led to the problems we are facing today. Most career politicians are more interested in getting elected than solving our problems.
This tends to stifle independent thinking within our legislature, and worse yet, may be discouraging qualified and innovative potential candidates from even attempting to run for office. There are too few that are there for the right reasons.
The best term limits for politicians is the self-imposed. You come to serve for a purpose or a policy and when that has been accomplished, you move on. The machine politicians that have been running our state have served for longer than I have lived here and then some. Yet, there has been no substantial progress in that time to fix the problems facing both our city and our state.
3. What solution would you propose to get a budget passed in the State of Illinois?
Like any major project, we must first establish a goal. That goal should be to operate under a balanced budget each and every year. And this has to be legitimate. While our state constitution requires a balanced budget, the politicians play games like counting borrowing as an earned revenue source. Adding debt to your balance sheet is not the way to solve your inability to control spending. I would make sure that a balanced budget is truly balanced.
We must look for inefficiencies in all aspects of government. This includes multiple state offices that perform virtually the same functions, and require multiple staffs. The effective combination of similar jobs would cut a lot of cost and red tape.
This is true of government entities as well. There are over 7,000 individual taxing authorities in our state, each with significant administrative costs, and many of which do nothing. Our government can and has to run more efficiently, and combining and/or eliminating many of our taxing districts would save a tremendous amount of taxpayer dollars.
We must change future earned benefits in our state pension systems from Defined Benefit plans to Defined Contribution plans such as 401k/403b, where employees are responsible for contributing a significant portion of their future retirement costs, and are given the responsibility and educational resources to manage their own retirement dollars. And it should be the individual school districts, and not the state, that manage the retirement plan costs for their district. Inefficient management in one district should not become the responsibility of taxpayers across the state. This would also stop, for example, the practice of granting significant pay increases at the end of a career, thereby saddling the state with escalating pension costs for these retiring workers. Finally, implementing term limits for our politicians would reduce their pension costs as well.
We should eliminate mandatory fixed salary increases at all levels. Many government jobs have been getting annual automatic raises of 3% or more, while inflation has been growing at half that level. We should tie cost of living increases to an acceptable definition of the Consumer Price Index.
There should also be some reasonable relationship between public employee salaries and those of private sector workers with similar education, training and work experience. I realize that this is a massive undertaking, but taxpayers should not be burdened with paying salaries that are far in excess of what they are earning themselves in the private sector with the same training.
As you can see, I believe there is a lot of money to be saved on the expenditure side of the balanced budget equation. On the revenue side, we must provide a better business climate in order to bring new businesses and jobs into Illinois, instead of watching them go to nearby states. Poor school systems, sky high pension liabilities and some of the highest Worker's Comp premiums and corporate income tax rates in the country make it very unfavorable to open a business here as opposed to neighboring states, especially in the manufacturing sector. Solving this issue will mean increased jobs, increased consumer spending and increased state tax revenues, which will help balance the budget.
But I am also a realist. Like it or not, I know that our politicians have created a tremendous hole for us taxpayers, and a short term increase in revenues through a combination of borrowing and taxes may be necessary.
Many will be skeptical of this solution. As we saw how our last temporary tax increase did not decrease the level of our outstanding expenses at the end of that period. In other words, none of the revenues gained via the tax rate hike went to decrease our deficit. Instead, politicians just spent more money!
Therefore, I would include provisions in any such tax legislation requiring additional tax revenue to be earmarked only for reducing the previous deficit that we find ourselves in now. Not one penny of the
tax hike could be used to fund future deficit spending.
I believe that the bond market would be receptive to this once it knows that the State has an effective plan put in place to deal with its deficit issues, and legislation in place to prevent additional deficits. This would mean reduced borrowing costs for state bond issues, the savings from which would be used to further reduce our existing deficits.
The biggest obstacle in getting any of this done is to remove partisan politics from it all. One party or the other is afraid to recommend certain solutions because it may not be popular with voters. We need a bipartisan committee, perhaps made up of not only elected officials, but outside experts, to hammer this out. Nothing will get accomplished in budget reform if we maintain partisan politics as usual.
4. Chicago is the only city in Illinois with an appointed school board. Other large American cities, including San Francisco, elect their school board members. Would you favor changing Illinois law to provide Chicago with an elected school board? Why or why not?
I am in favor in putting the question to the voters. It should be left up to the citizens on what should and should not be done with the schools that they pay taxes for. A commission made up of educational experts, teachers, and parents that could recommend whether to keep it appointed or to move toward elected or a hybrid of the two.
It is our schools, we should help decide what is best for the future and not just leave it to the political insiders.
Having said that, I hope that the voters would vote in favor of having a hybrid school board structure, and here is what I would propose it would look like. The Board would have to be more than the current nine members. This is too huge an undertaking for such a small group, and we also want the public to have access to the members. On the other hand, it would need to be small enough so as to be efficient. Sixteen to twenty would be a reasonable number.
Approximately 75% of the Board would be elected. The other 25% would be split equally between mayoral appointees (assuming that office is still in charge of running the school district), persons chosen by a committee of school administrators, and persons chosen by a committee of teachers and other non-administrative personnel.
The inner workings of our school board remain a mystery to almost all of us. There is very little transparency with negotiations and contracts, even among those who have become professional observers of the Board. Under my plan, both elected and appointed Board members would have to explain their position and votes on an issue to the electorate.
My hope would be that parents of existing CPS students would make up the majority of the elected portion of the School Board. Studies have shown that children do much better in school if their parents are involved. Just imagine the positive impact that these parents could have if they had a say in how the entire school system was run! However, this wouldn't mean that the rest of the parents of students could then become uninvolved. But knowing you have a number of advocates on the board should bring positive change throughout the system and to a large number of students.
The mayor should be allowed some say in the makeup of the Board as long as the Mayor's office is ultimately responsible for running the school system. That small percentage of Board membership can represent the position of the mayor's office to make sure everyone understands the consequences of their actions and the reality of the city's financial picture.
Because school administrators, teachers and other personnel are the closest to the day to day workings of the actual schools, and the children being served by those schools, they are in a better position than most to indicate what is needed to make our classrooms better, and what will or won't be successful. So of course they should be represented.
Finally, there are a wide range of experts in education across the country that would be very interested in weighing in on how to deal with the issues of the CPS. While they would not necessarily have a seat on the Board, I would suggest that perhaps an advisory council made up of these kinds of people would be advantageous as well.
5. Voters say they are turned off by the negative and misleading TV ads that dominate the air waves. However, campaign and election experts say candidates rely on them because "they work." Will you and your campaign agree to refrain from running negative ads from now until the election?
This campaign needs to be about fixing the problems plaguing our state. It should not be decided by a campaign ad. I will not run any personal negative ads against my opponent. If we can make this about the issues then there would be no need for unproductive discourse, I hope my opponent will join me in committing to this.