Candidate Full Name: Jesus "Chuy" Garcia
Office: Chicago Mayor
Survey Questions (Character limit of 2,000 per response)
It's the next Mayor of Chicago that will deal with the full consequences of the financial decisions being made today. What strategies will you use to make headway with the budget difficulties?
This year, working with President Preckwinkle, I helped pass a County budget that the Civic Federation praised. They called us "accountable and efficient" stewards of public resources. Unfortunately, the City of Chicago continues to move in the opposite direction. Getting City finances back on track will take new leadership, and it is one of the principal reasons I am running for Mayor.
The City's use of long--term bonds to fund operations and short--term expenses ---- "scoop and toss" ---- is not justified. The practice is unsustainable, and it is expensive. Instead of paying off $120.8 million in bonds as scheduled in 2015, the City refinanced them at an additional total interest cost of $229 million over 30 years. In other words, poor financial decisions cost the City $229 million that could have been used to create new jobs, educate our children or make our streets safer.
As a City, we have to find better ways to fund infrastructure and operations. We cannot keep borrowing money to pay debts, and leaving the looming financial problems to future generations. That kind of approach will bankrupt local government and destroy our City's future. One possibility is finding better efficiencies in cooperation with the County. This has not been aggressively pursued by the current City administration, but it can lead to reduced costs and savings, while providing improved and expanded services, especially in transportation and health care. We cannot cut our way out of the structural deficit but we can and must operate more efficiently as part of the solution. In addition to better coordination of services among local governments, efficiency means cutting waste and looking for new revenue sources.
2. Will you raise property taxes?
No. I know too many families - and especially senior citizens ---- who are already struggling to pay their existing tax bills.
3. How do you feel about privatizing city assets?
I am generally opposed to the privatization of city assets. My responsibility as Mayor would be to protect public services and assets for future generations. The City of Chicago has embarked on the dangerous path of giving away its revenue generating assets to private interests. Consequently, the city is losing revenue and control of its public infrastructure systems. I will work to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of city service delivery, rather than continuing to privatize our city's resources.
4. How will you improve the Chicago School System?
I believe it is necessary to change course dramatically from the so--called "reforms" offered by Mayor Emanuel and instead take a new, holistic approach to our city's schools. A sound public education system should the right of everyone in our society, as it is the very foundation of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy.
My plan involves giving the school system back to the people through an elected school board; reducing to the barest legal minimum the plethora of high--stakes, standardized tests by which we falsely judge schools, students, and teachers; placing a moratorium on further charter schools; expanding public education to include pre--kindergarten and even earlier; and reducing class size, which is one of the largest in the state.
We must further provide a multitude of proper books, libraries, and recreational facilities and course offerings in languages, literature and the arts. As Mayor, I will make sure critical bilingual and dual--language programs will be available to all students that need and desire them. There is solid evidence that fluency in a second or even third language, starting at an early age, helps students academically across the board, putting them in position to be truly college and career ready. These programs are also essential in our increasingly global economy, as recognized by the recently established Illinois State Seal of Bi--literacy.
I do not support a further expansion of charter schools, and I think any discussion on savings within the public school system must recognize charters have become the new coin of political patronage. A glaring example is the UNO group, until recently led by Juan Rangel, who was forced out after reports of cronyism and corruption in its charter network, which has received more than $100 million in state money. Rangel, who earned $260,000 a year, was a co--chair of Emanuel's mayoral campaign while UNO personnel worked in local campaigns against Emanuel's critics. This is classic pinstripe patronage, typically funneled through contracts with lawyers and bond ssuers. Now it's an unconscionable mix of money and politics, short--changing the debt-plagued public school system, punishing children and taxpayers alike.
5. How would you work the Chicago Police Department and community members to make residents feel safe in their neighborhoods?
I would keep the promise Rahm Emanuel broke by hiring 1,000 additional police officers and I would train them to implement true community policing, a proven and effective strategy for preventing and responding to crime. Additionally, I would ensure police serve all residents, regardless of race, immigration status, or socioeconomic class, and that they adequately support victims of crime.
6. Do you support or oppose the vote to increase the minimum wage in several steps to $13 an hour by 2019? Why?
I continue to advocate for raising the minimum wage to $15/hour now, and having it increase by the annual rate of inflation, because no one who works full time should have to live in poverty.
7. Are you in favor of Chicago's Red Light Camera program? Why?
I support an immediate moratorium on all Red Light and Speed cameras across Chicago.
Public safety should be City Hall's top priority. Therefore, the onus is on the city to prove that individual Red Light or Speed Cameras add to public safety and are not just another example of the current administration's many pickpocket taxes.
In Cook County, we follow a procedure that requires the municipalities that want a Red Light or Speed camera to prove that the proposed camera would improve public safety. This procedure is about ensuring public safety, not increasing revenue. Cook County does not receive any revenue from municipal traffic cameras.
City Hall has done little to provide compelling evidence to show which of these cameras improve public safety and which cameras are nothing more than a revenue source.
In the absence of such data, the Chicago Tribune conducted its own rigorous study and "concluded the cameras do not reduce injury--related crashes overall." In fact, "the study calculated a corresponding 22--percent increase in rear--end crashes that caused injuries, illustrating a trade--off between he cameras' costs and benefits."