Improving the delivery of city services, decreasing excessive police force and developing more neighborhood schools are the main issues Bob Galhotra will work toward improving if he is elected as alderman of the 29th ward in the Feb. 24 election, the candidate said in a recent interview with the Austin Weekly News.
Galhotra, an veteran attorney in Illinois, will face seven other candidates, including incumbent Ald. Deborah Graham, police officer and law firm managing partner Chris Taliaferro, fellow attorneys Lawrence Andolino and La Coulton J. Walls; community activists Oddis “O.J.” Johnson and Zerlina A. Smith; and community college professor Stephen Robinson.
Recently, Galhotra distinguished himself from the pack with an endorsement from the Chicago Sun-Times.
Galhotra said it takes too long to get basic city services, with the main ones being tree trimming, pothole repairs, street surfacing and garbage can replacements.
“[Graham] isn’t responsive to residents when it comes to basic issues,” Galhotra said.
Galhotra, who has lived in the Galewood neighborhood for more than 20 years, said funding should be put toward improving parkways, roads and other city services instead of beautification projects such as stadiums, medians and subsidizing new hotels.
“We need to make sure our people have a garbage can within a few days without asking for it. It’s all about priorities.” Galhotra said. “As 29th Ward alderman, I would make delivery of city services a top priority.”
The candidate said there also needs to be more accountability with excessive police force claims. He said witnesses should be comfortable dealing with the police.
“It’s very difficult to have people step forward and say they were harassed by police because they’ll usually get charged with a crime,” Galhotra said. “It turns into a he-say, she-say contest.”
The attorney said some complaints are completely missed because if an individual makes a complaint about police officer harassment, they have to complete an affidavit, which puts them at risk of possibly facing perjury and going to jail.
“It takes a lot of courage to follow through. This eliminates some of the complaints,” Galhotra said. “So they’re just like, ‘Forget about it. I don’t want to do this.'”
Galhotra said the city’s decision to close more than 50 CPS schools in 2013 resulted in three neighborhood schools being closed in the 29th ward, including Emmett Elementary School, Francis Scott Key Public School and May Elementary Community Academy.
He said those schools were anchors for the community and that more focus should be put toward providing neighborhood schools with resources so students can achieve the goals that are expected of them.
“Closing neighborhood schools because of underperformance is a slap in the face.” Galhotra said. “They put their money into charter schools, kept the students they wanted and kicked the students out they didn’t want. In effect, the neighborhood schools get relegated to kids who don’t achieve much or have attendance problems.”
Galhotra is a supervisor in the Homicide Task Force for the Cook County Public Defender’s office.
The candidate earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Illinois Institute of Technology and has two children, both of whom are public school graduates.