What will the candidates do?

Mayoral candidates get specific at two forums on West Side

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By Michael Romain

Editor

Monday was the deadline for candidates who are running for mayor of Chicago to submit their nominating papers but the roughly 17 people in the race to succeed two-term incumbent, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, have been sharing ideas for how they'd govern for months at mayoral forums held across the city. 

On Nov. 10, at Greater St. John Bible Church, 1256 N. Waller Ave. in Austin, First Place Campaigns and the Citizens for Civic Education hosted an interactive panel discussion for candidates. 

Candidates who showed up at that forum include: John Kozlar, an attorney and former aldermanic candidate; Roger Washington, a Chicago Police officer who works in the West Side; La Shawn K. Ford, the 8th District state representative who represents Austin; Amara Enyia, the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce; Paul Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO; William "Dock" Walls, a former aide to Mayor Harold Washington; and Ja'Mal Green, an activist.

And on Nov. 12, at Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd., the Business Leadership Council hosted a candidate's forum that featured Enyia; Vallas; Gery Chico, an attorney and former aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley; Lori Lightfoot, an attorney and former Chicago Police Board president; Toni Preckwinkle, the president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.

Below, we've compiled some of the most specific, detailed responses that candidates provided at those two forums. The responses have been lightly edited for space and clarity. 

 

On education

What's most important about education is making sure we look at the models where it's working. We know that in certain communities, even the Chicago Board of Education, tells people that these are our best schools. These are the models we have to have in every community. And when we have every community with high quality education, the population in those communities rises (La Shawn Ford). 

 

CPS created a chief equity officer when it should have been an entire department, but that's a first step. Equity as a matter of policy means we use that lens to determine where capital and programmatic expenditures are made in the capital budget. For example, we discovered that on the West Side we do not have IB [International Baccalaureate] programs. I'm working as part of a group that is bringing IB programs to West Side … If we had an equity lens we would put more of those schools [on the West and South Sides] than anywhere else." (Amara Enyia).

 

On increasing city contracts
for black-owned businesses

We need to create 1871-like incubators all over this city — not just downtown. They have to be in the neighborhoods so that people with good business plans and marketing plans have the opportunity to be mentored and grow, (Lori Lightfoot). 

We are not going to grow the pie for minority- and woman-owned businesses when the city and county are issuing contracts that have no requirements to contract with certified minority- and woman-owned businesses. 

I'm holding four in my hand here where it says no minority business requirements sought. We're on a dangerous trend here. We have to get back to basics and watch this. We've got to get vigilant in having mentor-protégé agreements, where larger companies can provide capital to their partners who are smaller (Gery Chico). 

 

On crime and policing

If you want to ultimately transform the police department, then make sure the next generation of police officers and first-responders come from the community. We have five military academies and 9,000 ROTC cadets in Chicago Public Schools. That group is 90 percent black and Latino. That group can be the next generation of police, fire fighters and first responders across the board. When police come from the neighborhood, live in the neighborhood, are products of the neighborhood and protect the neighborhood they're most familiar with, then you'll have real transformation (Paul Vallas).

 

The first thing I would do is declare a state of emergency and that does not include bringing in the National Guard or any other outside agency to occupy the city. A state of emergency means that we stop police officers from writing parking tickets and tickets for people with broken taillights who are languishing in court for hours at a time. Police can better serve our community by having a presence at parks, schools, libraries and economic centers, because where there is presence there is deterrence (William "Doc" Walls). 

 

We have to put a demarcation between violence and policing. In Chicago, we've conflated violence and policing, so every time we talk about violence or crime, we see investments in police infrastructure. The police budget is about a third of the city's overall budget. It is not because we have not invested enough resources in policing. It is because we have not invested enough resources into the things that build strong people and communities. So we should actually be building institutional mechanisms so people in communities are empowered to monitor themselves. Strong block clubs are the first line of defense against nefarious activity, so the city can expand investments into those sorts of initiatives that build institutional mechanisms in communities through strong block clubs (Amara Enyia). 

 

There needs to be a mandatory residency, first of all. If you're not from Chicago, you cannot police Chicago. If you don't know the culture, you will fail as a police officer. A huge amount of police officers are not from Chicago. They only moved here to take the job, which means that they're residency has been maybe six months to a year. There's no way you can be dropped in the West Side of Chicago from Kentucky and no how to police the city. We have to look at residency. You should have to have lived her for at least four years before applying. And there must be rigorous training on cultural differences in Chicago (Roger Washington). 

 

There is an FOP [Fraternal Order of Police — the CPD's union] that has some of the most power in this country. You have to have political courage to fight against such a big union. We have to have accountability. If the community believes that the police can get away with anything, then they'll never have trust in them. 

This is why we presented the most radical idea that any campaign has released so far relating to accountability in policing. Police officers need to carry insurance policies. We need to allow insurance companies to assess the liability on police. They'll be able to deem them too uninsurable and too risky and if they're dropped from their policy, they can't police the streets of Chicago. It's as simple as that. That will hold police accountable and save us the $1.7 billion in police misconduct that we're paying with taxpayer dollars (Ja'Mal Green). 

 

On sharing economic wealth among black-owned businesses

The city controls $20 billion in revenues, not $9 billion, because they control the airport and the CTA and the CHA. When I was CEO of Chicago Public Schools, I set a goal of 50 percent of minority contracting, 50 percent local hiring and 50 percent minority hiring. When I left, 50 percent, or $1.8 billion of construction jobs, went to minority workers. 

There is no reason why we can't immediately, through executive order, set those type of goals across the board. And you know how you get those companies on board? You insure them yourself, so you don't have to go through the insurance brokers. You give them the insurance, you give them the upfront capital using developer fees. 

We've got to take advantage of these Opportunity Zones. So what if they're in the Trump tax bill. I'm not going to let other cities take advantage of opportunity zones that could help raise billions of dollars of needed capital that we can invest on the West and South Sides. If we supplemented that money by earmarking half the TIF income to those Opportunity Zones, we could raise $10 billion and finally invest in the West and South Sides (Paul Vallas).

 

Thirty years ago, we had more black millionaires than we have today. Thirty years ago, we had more companies who were able to take advantage of the largesse of the city, particularly under the Harold Washington administration, than we have today. Black wealth is generated through black ownership. So what are the barriers? We know what they are. We cannot rely on big box stores to save us. If we are not willing to innovate with different [economic models] like traditional small businesses and cooperatively owned businesses. The city itself can create a fund that supports the development of cooperative businesses in our neighborhoods — your gas stations and dry cleaners you should own. 

When we talk about ways to help business-owners, we expect them to have the capital. If they had the capital upfront, they wouldn't need to get a loan. The city can create a mechanism where they can present some of that upfront capital, so when you have to get reimbursed, they have something to work with. That is the problem we're now seen with the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, where businesses don't have the upfront capital and so they're out of luck and cannot participate (Amara Enyia). 

On gentrification and affordable housing 

The city has too much red tape that makes it too difficult to build affordable housing. If I'm mayor, I'll make sure that every single city department — whether buildings or zoning — that they are all on board to lower the red tape, get involved on deals on the front-end so we can build more units. We're down at least 120,000 affordable housing units and that's why people are getting squeezed out. 

We also must get rid of aldermanic prerogative in neighborhoods where there are not enough affordable housing units. We're building affordable housing units only in the poorest neighborhoods in our city. There are huge swaths in the city that have zero affordable housing units and haven't built them in the last 50 years (Lori Lightfoot). 

 

One of the things that I did from the first day I was in office was pledge to create as much affordable housing as we possibly could. We had a couple of in-fill affordable housing developments — six-flats and three-flats. We worked hard on CHA transformation where one-third of the units were public housing, one-third are affordable and one-third were market-rate, so we created hundreds of affordable units. 

We also did work with New Homes for Chicago, a program that focused on affordable, for sale housing, which the city has moved away from and abandoned. We need to create affordable rental housing, because half the population in our city is renters and they need affordable rental housing. We also need to create modestly priced for-sale housing. We have to de-densify those neighborhoods that have seen a flight to individuals through rental and for sale affordable housing (Toni Preckwinkle). 

 

You need to build a financial plan around a property tax cap, because if you want to prevent gentrification, then cap people's property taxes to 5 percent or the rate of inflation — whichever is less. That's for homeowners, landlords and businesses, so if your assessments go up, you're never paying more than a 2 percent increase (Paul Vallas).

CONTACT: michael@austinweeklynews.com   

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