Mayor: Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins
Jan 11, 2011
Updated: January 30, 2011 4:24PM
Birth date: 11-12-1957
Political affiliation: Democrat
Occupation/Firm name: CEO of Target Area DevCorp (resigned for campaign)
Marital status: Single
Campaign HQ address: 2312 West Harrison, Chicago
Campaign website: www.patriciaforchicago.com
What is your campaign budget?
We have raised $500,000, and our goal is $2 million.
What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?
The theme of my campaign is not merely a catchy slogan.... It encompasses my priorities for our residents, business, and visitors. The City of Chicago must be safe, smart, and sustainable. Those break into priorities of a livable city that is safe to live, grow up, work, and play for all; that provides our children with a world class education that equips them to become our leaders of tomorrow; that makes smart decisions on policy and programs based upon goals that are achievable within its financial means and have tangible outcomes resulting in sustainable life/lifestyle/business climate; and that builds sustainable programs that will create economic growth and resulting revenues, environmental protections, and social equity that build a fair and competitive atmosphere in achieving a safe and sustainable city for all people now and for the next century.
More specifically, my immediate priorities would include:
Good Jobs: Creating new jobs and ensuring good jobs with strong benefits for all Chicagoans. Chicago’s economy is dependent on all Chicagoans having access to education and job training opportunities, living wages, the right to organize, good working conditions to support their families, communities and the city
Balanced Budget: Chicago’s nearly $1 billion projected deficit must be addressed with responsible reform that protects the quality of life of all Chicagoans and promotes a prosperous future for the city. As a Certified Public Accountant, I will conduct a forensic audit using performance management to discard excess, and ensure existing resources are used efficiently, effectively and equitably to meet the needs of residents and a firm atmosphere conducive to business growth.
Reduce Violence: Murder is the number one cause of death for Chicagoans between the ages of 18-35. I have worked for decades to implement programs and pass policy to reduce violence and engage communities in developing real solutions. Investment in effective public safety programs will improve the quality of life for all families in Chicago, save lives, save money and create a stronger climate for job growth and business development.
Education: There is no excuse for the historic failure of the Chicago school system. I have worked on a community basis through the “Grow Your Own Teacher” Program to address the quality of our children’s education by engaging parents to be leaders and teachers; by working to ensure teachers have the supports they need; fighting for equitable school funding throughout the state.
The city is in serious financial trouble and can’t afford the level of service it currently provides. For 2011, Mayor Daley balanced the budget without raising taxes or fees, relying instead on some cost-saving measures and one-time fixes, including using proceeds from leasing the city’s parking meters. What would you do differently as mayor?
Please be specific about your plans to reshape government: what services and departments would you scale back or cut? Can you identify new revenue sources? How would you reduce personnel costs? What kind of concessions might you seek from city unions?
The City of Chicago’s 2010 deficit is forecasted at $654 million. Ironically, a report was released last year by the University of Illinois at Chicago that detailed the “corruption taxes” that Illinois citizens must pay due to the costs of rampant corruption in our government over the years. In principle, I do not believe we can cut our way out of this problem. I refuse to jeopardize the safety and well-being of residents to balance the budget. While the recession has exacerbated our budget problems, we must address our city’s structural deficit.
A Mayor Watkins administration would unveil a new culture of open, transparent and participatory city government to prevent corruption and reduce costs. To address our structural deficit, I would immediately begin a dual track attack: (1) Conduct an independent forensic audit to look at long-term cost saving options including tightening administrative structures and reforming our current pension system. (2) I would vigorously continue to support state level efforts to reform Illinois’ tax policy. A progressive increase in the state’s income tax would bring in much needed revenue to the city while continuing to protect low-income families from higher taxes. If this effort fails, I will work with the city council and residents to explore a possible city income tax increase for higher-income residents. I would ensure that this action would only target our structural deficit and not over-tax residents or business or increase taxes for lower-income families.
After implementing a sustainable plan to address our structural deficit, if necessary, I would look at shorter-term options to address portions of our recessionary deficit. I believe that utilizing one-time revenues is fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable. These should be used with restraint, and only as a last resort. History is teaching us this form of funding is merely delaying “doomsdays”, we cannot mortgage our children’s future.
The city’s four employee pension funds have been called a “ticking time bomb,” with Mayor Daley’s pension commission predicting that the four funds will run out of money in 20 years. “There is no low- or no-cost solution to this problem,” the commission wrote in a report earlier this year. “Deferring action is not a viable option.” What is your plan for bringing the pension funds to solvency?
On a related note, Mayor Daley railed against a bill that passed in Springfield that created a two-tier pension system for police and fire, saying a provision that requires a steep ramp up in what Chicago contributes to the pension funds will force a massive property tax increase. What do you think of this legislation? Should it be amended?
I am proud that this city has provided strong defined benefits to its hard working city employees. We need pension reform that continues to protect the benefits of existing employees and provide fair benefits that still provide a secure retirement for future employees. Reform must be a collective effort with city government, city employees and their union representation at the table. I do not support reducing benefits for current employees. It is both unconstitutional and unfair. I believe all parties involved will have to look at our current and future pension predicament and discuss potential reduced benefits for future employees as well as an equitable retirement structure across sectors. While negotiations will be necessary, I will not support changes that will compromise the city’s commitment to provide a secure retirement for its city workers or that will jeopardize the public safety of city residents. In return, I believe the city must do its part to identify and provide stable revenue streams to fund their current and future pension obligations.
What is your plan for bringing more jobs to the City of Chicago? The unemployment rate is particularly high among people with limited education. What can be done to stimulate job creation for that group?
The City of Chicago is a world class city with one of the largest commercial and financial centers, serves as an international transportation hub, has a strong community college and university system and a rich offering of arts and culture. However, our truly greatest assets in Chicago are our hardworking people and our vibrant communities.
It is my belief that, as we continue to drive forward an economic development agenda and bring more jobs and business into our city, we must do so by reinforcing and prioritizing the success and strength of our families and communities. The path to the future success of any largescale business deal or allocation of taxpayer dollars is through ensuring that every dollar invested will improve the quality of life and the opportunities of the future for all Chicagoans. I believe that unions are crucial partners in a process that would ensure that our city is creating innovative economy development tools to attract, incentivize and retain “high road” businesses that have good relationships with their workforces.
First and foremost, I will support long-term capital improvement plans that are centered on building a world class transportation hub and a sustainable public transit system in Chicago because I believe that we can maintain quality of life and create jobs at the same time through smart capital investments that keep people working, while also maintaining safe, viable and livable communities that attract business.
However, as we sustain our communities and our industries, we must also be more aggressive than ever at staying ahead of the trends in high growth sectors, such as green jobs and technology. As Mayor, it would be a top priority to create a culture of developing innovative partnerships between the city, state and federal governments, the private sector, labor and communities to drive job growth and opportunities. In addition, we must not forget that the City of Chicago is a part of a very powerful and promising economic region, including the collar counties and other major Midwestern cities, and we must build upon that strength as we build our plans for the future growth of industries.
As we identify and support the advancement of high growth sectors, such as the green jobs industry, I believe we must drive smart federal and state agendas to secure capital and resources, and develop forward-thinking educational and training programs from our high schools through to community colleges and the world class universities we enjoy in this city. Through partnering with labor, our existing workforce must be strengthened with retraining, and our young people must be prepared as early as possible for the jobs of the future so that we can be competitive in attracting business to our city and keeping it successful here.
Finally, one of the greatest investments we can make in our future is through targeting our youth. According to Chicago Jobs for Youth, in 2002, more than 5 million youth nationwide between the ages of 16 and 24 were reportedly out-of-school and jobless. In Chicago, that number has been reported to be as high as 100,000. And, more than 70 percent of the young people unemployed are either African American or Hispanic. Furthermore, studies show that the majority of unemployed youth lack a high school diploma or GED and live in impoverished urban neighborhoods.
If we are to succeed as a city, we must identify ways to continue building our workforce for the future. Any plan involving youth, must include not only taking a second look at our high school curriculum, but at offering work readiness/lifeskills training, GED classes, career counseling and job placement service to our young people. Furthermore, we need to continue to build innovative bridge programs through our community college systems because they serve as the first or only point of entry to high education for more than 40% of Americans, and are the primary educator for African American and Hispanic college students in Chicago. As the City Colleges serve nearly 130,00 student annually, we need to make them a key partner in our economic development plans for the city, and continue to grow strategies attract young people, that historically have not been prepared to get a degree, to attend college and gain skills in high growth sectors.
The next mayor will choose a new CEO for the Chicago Public Schools. Do you think the CEO needs to have education experience? What areas do you want the new CEO to focus on? Would you expect the CEO to execute your vision or should the CEO define his or her own vision in consultation with the Schools’ chief education officer?
Would you continue the Renaissance 2010 program of shutting down failing schools and creating new ones? Would you continue Ron Huberman’s “culture of calm” effort, which aims to improve the culture of the toughest schools and provides mentors and extra support for kids at greatest risk of being shot? How would you improve neighborhood schools that are struggling to educate the large numbers of students left behind, the students that don’t make it into test-based, charters or other specialized schools?
Yes, I believe that the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools should have extensive experience as a teacher or a school administrator, in addition to management skills related to running a large system. In order to properly face the challenges of our schools, the CEO would need to have tremendous leadership and interpersonal skills and strong values. They must be a strong collaborator and problem-solver. Their vitae must represent a history of integrity, excellence in collaboration and measurable successes.
As Mayor, I would work collaboratively with the new CEO of the Chicago Public Schools to accomplish an agenda that makes children the top priority of our schools, and attempts to take them out of the crossfire between competing agendas. While I would have specific goals, I would use the benefits of the CEO, the School Board, and lead administrators and teachers’ experience to ensure the highest quality educational system possible for our children.
In my first term, I would work to accomplish the following goals:
First, I would ensure that Chicago Public School District has implemented a full community engagement process that gives parents and community members an equal voice in the school reform process.
Second, I would overhaul the way information is shared with parents about their child’s performance in school to ensure that the information is useful to help improve educational outcomes.
Third, I would work to overhaul the Reduction in Force process for teacher layoffs to ensure that it was redesigned in such a way that it was not focused on tenure only, but on student needs.
Fourth, I would develop a plan to provide all schools with the necessary technology to provide up-to-the-minute tracking of each child’s performance for teachers, and allow them to tailor instruction to those needs.
Finally, I would develop a plan to ensure that all schools work to expand individual learning plans. This would include information on what they currently know, and what will they learn this year. In addition, the plan should be shared with every parent.
Further more, I believe that every teacher and school should also have goals and targets. This should not include esoteric targets set by the Federal government or the state -- but targets set by the school and community. When we look at some of our schools, the targets and goals will mean that certain students will not be on trajectory to get to college ready. Schools should be supported to hit meaningful targets.
I think that Renaissance 2010 was a good idea, but it failed to partner with communities to improve schools. It was a one-sector approach to a complex problem. Generally, I am opposed to closing our schools. The Consortium on Chicago School Research has shown that, all too often, the only result of a school closure is that children are shuffled around -- with little benefit to their education or to the community.
I think the answer to addressing low-performing schools is empowering true community collaboration and implementing research-based programs that improve the quality of our children’s education. I also believe that the additional space at under-enrolled schools should be transformed to house community support programs that would benefit the neighborhood and the students.
I led the successful development of a “Safe Passage” grant for a coalition of ministers on the West Side of Chicago that are now working with the Chicago Public Schools on the
“culture of calm” initiative that is providing support to at-risk youth. I believe that the “culture of calm” should be supported because such initiatives help empower the community to make the local school a haven of activity and safety will foster community spirit and participation. Safety will become a key factor in raising the pride of the students and the teachers, involving the parents and other volunteers in their own neighborhood school and a healthy configuration will have begun to make the environment a center of all around learning, not just during school hours.
As mayor, I will focus on improving all of our public schools so that all children--not just a select few--in Chicago have the opportunity to reach their full human potential. I believe in creating as many opportunities as possible for our students to have access to a quality public education. While I believe that charter schools can be part of the solution, we must improve our entire public school system. Both types of schools should be managed as a part of the same Chicago Public School system, and they should both be held equally accountable for improving student performance. Our accountability system for all our schools is broken and all schools would benefit from improving this process.
The Chicago Police Department is understaffed, with no lasting budget solution in sight. Given the current staffing levels, what changes would you recommend to use resources more efficiently? Do you support realigning beats in a way that moves police from lower crime areas to higher crime neighborhoods? What should happen to the diminished CAPS program?
Chicago is known for being a world class city with some of the most vibrant and beautiful neighborhoods in America. Sadly, our great city is also widely recognized for its history of crime and violence. For decades, crime pockets concentrated in the city’s most disadvantaged communities have festered, breeding an average of 420 murders each year, and securing homicide as the leading cause of death for Chicagoans 35 and under. There were over 2,000 assault-related gunshot injuries in 2008, and a recent analysis by the Chicago Reporter found that Chicago’s rate of violence was almost double the rates of New York City and Los Angeles last year. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of Chicago’s lack of success in reducing gun violence, has been the toll on our children. The University of Chicago has reported that one out of every five youths killed in gunfire is an “innocent bystander” and that “no Chicago youth is entirely safe.”
As Mayor, I would make it a priority to restore the ranks of our police officers, and designate most of them as community police officers and assign them according to a strategic plan targeting “hot spots.” However, I believe that it is shortsighted and ineffective to implement any crime plan that simply hires more police officers and throws them in the line of fire in our communities with no additional support. We have lost too many of our Police Officers in tragic and senseless shootings this year -- and something must be done differently to stop it.
I have released “The SAFE CITY Initiative” that would not only restore the number of police officers working in our communities, but give them the resources and tools to build stronger trust with residents to prevent and solve crimes, attack the root causes of crime, such as poor supervision and support services for parolees, and to make it a higher priority to crack down on illegal gun traffickers and continue fighting for stronger state and federal gun safety laws. In addition, I would build innovative public/private partnerships to fund these programs, such as the Social Impact Bonding program being piloted in England and New York.
The “SAFE CITY Initiative” calls for strengthening and improving the CAPS program to facilitate greater trust and collaboration between police officers and community residents with the goal of improving public safety, crime prevention and crime solving.
Since the launch of the Community Oriented Policing Program in the early 1990’s, the Chicago Police Department has worked to open its doors and put more officers on the street to work as true partners with residents in communities to hear their concerns and to help solve crime problems.
The current program has been evaluated by Professor Wes Skogan of Northwestern University, and has been identified as a success in helping to build a foundation for those relationships and in reducing crime. However, it has been suggested that, as the program grows, it must continue working towards intensifying its level of community collaboration, problem-solving and culture-change throughout the Chicago Police Department.
Reports have suggested that the meetings need to be more action-oriented so that citizens can feel that they are truly accomplishing something by participating. In addition, there have been questions of trust among some participants that are afraid to share information publicly for fear of being threatened by gang members. In particular, Professor Skogan has indicated that one of the greatest challenges for Chicago will be to close gaps between police and Latino residents in high crime communities, where participation in CAPS has been low.
In recent years, the Chicago Police Department has reduced the number of officers on the street and attendance at CAPS meetings among them has dwindled. Recently, the City of Chicago announced that budget reductions will require beat officers to be redeployed only to the street and that civilians would now be hired to run CAPS meetings.
The SAFE CITY Initiative calls for overhauling CAPS to truly foster more trust and communication between police officers that work on the streets of communities and residents, and to incite activism and volunteerism to attract resources and improve justice outcomes. The focus of these meetings should be to ensure a plan of action to improve public safety. In addition, this type of reform plan will also place special emphasis on addressing some of the unique cultural, communication and trust issues within the growing Hispanic community as well.
The city’s tax-increment financing program has been criticized on several fronts, including the proliferation of districts, how money is diverted from schools and other basic city services, how TIF funding decisions are made and for an overall lack of transparency. How would you improve the TIF program? Does the TIF law need to be changed in any way?
TIFs are meant to be a targeted tool to be utilized in concert with broader economic development efforts and strategies. I would initiate an independent audit of the TIF programs as well as evaluate all current TIFs through a performance based evaluation. All inactive and ineffective TIFs should be identified and discussions to terminate them should be brought to the city council and communities. A more transparent and accountable process will be developed to ensure any potential future TIF dollars are spent equitably, fairly and strategically. I also believe that the life-span of a TIF should be determined on an individual basis based on its local goals and plans.
TIFs are funded by the tax dollars of Chicago residents. Residents deserve clear and accessible information on TIF productivity and processes. Residents deserve a role in the decision making process to determine where and how funds will be used. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. I believe decision making structures must include informed community and city council representation, along with the administration, to oversee the overall TIF process as well as to make local decisions in specific TIFs.
Mayor Daley has focused on privatizing city assets. Are there any other assets you could consider privatizing? If so, would you make any changes to the way privatization deals are negotiated and passed through the city council?
I believe that we must be innovative in addressing the City’s budget crisis and long-term infrastructure challenges. While I am not a supporter of privatization, I understand that in some limited cases, it may be the answer. I believe that we must approach any privatization plans with extreme caution, and ensure that we work for long-term progress, instead of short-term gain. We must ensure the best possible deal for the City and our working people. Any plan should include the best possible benefits and wages for our workers, and should not undermine labor.
Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where do you want the casinos located?
I have serious concerns about casino gambling in Chicago, and would only consider them as a last resort.
The Chicago Housing Authority’s massive plan to transform public housing has stalled. How would you jumpstart that effort?
The Plan for Transformation has had mixed results. There are many residents-across economic levels -that have benefited from many of the new developments created under this Plan. I have also worked with residents who lived in public housing that was demolished, but were not provided adequate assistance in finding a new-let alone better-place to live. As a former public housing resident-raised in Cabrini Green-I believe it is important that any future projects provide one-for-one housing replacement with housing assistance programs that provide transitional housing and prioritize those displaced for new residences. Providing quality affordable housing for all Chicagoans who need it will be a goal of my administration.
I believe we must jumpstart the city’s efforts to provide more affordable housing for the city’s low-income residents. The city has lost significant public and affordable housing over the last ten years. The city needs to prioritize maintaining existing and creating new affordable housing for low-income residents. I will work with residents-as well as developers, businesses and communities-across the city to build support for and develop solutions to increase affordable housing through efforts like Sweet Home Chicago.
I believe in order to develop effective affordable housing solutions we must evaluate our standards of affordability for residents and rental market rates for landlords. Current standards for affordability are not truly affordable for most low-income families. Public for-sale and rental housing affordability standards are as high as 120 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI), respectively. Other programs, like the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund targets 75 percent of its funding for households with incomes at or below 30 percent of the AMI -statewide this would be $20,800 for a family of four. Additionally, I would ensure that affordability measures use area median incomes based on smaller geographies to ensure housing is affordable in every neighborhood. Fair market rents should also be determined at a smaller scale to ensure landlords are fairly compensated and our city’s housing voucher program can be competitive and provide sufficient housing for low-income residents, possibly by zip code which HUD is already utilizing.
Other U.S. cities have managed to create successful curbside recycling programs. How would you make it work here?
Chicago’s current recycling programs have low participation, and are cumbersome and inaccessible for many businesses and residents. More than 139 million Americans now have access to curbside collection of a myriad of recyclable materials. In Chicago, only those living in buildings with 4 or fewer units have limited access to the city’s underfunded and not-fully implemented “Blue Cart” pick-up program. For those living in larger buildings, few landlords observe their obligation to provide a private recycling option. So most residents’, regardless of their building size, only option is using one of th city’s 33 recycling drop-off centers. As a result, studies show that 19 percent of garbage from privately serviced homes is recycled, this is true for only eight percent of garbage from the 600,000 homes being serviced by city garbage services.
We must change this. Studies show that recycling rates can reach above 40 percent by investing in infrastructure and educating the public. As mayor, I will look at model programs across the country to both cultivate a culture of recycling and sustainability as well as invest in effective, accessible and affordable recycling programs. Specifically, I will look at the “Pay-as-you-Throw” program that has produced the largest increases in recycling participation, and cost impacts are small.
Chicago was designed as a weak mayor, strong council form of government. Is there a power imbalance between Mayor Daley and the City Council? On which issues should the mayor lead? On which should the council lead?
As the Mayor of Chicago, I would create a culture of open and transparent government and citizen participation. I think most citizens would agree that the position of Mayor already carries tremendous power to strengthen our neighborhoods, quality of life and business climate throughout the city -- and that power must simply be applied to put the people first. When collaborating properly, the appropriate balance can be obtained with the City Council members being positioned to represent the interests and needs of each of our city’s vibrant communities.
Would you accept campaign contributions from companies that contract with the City of Chicago? Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from city employees?
As Mayor, I will not accept campaign contributions or gifts from city contractors or employees.
Does the city need to change the way it hands out contracts? How will you ensure that contracting decisions are based solely on merit and free of patronage? Should Chicago aldermen reclaim oversight of city contracts? If so, contracts above what dollar amount?
Other than in the event of an emergency, I believe that the city should end the no-bid contracting process. As Mayor, I will also implement an “Open, Transparent & Participatory Government” plan that will ensure that as much data and information about the city budget and contracts will be made public as possible. I believe that the taxpayers of this city deserve to know where every dollar is spent, and that it should be provided on a community-by-community basis. In addition, I believe that fast and efficient posting of comprehensive information about all city contracts and rankings of bidders should be posted to help create greater transparency and discourage the type of backroom deals that have undermined the public trust in the past. Finally, I currently do not support an oversight role for alderman in the contracting process.
The Shakman decree was supposed to end political hiring and firing at City Hall. As mayor, what would you do to bring the city into Shakman compliance? Be specific.
I believe that every qualified individual has a constitutional right to obtain public employment, regardless of their political affiliation. As Mayor, I believe it would be my moral and civic responsibility to ensure that only the best and most qualified individuals are hired to serve our city. I would work closely with the court-appointed monitor to make any necessary reforms to the city’s process.
As we all know, the City of Chicago faces a budget shortfall of up to $1 billion. It is deeply troubling to know that the University of Illinois at Chicago released a report last year that stated that our citizens have paid a “corruption tax” of over $500 million in recent years, and that those costs include poor work performance by unqualified political hires that have plagued our government. I will not only do everything I can to bring pride and honor back into city service, but to restore the credibility of our city’s hiring practices by bring the most qualified and independent human resources consultants to the table and recruiting the highest qualified individuals to serve our city.
Should there be new limits on who can lobby City Hall officials, including aldermen? Should former City Hall employees be prohibited from doing business with the city after their departure? If so, for how long?
It is inappropriate for elected officials to lobby government. In addition, I support “revolving door” restrictions that limit former City Hall employees from doing business with city contractors that they managed while working with the city or from lobbying their former colleagues for up to two years after their departure.
Do you support an inspector general just for the city council? Would you support giving the city’s existing inspector general the power to investigate aldermen and their staffs, including subpoena power? What should be done with the weak Chicago Board of Ethics?
Yes, I believe that there should be one inspector general for the entire city, and that they should have their power to investigate alderman and their staffs.
While the City of Chicago currently must address a critical budget crisis, I believe that we must empower the Chicago Board of Ethics to more aggressively perform their responsibility to provide guidance and legal opinions on ethical compliance throughout city government. I believe that a review is needed to ensure that the Board has all of the resources necessary to properly respond to questions and concerns, and to work closely wit the Inspector General’s Office.
What’s the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?
I believe that “The Chicago River: A Natural and Unnatural History,” by Libby Hill, is one of the best books ever written about Chicago. The development of the Chicago River, from prehistoric times to the modern era IS the story of Chicago -- how and why the city grew the way it has. Virtually every aspect of this great city’s story -- environmental, political, population, architecture - is reflected along side the story of the River. I would follow Mayor Daley’s “One book, One city” program with stories such as this one. These are the books that link our citizens as residents to our very own environment and history. We should cultivate all aspects of our own rich story.
Please list your educational background
I am a Certified Public Accountant and have a PhD in Non-Profit Management. These have given me a deep understanding of fiscal and management challenges and complexities. My education has helped me greatly in bringing economic development in some of Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods. I believe these two qualifications are particularly important to have in a mayor that must address our current budget deficit and restructure government to be more efficient and productive to strengthen the city and meet the needs of residents.
In addition to my professional degrees I have learned from the diverse communities where I have worked. I have a strong track record of developing and advancing pragmatic policy efforts as a community organizer and know how the legislature in Springfield operates from the bottom up.
Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong
I have dedicated my whole life to public service and creating opportunities for communities to empower themselves. As the Executive Director of Target Area Development Corporation, I worked with grassroots community organizations to educate and empower residents around the most significant issues impacting our city. We focused on addressing economic development, education and public safety - the three foundations of a safe and flourishing community.
I increased the budget of Target Area Development Corporation from $10,000 to $3 million, and made it possible for us to bring in over 1000 jobs for the communities where I worked. I led our organization in the development of 48 units of affordable housing on Chicago’s South and West Sides and brought in $52 million to redevelop Auburn-Gresham’s 79th Street Corridor. In addition, I was the lead developer and financial advisor that brought in $6 million to fund 36 units of housing for low income families.
I have dedicated my life to bringing parents into the solution-making process, along with students and teachers, to address the poor conditions of our public education system. I led city and statewide coalitions such as “Parents & Residents Invested in School and Education Reform” (PRISE), and helped create the Grow Your Own Teacher program to address the high teacher turnover rates and increase the number of teachers of color within our public schools.
In addition, I have worked with residents in communities with the highest crime, incarceration and recidivism rates to develop proactive solutions that reduce crime and provide communities with the tools they need to reduce risk among the record numbers of offenders being released from prison back to Chicago annually. To address the city’s public safety issues, I founded the Developing Justice Coalition, which represents 22 organizations from throughout the city, that successfully lobbied to provide more support to high crime communities, and to pass legislation to reduce recidivism.
In order to facilitate much-needed partnerships between communities, government and faith-based leaders, I also founded the United Congress of Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), a multi ethnic alliance advancing human rights and equity policies in Springfield.
I also have had the honor of working and sitting on the boards of Advance Illinois (a statewide education advocacy organization).
In addition, I am the only candidate in this race that serves as a Steering Committee member of CHANGE Illinois (a statewide political reform organization).
Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?
Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed
Joseph Stanford $165,000
Gertha Lusby $7,500
Sharod Gordon $6,000
Jerry Phillips $6,000
Barbara Madden $5,000
Please paste a brief biography here
For 30 years, I have worked in Chicago’s neighborhoods to improve the lives of average people. Born on the near North Side and raised in Cabrini Green, I have lived in Chicago my entire life.
I began my professional life as a steelworker on the South Side, where I was a union steward. I subsequently earned my bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees while raising my two children and co-founding the 300-member Ambassadors of Christ Church in Chicago’s Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.
In 1995, I founded the Target Area Development Corp., a community organization that saw its budget swell from $10,000 to $3 million and generated jobs under my leadership. My organization led partnership to redevelop the 79th Street Corridor between Halsted and Ashland to help grow business and create jobs and opportunities for residents. We fought with the SEIU to successfully ensure that local hospitals provide their fair share of Charity Care. I shepherded passage of landmark criminal justice legislation through the Illinois legislature by uniting states attorneys and the ex-offenders they prosecuted to improve public safety. I taught residents how to empower themselves by staking out corners and peaceably banishing drug-dealers from their neighborhoods. And I’ve worked for decades to improve education by recruiting more diversity to the teaching profession and promoting efforts to reduce violence in our schools.
I have not accomplished these things by myself. The root of my success comes from joining hands and forming coalitions across ethnic, religious and partisan lines to solve common problems. I created an alliance of religious organizations uniting people of Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faiths to address the shared needs of our communities. I joined a former Republican Governor and Speaker of the House, as well as a Democratic Commerce Secretary as a co-founder of the board of an education-reform movement.
I believe that the best way to solve problems is to address them directly and to solve them together. I believe that the best way to lead people is to work with them. And I believe that if you see a problem and do nothing to address it, you’re responsible for it.
This is why I am running for Mayor of Chicago. I see a city that has made progress in recent years, but lost the trust of its people; a city that benefits insiders, but leaves everyday people on the margins. I want to keep building a smart, safe and sustainable city of the future. . . . and, I believe that can only be achieved through empowering our greatest asset -- the people and communities of Chicago. I am determined to start the next great chapter in our city’s history; a future with a city government that is for the people, by the people, and of the people.