Updated: February 7, 2011 7:23AM
Birth date: 11-29-1959
Political affiliation: Democrat
Occupation/Firm name: Mayoral candidate
Marital status: Married
Campaign HQ address: 33 S. State St.
Campaign website: www.chicagoforrahm.com
What is your campaign budget?
What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?
My campaign is focused on strong schools, safe streets and stable city finances. I have already begun to lay out specific proposals to address these three core issues, and will be offering comprehensive plans on each over the next two months.
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?
I cannot look Chicago taxpayers in the eyes and say that our government is operating in the most efficient way possible. I have promised a top to bottom review of the budget to determine what city government should do and how we can provide services more efficiently. Before even considering additional taxes and fees, I will cut waste, fraud and inefficiencies. Opportunities for cost savings include both better management of city operations and better coordination and cooperation with sister agencies and other units of local government.
The use of reserve funds to finance day-to-day operations is irresponsible. Any future asset lease must be structured in an entirely different way, putting funds in a lockbox or investing in infrastructure to benefit taxpayers and our labor force in the long-run, not to pay down short-term operating expenses.
I have already begun to outline proposals that will spur job growth while cutting government expenditures. I would start by improving service and reducing costs in Chicago's trash collection system by moving to a grid- or zone-based system and possibly open up the process to managed competition. This reform is estimated to save taxpayers more than $60 million each year. I have also proposed moving our healthcare program to one focused on health and wellness. This incentive-based program has proven incredibly successful in the private sector and is estimated to save the city $50 million each year. Over the next two months, I will be laying out additional, concrete proposals to balance our budget without raising taxes.
More generally, there are several things we can do across all programs to reduce costs by millions of dollars. For example, the city's workers' compensation costs and rate of workplace accidents are unacceptably high. Top performing public and private organizations make worker safety an absolute priority, target zero lost time accidents and never compromise safety. As mayor, I will create a culture of safety, institute a professional safety and workers' compensation program, and track and publicly report all incidents on a weekly basis. This program is estimated to cut workers' compensation costs by at least $10 million dollars in its first full year of operations and will result in greater annual savings as the program becomes established and expands.
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?
Getting pensions on a sustainable path to protect retirement savings -- and protecting the average Chicago taxpayer -- is integral to getting the city's finances back on track. There is no doubt that the pension system as currently structured is dishonest and unsustainable. The recent passage of 3538 only makes matters more urgent.
I will be outlining a full pension reform proposal that includes six key steps. First, we need to be honest with both taxpayers and city workers. The current pension system is not sustainable. The true cost of pension obligations must be factored into the cost of city services and reported publicly. Funding needs to be tied to actuarial requirements and responsible timeframes need to be set to reach those funding levels. Second, we must demand better performance and more accountability from pension fund managers. Third, we must be open to more efficient and effective approaches to fund management, and consider better coordination and efficiencies between funds including city and state funds. Fourth, benefits should be restructured, and some work has already taken place under state law. The options for restructuring will have to include consideration of a full range of savings and funding strategies. Fifth, the obligation to pay for pension contributions must be shared by the city and its employees and should be determined through negotiations, not unfunded legislative mandates. Sixth, the police and fire funds should not be responsible for disability payments. These funds face enough challenges managing dollars on behalf of retirees, administration of these payments distracts pension fund managers and board members, exceeds their expertise and is contrary to best practice approaches for the management of workers compensation and employee safety.
I think the portion of the legislation that mandates 90 percent funding levels by 2040, with mandatory property tax increases beginning in 2015, is untenable and I would push for a change. Funding this provision would require a near doubling of property taxes, something I am not willing to do.
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?
Businesses are focused on the same three issues that every Chicagoan cares most about -- the strength of our schools, the safety of our streets and the sustainability of our finances. Without these three strong pillars, Chicago stands at a competitive disadvantage and will lose new business investment and jobs to other cities.
As I have throughout my career, I will be focused like a laser on helping new industries grow in Chicago, and on attracting businesses from around the world. Growth in downtown jobs and property values is one thing, but building vibrant local economies is far more sustainable and equitable. I look to the role I played in moving the Old Town School of Music to a space on Lincoln Avenue that had little economic vitality. By creating a strong anchor in the community and pushing small businesses to fill in around it, we created a vibrant local economy that creates jobs and produces revenue for the city. We need to do this in more communities by creating strong anchors, whether they be a cultural institution, a school or a transportation hub.
For larger businesses, one specific burden is the so-called head tax, which penalizes job creation in Chicago by adding a $1 tax for every new employee. I have proposed a full phase-out of the tax over the next four years, with a full offset of the revenue lost by reducing regulatory requirements that further burden investment and job creation. For example, increasing online permit/license applications and self-certification will reduce the need for staff to process paper applications. Streamlining the licensing, permit review and inspection processes -- which are currently spread across multiple departments -- will reduce redundancies, overhead, staff and taxpayer dollars.
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?
I would like to see a leadership team of CPS that includes people who have taught and led in a public school system -- someone who both understands how to run a large organization and what actually happens in the classroom. The choice between a manager and an educator is a false choice: we need both.
The next CEO faces incredible challenges. I've outlined a detailed plan to better invest in our public schools and improve opportunities for our children by focusing on three pillars: involved parents, dedicated principals, and effective teachers.
Principals should receive the independence they need and, in return, be held accountable for their school's performance. I would seek to implement a performance contract for every school in the CPS system -- five-year contracts between each principal and CPS to set clear expectations for student achievement and hold the principal accountable for the results. I have also called for a local version of the federal Race to the Top program to incentivize principals to continue to innovate. Schools will be judged on the basis of parental involvement, teacher quality and student achievement. The ideas and programs of the winning schools will be shared with all other schools in the system. In this way, every school can benefit from this new Chicago Education Innovation Fund.
Our children deserve nothing less than an effective teacher. We need to retain the best and attract the brightest. That's why I will push to create a new salary scale for teachers so that the best of the best can reach top compensation in eight years. The most effective teachers, based on student performance, will qualify for bonuses if they transfer to a low-performing school. To help teachers improve, we'll double the number of slots in our urban teacher residency programs to create an expanding corps of 160 top-flight teachers each year -- all committed to spending five years in Chicago's public schools.
I want to make Chicago the first city in the nation to institute parent-teacher contracts at the beginning of the school year. Those contracts will commit each parent to help in their child's education by limiting the hours spent on TV and video games and by reading together every night. We will start with the parents of children in pre-K and kindergarten, and then look to expand it. If parents find their children stuck in a school that simply isn't doing the job, we should empower them to force changes by allowing a majority of parents to legally force a failing school's transformation -- through administrative changes, bringing in a new operator, or by shutting it down and starting over. Giving parents this power would encourage them to play a larger role in their children's education, and with greater power would come greater responsibility.
Renaissance 2010 helped to spur innovation, expand school choice for students and parents, and create some of the best charter schools in the country. Our job now is to learn from this innovation and expand the programs that worked. We have successful school models and operators -- whether neighborhood school, magnet, turnaround or charter -- and we now need to replicate and scale what works so more Chicago students can take advantage of these high quality educational opportunities.
It is difficult to pass judgment on the "culture of calm" strategy until we see hard evidence that it improved safety and reduced violent incidents. If it has proven successful, it could be a model worth expanding.
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?
I will be laying out a full crime plan before the election that addresses three main concerns: how to better utilize CPD resources by streamlining the management structure and investing in the beat cop; getting illegal guns off our streets; and curbing youth violence.
I have already outlined a piece of my plan to increase the number of cops on the beat through the TIF program. We know that redeveloping blighted, high-crime areas requires a broader approach than the targeted economic stimulus and beautification efforts that are funded by TIFs. I have proposed a three-year strategy to drive down the violent crime rate in these areas by using excess TIF funds that are intended to promote economic development in each location. This strategy would add 250 police officers to new squads that target crime in and around TIFs that are impacted by high crime rates. Driving down violent crime will help stabilize communities, raise property values and make neighborhoods attractive for investment and job creation -- the exact purpose of the TIF program.
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?
Tax increment financing serves as an important economic development tool in Chicago and other cities, but the lack of transparency in budgeting and program implementation creates the substantial risk of wasteful and inefficient spending. Creating jobs and stabilizing communities is too important of a job to take the risk that property tax dollars aren't being spent wisely or responsibly. My TIF reform proposal will increase performance and will bring greater transparency, accountability and flexibility to the program. First, it shines a light on the TIF decision-making process by putting all financial and spending information -- including maps, plans, budgets, and redevelopment contracts -- online in an easy-to-use format. I will also ensure that the TIF budget is fully integrated into the formal city budgeting process.
Second, I have proposed a time-limited panel of economic development and financial experts to establish best practices and return-on-investment goals for each TIF to accelerate job creation. The panel will be tasked with categorizing TIFs into three groups -- for those that have met their stated goals, we will close them down; for those that are meeting short-term goals but have yet to meet overall economic development goals, we will require that they set clear long-term performance targets and an estimated date of closure; and for those that are underperforming, we will ask the panel to recommend rapid turn-around plans or make a recommendation to close them down.
Ultimately, we must ensure that the TIF program is achieving its initial goal: promoting development in blighted areas.
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 am opposed to selling city assets or privatizing services to pay operating expenses. That's a mistake, and it's off the table. Any future asset sale or long-term lease must be structured in an entirely different way, putting funds in a lockbox or investing in infrastructure to benefit taxpayers and our labor force in the long-run, not to pay down short-term operating expenses. I would also work to ensure that the process if more open to public input, that taxpayers get some cut of future revenue growth, and that any private firm doing business with the city is held accountable under the same labor and safety laws that govern every other firm.
Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where do you want the casinos located?
My priority for any new casino would be ensuring that the city gains a net economic benefit and that the revenue stream of any gaming within the city would benefit Chicagoans and not drain funds from our city. A casino is not a panacea -- we need to create good paying jobs in Chicago in sustainable industries. But the truth is Chicago already has casinos -- they're in Hammond and Gary, Indiana.
The Chicago Housing Authority's massive plan to transform public housing has stalled. How would you jumpstart that effort?
Providing and maintaining affordable housing alternatives for Chicago residents is critical to the long term health of our city. A strong local economy depends on our ability to offer our citizens safe and affordable homes in communities that bring together businesses, quality education, recreation and access to transportation.
Chicago has been a national leader with the CHA's Plan for Transformation -- a plan I helped develop -- and it has been very successful in many ways. However, with any bold plan like this one embarked upon by the CHA more than ten years ago, there are plenty of things that need to be improved as we continue to learn from the experience, listen to the residents impacted and adjust to the market realities of the current housing crisis.
To date, the Plan for Transformation has allowed Chicago to move beyond the failed experiments of the 1950's that gave us concentrations of high rise public housing projects isolated in poor neighborhoods, plagued by crime and unsafe conditions for residents. While conditions have improved vastly for most, this has not always been a painless transition for residents and communities.
The goal is to achieve economic self-sufficiency for residents in neighborhoods that are better integrated into the broader community, but this cannot solely be the government's responsibility. We must continue to encourage and stimulate private sector investment, and wide community participation and acceptance for this to be a success.
We are now embarking on the next stage of the Plan for Transformation that will include Lathrop Homes on the north side, and we have only one chance to get this right. We must continue to listen to residents and community leaders to develop the right plan that will alter the landscape for future generations and make our entire city stronger.
Other U.S. cities have managed to create successful curbside recycling programs. How would you make it work here?
Improving and expanding curbside recycling is a top priority of mine, but it must be balanced against the massive yearly deficits facing the next mayor. I am committed to making this a long-term project so that all Chicago residents have access to curbside recycling.
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?
I believe this is a false choice -- Chicagoans expect that both the mayor and City Council members play an active role in finding solutions to the challenges facing our city. I will work to establish a new relationship with the City Council. We can't go back to the Council Wars, nor do I expect that the City Council will serve as a rubber stamp for the Mayor. I will view the City Council as a governing partner with shared responsibilities.
Would you accept campaign contributions from companies that contract with the City of Chicago? Would you accept campaign contributions or gifts from city employees?
Contributions from contractors are already strictly regulated under the law. If I have the pleasure of serving as Mayor, I'll sign an executive order banning contributions from contractors that do business with the city. I will not accept contributions or gifts from city 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?
Maximum transparency can help ensure that political considerations are not allowed to mix with contract decisions. No-bid contracts should be rare and reserved for extraordinary situations, and the Non-Competitive Review Board (NCRB) should be more transparent and user friendly by making its meetings public and putting all contracts, meeting notices, agendas and minutes online. I have announced that I will require all individuals involved in any stage in the development of specifications for a no-bid contract to disclose their role to the Inspector General, and will require that any significant modifications to no-bid contracts be subject to the same review as the original contract. Emergency contracts should be reserved for true emergencies and limited to 90 days or the length of the emergency. When contracts are handed out based not on low bids but more subjective criteria (like RFP's), the work of the city's evaluation committee must be made completely transparent.
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.
Today, in response to past abuses, city hiring is subject to external oversight and control. While third-party oversight adds cost and complexity to the hiring process, it is in place to ensure that city hiring is fair and legal. That oversight will only end when the city has a human resources program that complies with the law and meets the needs of Chicago residents and taxpayers. My plan will give Chicago's hiring process the fresh start it needs by establishing a clear precedent: political considerations will never override merit, for both hiring and other employment decisions. I will consistently send the message from the top that political influences in employment decisions will not be tolerated. A history of patronage has cost taxpayers millions in wasteful appointments, and has damaged the morale of the thousands of hard-working city employees.
I'll start by appointing a Commissioner of Human Resources with a long record in the field and be given total freedom from political influence. The Commissioner will be given clear power to alter departmental hiring decisions that put the candidate's politics over his or her credentials. I will also contract out hiring of civil service employees to a private company through a competitive bidding process. These professionals will need to have an in-depth understanding of the hiring needs for its service area as well as contractual and legal compliance requirements.
The best rules and intentions are meaningless if a strong, independent enforcement and compliance function is not in place. I agree with the recent action that moved the hiring compliance function from the Office of Compliance to the IG's Office. This helps ensure that the City has the strongest possible effort in place to comply with the rules mandating that politics play no part in employment decisions.
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?
On my first day in office, I will sign an executive order that closes the revolving door between government service and lobbying. An appointment to city government or a city board should be about serving the people of Chicago, not about building a client list for your next job. The order will ban any mayoral appointee to City Hall or a city department from returning to lobby their colleagues for two years. It will also ban any public board appointee from going back to lobby the public organization they served.
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?
Last month I stood with former Inspector General David Hoffman and unveiled my plan to empower the Inspector General by expanding the office's oversight and protecting its budget from political pressure. To ensure oversight of the City Council, I believe we need a strong and independent Board of Ethics. The Board should be focused on providing legal opinions and guidance that holds all government officials -- including City Council members -- to the highest standards, not as a venue to find wiggle room in ordinances. Any ethics investigations resulting from the Board's findings should be handled by an empowered IG's Office.
Within my first six months in office, I will propose a major overhaul of the ethics ordinance. It is an outdated document that is vague and full of loopholes that allow for liberal interpretations to skirt laws. The Board's records and information should also be fully transparent to the Inspector General so that the IG's office is able to use the information to root out waste and corruption.
What's the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?
Devil in the White City. It had mystery, truth, architecture. It was about Chicago at the early stages and, in addition to the mystery, captured the entrepreneurial spirit that drove the city's emergence on the international stage.
Please list your educational background
I graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 1981 and earned a Master's Degree in speech and communication from Northwestern University in 1985.
Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong
Relinquished memberships during the period in which I served as Chief-of-Staff.
Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?
I served as White House Chief of Staff for the past two years. In the six previous years, from 2003 to 2009, I served in the U.S. House of Representatives from Illinois's 5th district. I served as a Senior Advisor to President Clinton from 1993 to 1998.
Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government
Neither Amy nor I have had a contract with the Chicago city government. I served as Vice-Chair (unpaid) of the Chicago Housing Authority as it developed the Plan for Transformation. In 1991, Amy held a position with the Chicago Department of the Environment.
Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed
All of my contributors and the amount they contributed will be posted for public scrutiny at the end of every reporting period.
Please paste a brief biography here
I was born and raised in Chicago and began my career with the consumer rights organization Illinois Public Action. I worked on Paul Simon's 1984 election to the U.S. Senate and in 1989 served as a senior adviser and chief fundraiser for Mayor Daley. I then served as a senior adviser to President Bill Clinton. After leaving the White House, I returned to Chicago to take a job in the private sector before deciding to run for Congress. I was elected by the people of the 5th congressional district to four terms before being asked by President Obama to serve as his chief of staff.