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Mayor: Gery Chico

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Updated: February 7, 2011 6:06AM



Birth date: 08-24-1956

Political affiliation: Democrat

Occupation/Firm name: Attorney, Chico & Nunes

Marital status: Married

Campaign HQ address: 333 W. Wacker, Suite 320, Chicago IL, 60606

Campaign website: www.gerychico.com

What is your campaign budget?

$4 million

What are your top priorities for the City of Chicago?

My top priorities are all inter-related, and they are key to keeping our neighborhoods strong and our city great. As Mayor I will work to make it easier for businesses to open, grow and expand across our city. We must create new jobs. Preparing our kids for these jobs by improving our schools will make our city more attractive for businesses looking to locate in Chicago. Adding thousands of police officers to our streets is probably the single most important thing we can do to keep our neighborhoods safe. Children cannot learn and neighborhoods cannot thrive if people don’t feel safe.

I am the only candidate to have written and released a comprehensive education plan that when fully implemented will truly transform our children’s future. (My plan is available at www.gerychico.com.) Some key elements of my education plan include an unprecedented expansion of pre-school learning centers. Waiting until a child is five years old to begin formal education is simply too late. I believe more time on task is critical for producing better results. I want to begin the process of expanding the school year and lengthening the school day immediately until we have added 25 additional days each year and 2 additional hours each day. Technology is also a critical factor. We can’t prepare children for the jobs of the future if we are relying too heavily on old traditional textbooks. The future of learning is now and we are behind. By the end of my first term as Mayor every student in our public school system will be issued a laptop to use for the school year. Parents also must have more high quality choices as well as information on their range of choices. I will create Parent Academies for every school to ensure our parents have the information and ability to make informed decisions for the benefit of their children.

When it comes to job creation, first and foremost, city hall must get out of the way. There’s a saying that businesses open and expand in Chicago “in spite of the city.” As Mayor, I will motivate businesses to open “because of the city.” Eighty percent of Chicago employers are small businesses. Throughout my career and in this campaign, I have met and worked with many small business owners and they all tell me the same thing: the complicated maze of costly rules and regulations is strangling their growth.

Thanks to the new digital economy, commerce is moving faster than ever. We need to bring government up to speed. We can make it easier to do business here by streamlining government agencies, freeing up access to capital, keeping taxes as low as possible and cutting red tape that often stymies business growth. I will be releasing a comprehensive jobs policy that addresses a full range of job creation issues including replenishing our lost manufacturing base and bringing in more green collar jobs. Please check my website www.gerychico.com for updates.

Finally, I believe the first responsibility of government is keeping people safe. Every day our police force is nearly 2,000 officers short of authorized manpower. We should not shift officers out of neighborhoods they are making safer into neighborhoods that need more police presence. The answer is to put more police on the streets. When I served as the Mayor’s Chief of Staff in the 1990”s we were facing a similar situation. Our city was teetering on the brink of decline. One important action we took was to hire well over a thousand new police officers to fight crime. We became safer. The same must be done today. It is an expensive undertaking, but there is no more important budget priority.

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?

Citizens deserve the highest quality schools, streets, parks and services that their hard-earned tax dollars can provide. For the past few years the City of Chicago has “kicked the can” by relying on one-time revenue sources to balance the budget. Just as the public has made adjustments in their standard of living, the government must also make adjustments-substantial ones. As Mayor of Chicago, I will lead by example by reducing my own salary by 20%.

After years of inflated spending, government has become increasingly bloated and inefficient. The next Mayor will face significant challenges upon taking office. The city’s projected deficit is $650 million, and there is no silver bullet when it comes to reducing spending or increasing revenues. However, new leadership provides an opportunity to reevaluate the way city government functions. Upon taking office I will examine every agency and every program and ask: What is the mission? What do I need to perform this mission? Each agency will be reorganized to accomplish their mission in a manner that is efficient and effective.

As President of the Chicago Public Schools, I cut over 1,500 bureaucratic positions at the CPS Central Office, saving millions of dollars and re-routing resources to the classrooms. Government is about service, and we should be setting the standard for how that service is delivered. By changing the way we think about, and approach government at all levels, I will both reduce costs and increase efficiencies.

A structurally balanced budget with minimal one-time adjustments will require not only a significant number of cuts to city spending, but also a change in the way we approach government. I will examine every opportunity for cuts in spending and increases in revenue. Several examples are: 1) Prompt bill payment. The city is known to chronically pay bills late. This costs additional money, not only in late fees, but also in higher contract bids by firms that have learned through experience to increase their bids to finance the city. Also, the city wastes an opportunity to take a 2% discount by paying its bills on time. The potential savings generated from prompt payment are estimated at $35 to 40 million per year; 2) End no bid contracts. Competition inherently drives down costs, and competitively bidding city contracts, including all lobbying, bond and lawyering contracts, is estimated to save the city between $20 to 40 million per year. 3) City-owned casino license. If Springfield is going to allow for a casino in the City of Chicago, the City should own the license so taxpayers can benefit as much as possible from the revenues. The revenues from this casino could be hundreds of millions of dollars each year. 4) Advance the use of technology in agencies city-wide. Integrating technology will create more efficiency, effectiveness and coordination throughout the city, and also reduce costs. These are just four quick examples. We will look at hundreds of areas of government to cut spending, increase revenue and be more efficient in operations.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will be facing substantial budgetary challenges and we will not take anything off the table. As my record demonstrates, I have been able to generate revenues without raising taxes or fees. A tax or fee hike will be the last place we look for new revenues.

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?

Moving forward, this will be an enormous issue that will require tough decisions by all parties. Any pension solution must be comprehensive, addressing all four funds; police, fire, municipal workers and labor, and the burden must be shared.

Recent legislation addressing the pensions of police and fire made property owners in the City of Chicago solely responsible for the increased contribution to pension funds. This legislation required an additional contribution of $550 million per year from property taxes. This would require a significant increase in the property taxes of each Chicago taxpayer as property values are declining, and economic stresses are increasing.

Further, this tax increase would disproportionally impact businesses located in Chicago at a time when we need to be doing everything we can to attract business to our city in order to create jobs. This bill does not spread the burden adequately, and must be re-evaluated.

We understand that we need to be funding pensions based on the actuarial needs, but the burden must be shared. How we share this burden must be negotiated through collective bargaining. Even labor has acknowledged that they must increase contributions. As Mayor of Chicago, I will work with labor, legislators and all other interested parties to reach a consensus. Any solution must be comprehensive and take into account the interests of both taxpayers and city workers.

Any increase in retirement age must be addressed carefully. Increasing the retirement age for office positions should be looked at differently than increasing the retirement age of a police officer or firefighter who has spent the past 30 years risking his or her life to keep us safe.

Throughout my career I’ve led labor negotiations on behalf of the City of Chicago, the Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Schools. I’ve been in the trenches working with virtually every labor organization including SEIU, teachers, firefighters, police, AFSCME and the trades to develop labor agreements that worked for all interested parties. I have never led a negotiation that ended in a stalemate or a strike -- and I am confident that all parties, working in good faith, together will find the right solution. If we don’t, however, I would be prepared to make the tough decisions necessary to solve this problem for taxpayers -- because the next Mayor has no choice but to set us on the right, sustainable path. We cannot “kick the can” any further down the road.

There is a shared pain in any solution, but based on my history, I am confident we will be able to reach a consensus that is fair for all parties.

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?

Chicago is a city with a long history of having an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit. One would be hard pressed to find a product that wasn’t made in Chicago at some point in time. We were once known as the rail hub of the world, the printing capital, a center for candy industry, innovator in the radio industry, and countless smaller, diverse operations. Throughout our history we have evolved as new forces and trends transformed society. We aren’t those things anymore, but the spirit that created this city still lives on today.

As Mayor of Chicago, job creation, at every level, will be a top priority. I will lead with a strong focus on attracting and retaining jobs and businesses to our city. I will personally lead recruitment missions to bring high-quality jobs and businesses to Chicago.

For the greater part of a decade civic organizations such as Chicago Metropolis 2020 and the Metropolitan Planning Council have pushed for greater regional cooperation on economic development and growth. New governmental entities like the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) have emerged to foster better regional planning to reduce traffic congestion and encourage balanced and equitable economic development throughout the region. I intend to position the City of Chicago, working with Cook County Government and the State of Illinois, as a destination of choice for businesses. Issues such as the quality of living, access to transportation, access to capital, and most importantly taxes will determine whether businesses choose to come to Chicago over other destinations. Chicago needs to aggressively pursue businesses, solicit feedback, and ensure that we are investing in the appropriate infrastructure while keeping taxes low.

For too long I’ve heard stories about the difficulty business owners-large and small-have had working with city government. And I’ve seen first hand how difficult it can be to do business in this city. I will make it easier to do business here by streamlining government agencies, freeing up access to capital, keeping taxes as low as possible and cutting red tape that often stymies business growth.

Unemployment levels are high across our city, but particularly among those who are under-educated. Dropout rates in Chicago Public Schools are staggering, and workers with less than a high school diploma are nearly four times less likely to be employed than workers with a bachelor’s degree (Heartland Alliance.) Quality education is the foundation for economic mobility. That’s why the education plan I released earlier in my campaign highlights the importance of a good fundamental education in creating a better workforce. My plan includes the expansion and promotion of technical training throughout CPS. I will also work with the business community to provide universal work-study programs for high-school students. This will enable older students to use their time productively, learning life skills and giving them exposure, experience and a vision for the future. (My full education plan is available at gerychico.com.) Additionally, there are over 47,000 high-school aged youth in Chicago that have dropped out of school. I will work to re-enroll these students and set them on a path to opportunity.

Further, the job creation plan that I will release shortly will rely heavily on education and career support for all Chicagoans. As the Chairman of the City Colleges of Chicago, I was influential in designing a new system that led to the reinvention of the City Colleges. As Mayor of Chicago, I will work with corporations and the City Colleges to structure job-training programs that fit skill-sets with the jobs available and needed by industry in our city. I will also implement a heightened focus on job placement.

More coordinated and focused job training and placement will help those who are unemployed or under-employed, and the highly-skilled workforce that will result will help our city attract more corporations, not-for-profits, small businesses and other job creators.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will ensure that Chicago is a “business-friendly” city that is at the top of the list for any business looking to expand or create a business. If we are going to truly grow our economy and create jobs, we must have incentives in place that will attract businesses, as well as a highly-skilled workforce. In the next few weeks I will be releasing a comprehensive jobs plan that will outline my agenda for attracting businesses (large, medium and small) to our city. I often hear that things get done “in spite of the city.” When I’m Mayor, such talk will change. Things will get done “with the support of the city.” Chicago is a great city. I’m committed to making it even greater.

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?

CPS is a $6 billion entity funded by taxpayer dollars. It is necessary to have a Chief Executive Officer with broad-based management experience to ensure money is spent as wisely as possible to support the CPS strategic plan. As Mayor of Chicago, I will support a structure for CPS using a Chief Executive Officer and a Chief Education Officer. Together they will drive the system, and at the end of the day, I believe the Mayor should be accountable for the success or failure of the public schools since they are so integral to the overall well being of the city.

The vision that drives the CPS should be developed by the mayor, in consultation with the CEO and Chief Education Officer. My goal is simple-- make every Chicago Public School one that performs and one that parents want to send their children. The particular way in which that goal is achieved would be brought about by an extremely talented and inspiring CEO and Chief Education Officer.

I will conduct a thorough vetting of all programs to ensure they are achieving the vision and goals that we establish.

The Renaissance 2010 Initiative taught us two important lessons; there is tremendous demand for high quality new schools and when a school is failing, and there are more ways to intervene than merely shutting the school down. As Mayor, I will make sure that the school board and its managers fully assess the causes of failure or under-performance in our schools and that there is a system of progressive assistance to bring performance back. I will see that the difficult decisions that need to be made are made, whether it is providing support for a school in need, changing the schools’ leadership, or creating an entirely new school.

The “Culture of Calm” initiative is an innovative program that addresses the very serious problem of violence that plagues our schools. My education plan (available at gerychico.com) highlights the priority that will be placed on making schools environments safe for both students and teachers. As Mayor of Chicago, I will take a holistic approach to reducing violence in and around schools. I will work with administrators, parents, community leaders and Chicago Police Department leadership to provide support for peace and calm in our schools.

Many parents are demanding more school choice in the form of charter and magnet schools, and as Mayor I believe it’s important to meet these demands. That said, neighborhood schools are, and will continue to be, the backbone of our school system. The majority of CPS students are enrolled in neighborhood schools, and as Mayor of Chicago, I will be committed to investing in and improving our neighborhood schools.

Research shows that the most important influence on a student’s achievement is a high-quality teacher. We must ensure that we have only the best teachers and principals in every school. As I have done before, I will personally lead national recruitment missions to find the best teachers and principals to fill our schools. I will implement a research-based teacher evaluation system, and ensure that those high performing teachers are recognized and rewarded, and will not hesitate to fire those who are not able to succeed in the classroom. I will identify and replicate high performing neighborhood school models, and ensure that our most successful and scalable practices in these schools inform larger district improvement efforts.

By holding students, teachers, and parents accountable, we will improve morale, and see measurable gains in student achievement reflected in both test scores and graduation rates. My education agenda, released several week ago, lays out my plans in more detail (go to gerychico.com to learn more), including among other things: giving all students laptops by the end of my first term, creating parent academies for every school, recruiting excellent teachers and principals, etc. I intend to once again make CPS a stronger schools system that is equipped to help shape our children’s lives.

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?

Simply put, I believe the first responsibility of government is to keep people safe. We cannot discuss giving our children a quality education, or attracting businesses to our city without discussing the necessity of creating a safe city.

While some crime may be down statistically, the depravity of a 19 year-old senselessly killing a police officer and a former security officer has re-highlighted a serious problem in our city. Everyday, Chicago’s police force is understaffed by 2,000 officers. That’s why as Mayor of Chicago, I will make it my goal to put 2,000 more police officers on the streets.

Giving the police force the strength it needs to keep our streets safe is not without challenge. We will need to find proper funding for sustainable strategies. One-time revenue sources--such as TIF dollars--to fund police officers is not sufficient.

The answer is not to shift officers out of neighborhoods they are making safer into neighborhoods that need more police presence. Rather, we must put more officers on the streets. I want to be clear that putting 2,000 police on the street does not mean hiring 2,000 new police officers. We will hire many hundreds of new police officers to be sure -- but there are other ways to get more trained officers on the streets everyday.

We have extremely skilled and talented police officers in administrative positions, working behind a desk. We must civilianize many of these office positions and shift our trained officers to the streets. Further, we must remove obstacles that are preventing trained officers from spending more time on the streets, such as paperwork and excessive time spent in court.

Ending violence is an endeavor that involves the participation of the entire community. Police need the support of community and faith-based organizations that are currently providing critical services to their communities.

I will reinvent the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) that facilitates the sharing of information and relationship building between police and citizens, particularly those who are most vulnerable-seniors and youth. Advancing technology, through initiatives such as my Sunshine Chicago plan, will heighten community engagement and the impact of this program.

We must strengthen our coordination and support of these organizations and programs to maximize our resources, and tackle violence prevention and reduction as effectively as possible.

Violence and education are inextricably linked. Just as we cannot discuss improving our education system without addressing public safety, we cannot discuss ending violence without discussing our education system. As Mayor of Chicago, I will lengthen the school day and school year, and also expand after-school programs, keeping students productive and off the streets. In addition, I will work with the business community to provide universal work-study programs for high-school students. This will enable older students to use their time productively, learning life skills and giving them exposure, experience and a vision for the future.

Finally, strong and respected leadership is critical for any agency, but particularly for the Chicago Police Department. As I have stated many times, I will appoint the next Superintendent from within the Chicago Police Department.

In the coming weeks, I will be releasing my public safety agenda that will outline detailed plans for adding more police to our streets, shifting resources to gang related policing, cracking down on drug dealers, and making every neighborhood safer and more secure. As has been the case with all of my policy proposals, my public safety proposal will be thoughtful, detailed and made fully available to the press and at gerychico.com.

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 have proven in many cases to be effective economic development and job creation tools for the city. I believe TIFs should be much more focused on job creation than in the past. We must use TIF dollars in a strategic way that is both growing current industries and attracting new industries to the city. And we must have mechanisms (such as audits) in place to ensure that jobs promised are jobs delivered.

We need to be very thoughtful in designating as TIF Districts. Although TIFs can help spur development and reinvestment in a blighted community, if there are no checks and balances put in place, TIF designation can result in the inappropriate diversion of tax dollars from governmental taxing bodies like CPS. That’s why I will develop a very robust framework that will oversee the implementation and use of TIF dollars.

I am committed to expanding upon the TIF sunshine proposal adopted in 2009 to make sure all TIFs are put online, including TIF agreements with private companies. As Mayor I will ensure that we regularly monitor TIF agreements to ensure that private companies are hiring locally, paying living wages and providing adequate health care benefits. I recently unveiled a transparency initiative, Sunshine Chicago, that would change the way the City of Chicago handles its public data. This initiative would create a new culture of openness, efficiency and community engagement in the city, and more specifically, open access to information and real-time tracking of TIF spending.

I will work with labor, the City Council and all other interested parties to figure out how to creatively use TIF funds to maximize job creation and economic development in areas that need it most.

In the near future I will be releasing a comprehensive jobs plan which will propose creative uses of TIF dollars to train and grow our workforce. As I have done throughout this campaign, I will share this detailed position paper with your reporters and editorial board members.

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 not philosophically opposed to privatizing public assets, but I am adamantly opposed to privatizing public assets that are fundamental to our way of life, such as the emergency call center and our water supply.

I would not allow another parking meter debacle to take place behind closed doors without adequate debate. Two years ago our city leased our parking meters for $1.157 billion. After this year’s budget, it appears we will only have $76 million left. As I speak to many Chicagoans, they often ask me where did all that money go? I recently introduced a citizen ordinance that would place the remaining monies from the long-term lease of the parking meters into a separate trust. I also proposed paying back the parking meters” long-term reserve account over years to restore this account and shore up our pension. Doing so would protect taxpayer dollars and help restore our credit rating by prohibiting further use of long-term reserves for short-term budget fixes.

Before we even begin to discuss the sale or lease of any city asset, we need to fully understand the benefits and costs to taxpayers and the city, and perform a transparent analysis of the transaction with the City Council and the public. A few principles will guide us, however, some of the proceeds will be set aside as long-term reserves and other proceeds should help fund new neighborhood capital improvements (such as new schools and libraries.)

To deal with the structural deficit of our city, the next Mayor must look at all options for spending cuts and increased revenue sources.

Do you support one or more casinos for Chicago? If so, where do you want the casinos located?

The City of Chicago, like so many units of government today, is struggling to find sufficient revenue to cover the costs of public services. The next Mayor, given deficit predictions, will need to make strategic cuts, find innovative new revenue opportunities, and balance the budget while maintaining core services that the citizens of Chicago expect.

The State Senate recently approved a bill that would allow for a casino in the City of Chicago. Casinos can bring with them new jobs, increased interest in convention and other destination travel, and new revenue streams for the city. To be clear, Illinois already offers gaming whether in the form of lotteries, racetrack betting, or riverboats. Experts, such as a Bill Eadington, Director of the Institute for Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada, Reno, have shown that new casinos do not create new gamblers, per se, and reminds us “the pie is finite.” Many Chicago residents currently travel outside of Chicago and the state into Indiana to visit casinos. We should keep those revenue streams here in the city, and leverage the placement of a casino to stimulate the economy here. That said, if Chicago is going to have a casino, the city should own the license so the city and taxpayers can benefit as much as possible.

There are several factors I will take into account when determining the location of this casino. Among other considerations, I will examine 1) revenue generation, 2) traffic flow, 3) impact on the quality of life in the surrounding community, and 4) potential for economic development and job creation.

The Chicago Housing Authority’s massive plan to transform public housing has stalled. How would you jumpstart that effort?

In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority launched the Plan for Transformation, an ambitious effort to transform the agency’s struggling public housing developments. The Plan called for replacing most of the developments with mixed-income communities and rehabilitating the remaining properties. The residents in these developments were extremely at-risk, plagued by crime and violence that was accentuated by high-concentration poverty. The goal of the plan was to set an example for conversion of distressed public housing into healthy communities that provide an improved quality of life for residents.

The physical impact of the plan has been beneficial to Chicago. The massive, run-down high rises that were long-time staples in the city’s most at-risk areas have disappeared. Newly built mixed-income communities now exist in their place, providing affordable housing, without creating concentrated areas of poverty.

The impact on the families living in these developments has not been as positive. When the plan was initially implemented, CHA was not sufficiently prepared to support the families living in the developments upon demolition. Initially, CHA did not have adequate programs for relocation, counseling, or other services that were vital to the wellbeing of families. Over time, CHA developed an improved relocation program, but in the interim, many individuals and families were displaced.

While many families impacted by the Plan currently live in better circumstances than the high-rise buildings infested with violence and crime, most of these families still struggle. While their physical surroundings may be upgraded, these families still have limited access to economic and educational opportunities, and they have extremely low rates of employment.

The housing market crisis has had a dramatic impact on affordable housing. The crisis has driven an alarming number of people from their homes, causing the numbers of those seeking affordable housing to surge. Earlier this year, CHA reported over 125,000 individuals seeking a spot on the waiting list for affordable housing. Only 40,000 of these individuals were granted spots on the waiting list, and most have yet to be housed. The increasing number of those in need, and decreasing investment in development highlights the need for action.

Additional funding would not only allow for more development, but would also spur local economies. I will seek federal funding to jumpstart this program, while also exploring new, creative financing models and plans that would encourage investment in CHA development projects.

Learning from the past, I will focus not only on providing quality housing, but also creating sustainable communities that include new educational opportunities, workforce training and development and good career pathways for CHA residents. I will adopt the Leadership and Energy and Environment Design Neighborhood Development standards as a framework for future development projects. This model integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into the first national system for neighborhood design. We must be creative about how we are building and structuring new communities if we are going to incentivize investment.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will also work to pass and implement the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance that will allocate up to $100 million in TIF funds for low-income housing. With over 88,000 homeless people in Chicago (Chicago Coalition for Homelessness), and over 125,000 residents seeking affordable housing, we must be creative in the way we allocate resources to meet this increasing societal need.

Other U.S. cities have managed to create successful curbside recycling programs. How would you make it work here?

If the City of Chicago is going to be a leading green city, we must move to a functioning, workable city-wide recycling plan. In 2008, the city started a blue cart, curb-side pickup program for recycling. Due to budgetary problems, only about one-third of the 600,000 eligible households in Chicago have blue cart recycling pick-up service. For those who do not receive the service, there are about 35 drop-off centers throughout the city where people can bring their recycling. However, carrying recyclables can be difficult, and many Chicagoans don’t have a car.

With two-thirds of the city without blue cart pick-up, this city service brings about an issue of “haves” and “have-nots.” Recycling is the only municipal service that is not available to the entire city. We can and must do better.

That’s why I released a plan to expand recycling city-wide. As Mayor of Chicago, I will shift garbage collection to a more efficient and cost effective regional grid system, and use the savings to expand recycling service city-wide at no additional cost to residents.

Garbage service is provided to every household, and is one of the city’s largest expenditures (over $100 million.) While the city’s recycling pickup is organized on a regional routing system, the city is currently collecting garbage on a ward-by-ward basis.

If the City moves to a regional grid system for garbage collection, the city could save almost $30 million in the first year alone. (Inspector General’s Budget Options Report, FY 2011.) The savings from operating on a more efficient grid system of garbage collection will be shifted to expand blue cart recycling service city-wide.

Expanding recycling service will also save additional money over time, because recyclable commodities can be sold for $31-47 per ton, while it costs $25-30 per ton to landfill. That is a difference of a minimum of $57 per ton of waste that is recycled. I will also examine the possibility of increasing revenue by advertising on blue bins and garbage and recycling trucks.

We must be smarter, more entrepreneurial and innovative about the way we operate government and the way we spend tax dollars. Government is about service, and we should be setting the standard for how service is delivered. In today’s environment, recycling is a fundamental service for any city. As Mayor of Chicago, I will provide this service city-wide.

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?

A well-run city must have a separation and balance of powers between the executive and the legislative branches. Although Chicago was designed as a weak Mayor, strong Council form of government, the presence in the Mayor’s position of the same individual for 21 years has led to a divergence from the initial design. When too much power is consolidated in one of two branches of government, it can result in stagnant ideas, abuse of power, corruption, and other ills.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will adopt a more collaborative model of cooperation, working with the City Council as a partner to tackle the challenging issues facing our city. The City Council must help drive our city’s agenda. I will engage the City Council early in the decision-making process and reach out to them as a resource for new and alternative ideas. A cooperative model will also ensure there is a more open, transparent process and reach out to them on important issues such as the budget, privatization of assets and reviewing contracts.

The Mayor of the City of Chicago must be a leader. Leadership, however, does not mean that you are closed to alternative ways of doing things or seeking input from others such as members of the City Council.

Currently, the mayor selects members and chairs of the committees in the City Council. In order to ensure a separation of powers, the City Council should develop their own mechanism by which they choose their committee members and committee chairs.

As Mayor of Chicago, our city will have an active and engaged City Council that works alongside the Mayor to deliver the highest quality and most efficient services to our citizens.

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 of Chicago, I will restore the public trust by imposing a culture of accountability and responsibility in city government. To that end, I will not accept campaign contributions from companies that contract with the City of Chicago and I will not accept campaign contributions or gifts from city employees.

I commend and support Inspector General Ferguson in his attempt to implement a total ban on city employees receiving gifts from companies that do business with the city. I would like to see an ordinance passed that prohibits companies that do business with the city from giving gifts to city employees. Further, as part of the ethics policy I released several weeks ago, I will require that all elected officials in the city, including myself, be required to report any contribution over $500 within 48 hours. I will steer City Hall in a new direction of openness and transparency, clearly separating governance from the procurement process. (My ethics policy can be viewed at gerychico.com)

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?

Today too many vendors opt out of selling to the City of Chicago because the process is too onerous and they assume that winning business is predicated on clout and insider knowledge. Vendors don’t have confidence that award decisions are based on merit, or that the sales cycles are timely enough to make good business sense. As Mayor of Chicago, I will change this process to one that is open, efficient and competitive.

First and foremost, I will implement a comprehensive E-Procurement program, ensuring every aspect of the procurement process is conducted online with updated technology. As stated in my ethics plan, I will end the practice of pinstripe patronage in city government. I will ensure that all investment banking and legal contracts are competitively bid in a manner that is open and transparent to the public. My transparency initiative, Sunshine Chicago, will create a new culture of openness and transparency by changing the way City Hall treats data. This initiative will require and enable all data regarding contracts, including bidders rankings, to be posted and updated online. A transparent and ethical procurement process invites wide participation, which in turn lowers the costs of goods and services and increases the quality. Further, an open process saves government money by limiting FOIA and other costs that arise from legal and third party investigations into government practices.

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.

Twenty-six years ago the court ordered the city to adopt a patronage-free hiring system. Collectively known as the Shakman decrees, these restrictions have been put in place to restore public confidence and integrity into the hiring processes at City Hall. Forty years later, the public trust has still not been restored.

In his own Op Ed piece in 2009, Michael Shakman called for 4 key steps that, if enacted, would allow the city to lift the court decrees. Those steps include:

1. A genuine commitment to reform from the top down. As Mayor, I will bring a voice and keen attention to the hiring processes and transparency at City Hall. My ethics plan, and my Sunshine Chicago plan, the first transparency plans launched in this race, speak in specific detail about the culture of corruption that I will fight as mayor. I am wholly committed to, and have a demonstrated track record of supporting reforms.

2. An effective plan for non-political hiring. The city needs to fully execute on a new hiring plan that mirrors public sector best practices, ensures compliance with state and city laws and statutes, and gives the public sufficient confidence that people have access to city jobs, and that those jobs are awarded on merit, and merit alone. In addition to being compliant with the law, an effective plan needs to ensure that the city attract and retain the very best talent which in turn will improve the collective workforce, instill pride, and deliver better services for citizens.

3. An independent, prompt, and public system for monitoring and reporting hiring irregularities. I have proposed consolidating the Ethics Board, Inspector General and Compliance Office into the Inspector General’s Office to have clear lines of responsibility for citizens and city employees alike to monitor and report hiring irregularities. A key tenet of our oversight infrastructure must be to keep a watchful eye on hiring activities to ensure compliance and integrity in all respects, and to ensure that the requisite personnel with expertise in hiring practices are on staff.

4. Real punishment for wrongdoers. The federally appointed court monitors have described a variety of abuses by city managers. We need to ensure that compliance rules are substantive and that there are consequences for non-compliance. If offenses are dismissed or down played by the administration leadership, it sends the wrong message, and ultimately erodes confidence.

These four actions provide a clear road map for the city to be in compliance with the Shakman decrees -- and my platform is consistent with these four tenets. The city needs to achieve full compliance and lift the court supervision. We can get there as a city.

The decrees and monitoring requirements in place today, while necessary, are onerous, expensive, and create significant inertia in the system that slows down normal hiring practices and daily operations of the city. Healthy governments need the ability to move quickly, whether for hiring, termination, promotions and transfers. I am committed to promoting a culture at City Hall that is transparent and ensuring a healthy hiring culture is in place that serves the employees of the City of Chicago and the taxpayers.

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?

I have proposed a series of ethics reforms that would bring a new level of transparency and efficiency to government. Historically, the ethics oversight structure of the City of Chicago has evolved out of a series of political compromises rather than the commitment to building a responsive, independent and effective oversight structure. Citizens need to know that they have the opportunity to file complaints, and that those complaints will be heard and investigated.

As Mayor, I will strengthen ethics and oversight functions of City Hall. The Office of Compliance has widely been considered ineffective in its current configuration; I will eliminate this office, and transfer the responsibilities and resources to the Chicago Inspector General. With each additional oversight body in the city, we further dilute efficiency while increasing costs. I will also shift the Ethics Board to fall under the purview of this office. These changes will save money and allow resources to be better utilized to eliminate corruption and waste at the ground level.

With the authority to root out waste and abuse in the City Council as well as the Mayor’s Office, the Inspector General’s Office must be a truly independent body. In order to ensure independence, I will end the Mayoral appointment of the Inspector General. Rather, the Inspector General will be selected by an independent commission composed of five members--two selected by the mayor, and three selected by the City Council.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will empower the Inspector General to be a strong change agent to not only root out corruption wherever it exists in City Hall, but also to reform our political culture as we know it.

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?

I have proposed a series of ethics reforms that would bring a new level of transparency and efficiency to government. Historically, the ethics oversight structure of the City of Chicago has evolved out of a series of political compromises rather than the commitment to building a responsive, independent and effective oversight structure. Citizens need to know that they have the opportunity to file complaints, and that those complaints will be heard and investigated.

As Mayor, I will strengthen ethics and oversight functions of City Hall. The Office of Compliance has widely been considered ineffective in its current configuration; I will eliminate this office, and transfer the responsibilities and resources to the Chicago Inspector General. With each additional oversight body in the city, we further dilute efficiency while increasing costs. I will also shift the Ethics Board to fall under the purview of this office. These changes will save money and allow resources to be better utilized to eliminate corruption and waste at the ground level.

With the authority to root out waste and abuse in the City Council as well as the Mayor’s Office, the Inspector General’s Office must be a truly independent body. In order to ensure independence, I will end the Mayoral appointment of the Inspector General. Rather, the Inspector General will be selected by an independent commission composed of five members--two selected by the mayor, and three selected by the City Council.

As Mayor of Chicago, I will empower the Inspector General to be a strong change agent to not only root out corruption wherever it exists in City Hall, but also to reform our political culture as we know it.

What’s the best book ever written about Chicago? Why?

My favorite book is The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. My grandfather, who didn’t speak a word of English when he came here from Jalisco, Mexico, worked in the stockyards for 43 years. Sinclair’s portrayal of the daily struggles faced by stockyard workers, the poverty, the horrible working conditions and lack of social programs were those I imagine were encountered by my grandfather. My father is from the Back of the Yards neighborhood. I have vivid memories of my brother and I riding our bicycles near the stockyards and have always been fascinated by the hardships overcome by those who came here looking for a better life - and managed to find one by persevering through adversity.

Please list your educational background

I graduated from Kelly High School in McKinley Park. I attended the University of Illinois in Champaign for two years before transferring to UIC where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. While working for City’s Council Finance Committee and helping to raise my young family, I worked my way through Loyola’s Law School at night.

Please list civic, professional, fraternal or other organizations to which you belong

I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Chicago Urban League, DePaul University, the University of Illinois Alumni Association and Erikson Institute. I was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to be a member of the committee overseeing the Judicial Performance Evaluation Program. I was one of the founders of the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce (now the 1400-member Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce). I remain active in many other professional, civic and charitable organizations. Finally, I served as a member of the Chicago 2016 Olympics Committee.

Have you held elective or appointive political office or been employed by any branch of government?

I began my career in public service working for the City Council Finance Committee where I served under four different chairmen. During that period, I developed an aptitude in city finance, as we prepared many difficult and complex budgets.

I served as chief of staff to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley from 1992 through 1995. Prior to that, I served as deputy chief of staff for the Mayor.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently editorialized that when Mayor Daley first took office, the city was teetering on the brink of a slow motion decline or a remarkable renaissance. Many have praised Mayor Daley for bringing us back from the brink of decline. I am proud to have helped lead the city during its renaissance.

Mayor Daley asked us to think big and act big, and as a result, we achieved big things. When I was chief of staff, we put more than a thousand new police officers on the streets, put the city’s fiscal house in order, began rebuilding neighborhoods and infrastructure, and transformed our downtown to world class status.

For all of the great strides we made during that short period in history, there were still major fundamental problems facing our city. The U.S. Secretary of Education called our schools the worst in America, and that was a blow to the morale of the city, but even worse - it was probably true prior to 1995.

In 1994 the State Legislature acted and gave the Mayor control of and accountability for the Chicago Public Schools. I am proud that he turned to me to be the first School Board President to serve under Mayoral control.

From 1995 -- 2001 I served as President of the Chicago Board of Education. The challenges we faced at CPS were enormous -- beginning with a projected $1.3 billion deficit. Along with Paul Vallas, we slashed thousands of bureaucratic positions, and began targeting resources into the classroom. I personally led teacher and principal recruitment missions because I believe a good education starts with a good teacher, and I never hesitated to fire incompetent teachers who were harming our students. Under my tenure we built over 60 new state-of-the art schools, and renovated some 400 others schools to bring them into the 21st century.

We created after-school and summer-school programs that provided nearly 200,000 students with more time to learn in safe environments. We ended social promotion because I do not believe it is fair or right to pass a student on to the next grade if he or she is not academically prepared to succeed. Test scores rose every year that I was School Board President and when I left, CPS had a more than 300 million dollar surplus and the reform that I began had tremendous momentum.

In 2007, Mayor Daley appointed me to serve as President of the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Park District. Under my leadership, we balanced three straight budgets and created a surplus by finding new revenues without taxing residents more. We built dozens of new parks, playgrounds and field houses and improved hundreds more in neighborhoods all across Chicago. Two new marinas, Northerly Island and a major new park east of Millennium Park were begun during my term.

In March 2010, I was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to the Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago, and the Mayor recommended the Board elect me as Chairman. In just one year I began a reinvention program that focused on workforce development and job training so our students were prepared for jobs that employers were actually offering. I balanced a budget that had a projected deficit and we managed to even return over 4 million dollars to property taxpayers.

This past October I stepped down as President of the City’s Colleges to run for Mayor.

Please list jobs or contracts you, members of your immediate family or business partners have had with government

Neither myself, nor my law-firm, have any current contracts with Chicago government agencies. My wife, Sunny, is the owner of a company called SPC Consulting, which has a contract this year to tutor 100 children in underperforming schools.

Name your five biggest campaign contributors and the amount they contributed

Mr. Bo Zhang- $30,000

Mr. Kevin Hitzeman- $25,000

Mr. Timothy R. Schwertfeger- $25,000

Mr. Michael D. Episcope- $25,000

Mr. Luis Puig - $25,000

Please paste a brief biography here

I began my career in public service working for the City Council Finance Committee where I served under four different chairmen. During that period, I developed an aptitude in city finance, as we prepared many difficult and complex budgets.

I served as chief of staff to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley from 1992 through 1995. Prior to that, I served as deputy chief of staff for the Mayor.

The Chicago Sun-Times recently editorialized that when Mayor Daley first took office, the city was teetering on the brink of a slow motion decline or a remarkable renaissance. Many have praised Mayor Daley for bringing us back from the brink of decline. I am proud to have helped lead the city during its renaissance.

Mayor Daley asked us to think big and act big, and as a result, we achieved big things. When I was chief of staff, we put more than a thousand new police officers on the streets, put the city’s fiscal house in order, began rebuilding neighborhoods and infrastructure, and transformed our downtown to world class status.

For all of the great strides we made during that short period in history, there were still major fundamental problems facing our city. The U.S. Secretary of Education called our schools the worst in America, and that was a blow to the morale of the city, but even worse - it was probably true prior to 1995.

In 1994 the State Legislature acted and gave the Mayor control of and accountability for the Chicago Public Schools. I am proud that he turned to me to be the first School Board President to serve under Mayoral control.

From 1995 -- 2001 I served as President of the Chicago Board of Education. The challenges we faced at CPS were enormous -- beginning with a projected $1.3 billion deficit. Along with Paul Vallas, we slashed thousands of bureaucratic positions, and began targeting resources into the classroom. I personally led teacher and principal recruitment missions because I believe a good education starts with a good teacher, and I never hesitated to fire incompetent teachers who were harming our students. Under my tenure we built over 60 new state-of-the art schools, and renovated some 400 others schools to bring them into the 21st century.

We created after-school and summer-school programs that provided nearly 200,000 students with more time to learn in safe environments. We ended social promotion because I do not believe it is fair or right to pass a student on to the next grade if he or she is not academically prepared to succeed. Test scores rose every year that I was School Board President and when I left, CPS had a more than 300 million dollar surplus and the reform that I began had tremendous momentum.

In 2007, Mayor Daley appointed me to serve as President of the Board of Commissioners of the Chicago Park District. Under my leadership, we balanced three straight budgets and created a surplus by finding new revenues without taxing residents more. We built dozens of new parks, playgrounds and field houses and improved hundreds more in neighborhoods all across Chicago. Two new marinas, Northerly Island and a major new park east of Millennium Park were begun during my term.

In March 2010, I was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley to the Board of Trustees of the City Colleges of Chicago, and the Mayor recommended the Board elect me as Chairman. In just one year I began a reinvention program that focused on workforce development and job training so our students were prepared for jobs that employers were actually offering. I balanced a budget that had a projected deficit and we managed to even return over 4 million dollars to property taxpayers.

This past October I stepped down as President of the City’s Colleges to run for Mayor.



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