Our special guest this week: Mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
Also joining us, Evelyn Garcia, the candidate’s wife, and Hal Dardick, city hall reporter for the Chicago Tribune.
We covered school policy, including charters and an elected school board – and the best way to handle the pension crisis. We also talked about policing, reducing crime, and minimum wage. Among the headlines – Garcia is calling for a moratorium on the construction of new charter schools, and he’s not so sure that a commuter tax or a tax on LaSalle Street will solve the multiple funding crises.
Here are transcripts of Mr. Garcia’s comments.
On charter schools:
“The charter-mania that began over 2o years ago has resulted in the creation of over 120 charter schools in Chicago. Some of them do good work, most of them – the jury’s still out. There’s no case to be made to say that charters are superior to neighborhood schools. There has been a transfer of resources that are going into charters that would have gone to neighborhood schools that I’m very concerned about. Especially if there are no studies that show that charters are superior to neighborhood schools. Given that our education system is under-funded, I think this has had a detrimental effect on public schools.”
“I do understand why parents have signed their children up in charter schools, because they’ve been marketed heavily to think that it is a better alternative. I think some of them perhaps, because they have dress codes and discipline codes, and they’re more selective in their enrollment of children, is what may attract parents to them, but the record is clear. Charters are not superior to neighborhood schools. We need to invest in neighborhood schools. If we don’t invest in neighborhood schools, we’re not providing children everywhere in the City the opportunity to achieve their full potential. ”
“I think we should have a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools. I think we need to invest in neighborhood schools and make neighborhood schools the center of community. They are existing assets in communities throughout Chicago that have the potential to do lots of things for student, parents and community members at large.”
On the fifty closed Chicago Public schools:
“A lot of harm has been done. Particularly because when those schools were closed young people and parents were told that most of their children would go to better schools when in fact they haven’t. The majority have wound up in either level three schools or level two, and only 21% in level one schools.”
On an elected school board:
“I support an elected school board. I think it would ensure greater transparency, more accountability. I think that if an elected school board had been in place we would not have had the massive school closings in Chicago.
On public-service pensions:
“What type of priorities do you have? Do you care about people? The Supreme Court will likely rule…that we need to keep our word to retirees and that we’re obligated to insure that those commitments are fulfilled. So that will mean coming back and figuring out revenue sides as to how we fund those pensions. It may also include restructuring of the pension obligations so that we can pay them over a longer period of time. But surely we’re only here because of neglect and we’ve kicked the can down the road.”
On finding new revenue for pensions
“I like the progressive income tax. I think they’re fairer to people. It protects low-income people and senior citizens. So something in that realm is where the solutions will be found.
“I’m not convinced that the commuter tax may be the solution. I can’t see taxing people who are coming into the city to work from places like Blue Island, Midlothian, Cicero and Berwyn. I’m not sure that is progressive taxation. One of the concerns I have about the stock transactions tax is its constitutionality, the fact that the state legislature will have to act on it in order for Chicago to have that type of authority. And from the looks of it, if I read the November election results correctly, we’re not likely to see that type of initiative approved in the General Assembly or by the new Governor. ”
“We need to do something bold. Something that we’ve never considered before. In terms of figuring out the revenue side of things, we can’t just be saying we’re against any type of tax. We need to be for progressive taxation because it has the fairest impact on all of society…”
“I don’t agree with trickle-down economics. I don’t believe necessarily in austerity that affects poor people who are earning very modest wages.
On the Mayor’s minimum-wage boost:
“It was a good political move for the mayor. But I think it comes late and it’s too little. I think people see right through it. He only came around to the minimum wage when the polls showed him lagging…I think that a living wage in this day and age is closer to fifteen dollars.”
On whether we have enough police:
“We don’t. The Mayor promised to put 1,000 new cops on the street, and he didn’t keep his promise. We need to increase the number of police officers, but with that will have to come real community policing. Building relationships of trust and confidence so that people feel the confidence to want to come forward and cooperate with the police. They’re the real experts in their neighborhoods. They know where everything goes on. They know who he drug dealers are, who the gang-bangers are, they know where the guns are…unless police officers can establish relationships and know people in he neighborhood things won’t get better.”
On how he’ll convince Chicagoans to cote for him:
“My relationships span across ethnicity, race, and faith. And I think that I can bring that case everywhere to the City of Chicago. The City has worked for a select few under this administration. I think the city should work for everyone in Chicago. And that’s what I want to talk to people about over the next three months as I make the case for regime change in the City of Chicago.”