CN May 17 2018

Paul Vallas visits Chicago Newsroom this week to talk about his candidacy for Mayor.

He begins by arguing the the police force needs to be expanded to about 14,000 officers, of whom 1200 are detectives.

“And when the police don’t have enough resources, Vallas asserts, “when you have gutted your Detectives Division, literally almost cut it in half, when you have allowed through attrition the supervisory infrastructure to significantly deteriorate…when police officers don’t have working radios and working cameras, when we have waited six years to start putting tasers into hands of our police officers, and we had like 700 tasers I think six or seven years ago, where New York City had 15,000. So you know, the police when faced with the possibility of having to use their weapons doesn’t have an alternative to the use of lethal force…That has contributed, I believe that has contributed to the escalating crime rate, the increase in murders over the past few years, particularly the increase in carjackings.”

Vallas has a long list of grievances against Mayor Emanuel. He begins by repeating his criticism that the Mayor waited too long to start making significant structural changes.

“You know,” he explains, “if it’s year three and you’re gearing up to run next year you might have an excuse, but it’s year seven now. We are now entering year eight, and for the first term Emanuel made none of the tough financial decisions. He didn’t go to the legislature to get equity funding for Chicago teachers, which is costing taxpayers about I would say $250-million a year. He got it in 2017.”

But he also concedes that Mayor Daley didn’t do anything about the financial restructuring either.

“I mean Pat Quinn was governor,” he reminds us. “You had an elected Democratic governor. You had almost a veto-proof house and Senate. Daley could have gotten it in 2010. Rahm Emanuel could have gotten it in 2011. He pushed for another pension holiday in 2013…but at the end of the day he could have taken action. Secondly, he made none of the tough decisions on the tax and fee increases, decisions that were deferred until the next term.”

Vallas acknowledges that the City will need to enter into a consent decree to reform the police  department. But he says he’s not on board with civilian control.

“Look,” he says. “there’s going to be a consent decree that we’re going to have to implement, and there’s going to be some, whatever the compromise is on civilian oversight, there’s going to be some civilian representation on police oversight. I don’t support civilian control. I support civilian representation, because they’ve got to have some transparency.”

An important finding of the Police Accountability Task Force was the critical need for improvements to the CPD training program. Mayor Emanuel has proposed a $95 million training academy on the west side, something that has been vigorously opposed by community groups. Vallas, though, supports it.

“Yeah,” he affirms. “I support it and I think it should be located on the west side… My question about the Academy is whether or not the footprint is large enough because you need a rifle range. You need a driving range. You need an area where they can do physical education so that you’re not cordoning off the streets as the police officers are doing their PT, their physical training up and down the streets. My question is more about whether or not the site is adequate to provide for a modern police training center that is not going to be obsolete the day it opens and that’s my concern.”

Paul Vallas has long been associated with the introduction of charter schools during his tenure at CPS, but he tells us that they were limited in his time.

“When I left we had 558 schools and 15 charter schools,” he asserts. “Today they have 120 charter schools, so you know, we did charter schools as an alternative, but we didn’t close schools. We didn’t need to close schools in the process because our enrollment grew by 30,000 during that period. It’s the only period in the last 30 years that enrollment actually grew, so we got considerably more state funding because our enrollment was growing. And we didn’t open charter schools right next to thriving traditional public schools, so there was a balance. You know I’ll let the people who succeeded me defend themselves and defend their records.”

We dive into some history and discuss Mayor Daley’s Renaissance 2010, a program initiated with then-Superintendent Arne Duncan that envisioned the creation of scores of new charters and other initiatives.

“It didn’t work,” he claims. “It didn’t work, because let me tell you, for two reasons, one is they created overcapacity. And incidentally, that was announced like two years after I was gone…What they also did was they shut down schools and they dispatched the kids from those existing schools to other communities. I think that destabilized the schools and that destabilized the communities so that they could open then these new schools as kind of these freestanding charter schools. And I think that was not a good strategy, and I  believe it hurt the school system.”

He also had some choice words for Rahm Emanuel’s decision to close fifty schools during his first term.

“Look, even the strategy of closing 50 schools, you know if you are going to close a school you should never close a school that’s performing,” he insists. “You should find a way to get more kids into that performing school even if you bus them or whatever. And if you’re going to close a school then have a plan to repurpose the building. You know there are huge numbers of individuals aged 17 to 40 – dropouts, chronically unemployed, ex-offenders, etc., some of these numbers outnumber the number of students in those neighborhood high schools. You could easily repurpose those buildings and convert them into adult ed and occupational training centers, so have a strategy.”

You can watch the show by clicking the image above.

You can listen to the audio on SoundCloud here

You can read a full transcript of the conversation here: CN transcript May 17 2018


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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