Will Chicago Treasurer Summers run for Mayor? As a reformer? Chicago ain't ready for reform, yet? Watch Summers and Obama, on the Web

“Chicago ain’t ready for reform, yet- or for a reform Mayor,” Ald. and saloon keeper Paddy Bauler (43rd Ward, Chicago), 1955, celebrating Mayor Richard J. Daley’s first election to Chicago Mayor

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers spoke to the City Club of Chicago on Monday, December 11, 2017.

Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, speaking to the City Club of Chicago and to his left, City Club Board member and moderator, Ed Mazur. December 11, 2017, at Maggianos in the Chicago Loop

Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, speaking to the City Club of Chicago and to his left, City Club Board member and moderator, Ed Mazur. December 11, 2017, at Maggianos in the Chicago Loop

You can watch Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers' remarks and Q & A by clicking here.

After he spoke, Jeff Berkowitz interviewed Summers for about four minutes and a full transcript of the interview is included, below.

Treasurer Summers, 39 and a Whitney Young alum and Harvard MBA, ‘2005, was appointed to his position in 2014 by Mayor Emanuel and elected to a full term in February, 2015. His professional career includes a decade of both private sector (mostly financial) and political positions, including Chief of Staff to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle was cheering  Summers on this past Monday—and she almost ran over Berkowitz as she ran up to chat briefly with Summers after his speech.

Treasurer Summers spoke at the City Club of Chicago for almost an hour about how virtually nothing had gotten better in his boyhood neighborhood of Bronzeville. Not unemployment, not affordable housing, not economic development, not CPS education, not crime and not police misconduct-- in the last four decades (some would argue last six decades).

Indeed, Summers seemed to say the same lack of progress is true for the whole of the south and west sides of Chicago, where most of Chicago's black and Hispanic minorities live. Moreover, a similar argument could be made for all of the inner cities of Illinois—East St. Louis, Rockford, etc.

After hearing Kurt Summers’ homily about the stagnation in the socio-economic lives of minorities in Chicago, Berkowitz was anxious to ask Kurt about his interest in taking on these challenges as Mayor and his plans for solving these problems.

I mean, it is about time for real reform and change.  There has been a Richard J. Daley and Richard M. Daley (and the third Daley- Rahm Emanuel) in the Mayor Chair’s for a half century of Chicago’s last 62 years.

Really, when is enough enough? Not just for one party rule [Democratic Party], but for one family rule? Or, would Kurt be the fourth Daley, not representing change at all?  Richard J. Daley begat Richard M. Daley who begat Emanuel who begat Summers?

So, you might find the answers to Berkowitz's questions as interesting as Berkowitz did.  You can read them all, below.

But, it will really get interesting if Berkowitz can persuade the City Treasurer to sit for a half hour interview on “Public Affairs.”

For now you will have to settle for Barack Obama on Public Affairs, when he was on Public Affairs at 38 [Watch here]—about the same age as Kurt is now—what does that tell you? The more things change, the more they stay the same. And when Obama was on Public Affairs at 40 [Watch here].

Jeff Berkowitz: Are you going to run for Chicago Mayor?

Treasurer Kurt Summers: That’s 1 ½ years away.

Berkowitz: If you are going to run, don’t you have to start running in early 2018.

Summers: I don’t think so. Right now, we’re focused on March 20, 2018 [the IL primary date for Governor, State Attorney General, etc.] in terms of political elections. And, day to day, I focus on this job. It’s been incredibly rewarding and educational for me.

Berkowitz: What will the criteria be for you to decide after March 20 about a Chicago Mayoral run?

Summers: If the mayor is officially running for re-election, who else may be in the field, the state of the City, where we are—

Berkowitz: It sure seems like Mayor Rahm Emanuel is running for re-election. If he is, will you challenge him?

Summers: It will depend on what the rest of the field looks like and what the state of the City is. There is a lot that can be done over the course of the next year. There is a lot of progress that we have already made. And, I am not in this job to be a politician. I am in this job to provide help where I am needed if I can do so in a unique way. That’s the reason why I took this job and that’s the reason why I would look at anything else. But, for the time being, I am not looking at anything else.

Berkowitz: But, didn’t the main part of your speech assert that Chicago is doing much worse than comparable cities in the country in terms of improving inequality and the lives of low income people—who you said may comprise two thirds of Chicago’s population.

Summers: That’s correct.

Berkowitz: Did I get that number right? Two thirds?

Summers: Well, two thirds of the population in Chicago is black and Hispanic. And, those two races and ethnicities have unique challenges with respect to poverty, income and asset building relative to the rest of the country and their counterparts in the rest of the country.

Berkowitz:  But since Rahm has been in the Mayor’s office for almost seven years, doesn’t that mean that he is not getting the job done?

Summers:  Well, this is a century old problem, so I don’t think any one person is to blame and I don’t think any one person can fix it. There were three hundred people in this room today [City Club of Chicago lunch at Maggiano’s Banquets, just west of Clark on Grand in the Chicago Loop, the Honorable Jay Doherty, President of the City Club of Chicago, presiding] and I hope all become a part of fixing this issue.

Berkowitz: Are you supporting any of the Gubernatorial candidates in the Democratic Primary?

Kurt Summers: JB Pritzker.

Berkowitz: You think he will help the City of Chicago the most?

Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers: I think he will help the entire state but I think he understands the issues that Chicago faces and especially that Chicago public schools face.

Berkowitz: You think we need more charter schools in the City of Chicago?

Summers: I think we need better high quality schools in the City of Chicago.

Berkowitz: Would that include school choice as a part of the solution to that problem. I mean, you [show cased] Tim Kane [Founder and CEO, Urban Prep Academies] today. Doesn’t that mean you were singling out school choice and charter schools as a means to improve CPS?

Summers: No, charter schools are not school choice. Admittance to Urban Prep is by lottery, just like any other neighborhood school [Ed. Note: That is not quite the case. Suffice it to say, for now, that charter school admission, if demand exceeds supply, is by lottery. Otherwise, it is essentially first come, first serve, no matter where the applicant resides. Enrolling in traditional neighborhood schools in CPS is a bit more complicated than suggested by Mr. Summers-- and perhaps we can discuss that with him if and when we arrange for him to appear on “Public Affairs.”]

Summers: School choice is really about privatization. Charters are not. I think every school, charter and neighborhood, needs to be held to the same high standard of quality and until we have that, then I think neither is an inherent preference. [Ed. Note: Most who study education would say that school choice is primarily about trying to provide a high quality alternative to traditional neighborhood schools, which are in large part failing to teach minority kids how to read, write and do math at grade level in our inner cities. It would seem those alternatives should include charter schools (usually publicly funded, at least as to operations), voucher schools (publicly and privately funded, for profit and not for profit), sectarian schools, non-sectarian schools and home schooling].


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