Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico and Miguel del Valle on the issues

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The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board asked Rahm Emanuel, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle and Carol Moseley Braun questions pertaining to the most pressing issues facing our city. You can find all the questions and answers (the Tribune’s on-line page includes the answers from Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William Walls, III) here:  As of February 13, Carol Moseley Braun had not responded to the questions presented.

Please read and make an informed decision next Tuesday- if you haven’t made that decision yet in early voting.

The following are highlights of Rahm Emanuel, Miguel del Valle and Gery Chico’s answers to certain questions from the Chicago Tribune’s on-line election page:

ECONOMY

Question 1:

Can City Hall encourage growth for both major corporations and small businesses? Specifically, what five things would you do to allow businesses to grow and create jobs? 

RAHM EMANUEL: The private sector creates jobs, but the government creates the conditions for the private sector to flourish. As Mayor, I want to ensure that City Hall is living up to its end of that partnership. I began with our tax code by cutting Chicago’s portion of the sales tax by 20 percent – from 1.25% to 1% – while working with state legislators to expand the tax base by closing the loopholes that allow luxury services to go untaxed. Next, I want to make the natural gas tax more progressive so that businesses do not see their energy costs rise exponentially when natural gas prices increase. And finally, I think the so-called “head tax” penalizes job creation in Chicago. I will fully phase it out over the next four years, and have offered a detailed list of offsets to keep the plan revenue neutral. Another reform must come from how the City operates. Our licensing, permit review and inspection processes are spread across multiple departments, creating burdens for local businesses that must meet myriad regulatory requirements that often overlap.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: Yes, I believe that City Hall can and must encourage growth for major corporations and small businesses alike. Prosperity in Chicago comes from good jobs, and good jobs are the result of economic development. As mayor, to ensure that Chicago prospers and develops economically, I will: 1) Re-energize industries by building on Chicago’s strengths, such as our position as a transportation hub. We deliver goods via rail, truck, and plane to all parts of the country and the world. To preserve this advantage, we must continue to improve the speed by which goods move through the region, reduce congestion, and enhance or build new facilities for faster distribution. 2) Support small business by expanding access to capital, through reconfiguring existing programs that provide capital and streamlining the City’s business services. We must continue to promote small dollar loan programs and microenterprise initiatives, and work with banks so they offer lower-limit products. 3) Cut unnecessary bureaucratic red tape and regulations. Our licensing and permitting processes delay economic activity for months. We must streamline these functions, bring them into the 21st Century, and put them online. 4) Use existing city resources, such as TIF funding, Special Service Areas, and the City’s business services to support employers and businesses that are committed to jobs that pay a living wage and that pay workers on a regular basis. 5) The next mayor also needs to actively court companies–like the current mayor and governor did with Ford–though they do not need to be enterprises quite as large as that. Apparently, Ford leadership specifically noted that the outreach made more of a difference than any tax benefits or other goodies.

GERY CHICO: All too often, one hears frustrating stories about the difficulty business owners–large and small–have had dealing with city government. Chicago’s business owners seem to be saying the same thing: the complicated maze of costly rules and regulations is strangling their growth. As Mayor, I will lead with a sense of urgency and a mission that is focused on bringing businesses–small, medium and large–to our city to create jobs for all Chicago residents in neighborhoods throughout the city. We must eliminate unnecessary city bureaucracy to create a city hall that is more focused on helping businesses. To that end, I will 1) Appoint a Deputy Mayor for Business Creation and Job Development to place the responsibility for business and job growth clearly and directly in the hands of one individual. Audit every city department that deals with business and job growth, and create a leaner City Hall that supports business growth. 3) Examine all fees, taxes and associated paperwork to reduce the burden on businesses to only that which is absolutely necessary. It’s time to break down the brick wall of bureaucracy. 4) The city is the largest land-owner in Chicago, we will use that land to incentivize businesses to locate and create jobs in our city. 5) Increase start-up and small business access to micro-finance loans. We also need to identify and pursue new opportunities for business development and job creation. Sitting in our chairs waiting for companies to approach us will not get the job done. City government must be proactive in identifying, courting and bringing both American and international businesses and investment to our city.

Question 2:

What are your plans for Tax Increment Financing districts? Would you expand them? What changes in TIF administration would you make that does not require a change in state law?

RAHM EMANUEL: 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, my plan 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.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: TIF districts need to be refocused on their original intent–to encourage development in blighted communities where there would be no development “but for” the TIF designation. With more focused TIF designations, less funds will be diverted from the city budget. We also need to enforce recapture provisions in subsidy agreements to require a company to return all or part of the value of a subsidy if the company doesn’t meet the goals they agreed to (called clawbacks). In the immediate term, some of the unobligated and unprogrammed TIF funds would need to be used to balance the city’s budget, with appropriate percentages of those surplus TIF dollars also being returned to the schools and other taxing bodies, per the formulas. In the long-term, we should focus subsidies on growing areas of the economy, such as green industries, high-tech manufacturing, and the allied health industries. This way public funding is only used in ways that benefit the whole city. I would like to see a change to the administration of our TIF program – something along the lines of what Alderman Allen proposed a year ago. It would replace multiple individual TIF districts, each of which currently has its own budget and no public oversight, with a large economic development fund that is funded with property tax dollars and itemized in the regular city budget. This level of transparency would put TIF funds back under public scrutiny.

GERY CHICO: The tax increment financing program is intended to help spur development and reinvestment in blighted communities. However, if there are no checks and balances put in place, the improper use of TIFs can result in the inappropriate diversion of tax dollars from governmental taxing bodies like CPS. Today, the public trust in TIFs has been eroded and our TIF program is broken. As Mayor, I will put a one-year moratorium on all new TIF districts and overhaul the TIF program. Upon taking office, I will audit each TIF with the goal of closing those that are no longer necessary, and evaluate each TIF to determine if it is meeting its purpose of neighborhood revitalization. I will establish transparency of the system that will include placing all TIF expenditures on the annual city budget, available for easy tracking with real time updates on our city website. My transparency initiative, Sunshine Chicago, changes the way the city treats public data and creates a new culture of openness, efficiency and accountability in government that will help to facilitate greater transparency of the TIF program. I will ensure we continually monitor each existing TIF district along with individual TIF agreements to ensure compliance and maximize investment. 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 robust mechanisms in place to ensure that jobs promised are jobs delivered. Further, I will work with interested parties to develop a comprehensive plan for the use of TIF dollars to create long-term job opportunities and economic development in neighborhoods that need it most.

 

EDUCATION

Question 1:

Do you support lengthening the public school days and/or extending the school year? If so, explain specifically how you would pay for it.

RAHM EMANUEL: Yes. Today, a student in Houston receives up to four more years of education than a student in Chicago. We need to give our children a fighting chance by offering an education competitive with other cities. I will work with the teachers’ union to lengthen the learning day and school year because it’s the right investment in our children and our city’s global standing. Increased learning time will include academic, arts and athletics programs beyond the traditional school day – building on the success of the community school model in place in some Chicago schools – and forging new, creative partnerships with community and civic organizations that extend the school day, week and year. I have also outlined a detailed plan to expand afterschool programming to all CPS students who want it. It will be comprehensive: five days a week, two-and-a-half hours a day with opportunities in the arts, athletics and academics. It is fully paid for by better using existing afterschool funds and increased advertising sales.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: Identifying the public and private resources needed to lengthen the school day and school year will be one of my highest priorities as mayor. However, I realize the length of the school day is a negotiated issue with the Chicago Teachers Union. I will engage in a collaborative effort with the union and others about how to lengthen the school day. In the end, as mayor my main responsibility will be to do what is best for students and their families, providing more education and opportunities for such enriching and balancing activities as recreation and arts education, among others. Another strategy that complements lengthening the school day is building on the existing community learning center model. On December 2, I publicly stated that as mayor I will increase focus on and investment in Community Learning Centers like the one at Monroe Elementary School in the Logan Square neighborhood. Monroe partners with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA) to provide programs for families after school and in the evening, including adult education classes for parents, homework help for students, as well as sports, music, and art programs for children.

GERY CHICO: Studies have proven that increasing the time spent learning leads to an improvement in student achievement. The Chicago Public Schools has one of the shortest school days and one of the shortest school years in Illinois. As President of the Chicago Public Schools, I developed extended school-day programs that kept more than 125,000 children in school longer and expanded summer school opportunities which served as many as 175,000 children each summer. As Mayor of Chicago, I have committed to lengthening both the school day and the school year. I will work to extend the school day from a six-hour day to an eight-hour day, and the calendar year from 176 to 200 days a year. More learning time will give teachers the ability to cover core subjects in greater depth and allows students- particularly in high school – to add more subjects to their school schedules. Further, I would promote the year-round school model. Year-round schools, in which students and teachers have shorter breaks during the year, with no long summer break, prove academically beneficial. My education play calls for the dismantling and restructuring of the Central Office. By cutting the Central Office by 1/3, we will save significant amounts of money that can be re-directed to the classrooms. By partnering with community organizations and other sister agencies such as the Park District and City Libraries, we can leverage resources to reduce costs. The ultimate cost of additional learning time will be determined through contract negotiations. As President of CPS, I worked with the Teachers Union to accomplish one of the nation’s most notable school reform achievements.

Question 2:

Please explain how you would encourage more parental involvement in the public schools. Do you support tying parental involvement to school funding or what schools should remain open?

RAHM EMANUEL: There is no replacement for involved parents, which is why I made them one of the three pillars of my education plan. 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. I also want to empower parents by giving them a report card on the performance of their child’s school. Principals get one, and parents should too. 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.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: I will ensure parent and community involvement through active, well-trained, functioning Local School Councils. As a state senator, I was the co-sponsor of the 1988 School Reform law that created Local School Councils. When I spoke at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE), I said, “Show me a school that’s progressing, I will show you a school with a Local School Council that is strong, that is involved, that is connected, that is fully engaged.” I believe in the power of LSCs and as mayor will promote, through a campaign, parental involvement in LSCs. Parental involvement should have no bearing on school funding or which schools remain open. I believe that it is the role of school administration to enlist and encourage parents to get involved with the education of their children.

GERY CHICO: Parents must play a significant role in their children’s education. All too often, parents lack the resources and knowledge to effectively help their children succeed. As a result, our children suffer. Parents need more information about selecting the right school for their children. They need to know how to help their children become good students. They need information on how to work with schools – and sometimes to challenge schools – to ensure their children succeed. A critical step toward improving our schools is giving parents the power to become partners with their schools and to have a greater influence in the educational decisions that affect their children. As Mayor, I will create a Parent Academy for every school. Parent Academies will serve as networking, resource and education centers for parents, run by parents. I will also create the position of Parent Advocate General at the CPS Central Office. The Parent Advocate General will serve as the liaison between the Parent Academies and CPS. He or she will be responsible for examining issues through the lens of a parent.

PUBLIC SAFETY:

Question 1:

Should police officers from neighborhoods with less crime be moved to neighborhoods with more crime?

RAHM EMANUEL: For too long we’ve had a debate about how to take police out of one community and put police in another community. I think that’s a false choice and a wrong choice. I have already proposed a plan to add 1000 more police officers to our most dangerous streets, which will allow us to attack centers of crime without reducing police presence in low-crime neighborhoods.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: We need to look at deployment, but we should not reduce police in any neighborhood – rather, we must find a way to provide additional officers in areas that need them.

GERY CHICO: 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 by the end of my first term. 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.

Question 2:

Will you come up with new money to add officers to the streets? If so, how? Please be specific, including the number of officers you would add.

RAHM EMANUEL: My crime plan puts 1000 more cops on the street by using TIF funds in high-crime, blighted areas, overhauling our cadet program, cracking down on abuse in the medical leave program, and decentralizing the command structure. First, blighted high-crime areas require a broader approach than the targeted economic stimulus that is funded by TIFs. I have proposed a three-year strategy to reduce the violent crime rate by using excess TIF funds to add 250 police officers to new squads targeting crime in TIFs. Reducing violent crime will help stabilize communities, raise property values and make neighborhoods attractive for investment – the exact purpose of the TIF program. Second, I proposed an overhaul of the cadet program to put hundreds of cops currently doing administrative work back on the street. Over the past decade, the civilian workforce at the CPD has been cut by more than 65%, leaving hundreds of sworn officers in administrative tasks. I want to overhaul the cadet program and use the new recruits to perform administrative responsibilities so that cops can return to the street. Third, we must crack down on abuse in the medical leave program. While most medical leaves of absence are necessary because of job-related injuries, there are too many medical abusers who earn full pay but leave fighting crime to their colleagues. Though officers require adequate benefits due to an inherently dangerous occupation, it must be balanced by a tough-minded but fair approach to ensure that benefit are not abused. Finally, the Police Department command structure has become more centralized over time – focusing manpower at the top while reducing resources available to fight crime on the street. By streamlining the central office, we can free up millions of dollars to hire new cops and but them on the beat.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: I am committed to finding the dollars to increase police presence on the streets, and I expect that as mayor I will also shift some internal resources from desk jobs to the streets. I believe that it will be realistic within year one to add 250 police to officers to the streets. But I am committed to filling all 2000 vacant police positions over time to enhance safety on our streets.

GERY CHICO: Political leaders, the media, community groups, local businesses and community members alike are calling for the same thing: more police in our neighborhoods. While serving as Chief of Staff to the Mayor in the early 1990’s, our city was faced with a similar shortage of manpower – and I worked to put well over a thousand additional police officers on our streets. There are currently 8 layers of command between superintendent and District Commanders. The CPD has more layers of command than the military. The absolute worst place to have a bloated bureaucracy is in a department that is responsible for saving lives. A key consequence of the top-heavy model is deflated morale, especially among police officers who are putting their lives on the line, yet need to wait for decisions to move through eleven layers of command to act. There are dramatic savings (tens of millions of dollars) to be found from breaking down this massive management structure. As mentioned above, we will increase efficiencies and coordination throughout the CPD to find savings and place more officers to District Law Enforcement. Beyond those savings found within CPD, public safety must be a city budget priority. I will re-examine every agency, department and program to identify and eliminate areas of waste and inefficiencies. I will re-structure city government to be provide services in a manner that is more efficient and effective. By changing the way we think about government, we will reduce costs and use savings for priorities, such as ensuring the safety of our neighborhoods. This will not all happen at once, but by the end of my first term I will find the resources to put an additional 2,000 officers on our streets.

Question 3:

Explain the top three moves you’d make as mayor to decrease crime in Chicago and exactly how you’d pay for it.

RAHM EMANUEL: I believe violence takes an enormous toll on Chicago and exacerbates almost every other problem the city faces. That’s why I have outlined a detailed plan that puts more cops on the street, provides comprehensive afterschool programming for Chicago’s children so that they spend more time in the classroom than on the street corner, decentralizes the police command structure, and pushes for stronger gun control laws on the federal, state and local level. Most importantly, we need to get more cops on the street where they belong. As outlined in question 2, I have proposed a detailed plan to put an additional 1000 cops on the street without breaking the city budget. This strategy is not new for me – I helped President Clinton pass his landmark 1994 crime bill that put an additional 100,000 community police on our streets nationwide. Second, we must tackle the devastating epidemic of youth violence. Of the 435 murders in Chicago last year, nearly half of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 25. A majority of those and other violent crimes happen in the hours when children are not in school. Providing opportunities for youth to be engaged in educational, artistic and athletic activities will reduce the likelihood that our children will become involved in the cycle of violence that effects too many of our neighborhoods. I have outlined a detailed afterschool program as noted above. Third, we must demand increased federal and state action on illegal guns. Mayor Daley has been a national leader in his fight for stronger gun laws, and I am committed to carrying that fight to Washington DC and Springfield until every illegal gun is off Chicago’s streets.

MIGUEL DEL VALLE: As mayor, I will work to improve public safety by: • Increasing the number of police working to prevent and solve crimes by reallocating funds towards filling the current vacancies on the police force, and shifting city resources away from desk work and lower priorities. • Strengthening relationships among police, trusted community organizations, and residents on all public safety issues by revitalizing community policing and the CAPS program, a community component that is key to prevention and to solving cases. Investment, training, and traditional community organizing will be key to this initiative. • Better integrating technology into police operations to build a 21st Century police force. ARRA funds have provided resources for new equipment and the City is developing its technology infrastructure. Ensuring that new technologies such as blue lights and real time alerts are used appropriately. To pay for these improvements, as mayor I plan to explore the possibility of implementing a Paid Police Detail Unit model, similar to what is currently in effect in Boston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Miami, New York, and Detroit, and is believed to have greatly enhanced these cities’ ability to pay for much needed police services. This plan generates revenue while adding to the number of police on the streets and providing them overtime pay–requiring contractors and event promoters to pay for the extra police presence needed to ensure safety at particular, specified venues and construction projects on the public way.

GERY CHICO: First and foremost, we need more police officers on the streets. The shortage has left patrol officers in a reactive mode, running from call to call, forced to sacrifice their regular beat patrols that could lead to actual crime prevention. The best available research shows that putting more police officers on the streets is the most cost-effective way to reduce crime. Illegal drugs and guns are fueling the operations of violent gangs, which are destroying neighborhoods and stealing Chicago’s children. Simply put, violent gangs are a menace that must be wiped out of our city. I will ensure that Chicago’s anti-gang units are well trained, and equipped with state-of-the art technology to fight, uncover, disrupt and stomp out gang violence. To crack down on gangs from the top, we will coordinate with the State’s Attorney’s office to crack down on gang leaders. We will also show criminals that our city is one that enforces the law by directing the Corporation Counsel to proactively prosecute all crimes, even minor offenses. Further, I will expand the successful Ceasefire program to all high-crime areas in our city. I will also prioritize the fight against youth violence. I will place an unprecedented focus on early childhood education to make sure all our children are starting on the right foot. Too much violence occurs in schools, so we will increase police presence in and around schools so students can learn and teachers can teach. We will operate the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program throughout CPS, teaching kids of the dangers of gangs starting in 2nd grade, while they are young. Further, by working with the Park District, we will ensure that there are safe and productive activities for our youth.

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