Chuy Garcia: ‘I think the prospects to go all the way are very much in reach’

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

By: Ashmar Mandou

Cook County Commissioner Chuy Garcia is ecstatic to know he has a large group of residents across Chicago that has his vote as he is days away from the February 24th elections. “We are receiving a big lift and we are engaged with people all over Chicago,” said Mayoral Candidate Chuy Garcia, who phoned the Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper Wednesday morning to answer a few of our questions. “We certainly hit the ground running and were able to set up eight offices across the city just based on the amount of volunteers who were willing to help since day one. So to see the outpouring of support has exceeded my wildest expectations.” With just six days away till election, Garcia is canvassing every neighborhood and attending every forum to bring his message to the masses in hopes to have a runoff against Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “I think the prospects to go all the way are very much in reach,” said Garcia. Garcia answered a few of our questions prior to Election Day.

Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper: Many parents are left at a loss for words when dealing with their child’s education and the lack of school options. Many aldermanic candidates have proposed to bring trade schools to their respective wards. How would you work with Chicago Public School officials and parents to ensure better options for their child’s education?

Chuy Garcia: I think that part of the solution to parents desire to have their children get into selective enrollment schools, many who become desperate with the lack of offering in Chicago Public Schools, turn to charters and their marketing and advertising as a way to secure their children a better offering of education opportunity. I think we need to invest in better schools. In high schools, for example, being able to offer advance placement courses at more schools is one way. Offering dual language and enrichment programs that will instill confidence for parents and students is another solution, too. The older reliance on selective enrollment and the proliferation of charters for alternatives is not sufficient. Also, to create an overall sense that the community is improving and that the neighborhood is safer. We need to make those investments to give a sense to families that neighborhoods are changing and are safer so that they stay. That is the key for growth. That is the key to Chicago’s population. We need to grow the city’s population; we have the capacity to grow. By doing so, we attract companies that will invest in those neighborhoods, therefore offering more job opportunities which will in turn stabilize the neighborhood.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper: How would you facilitate a conversation among the aldermen of the city to end the misuse of TIF spending so that neighborhoods, such as Humboldt Park, Hermosa, and Back-of-the-Yards see additional resources?

Chuy Garcia: TIF Funding has run amuck. Since it was created, the original intent has been lost. TIF initiatives were to make development possible where the conditions were very challenging. TIF funding should be targeted to make development occur in hard to develop areas. Instead, it has become a form of corporate subsidies and corporate welfare. We shouldn’t be giving TIF subsidies to a company that is in downtown relocating just a few blocks over. We shouldn’t be giving TIF funding to the Marriot chain. All that is to say, I would reduce the scope of the use of TIF. I would close districts that have already achieved their projects and, of course, I would redirect the investment of TIF dollars into our neighborhoods. I also want to reduce the overall amount of tax increment financing because, after all, we are taking the increment from taxing bodies, such as the Chicago Park District and other taxing districts and there is a public cost to doing that. So we cannot continue to do that because it’s a money generator, it cannot be the city’s only economic development tool. I would strategically use TIF funds to create jobs that make neighborhoods more livable, invest in projects that spark additional spin off activities in neighborhoods, and create more affordable housing. Those are the new priorities that we need to undertake as we move forward.

Lawndale Bilingual Newspaper: How do you propose the city curbs violence and reinstate a level of trust between city resident and police officer?

Chuy Garcia: We need to expand the practice of restorative justice, especially among youth to resolve conflicts among youth; to teach young people about conflict resolution and to teach peacemaking. The community needs to be at the center, which will then create community fabric. My proposal to hire an additional 1,000 police men and women is to engage in real community policing. We have gotten away with the concept of community policing and it urgently needs to be restored. I think in the aftermath of Ferguson and New York it really emphasized the need to establish more community, greater trust, and mutual respect between community residents and the police. Officers say that the over time that is being spent to the tune of about $100 million a year is not being spent well because they are taking officers, who have already worked a shift, and placing them in communities that are not familiar. Again, that underscores just how out of touch the concept of community policing is. We need to give our officers the tools to better communicate with the residents and restore a sense of trust.

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