By Matt Yurus
Speaking before Karen Lewis and other city leaders at City Club of Chicago Tuesday, mayoral candidate Jesus “Chuy” Garcia reminded voters that his “priorities are very different from those of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.”
Garcia argued that his plans for education, policing and financial reforms would bring steady improvements to Chicago. His tone was cautiously optimistic, acknowledging that these reforms would take time.
“We are just three months into my campaign to take back the city of Chicago, and I have never been more confident of success,” Garcia said.
Garcia said that Emanuel’s administration is not prioritizing working families, citing the mayor’s closing of 50 schools and the teachers union striking for the first time in 25 years.
Garcia said that his “education platform calls for giving the school system back to the people through an elected school board; smaller class sizes; decreasing the number of high-stakes, standardized tests; and placing a moratorium on all further charter schools.”
If elected, Garcia promised to push for legislation that would require that the school board be democratically elected. If that fails, he said he would legally challenge the existing law.
“We also need community policing – a term too often misunderstood and misapplied,” Garcia said.
His vision for community policing would call for neighborhood leaders to work with long-term beat officers, who would encourage trained community members to help identify, reduce and eliminate troublemakers.
“I will keep the promise Mayor Emanuel broke – the promise to put 1,000 new police officers on the street,” Garcia said.
To pay for these reforms and return fiscal order to Chicago, Garcia is proposing a progressive tax system as opposed to Illinois’ current flat rate, a reform that would increase people’s tax rate as their taxable income increases.
At a press conference following his speech, however, Garcia said, “I do not foresee a tax increase.”
David Orr, Cook County clerk said, “Mayor Emanuel is of course trying to win outright so he doesn’t have to take this chance of losing.”
With the election set for February 24, Orr said Garcia is focused on forcing a runoff, which would give him increased visibility and more time to campaign.
For Emanuel to win outright, and avoid a runoff, he must garner greater than 50 percent of the vote on Election Day.
“If there is a runoff, and Rahm and “Chuy” are in it, everything changes,” Orr said.