Jesus Chuy Garcia says it’s time for a change. But first, it’s time for some specifics.When his mayoral campaign kicked off last fall, he was a little-known county commissioner with a funny nickname, a mustache and an alliance with Harold Washington.The anybody-but-Rahm crowd got him this far. Now Garcia must convince thoughtful voters that he can govern.OPINION
For months, the Cook County commissioner has been promising a plan to address Chicago’s fiscal woes. How will he address the city’s $20 billion pension shortfall? What revenues will satisfy the city’s $300 million budget deficit?No plan. Instead, Garcia offers vague, canned rhetoric.Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign says that shows Garcia is not prepared to govern. The campaign released a video last week featuring a Dec. 6 radio interview in which Garcia declared, “We are consulting with national and international experts on this matter, so we’re going to be releasing positions with the next few weeks.”Cut to March 2: “We are consulting with the foremost experts in municipal, finance and pension questions, also, so we are doing our homework.”Maybe the dog ate it.Let’s note that there’s a double standard here. Emanuel has offered no clear, concrete vision for the next four years, instead, incessantly parrots talking points about his past accomplishments.In his two-year gubernatorial campaign, the mayor’s “1 Percent” pal, Bruce Rauner, never delivered specific solutions to the state’s myriad fiscal and budget woes. Voters elected him anyway.Garcia shouldn’t count on getting that pass.The campaign is “retooling,” his people say. Give them time. Last week I visited his headquarters, in a stripped-down restaurant space on West Washington Boulevard. The street-level office was spinning with squads of organizers running to and fro.Garcia became a national headline overnight. The day after the election, he sat for 27 media interviews, he says. We sat in his cramped, cubbyhole of an office, furnished with a table and a few chairs, hemmed in by an old walk-in cooler.He offered no detailed plan, just repeated that he is soliciting advice from “experts.”Garcia seemed irritated by the criticism. “We won’t be pressured into making irresponsible statements,” he declared. A fiscal plan is coming soon, he promised.So what great minds are advising you? Who is signing on?Former State Sen. President Emil Jones is endorsing Garcia, the campaign confirmed. Given that he is a Democratic Party regular and mentor to President Barack Obama, Jones is an interesting ally.And two notables are members of Garcia’s fiscal brain trust: Teresa Ghilarducci, a chair in economic policy analysis at The New School for Social Research in New York City, and H. Woods Bowman, professor emeritus at the School of Public Service at DePaul University.Another, late-breaking tidbit: I asked both campaigns to provide demographics on their staffs.Emanuel’s campaign employs of 28 full-time staffers: 60.7 percent are white, 21.4 percent African-American, and 17.9 percent Hispanic, according to campaign spokesman Steve Mayberry. About 54 percent are men.Garcia’s staff is more diverse, and heavy on Latinos: 33 percent white, 31 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African American, 14 percent Asian and 52 percent female, according to the campaign. (It could not tell me how many staff members, nor account for a missing 1 percent).Still, it’s four weeks to the April 7 election. What’s the plan?
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