Garcia sounds ready for 2019 rematch against Rahm Emanuel

SHARE Garcia sounds ready for 2019 rematch against Rahm Emanuel

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger Jesus “"Chuy”" Garcia wait to face off in their final mayoral debate on WTTW-Channel 11’s “Chicago Tonight” in 2015. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Vanquished mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia sounded Thursday like he’s itching for a 2019 rematch, blasting Mayor Rahm Emanuel for everything from taxes, schools and crime to his handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting video.

Garcia argued that Emanuel wears the jacket for the 60 percent surge in homicides and shootings because he relied on overtime — to the tune of $116.1 million a year — to mask a dangerous manpower shortage that has mushroomed on his watch.

When Garcia dared to suggest that Emanuel honor his broken 2011 promise to hire 1,000 additional officers, the mayor dismissed the idea as unaffordable.

“He said the proposal was fairy dust. Two years later, he says we’re gonna do it. Why did it take so long? Because it was something that I put forth? It really wasn’t because he had said he would do it four years prior to the last election. It’s now been six years,” Garcia said.

“It helped exacerbate the profound crisis that the city is in right now with respect to violence,” he said. “He should have brought on more personnel to ensure there’s better management of police officers on the street, better training and better relationships with communities.”

Garcia accused Emanuel of pulling a similar post-election switch on the issue of taxes to solve the city’s $30 billion pension crisis.

Before the runoff, Emanuel portrayed Garcia as inexperienced, indecisive and incapable of leading Chicago away from the financial cliff. He predicted Garcia would push through a massive property tax increase to honor his many promises.

After the election, Emanuel pushed through a $1.2 billion avalanche of tax increases.

“It’s the honesty part that hasn’t been there. He denied that he would do that. He suggested that I would raise taxes. He ran paid commercials to that effect. His evidence was the modest property tax increase I had voted for when Harold Washington was mayor that paled in comparison to the record property tax increase and all of the other tax increases that have now hit historic levels,” Garcia said.

Emanuel’s communications director Adam Collins responded to Garcia’s broadside in an emailed statement.

“The mayor has secured the pensions of city workers and the financial future of the city. He is working tirelessly to protect public safety, and to ensure Chicago remains a welcoming city for everyone,” Collins wrote.

“At this moment, when we are defending Chicago’s status as a welcoming city for immigrants, it seems the only person focused on an election that happened two years ago is the guy who lost it,” Collins wrote. “If Chuy is so concerned, he’s more than welcome to roll up his sleeves and join us in the hard work we’re doing instead of lobbing criticisms from the sidelines.”

Emanuel has been under fire for keeping the Laquan McDonald shooting video under wraps for more than a year and waiting until one week after the April 7, 2015, mayoral runoff to authorize a $5 million settlement to the McDonald family even before a lawsuit had been filed.

The video was released on the same day that white Police Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with the first-degree murder of the black teenager, only after a judge ordered the city to do so.

On Thursday, Garcia said he intends to make that a campaign issue if he decides to run for mayor again.

“Many people think there was a cover-up. Many people think that it was concealed, that it was quashed because of the potential impact on the election. What really clouds things is the payment of $5 million. They didn’t want the family to raise the issue,” he said.

If the video had been released before the election, Garcia said, “It would have had profound implications in terms of the election. No doubt. Because it was so explosive, so repugnant. It permeated racial and ethnic differences.”

Days after the video was released, Emanuel fired then-Police Supt. Garry McCarthy for becoming, what the mayor called a “distraction.”

Although he was not a fan of McCarthy, Garcia said the firing sent a dangerous message to rank and file police officers laying back for fear of being caught on the next YouTube video.

“He stood by him time and time again. Then suddenly, he was gone from one day to another. That told the officers on the street that Rahm will do whatever he’s got to do to save his neck,” Garcia said.

Garcia also raised the specter of a post-election cover-up in the contracting scandal that culminated in a guilty plea by former Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

“Her departure became public, what, maybe a week after the runoff election? How interesting. How convenient,” Garcia said.

“He bears responsibility because he chose her. He touted her as being the great educator, the great reformer in the country,” he said. “She was working at his beck and call. It’s very clear that he was comfortable with what she was doing.”

CPS is now bracing for another devastating round of midyear budget cuts after counting on $215 million in pension help from Springfield that Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed while awaiting a broader solution to the state’s pension crisis.

“Rahm said schools were his top priority, but we’re continuing to scramble. We’ve seen an unprecedented amount of cuts. . . . They’re talking about furlough days and shortening the school year. It continues to undermine building a stable system,” Garcia said.

After forcing Emanuel into Chicago’s first mayoral runoff, Garcia lost by 73,609 votes.

Emanuel won the second term he was denied in Round One, only after raising more than $20 million to just under $6 million for Garcia.

Garcia had a late start. He was a last-minute stand-in for Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, who was diagnosed with brain cancer.

This time around, Garcia is hoping to get a running start.

He plans to make a final decision by early summer, plenty of time to raise the $10 million to $20 million he believes will be needed to deny Emanuel a third term. That is, if the mayor chooses to seek re-election.

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