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Chico proposes Mayor’s Office on Violence Prevention and Reduction

Video by Eliza Davidson and Colin Boyle

Gery Chico vowed Friday to establish a Mayor’s Office on Violence Prevention and Reduction to bring a laser-like focus toward solving Chicago’s epidemic of gang violence.

The City Hall office would bring together representatives from roughly fifteen different agencies, including the Chicago Police Department, Park District, Chicago Public Schools, Departments of Planning and Development and Family and Support Services, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and police oversight agencies.

Video by Eliza Davidson and Colin Boyle

They would work with non-profits like the Heartland Alliance and with the private sector to implement the now-pending police consent decree and execute violence reduction and job creation programs that “drive a wedge” through gangs.

“That is gonna be a unique array of people right in the mayor’s office to work tirelessly…to bring down the crime we’re seeing grip our neighborhoods….Parents are fearful of having their children play on the sidewalks and on the streets. We can’t have that. That’s not the narrative we’re gonna have attached to Chicago,” Chico said.

“We have a lot of people trying things, doing things. Police are doing their thing. Planning is doing its thing. Occasionally, they collaborate and coordinate. This has to be done more so than ever. When you couple community policing….alongside these other kinds of initiatives to recruit people out of gangs and give them jobs, you’re gonna see violence go down.”

Mayoral candidate Gery Chico is interviewed by reporter Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times newsroom Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chico served as former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s go-to-guy, with stints as chief of staff and president of the Park District and City Colleges boards.

After Daley’s 1995 school takeover, Chico was dispatched to CPS as part of a dream-team pairing with then-CEO Paul Vallas that pioneered the concept of selective enrollment high schools.

On Friday, Chico proposed major expansions for the crown jewels of the selective enrollment system –– North Side Prep, Walter Payton, Whitney Young, Lane Tech and Jones –– so families don’t have to consider leaving Chicago when their kids hit fifth grade.

“I’m not gonna sit back and watch these parents anguish about getting their kid in a high school anymore. It’s over,” Chico said.

“You have huge ratios of applicants to available spaces. That’s unfair to people. This isn’t Harvard. This isn’t Princeton. This isn’t Stanford. These are people living in the neighborhoods of Chicago. They should have an opportunity to go to a school without pulling their hair out.”

One day after formally entering the crowded race for mayor, Chico also threw his support behind raising the minimum wage to $15-an-hour, eliminating red-light and speed cameras and restoring the $100 million-a-year subsidy for retiree health care.

Chico was asked how he plans to pay for all of those promises — and more, if he decides 970 additional police officers is not enough –– at a time when the next mayor will also face a nearly $1 billion surge in pension payments.

“I will be talking about [revenue and spending cut] options. They’re gonna be controversial. People are gonna say, ‘Oh my God. I’m not voting for this guy.’ But we’ve got to be honest with people,” Chico said, noting that he has at least a dozen ideas.

“You have to be as innovative as you’ve ever been in looking at city finances and what the needs of the city are.”

As for the “not-in-my-backyard” mentality that has exacerbated Chicago’s affordable housing crisis, Chico suggested overriding the longstanding tradition known as aldermanic prerogative that has given individual aldermen iron-fisted control over zoning in their wards.

“In many cases, aldermen do the right thing and allow the project to move forward on its merits. But if there’s a case where there’s just utter racism preventing the project from going forward, aldermanic prerogative is out the window. We’re not gonna be a city known for that,” Chico said.

“You can observe the concept of aldermanic prerogative except to the extent….where the issue is of such great public significance that you override it. Like we did when Brendan Reilly was standing in the way of the Children’s Museum.”

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