The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent mayoral candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city. Former federal prosecutor Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will face off in the April 2 runoff, with the winner becoming the first African-American woman to serve as mayor of Chicago.
Here are their responses, pulled from their questionnaires. Click the links below to jump to a single issue.
Where should Chicago find the money to pay its bills?
Preckwinkle: Supports, if “substantial share” of women, minorities involved as contractors, employees
Legalized and taxed recreational marijuana
La Salle Street tax
Preckwinkle: states no position
Lightfoot: Open to it, but it must not “drive businesses from Chicago or create a disincentive for businesses to invest in our city.”
Preckwinkle: “not good public policy”
Property tax increase
Preckwinkle: states no position
Lightfoot: Not until “broken property tax system is fixed”
Municipal sales tax increase
Preckwinkle: states no position
Lightfoot: Open to it, but must look at “progressive forms of revenue first.”
Real estate transfer tax
Preckwinkle: favors for properties sold over $1 million
Lightfoot: favors a graduated form of this tax
Legalized and taxed video gambling
Preckwinkle: states no position
Lightfoot: Not opposed
Top alternative source of new revenue:
Preckwinkle: graduated state income tax
Lightfoot: proposed tax on big law firms
Should the state Constitution be amended to allow a reduction in pension benefits for current city employees or retirees? How about reducing pension benefits for new employees?
(Both Preckwinkle and Lightfoot are against this amendment to the state Constitution.)
Toni Preckwinkle: I do not think the state Constitution should be amended to allow any reductions to promised pension benefits for current city workers or retirees. We owe it to our workers and retirees to fully fund our pension system. Relying on the state to help us with our pension crisis is a gamble we can not afford to take. We have to find creative ways to generate progressive and long term revenue to help fund our pension obligations.
Lori Lightfoot: No. I know and believe that pensions are a promise, and I will make sure that current city employees and retirees receive the pensions they have been promised. I am opposed to amending the Illinois Constitution to reduce or diminish pension benefits for current city employees or retirees. Retired public service workers make up the backbone of the middle class in so many of our communities. To derail their retirement security would be devastating to local economies across our city. We have to resolve the pension problem for retirees, current employees, and new employees.
The City of Chicago has entered into a federally monitored consent decree to overhaul the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department. Civil libertarians say it is long overdue, but others say it is unnecessary and could make it tougher for the police to do their job. What’s your view?
Preckwinkle: The consent decree is much needed and long overdue. It is essential to the difficult, but necessary, work of rebuilding the relationship between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.
A lack of accountability and an inability to develop strong relationships in Chicago’s communities are leading factors in CPD being one of the least effective large police forces in the United States in solving and preventing homicides and shootings. In 2017, CPD identified a suspect in only 17% of homicides and 5% of shootings. This is far lower than the national averages. Restoring trust between officers and communities will help improve these numbers, because more officers will develop relationships that yield the information that helps solve crimes.
The consent decree will also lead to better supervision and more appropriate, consistent training, both of which are necessary to create effective, constitutional policing at the CPD.
As Mayor, I will make sure that the Chicago Police Department fully complies with the mandates of the consent decree. However, police reform will require more than the consent decree. True and sustainable public safety requires a multi-faceted and coordinated approach. The Chicago Police Department must work closely with other local and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as other city departments, social service organizations and public health officials.
Lori Lightfoot: I support a police consent decree because given CPD’s history, it is the only tool currently available to make the systemic reforms necessary, in a responsible time frame, in an environment of review and accountability. However, I have been clear that the draft prepared by the parties needs substantive changes and I have shared the changes that I believe are needed with the parties, and the federal court and they can be found on the campaign website, Lightfootforchicago.com.
I am the only candidate in this race that has a broad depth of experience in dealing with issues related to police excess force and abuse, accountability and reform. My perspective on these issues stems from my roles as a federal prosecutor and the head of the former Office of Professional Standards, in which I made countless recommendations to terminate police officers who failed to properly perform their duties, including in police-involved shootings. More recently, I led the Police Accountability Task Force (PATF), whose report served as the underpinnings for both the Obama DOJ report and recommendations on the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and the consent decree. There would be no consent decree without the PATF. I also served as the president of Chicago Police Board, where I held officers accountable for misconduct. Before resigning from the police board to run for mayor, I significantly increased the number of officers that were terminated for serious misconduct or received lengthy suspensions.
My body of work demonstrates my commitment to ensuring that public safety is available to everyone and in every neighborhood, that officers must be held accountable for misconduct and that taxpayers cannot continue to shoulder the burden of unchecked misconduct manifested in settlements, judgments, and attorneys’ fees currently totaling over $500 million in the last seven years.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel locked in the construction of a $95 million police and fire training academy in West Garfield Park with a 38 to 8 vote in City Council. It has been attacked by more than a year now, by a #NoCopAcademy coalition. At forum happening simultaneously, Lightfoot and Preckwinkle were asked to respond.
Preckwinkle: Preckwinkle agrees the city needs to invest in police training, but thinks the $95 million plan Council passed on Wednesday is too high.
“I’m not opposed to a new training facility, I just question whether or not we need to spend $95 million on a brand new facility, whether there’s an opportunity to re-use a facility elsewhere.”
Lightfoot: Citing New York City’s recent $750 million investment in a police training academy, Ligthfoot envisions a much larger facility for Chicago — one that can be used as a resource for local, state and federal law enforcement.
“What we’re talking about here is $95 million. If you’re really going to do it right it’s going to be far more than that.”
- Fact-check: Providing oversight of Lightfoot’s record on police discipline
- Lightfoot faced withering criticism over handling of lawsuit tied to fatal fire
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Preckwinkle: As Mayor, I will advocate to strengthen gun laws at the state and federal level to give law enforcement the needed tools to put an end to illegal trafficking. I will ask Governor-elect JB Pritzker to sign Senate Bill 337, which requires Illinois gun dealers to be licensed by the Illinois State Police and increase their responsibilities to restrict straw purchases. I will ask the state legislature to pursue legislation that lowers the burden of proof for straw purchasers who buy guns that end up in the wrong hands. It will be a priority for my administration to lobby alongside our Congressional delegation to pass real federal gun reform that will make firearm trafficking a federal crime.
Lightfoot: Stopping this flow of illegal guns requires a proactive, coordinated response from law enforcement that must be led by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, in coordination with the ATF, FBI, DEA, the CPD and state and county law enforcement, as well as federal counterparts in states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Mississippi, from which large sources of illegal guns flow. We must target the traffickers, felons in possession and straw purchasers with an effective carrot (social service support and jobs for those who leave the criminal life) and stick (stepped up prosecutions for serious offenders) approach. In addition, the U.S. Attorney’s office must increase the number of illegal gun cases prosecuted in Chicago.
In addition to your thoughts on how to stem the problem of illegal guns, what else should the next mayor of Chicago to do reduce the rate of violent crime in our city?
Preckwinkle: Currently, there are only two full-time Mayoral personnel dedicated to the full scope of the city’s public safety concerns. While there has been the promise of a new Office of Violence Prevention within the Office of the Mayor in 2019, additional oversight of public safety within the Office of the Mayor is long overdue. However it is important this office be truly interdisciplinary, focusing on gun violence prevention and also the associated criminal justice challenges that destabilize communities. As mayor, I will ensure this new office fosters inter-agency collaboration between CPD, the Sheriffs Department and other state and federal law enforcement agencies and that it convenes task forces comprised of these agencies, other city departments, experts and community leaders addressing issues like neighborhood stabilization/wellness, youth intervention, witness and victim services, domestic violence, decarceration, expanded sanctuary, and returning residents.
As mayor, I will make the necessary investments in public education, mental health services, housing and workforce development to transform communities over time. At same time, my administration will support targeted programs like READI, which provides jobs, training, and counseling to those individual most likely to offend or be victimized without intervention.
Lightfoot: As set forth in my public safety plan, we cannot arrest our way out of our violence problem. Instead, the city and its partners must treat this epidemic of violence as the public health crisis that it is. This means addressing the root causes of violence by revitalizing economically destressed neighborhoods, ensuring access to quality schools in every neighborhood, eliminating food and medical deserts, and providing a pathway to good jobs that pay a living wage. In addition, we must follow the lead of cities like Boston and Oakland and increase the resources devoted to violence interruption techniques so we can stop violence before it happens. Furthermore, the city, philanthropic foundations and local businesses must place more emphasis on, and commit more resources to, organizations across the city that help ease the transition of the thousands of citizens released annually from state and county jails back into society and the workforce. Providing legitimate jobs that pay a living wage is one of the best ways to reduce violence and recidivism and improve our communities.
We also must develop educational programming for our public school students. In 2016, approximately 19% of Chicago’s homicide victims were between the ages of 10 and 19. Chicago Public Schools must develop a K-12 curriculum that teaches about the dangers of guns and gun violence, and how they can work with their communities to end violence. The curriculum should also include sections devoted to conflict resolution, social justice and identifying and treating the trauma that affects so many of today’s elementary and high school students.
Where candidates stand on the issue of rent control:
Preckwinkle: Supports lifting the state ban on rent control. “I believe this power should be given back to local municipalities so they can decide how rent control would best work for them,” Preckwinkle said in a statement. “This decision should not implemented solely from the power of the mayor’s office, but should be an engaging process between activists, elected officials and all stakeholders.”
Lightfoot:has not taken a stance on rent control. A campaign spokeswoman did not respond directly to questions on the issue Friday, but in a statement pointed to Lightfoot’s strategy of “aggressively ensuring that more affordable housing units are built all over the city.”
Lightfoot did note the problem in an television ad released Tuesday, saying that residents across the city are “struggling with repossessed cars and rising rent.”
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
(Both candidates want a moratorium on charter schools)
Preckwinkle: During the last administration, charters have become a weapon for corporate privatization of education. Given the scandals that occurred around Uno, Noble and other networks, it’s time to stop the expansion of school privatization so we can focus our efforts on improving oversight and ensuring that all our schools treat families, students, and teachers with respect. I support a freeze on any new charter schools until a fully elected school board can be implemented.
Lightfoot: I support a freeze on new charter schools. We must hold existing charter schools accountable for educating our children just as we do Chicago Public Schools. We must change the relationship between CPS and charters. Charters play a significant role in the education of our children, but CPS’ approach is often to treat charters like just another vendor. That must change.
Should the Chicago Board of Education be solely appointed by the mayor, as is now the case? Or should Chicago switch to an elected school board or some hybrid? Please explain? What else would you do as mayor to improve the quality of public school education?
(Both candidates believe in an elected school board)
Preckwinkle: I support a fully elected representative school board, with a structure that will ensure the board is truly representative of the rich and diverse fabric of our great city and limits the influence of outside interests in the election process. To improve the quality of our public education system, I support a tax reform package to generate real, progressive revenue and dedicate yearly TIF surpluses to public schools. With additional resources, Chicago Public Schools should focus on ensuring that every child, in every neighborhood, has access to a well-resourced public school that is able to meet the needs of the students and communities it serves. For many students, educational success can only be achieved with robust support both inside and outside of the classroom. CPS must invest in nurses, social workers, and critical support staff, such as teacher’s aids, to better serve all students, especially those with physical and mental health needs. More counselors are needed to serve the significant number of students who experience violence in their neighborhoods and families, and school leadership must do a better job at protecting students from any form of physical or sexual abuse at school.
Finally, CPS must commit to stability for communities and neighborhoods. That I why I’ve committed to a moratorium on school closings, which negatively impact educational outcomes for affected students and reflect a withdrawal of public support from communities that already lack critical resources and investment.
- Preckwinkle education agenda: four-year freeze on charters and school closings
- Preckwinkle vows to keep Jackson, cracks the door open to retaining Johnson
Lightfoot: I support a fully independent, elected school board. I am currently evaluating proposals for electing a school board, including whether candidates should first be required to serve on a Local School Council (LSC).
I will also follow the lead of other school districts and help create policies and practices that undo the systems and structures that created and perpetuate inequities of opportunity and academic achievement. The first step is to create and adopt an equity policy statement that will act as a north star for CPS staff and students alike. In order to implement the policy, I will convene a district-wide equity council composed of educators who have had equity training and will be charged with ensuring the district complies with the equity policy moving forward.
How candidates envision a new City Council:
Preckwinkle: Preckwinkle spent 19 years in the City Council. She wants to keep aldermanic prerogative and ban outside income to stop the parade of aldermen marching off to federal prison.
Lightfoot: Lightfoot wants to give the City Council its own attorney, televise committee meetings, impose term limits for committee chairmen and end aldermanic prerogative, the unwritten rule giving local alderman iron-fisted control over zoning, permits and licenses in their wards.
Chicago, by ordinance, is an official “welcoming city.” This means the Chicago police are generally prohibited from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities. What’s your position on this policy? What more — or less — should be done with respect to undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago?
Preckwinkle: We absolutely must do more to protect undocumented immigrants and ensure their safety in our city. I have called for the end to the carve outs in the Welcoming City ordinance that empowers Chicago police to work hand-in-hand with ICE. I’m working with the lead sponsor of the City’s Welcoming City ordinance and the broader community coalition to make this a reality. As Cook County Board President, I oversaw the approval of an ordinance that allowed uninsured Cook County residents earning under $48,000 and undocumented immigrants to see primary care physicians within the Cook County Health & Hospital System, that helped nearly 40,000 people in 2017. This ensures that undocumented immigrants have access to necessary care and protection without fear of law enforcement retribution.
I also support ending use of the inaccurate, racially discriminatory Chicago Police Department’s gang database, which is used to criminalize over 128,000 individuals, a majority of whom are Black and Latinx. False gang designations are then shared with ICE, impacting an individual’s opportunity to secure immigration relief.
Lightfoot: I have spent many years working in support of the immigrant community. For instance, I took on a pro bono case representing a Liberian immigrant who testified in federal court against his principal torturer. More recently, I’ve helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the National Immigrant Justice Center. These issues are very important to me.
I support amending the Welcoming City Ordinance to remove the four exceptions to the general rule not to arrest or hold anyone based solely on an ICE warrant or hold request. As mayor, I would only allow for compliance with valid warrants or court orders that are signed by a judge.
Also, drawing on my background as a federal prosecutor, one of my first priorities would be to meet with the head of ICE in Chicago and the U.S. Attorney’s office to express my views and the city’s position regarding ICE’s politicized role in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
I also support, among other things, efforts to protect undocumented immigrants from unscrupulous businesses that seek to take advantage of a person’s undocumented status, including businesses that commit wage theft, overcharge for services provided to undocumented immigrants, or which do not provide services they have been paid to perform.
What are the top three environmental concerns facing the next mayor of Chicago?
(Both candidates are calling for bringing back a stand-alone city department to handle environmental issues.)
Preckwinkle: Chicago’s top three environmental issues are contaminated water, clean energy, and environmental justice. It is intolerable that 380,000 buildings in Chicago still have lead service lines contaminating drinking water. We must replace them to prevent contact with water sources. The City must be transparent about a timetable and funding – and warn residents about anything the City knows about their lead service lines. I would tap federal funding sources such as the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act and the EPA Revolving Fund. We also need to keep plastics, pharmaceuticals and other pollutants out of our waterways, and prioritize more natural “green” infrastructure to reduce the effects of flooding.
The planet is warming faster, and Chicago faces flooding, heat waves and threats to Lake Michigan. Clean, renewable energy should power our city. I have reduced greenhouse gas emissions from County buildings 32% since 2010 and installed solar energy, electric vehicle charging stations, and clean geothermal heating and cooling. The County is purchasing Renewable Energy Credits from wind power for 20% of its electricity in 2019 – at less cost than our 2018 electricity bill. We must help buildings large and small be more efficient and tap clean renewable energy. Building codes must assure new buildings are more efficient from the beginning. Chicago should be electric-vehicle ready – and have the best public transportation system in the country as well as walkable neighborhoods to reduce fuel emissions.
Dirty air, land and water disproportionately affect disenfranchised communities. Communities need to be involved in planning and environmental decisions that affect them. But even more, a clean environment can be a “green new deal” creating jobs and educational opportunities. I would seek funding sources, e.g. USEPA Brownfield grants (Cook County received the highest amount of brownfield funding in the nation in 2018) to remediate contaminated sites to grow clean, well-paying jobs. I would forge partnerships with labor, community organizations, foundations and businesses to support workforce training, such as the contribution recently received from Union Pacific for job training programs at Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.
- Under Mayor Rahm Emanuel, city has sharply scaled back environmental enforcement
- Key Chicago alderman, two mayoral finalists want a separate environmental agency
Lightfoot: The city must do more to combat climate change while ensuring that residents have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink no matter where in Chicago they live.
The city can begin by resuming the leadership it lost when Mayor Emanuel disbanded the Environment Department in 2011. The impact of this wrongheaded decision is evident. Companies like General Iron continue to pollute surrounding neighborhoods, and as polluting industries relocate from the north side to the west and south sides, they will expose tens of thousands of residents in mostly minority communities to harmful pollutants, including manganese. The recent disclosures about lead in Chicago’s drinking water, which the city tried to conceal, further show the need for a strong Department of Environment that is committed to expanding the city’s water testing, both in terms of total yearly tests and locations tested, and protecting our drinking water.
In addition to improving the lives of residents, a strong Environment Department will make it easier for Chicago to be a true leader on regional environmental issues, including protecting the water quality of the Great Lakes and protecting Chicago’s rivers and Lake Michigan from invasive species like Asian carp.
As thousands of residents of who regularly dry out their basements after even moderate rainfalls can attest, the city needs to do more to reduce stormwater. We can do this in a number of ways, including working collaboratively with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to end the use of combined sewers, revisiting zoning laws to discourage building from lot line to lot line, which exacerbates run-off, and by encouraging green infrastructure projects.
I am also committed to powering the city’s buildings with 100% renewable energy by 2025. But achieving that must be the first milestone, not the end goal. While the city continues toward meeting that goal, it must simultaneously commit to, and work toward, 100% renewable energy city-wide by 2035.
What past or present Chicago mayor would you model yourself after or take inspiration from? Please explain.
(Both say Harold Washington)
Toni Preckwinkle: Mayor Harold Washington, a great friend and mentor to me, whose administration I served in from 1985 to 1988, is someone who inspires me to this day. He was a progressive and despite some really tough opposition, never wavered on being a Mayor for the entire city. Mayor Washington was strongly committed to “balanced development,” or the idea that Chicago could support the downtown area as an economic engine while also ensuring all of city’s neighborhoods thrived as well. Most importantly, Mayor Washington governed inclusively. Everyone, not just the powerful and well-connected, had a voice in his administration and that produced a more fair and just city. When elected, that’s the type of administration I will have.
Lori Lightfoot: Harold Washington. I moved to Chicago in the middle of the second Washington campaign. I have never seen such energy and enthusiasm regarding a political movement. The potential for transformation was incredibly infectious. I also remember quite well the chaos that ensued in the immediate aftermath of his death and how the progress that had been made and promised was quickly vanquished by the machine and petty, parochial interests — across the political spectrum — that extinguished the light that had been lit for a government that was truly responsive to the lives of ordinary Chicagoans. Washington had a vision for a different, more inclusive and equitable Chicago. I very much share that vision.