Gariepy endorses Conyears-Ervin in runoff for city treasurer

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Peter Gariepy, who finished third in the Feb. 26 election for city treasurer, was at City Hall Tuesday to endorse Melissa Conyears-Ervin (standing behind him) in the April 2 runoff election. | Fran Spielman/Sun-Times

A vanquished candidate for city treasurer on Tuesday endorsed Melissa Conyears-Ervin in the April 2 runoff, portraying Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) as a publicity hound whose activist ideas would put Chicago taxpayers at risk.

“The city treasurer’s office is not about headlines and hashtags. … It’s not a matter of crazy ideas and personal beliefs or setting yourself up for something else,” Peter Gariepy said.

Gariepy said he is endorsing Conyears-Ervin “without reservation” and plans to spend the next four weeks helping her get elected.

“There is only one person who is not only qualified but has the perspective and the capability to remember that this is not the treasurers’ money. This money belongs to the people of Chicago. To the pensioners, who have earned their livelihood,” he said.

Conyears-Ervin, wife of Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) said she’s “thrilled” to have Gariepy’s support, even though her former opponent finished third with just 14 percent of the vote on Feb. 26.

“These two mainstays of my campaign — safeguarding taxpayers’ money while protecting Chicago’s investments — [are] a central theme to why I believe that I am the best person for this job,” she said.

Turning to Gariepy, she said: “It helps to … have the endorsement of Peter Gariepy because you believe that I have the taxpayers’ best interests at heart.”

Pawar is abiding by a self-imposed two-term limit and running for city treasurer on a platform to create a public bank that just might be a potential source of funding for a universal basic income pilot that would pay 1,000 Chicagoans $1,000-a-month with no strings attached.

He has also floated a plan to sell or give away shares in Chicago’s water system to city residents and pay them dividends, just as Alaska residents receive an annual dividend from their state’s oil riches.

And, Pawar has proposed using city employee pension funds and city investments to help solve the student loan crisis that has dramatically impacted his own household of three.

On Tuesday, Gariepy portrayed Pawar’s activist ideas as downright dangerous at a time when Chicago taxpayers are facing a $1 billion spike in pension payments.

“He believes city pension funds should be used to capitalize a public bank. A public bank whose deposits would only be insured by the taxpayers of Chicago. Those very same taxpayers … who are also on the hook for making sure we meet those ballooning pension payments,” Gariepy said.

“If you, then, empty those city pension funds, loan them out in sub-prime loans at below-market rates, now all of the sudden, our cost of borrowing is going to skyrocket. Our credit rating will crumble. And our already precarious financial situation will become even more grim.”

Pawar finished second with 41.5 percent of the vote, 13,827 votes behind Conyears Ervin’s 44.3 percent.

The retiring alderman shrugged off the impact of Gariepy’s endorsement and pushed back hard against the notion that his activist ideas are either risky or self-aggrandizing.

“These are dangerous times. We live in a space where a majority of Americans don’t have $1,000 in the bank [and] 26 percent of Chicagoans live in poverty. We have a massive affordable housing crisis. The only way to prevent a massive tax increase on Chicagoans is to reform how we invest,” Pawar said.

“That is reforming how much money we pay to the big banks, understanding how much money we pay to manage our investments. And then also making investments in communities with affordable housing and refinancing student loans so that the investments we make are [improving] our city.”

It’s not about securing a political promotion for himself, Pawar said. It’s about confronting income inequality, saving Chicago’s shrinking middle class and stopping the black exodus that has caused the city’s population to plummet.

“Nearly every single labor-related policy that’s passed the City Council over the last eight years I either led or co-led….I stand on my record. I’m proud of my record,” Pawar said, pointing to ordinances that raised Chicago’s minimum wage, granted mandatory sick leave and to the pending proposal to make Chicago the guinea pig for universal basic income.

He added: “If the only goal of the treasurer is to look at a spread-sheet and say, `This went up and this went down’ without looking at the impacts of an investment on a community, we’re gonna keep seeing tax increases.”

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