Cook County Board president-turned-mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle was portrayed Friday as “beholden” to the Cook County Democratic Party she chairs and as a “progressive” of convenience on social issues –– not financial ones.
Troy LaRaviere, Chicago’s first declared candidate for mayor, tried to slow down the Toni train by portraying Preckwinkle as a phony reformer and himself as the real thing.
A former alderman, Preckwinkle fashions herself as a progressive, even though she backed Hillary Clinton for president, Joe Berrios for re-election as assessor and now serves as chair of the Cook County Regular Democratic Organization.
LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals & Administrators Association, said Chicago voters should not be fooled.
“Toni Preckwinkle … was part of the City Council that voted for every single one of those city budgets that delayed or deferred pension payments in order to pay for the mayor’s — at that time Daley’s — pet projects,” LaRaviere told the Chicago Sun-Times.
“When it was discovered … that Joe Berrios … was under-assessing the wealthy, Toni Preckwinkle … continued to support and endorse him, even though it was clear that he was shortchanging poor people, working people, particularly people of color. Her loyalty to the Democratic Party is stronger than her loyalty to the people of Chicago. It’s that system that got us into the mess we’re in and she’s gonna continue to remain loyal to it.”
When Preckwinkle dove head-first into the crowded pool of candidates vying to succeed Mayor Rahm Emanuel, she highlighted her work to reform the criminal justice system and reduce the population of Cook County Jail.
But LaRaviere argued that “progressive stances on social issues” are not the true measure of a reformer. Even Emanuel can claim to be progressive on selected social issues, he said.
“It doesn’t cost their wealthy campaign donors to be supportive of an end to cash bail. It doesn’t cost their wealthy campaign donors for them to support gay marriage. But when it comes to progressive revenue and a progressive tax on real estate transfers in this city, we’re not going to see that from Toni Preckwinkle. We’re not going to see it from anybody who’s part of the mainstream Democratic Party because wealthy real estate developers are their main campaign donors,” he said.
“We need people who are going to support a full progressive platform — not highlight a couple of socially progressive stances while their economic stances are not much different than Donald Trump’s, then try to pretend like they’re progressives. I see Toni Preckwinkle as one of those people.”
The Preckwinkle campaign refused to comment on LaRaviere’s remarks.
LaRaviere is the second mayoral candidate this week to take a shot at Preckwinkle.
Businessman Willie Wilson accused Preckwinkle of “arrogantly stealing credit” for the bail reform campaign he championed.
To meet a $1 billion surge in pension payments and distinguish himself from Preckwinkle, LaRaviere vowed to pursue: a graduated income and real estate transfer tax; a transaction tax on the LaSalle Street exchanges; a city income tax; a downtown congestion fee; and broadening the sales tax umbrella to include services.
That would not only ease the pressure to raise property taxes. It would allow the city to eliminate red-light and speed cameras that, together, generated $102 million in revenue last year.
If elected, LaRaviere would also take the money Emanuel is spending to add 970 Chicago police officers and use it, instead, to hire 10,000 more teachers. That’s 22 staffers apiece for every Chicago Public School.
When Emanuel took over, CPS staffing levels were “ahead of at least a hundred other” school districts around the state, he said. Now, CPS is “second-to-last” by design, LaRaviere said. No wonder so many South and West Side high schools are half-empty or worse, he said.
“They methodically understaffed schools to set them up for failure so they would not have the capacity to develop an academic program that would attract families to their schools,” LaRaviere said.
“The goal was for those schools to fail so they could privatize the district and so Rahm Emanuel’s campaign donors, who invest in charters, could profit off of our city school dollars.”
Emanuel’s communications director Adam Collins said mayoral candidates are free to champion “whatever plan they dream up, I suppose, even if their plan is to lay off police officers.”
But Collins argued that the two-year police hiring surge is delivering results.
“Since January 2017 there are over 1,300 more sworn officers in CPD, and there have been over 1,300 fewer shooting victims. There’s a lot more work to do and that’s a record this administration will continue to build on,” Collins wrote in an email.
Collins also noted that, under Emanuel’s leadership, CPS students have achieved “record-highs for graduation rates, math and reading scores, and college enrollment.”
In the run-up to Chicago’s historic mayoral race, veteran Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman goes one-on-one with Chicago newsmakers each Friday. Catch-up on all episodes on the Fran Spielman Show page.