VIDEO: Illinois Democratic governor candidates speak at the Chicago Sun-Times
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The Illinois Democratic candidates for governor were invited to meet Wednesday with the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board.
The candidates are State Sen. Daniel Biss; Bob Daiber, regional superintendent of schools in downstate Madison County; anti-violence activist Tio Hardiman; business executive Chris Kennedy; physician Robert Marshall; and business executive J.B. Pritzker.
The Chicago Sun-Times editorial board members are Chris Fusco, Tom McNamee, Tom Frisbie, Marlen Garcia, Mary Mitchell and Mark Brown.
CHRIS FUSCO: Good morning, everybody. My name is Chris Fusco. I am the editor-in-chief of The Chicago Sun–Times. I’d like to welcome the six Democratic candidates for governor to our new office here in the West Loop. This is kind of a brave new world for us today. We’re doing our first really large candidate session in our new space and hopefully those of you who are watching us out there on YouTube or Facebook bear with us. Hopefully all is going to go without a hitch.
I’d like to introduce our candidates: Dr. Robert Marshall, Superintendent Bob Daiber, Mr. J.B. Pritzker, Senator Daniel Biss, Mr. Chris Kennedy and Mr. Tio Hardiman. On our side, we have from the newsroom columnist Mark Brown, from our editorial board Marlen Garcia, our editorial page editor Tom McNamee, our political reporter Tina Sfondeles, our columnist and editorial board member Mary Mitchell, and last but definitely not least our editorial board member Tom Frisbie. With that I’m going to hand things over to the our editorial page editor Tom McNamee for our first question.
TOM MCNAMEE: So first of all I just want to say, for all the lights and cameras this is just too to my way of looking at it another editorial board, which means we hope in the next seventy-five minutes or so to get a better idea of where you stand on the issues, where you differ on the issues which is much more important, and a sense of who would be the best governor for Illinois if a Democrat were to win.
A couple things I want to say, so along those lines I hope you guys will have a little give and take with us, you know feel free to disagree or to add in as long as it’s respectful, and most importantly if you can keep your answers succinct—two minutes is long in this business with the cameras going, so if you could all sort of try to be very, very concise that would be very helpful. And that’s about it. We will also be sort of– there’s no particular script here for us.
So the first question, I’m going to address this to Senator Dan Biss. And the reason for that was, Senator, you were actually down in Springfield last summer when they finally manage after two years to pass the state budget. Something near and dear to our heart as an editorial board, but for all of that we still have severe financial problems. We still have a hundred thirty billion dollars in underfunded unfunded pension liabilities, and I believe we may be still the worst credit rating in the country among all the states—if not the worst, certainly right down there with the worst. So we have a long way to go, and the question is, what next? How do we set our financial ship right?
DANIEL BISS: Well thank you for that question. It’s on some level the question because what we have is a state government that is broke, and state government that is broken, and a state that as a result is not working for ordinary families, a state where there’s an incredible concentration of wealth and power, and where middle-class families and the working poor have been left further and further behind. Our state government, our state budget system was built to exacerbate that problem. We’re one of only four states in the country who has a flat tax provision in the Constitution. I refer to that as the original sin in Illinois budgeting. A mistake that was put in in 1970 to our constitution that we’ve been kind of chattering about repealing over the course of decades, but haven’t ever really put our shoulder to the wheel. It’s time to do that immediately. It’s time to view that as a starting point, not an ending point to building a fair tax system, by going on to tax financial transactions on LaSalle Street to the Board of Trade, and the Mercantile Exchange to close what I would call the Bruce Rauner loophole, the corrupt tax loophole that allows hedge fund managers and private equity fund managers to get away without paying their fair share in taxes. We have a system that’s been designed for a few, by a few, and if we want to have budget that works for the State of Illinois we actually have to design a modern fair tax system built for today’s economy, not the 1970 economy. That’s job one. That has to be job one.
MCNAMEE: So your talking about more revenue, what I haven’t heard you say is any sort of reductions in costs.
BISS: Yeah, I would say that the way that this question has been thought about over time has been focused on which line in which budget do you cut. You know, do you slash mental health services some more? Do you cut education services some more? And it’s just been destructive, and the way I think we ought to think about doing government less expensively is not that sort of spreadsheet, math problem, what line in the budget do you cut? It’s how do you do it more intelligently? How do you do it in a more streamlined way? And so I’ve done things in my time in the legislature to fight for this, fighting for example to allow Evanston Township, where I live, to be folded in with the City of Evanston, allowing the services to be delivered more effectively at a lower cost by decreasing administrative overhead. State government is full of situations like that where by sharing services across agencies and so forth you can decrease costs and improve the quality of state government. But I don’t think we ought to think about it in terms of, should we be cutting education? Should we be cutting health care? Should we be cutting public safety? Because in fact, the state government itself is already providing inadequate services in those areas.
MCNAMEE: Anybody have something more to say about that?
J.B. PRITZKER: Well, let’s remember that the way you put together a balanced budget is really three items, right? People think of it as two: revenue and expenditures. But there’s a third item, and that’s growth, because if you want to avoid– if you want more revenue and you want to avoid raising taxes, then you also need to grow the economy, and it’s something that’s been missing badly from Bruce Rauner’s agenda in the State of Illinois. In fact, what he’s brought his complete uncertainty to the state, so no one wants to invest in the state, grow jobs. It’s very difficult to attract companies from outside of the state, and very difficult to get people to grow their businesses inside the state because no one knows what the future of the State of Illinois will look like. But I think it’s important that we have a progressive income tax, so that we taxed more properly people who can more afford to pay, and that we protect the middle class and those striving to get to the middle class. I believe we’ve lost jobs because we aren’t investing in our education system, because we have an uncertain future of the State of Illinois, the government of the State of Illinois, and because we’re not stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing in terms of our safety net. For two years and six days without a budget, you lose the services, the basic services, mental health services, and the things that strengthen families across the state in communities across the state, homeless shelters, health services for people, and not just here in Cook County but across the state in the 96 counties outside of Cook, in the Collar counties, where people now have to drive two and three hours to find the service that used to be in their home county.
MCNAMEE: You know I guess the question is, what do you do about our state finances between now and let’s say 2020, because a change in the constitution to have a progressive income tax, a LaSalle street tax, we looked at that once, and we were not convinced that it really raised that kind of revenue. Not cutting expenses, so I’m starting to wonder what can be done in next year and a half. Mr. Kennedy–
MCNAMEE: Well go ahead, Mr. Daiber, go ahead.
DAIBER: I came forward and made a comment, and I support a concept that was led by Senator Harmon. And that was: we have these bills, $14.5 billion we had. And two years without a budget, the most critical thing that happened in Illinois was the mounting of unpaid bills, and that’s why businesses didn’t look at Illinois. They said, why would I go there and do business if I’m not going to get paid. So we have these bills to pay, we have this debt. I said bond out as much of this as we can. You take and put your debt interest in your next budget that becomes manageable for the state, and then you begin to rectify your debt and your debt interest in the future years ahead and pay down your principal. And that’s how you move the state forward financially without an outlandish tax increase on taxpayers in the State of Illinois. I’m for a progressive income tax, but I don’t think we’ll get there till 2021.
TIO HARDIMAN: Now I just wanted to add on behalf of the Hardiman and Avery administration, when you’re talking about state finances we definitely support the progressive tax, which we know is going to take a constitutional amendment to make that a reality in Illinois. But at the same time, House bill 453 is a financial transaction tax. I know you said you took a look at that tax, but the reality of that tax can bring in $3 billion dollars in new revenue in the state over a period of time. And then we also support legalizing small amounts of marijuana, which can bring in a few billion dollars. And we can use those funds right there to help grow the economy here in the State of Illinois. For far too long, a lot of the wealthier people have not been paying their fair share of taxes, so these particular taxes can tax the people according to their income status, which is very, very important. We have a $25 million/day pension payment we have to pay every day. It’s $9 billion dollars a year. With these suggestions from the Hardiman/Avery camp: House bill 453, the progressive tax, and legalizing recreational amounts of marijuana, we can bring about $9 billion dollars/year, and that some of the pension crisis. And then moving forward, with new state employees and new employees we can offer them for 401ks that they can invest in, so it won’t be a burden on the state at this particular time, because that $130 billion pension crisis has been around for ages now because the leadership has failed the people of Illinois. That’s why we need new representation in Springfield to run this state.
MCNAMEE: So we’ll go to Senator Kennedy– Mr. Kennedy, obviously–Senator Biss. But Mr. Kennery we’ll go to this next. But as part of this question, several people have brought up the LaSalle street tax. And we have at one time—it’s been a while—looked at that tax, and we were not convinced it brought in much revenue. It’s been awhile, but we still looked at it. Does anybody here share our skepticism that the LaSalle street tax would actually bring in much revenue? And we’ll start with Mr. Kennedy.
CHRIS KENNEDY: I think anybody who suggests that we can institute at LaSalle Street tax, or frankly go after carried interest, is simply pandering to the public. Anybody who knows anything about trading down at the Board of Trade, or the Mercantile Exchange, knows that those trades occur, and there’s a matching engine where if you say you bought something from me, I say I sold something to you, that transaction is matched. There are matching engines all around the United States. If we tax those transactions in Illinois, if we announce today that we were going to tax them tomorrow, all of those exchanges would declare that that match occurred at a matching engine in Atlanta, or Wyoming, or any other place that they could place a matching engine. It’s not fair to the people of Illinois to say that there’s a way to fix the financial problem of the state when there isn’t. We’re going to have to make sacrifices; we’re going to have to look at government differently, and we’re going to have to shrink it. And we may have to tax, but to say that there is a free way we can raise revenue for the state is I think misleading, and gets us away from the heat of truth in this debate.
MCNAMEE: How would you shrink government?
KENNEDY: Well I think, I think– let’s go back to the general case about what’s holding our state back. We have declining taxable assets and the need for rising taxes. A need for rising taxes because we have an aging population, and aging infrastructure. So how do you deal with that? The only thing that’s ever worked in the United States for economic development effectively in multiple cities, multiple decades is the power of education. When we graduated from high school and college we moved to where the jobs were. Now, the American economy works differently. The jobs move to where the highly educated young people are. If we give the world highly educated high school and college kids, the world will give us its jobs. But we’re not doing that. We’re underfunding education, we’re underfunding education because we pay for the schools with property taxes. We pay for them with property taxes because a handful of elected officials make money on that system. Until we ban them from having outside jobs that are adverse to the interests of the body they were elected to serve, they will never let us move towards a different form of taxing structure. They’ll never let us ban elected officials, for instance, from being lobbyists, lobbyists for other units of government that they protect, rather than allow for elimination.
BISS: I’d like to jump in here because I do think we have stumbled on the central question in this primary, which I think is also the central question facing our state and our country. The economy is changing. It’s not a coincidence that people across the country and across the state feel like it’s hard and harder to get by. It’s not surprising. It’s because the economy has changed in big ways in the last few decades. More and more of the economy tied up in the financial sector, for example, at the Board of Trade, the Mercantile Exchange, and the private equity industry and the hedge fund industry. More and more money at the top. More and more money tied up in corporate profits. These are profound changes in the economy, and if our response to that is to say, ‘OK, so now this new part of the economy is in control and cannot be challenged. Now there’s simply nothing that can be done to tax money where the money actually is, and so we’re going to have to continually go after people who don’t have money.’ Then we’re going to find ourselves in exactly the situation that Chris and others are talking about, where yeah we got more and more cost and less less revenue, and there’s just no way out of it.
FUSCO: I’d like to ask all of you, kind of quickly though, what about the property tax system? Is it fair? What needs to be done? If it is fair, what needs to be done to improve the public’s perception of the fairness of it? Anybody can jump in.
BISS: It’s totally unfair. It’s totally unfair. Our property damages are both too high and unfairly assessed. The appeal process is unfair. The whole thing is broken. I have legislation in Springfield, the Home act, to address this. It’s the strongest legislation that’s ever been proposed. It deals with the transparency which we lack; it deals with modernizing the system so that we don’t have a regressive broken assessment system; and it deals with ethics as well, for instance, around contributions from property tax attorneys to entities that do assessments. You’ve got to go after all of these things simultaneously to have a proper tax system that works, and also bring property taxes down in aggregate by changing the way we fund schools.
HARDIMAN: I’m totally in agreement with Senator Biss. The property tax system is totally unfair I’m in touch with a lot of people in the in the south suburbs. Harvey, Dalton, Riverdale. They’re there losing their homes because their homes are being overassessed. If you compare the overassess of homes in Skokie, in Evanston, you see there’s a big disparity. There’s a big gap there. And people are getting away of paying less taxes on the homes there [incomprehensible] to the south suburbs a place in Chicago, and the western suburbs, so that’s very important we address that issue and make the necessary changes.
MCNAMEE: Dr. Marshall, do you want to —
ROBERT MARSHALL: Well I disagree on a lot of issues, first of all let me introduce myself. I missed several forms and things in the past few months. My name is Dr. Robert Marshall. I’m a physician. I’m a radiologist. I work at Oak Forest hospital, one of the Cook County Hospitals. I have an office in Berwyn, I’ve been there 34 years. A Vietnam veteran, father of four, private businessman. I’m not a millionaire and a billionaire. I’m just an average person. So I feel that when taxes go up, and the main issue I’m bringing forth in this campaign, is taxes. Taxes are too high in this state income taxes, real estate taxes. So I feel when they go up, I’m opposed to a graduated income tax. I’m the only one here that’s opposed to it, and oppose any further increase in the income tax, the flat tax. And I’m opposed to any program will increase property taxes. That’s the main or one of the main reasons why people are leaving: property taxes. There should be pension reform. I can get into that. What I propose is to legalize marijuana. And that would bring in a large amount of new taxes. Those new taxes should not go into the general fund, because it’ll just — the pols will just spend it on themselves. It’s go directly back as a rebate, directly to property owners. And that’s how you can — it’s very difficult to decrease property taxes. Just too many things there. But that — Colorado’s doing this.
MCNAMEE: Mr. Pritzker, would you like to weigh in on this issue of property taxes?
PRITZKER: Well, one of the biggest challenges we have is that we’re 49th or 50th in the country in state funding for education. And so the vast majority of education funding comes from local property taxes rather than from the state. And the average state in the United States it’s about fifty fifty. So we’re just off balance in a big way. And so we’ve got to change that. That’s why I favor a progressive income tax it’ll protect the middle class, make sure that we’ve got the funding that we need from the state level, and then, and this is the critical thing, the property tax system is regressive by nature. The poorest communities across the State of Illinois are experiencing the highest percentage of property tax. That’s unfair. So the highest income areas have the lowest property taxes, essentially. And the lowest income areas have the highest property taxes. That wrong and that’s why I tend to oppose regressive taxes in general and favor progressive taxes, so that people who can most afford to pay do step up to the plate. Now. you need transparency in the system. You need to make sure we’ve got accountability, that the property tax formula here in the in Cook County should have been upgraded. The property tax formulas all across the state should be upgraded and we need to make sure that people understand that the assessment system should be available to them. It should be completely accountable and transparent. You should know how the determination was made on every home all across the state.
KENNEDY: Property taxes are not inherently unfair.
MCNAMEE: Pardon me?
KENNEDY: Property taxes are not inherently unfair. They’re unfair in Illinois; they’re unfair in Cook County; they’re unfair in Chicago. There are two buildings in Chicago alone that recently sold. They’re so under assessed relative to their sales value, that we’re being robbed of $50 million a year in tax revenue. For the city of Chicago that’s a million dollars.
MCNAMEE: What two buildings are those?
KENNEDY: That would be the Sears Tower and 300 N Lasalle. That’s a million dollars per ward that’s not flowing into our schools. A million dollars a ward that’s not flowing into our community policing. A million dollars a ward that’s not going into health care and mental health. That occurs because those landlords—they hired politically connected lawyers that made donations to Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios, either directly to his campaign committee, to the party that he controls, or his ward organization, and they got a great deal. It’s the exact same thing that J.B. Pritzker did where he rigged the system. And the idea that we have a system that’s allowing the insiders to take advantage of the rest of us, so they get lower taxes and we pay higher taxes, meanwhile our schools get robbed of the funding they need. That’s what we need to fix.
PRITZKER: Let me respond, since my name was raised. [crosstalk] I’d like to say first of all your rhetoric doesn’t match your own record. You’re the one who used the existing property tax system and used connected lawyers to get an enormous property tax break at your Wolf Point project. It’s unfair, it’s not right that you’re making a central theme of your campaign property taxes when you’re the one who’s used the very system that now all of a sudden you’ve got problems with. I do think there are real challenges in the system and i certainly have discovered the flaws in the system. I do not believe the way the system works today is fair for most people. The rules are where the rules are — they need to be changed. And we need to talk about what the solutions are in the state that a governor and that a legislature can put in place [crosstalk] and I wanna say Senator Biss has a decent program that he put forward the idea being transparency in the system will help us change the way we assess properties.
BISS: Let me just quickly jump in. You say Chris that that’s $50 million, $1 million per ward that would’ve gone to schools and so forth, that’s actually not true. That’s one million — that’s $50 million that someone else paid. When you again and again use the system to decrease your own property taxes, when you rip the toilets out of your mansion to decrease your property taxes, that doesn’t take money away from schools. That drives up my property tax bill. That drives up your property tax bills. That drives up every other Illinois homeowner’s property tax bill. And that’s the reality that we’re in. I think the question that we ought to be asking ourselves is who do we actually trust to address this problem? The people who’ve been using the system to their own benefit for years, or someone who actually has to figure out how to pay a property tax bill that is a significant portion of his income?
FUSCO: So let’s pivot off of that and ask a point-blank question: one of the property tax attorneys that Mr. Kennedy referenced is the Speaker of the Illinois House. If you were elected governor, would you encourage Speaker Madigan to step down, time to retire, time for new leadership? Go right down the line, We’d like to hear your answers on that.
MARSHALL: I would encourage him to retire. I think it’s time for him to go. I have another solution that’s even better. [inaudible] my plan of dissolving the state of Illinois politically, and re-dividing it up into three new states, Mr. Madigan will go back to Chicago and the rest of us can live without him. We will have our own state in the suburbs. Our own separate state. Our own governor. Our own constitution. And then the rest of the state will be the third state. They will be free of Mr. Madigan too.
DAIBER: Maybe that’d be a good time for me to run. You know the Speaker’s elected and I have gone on record to say that i support legislative leadership term limits. And I don’t believe becoming governor stepping in and saying, ‘Hey Mr. Speaker I think your time is served, you need to get out of office cause I’m here’ but I think he needs to be brought in to the fold as to if we institute legislative term limits for leadership. So yes.
PRITZKER: I agree and put forward a program exactly as you’re suggesting. I don’t think that leadership in Springfield should serve for decades. There should be a limit on there and you can do it by the way without a constitutional amendment.
??: So you agree that Mike Madigan should retire, or?
PRITZKER: indeed I believe that we ought to have leadership time limits, that’s what I think.
FUSCO: What about the question though, if you were elected governor would you have a conversation with the Speaker?
PRITZKER: As you know, and I think that Mr. Deiber just suggested it, as you know, when you become governor you don’t actually get to choose who the Speaker of the House is. In fact it could be a Republican. And you may walk into a room and agree or disagree with the Speaker of the House but you’ve got to work with him. That’s one of the biggest problems we’ve had, frankly, with Bruce Rauner. His unwillingness to sit down and work it out. Even if you disagree, even if you don’t like the person on the other side of the table, you still have to work out a budget with them and solve problems for the state of Illinois.
BISS: I think Mike Madigan’s been there way too long. I’ve been saying this for a long time. I’ve been fighting for leadership term limits since literally I think it was my second month in the house back in 2011, long before it was cool before all these other folks were talking about it. I am going to follow on the same path I’ve always been on. Real independence, having my own base of political support, not being beholden to anybody and being able to work with everybody: Democrats and Republicans. Representatives and senators. Leaders who I have great relationships with and leaders who I personally wish weren’t there any longer. And that’s gonna be my approach the day after I win the election. I’m gonna sit down with whoever the leaders are and figure out a way to move forward with them and figure out a way to pull them toward the progressive vision of Illinois that we actually need.
MCNAMEE: I guess the question another way to phrase this is I understand you’re saying ‘listen, my job is not to tell the people of Illinois who the Speaker of the House should be or to tell the House members who to’ but do you see Mike Madigan as the problem?
BLISS: Well, I certainly don’t see him as the only problem, because Bruce Rauner’s the governor, good lord. But I think Mike Madigan has become part of the problem, I think he’s been there too long. I support a very different vision of the Democratic party, a more progressive party, a more open party, a more grassroots party, a party that’s less tied to machine politics and more tied to a progressive vision of where Illinois can go.
KENNEDY: What Mike Madigan is doing is not illegal. What Mike Madigan is doing is not illegal. But, what’s he’s doing should be illegal. He should not be allowed to be the Speaker of the House, or the head of the Democratic party in the State of Illinois, and a property tax appeals lawyer. J.B. says he discovered the flaws in the system, he ripped out the toilets in a house and had the assessments lowered. He had it reclassified as uninhabitable, it’s on Astor Street, the richest block in the city of Chicago. And then he went and said that his really big house next door should have the assessments lowered because it was unfortunately forced to be placed next to a house that’s uninhabitable. And he had the taxes reduced on that. That’s not a flaw in the system, that should be illegal. It doesn’t happen in other states. It doesn’t happen in other cities. We should not put up with this. It doesn’t have to be like this in Illinois.
PRITZKER: You sought the very same tax break on your own that —
KENNEDY: Absolutely not
PRITZKER: 10,000 —
KENNEDY: What you did is so remarkably different than anything anybody else has ever done that
PRITZKER: [crosstalk] it is true that you have used the system to benefit yourself. [crosstalk] It’s improper.
BISS: Just think for a second. Just remember it doesn’t have to be like this. We can have a middle-class candidate.
PRITZKER: Senator it took you seven years to finally decide you wanted to address the issue when it came up in this campaign.
MCNAMEE: Mr. Pritzker let’s go back to this and then we’ll go back to Tio for the final response from that question. But i think the Senator Mr. Kennedy’s trying to make the point that there everybody uses any edge they can to get a lower property tax assessment but that his thinking what you did was somehow not the spirit of what the law intends.
PRITZKER: Here is what happened like 50,000 other people in Cook County i sought a reassessment of the taxes on our property and as it happened that one property that we owned we were in the middle of renovation of we’d stopped that renovation and it got classified as it was because of that. The truth is that we no longer take that reduction and we are paying full taxes on that property but Mr. Kennedy had sought not only one reassessment of his home but a second one that he retracted when he decided to run for governor. In fact it was shortly after i guess he announced that he was running for governor that he retracted it because he wanted to make this an issue in his campaign.
HARDIMAN: Yeah, I’ve been patient. The reality is the system in Illinois is broken. I would not go talk to Mike Madigan about retiring because how would I go to him as another man telling him when he should retire? The people vote for Mike Madigan every year to win that office in state well now he’s the House Speaker. The reality is that we would have to work with Mike Madigan as long as he’s in that position. I don’t agree with Mike Madigan on everything he’s going to put forward, I wish he would step down. I do support term limits as well and that’s very important. Another reason why people in Illinois should take a look at Tio Hardiman is because we secured close to 30 percent of the state vote in 2014. I’m a viable candidate here. And I wish the Sun-Times would give me a little bit more coverage when it comes down to some of these articles that you write cause I’ve been reaching out to the Sun-Times on numerous occasions through my press people and I get no type of coverage at all in the Sun-Times.
MCNAMEE: Well you’re here today.
MITCHELL: One of the biggest issues to come out of the campaign, one of the headlines I guess I would say, we didn’t see coming. And that is, Mr. Kennedy, your accusation, that there’s a strategic gentrification plan that is designed to get minorities, black and brown people, out of the city of Chicago. That kind of was very alarming and very shocking accusation. Could you explain how that issue pertains to the governor’s race — that’s one part — and then why you singled out Rahm Emanuel Mayor Rahm Emanuel as implementing the strategic plan when most of the gentrification really came during the Daley administration. Why did you not single out the Daleys?
KENNEDY: So let’s talk about the truth and what’s occurring. We live in a state a state that’s economy is shrinking. And as that economy shrinks, average household income is rising. That’s nearly impossible to do. Nearly impossible to do. Economists’ll say that it can’t occur, but that’s what’s happened in Illinois. Average household income went up 11 percent, not cause everybody’s making more money, not because our takehome has increased but instead because well we’ve pushed the poor out of the state because we cut off funding for 800 social service agencies. Anybody with a sick child or a disabled brother or sister or elderly parents who really needed home health care left the state. When the poor left the state, it made the rest of us who remained behind look like we were wealthier. That’s what’s happening at the state. The city of Chicago, the city is shrinking. And as it becomes smaller, it’s becoming whiter. What’s happening in the city of Chicago? Well, we have entire areas of the city that are in food deserts. Entire area of the cities that have pharmacy deserts. We’ve closed half the mental health facilities. We’ve threatened the safety net hospitals. We’ve withheld $400 million in cash at the Chicago Housing Authority rather than make it available for the development of affordable housing. We have a police department that’s been described as racist by the United States Justice Department. We have a water department that’s been described as racist by the inspector general. We have a city that has an 88 rule where 80 percent of all crime is occurring in 8 percent of the neighborhoods. We have a real estate tax assessment program that disproportionately punishes people who are living in wards primarily occupied by African Americans and provides tax relief to wards occupied by people who are white. And we have a school system where we’ve closed a school a year for 18 years or so in Bronzeville and we’ve told the people of Englewood that they have to go an entire year without a high school. In some areas of the city, all of those factors are combined. A food desert, a pharmacy desert, high crime rates, no access to school, overtaxation, no access to mental health or hospitals. That’s either happening intentionally or it’s happening and no one’s intending to fix it. And as a result, a quarter million African Americans have left the city.
MITCHELL: But your accusation is that, somehow, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is implementing this strategic plan. I don’t understand why you would not single out Daleys because [crosstalk from Kennedy] many of the most of the gentrification in places like Bronzeville and Englewood was during the Daley administration. So why would you leave them out, why would you only put it on Emanuel?
KENNEDY: I think Mark was at my speech, you look at the prepared remarks I went through the history of what’s occurred in the city. I didn’t attack the mayor, I didn’t I didn’t say that this has happened just in the last seven years. But what has happened in the last seven years has amplified some of those factors and certainly hasn’t reversed them. When the mayor closes half the mental health facilities, when he tells the people in Englewood ‘You you are going to go an entire year without a high school,’ I think he’s they’re they’re telegraphing a message: if you have a high school age child you need to leave. If you have a high school age child, you shouldn’t come here. [crosstalk] If I’m wrong on those things Mary, please, I’d love to hear. This is a conversation [crosstalk] there’s for suggested…
MITCHELL: Could you respond to that, Mr. Pritzker?
PRITZKER: Yes indeed. First of all, there is indeed gentrification occurring in the city of Chicago and there is indeed a problem of historical systemic racism that has affected communities all across not just Chicago but Peoria, and Carbondale, and Rockford and other parts of the state too. And we’ve got to address that in a variety of ways but it takes real plans. Not just pointing at people and blaming them but real plans. And I’ve put real plans forward for addressing that. Number one we’ve got to make sure that we’re putting back the services in communities that were shutdown doing two years and six days that Bruce Rauner was refusing to pass a budget. Those services truly in those communities that need it most, those were the first places that closed. Those were the first places. The first places. In African American communities across the state. Those were where the services diminished and closed. We need economic development dollars that are focused on the communities and i put forward a plan for that and small business development. A small business loan fund that’s got an enterprise zone or economic zone that’s created around those communities, the forgotten communities in the state. And then we gotta stop closing schools and actually invest in quality education for our kids. The number one thing, really, that I’ve worked on over the course of 20 plus years has been making sure that at risk kids are prepared for kindergarten by having quality preschool and quality child care. And these are the most at risk kids, the kids who need it most, who often show up at kindergarten not prepared. If we can make sure they are, they have a much better shot at success. But economic development dollars, job creation and education [crosstalk]
MITCHELL: What I’m trying to get to and i still didn’t hear and I’m going to let you speak to your — what I’m trying to get to is how did this become and why is this an issue for the governor’s race? I can understand if we’re talking about the mayor’s race, I don’t understand —
KENNEDY: Mary, we have inefficient government, the United States. We put up with that. We put up with inefficient government. We have a federal system and a state system. Within the state we have state government, county government, city government. It would be far more efficient if we had one government everywhere. Far more efficient, but far scarier. The founding fathers didn’t trust government, and nor should we. they wanted divided government, so that when one act or one leader wasn’t standing wasn’t doing the right thing, other leaders could be critical of them. And that’s what is expected of our leadership. You have Joe Berrios the Cook County Assessor over assessing African American wards and towns all over Cook County. Can you name more than five elected officials who have criticized him? I think it’s fair for a candidate i think it’s the demand of a candidate to speak truth to power, to call out elected officials who are not doing what they need to do to bring fairness and equality and opportunity to our communities.
FUSCO: I think the issue here a little bit is well I just want to clarify though. I mean obviously the Daleys are back in your candidacy, that’s been well-publicized and spoken highly of you. I think what Mary, I think just for our viewers out there, trying to attack the elephant in the room, is the problems that you have cited with African Americans leaving the city is there some responsibility that —
KENNEDY: Sure, I mean it does– Do all of those factors have some antecedents that predate the Emanuel administration? Absolutely, absolutely, I didn’t mean to suggest that that hadn’t been going on for years and years.
HARDIMAN: Look, I’m trying to get in, ok? Kennedy and Pritzker are not the only guys running for governor here. I just want to make that clear. The reality is that I have nothing against these at the same time I do support Chris and his analogy, breaking down about Rahm Emanuel. I know a lot of African-American people left Chicago during the the Daley administration, but in 2015 alone we lost like 35,000 African-American people moved out of Chicago. Over 85 percent of all homicides that occur in Chicago take place in the African-American community. We have an issue in our community and supporting Tio Hardiman for governor would be the right thing to do, based on the fact that I come from the community, the African-American community that everybody appears to be concerned about all of a sudden. Ok? The reason why Kennedy’s relevant when he talks about the plan in Chicago, because right now, it’s important, running for governor, because there’s a 14.2 percent unemployment rate for African-American people statewide. Cities like Peoria, the numbers are higher. In Chicago, right now, for African-American young men, between the ages of 20 and 24, the unemployment level is 43 percent. That’s what we know, 43 percent. We have issues. Everybody keeps talking about, they’re gonna stop the killing. You got people producing commercials with people that lost loves their loved ones, that’s not gonna bring their loved ones back. Black death is a hustle, the black vote is a hustle, we have to be honest about this. We must call people out when it comes down to the African-American community. My run for governor is a wake-up call for everybody, the 99 percent of the poor and working class, the middle class people in Illinois. That plan is already in place in Chicago and it’s gonna take a movement to make it work right now for everybody, so African-American people can feel good enough to move back to Chicago, or just stay in Chicago. I’m talking about West Garfield, Englewood, all throughout the city.
MARSHALL: These two candidates, Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Pritzker, are using the oldest trick in politics. They’re running against candidates who aren’t running, they’re running against Trump, they’re running against Rauner, and they’re running against Mr. Emanuel. They’re not running. This is the oldest trick in politics. You’re changing the subject. The subject is high taxes, property taxes too high, people are leaving the city because of violence. Four thousand shootings, 800 hundred murders, that’s why they’re leaving, and Mr. Emanuel has nothing to do with that. And I proposed a plan to solve that, you take the money out of the drug trade, that’s how you solve this high crime rate. Legalize marijuana, take the money out of that. Decriminalize cocaine and morphine and then take the money out of that. They’re shooting each other because they’re after the money. Take the money out. It has nothing to do with Mr Emanuel
DAIBER: I’d like to make one comment on that whole issue, you know, I’m running for governor of all of Illinois. Not just this city. And I think that’s what my candidacy has brought into this race, because there’s people leaving right now, Cairo, this very hour, because of the housing issue in Cairo is so bad, that HUD is moving people out of Illinois. They’re not just moving out of Chicago and what has happened is, is that we have become so economically depressed in this state, that jobs mean justice for people. Good paying jobs. And we have not kept up as a state in investing in all sorts of manufacturing start-ups. We have not made efforts in these communities to support local businesses. Now, I just had coffee in Englewood last week, it’s a great partnership between the community, it’s a community-based not-for-profit, but it’s to generate business in these communities. There’s no more economically-deprived community in all of Illinois than East St. Louis. The most economic-deprived place, that people continue to migrate from. There’s not a word said about that. And your next governor has got to address this entire state, I don’t care if it’s on the inundated property tax system, or if it is on people leaving Illinois, of all ages, of all colors, because of the nature in which this state is operating. You cannot continue to operate a state without a budget. If I had to blame one thing, it is that the governor created a bad climate in this entire state by not passing a budget for two years. So, why would you stay here? You go on.
BISS: Just, really quickly. If we could maybe wrap this exactly where you started, by asking, “Why are we talking about this in the context of the governor’s race?” I could not agree more with the question, that if this conversation is name-calling about a particular mayor to get headlines near the end of a campaign, that’s not related to the job of being governor. But this problem, where black and brown people are being pushed out of the city of Chicago and have been throughout the Emanuel administration and for decades before, with lack of adequate educational services, housing and social services and fundamentally lack of investment in black and brown neighborhoods in the city of Chicago, and yes, Bob, across the State of Illinois, that is about a system. That’s about the fundamental question of who’s in power, who’s winning, who’s losing. And right now we have a system where a small number of rich, white men have an extraordinarily outsize influence on who gets what in our society and have designed it so that they will get more and more, and that’s what has to be broken. And I think it is very hard to expect the people who have been benefiting from that very system to be the ones to fix it.
MARLEN: So we asked readers on Facebook to submit questions for the candidates, and this is a question coming from Facebook for Mr. Pritzker. The reader asks, “What do you have to say about your close ties with the former Governor Rod Blagojevich?
PRITZKER: Well, first of all, Governor Blagojevich broke the trust with the people of the State of Illinois, and he’s in prison where he belongs. I also want to say that sadly we have a government and once again a governor that’s focused on themselves, and not on doing what’s right for the people of the State of Illinois. I’m proud to have done public service throughout my life, you know any conversations that I had were about doing public service, and any suggestion by Governor Blagojevich of any contribution I rebuffed. My focus in this campaign is about changing the government of the State of Illinois today because we’re headed in the wrong direction. We have a failed governor who wants to distract from his own failures across the state—the fact that he’s been unwilling to get a budget done, the fact that he creates crisis after crisis, the fact that our schools aren’t being adequately funded, he’s unwilling to stand up to Donald Trump and his a desire to take away a million people’s health care in the state. We need a governor who’s actually going to stand up and get real things done, and I’ve done that throughout my life.
MCNAMEE: Can you specifically talk about that one conversation that’s been out there now between the governor on the telephone where you said that’s a deal I would take.
PRITZKER: Look, I regret the tone of portions of that conversation. But at every point I have tried to focus simply on what’s best for the people of the State of Illinois.
MCNAMEE: So when you said that what were you saying?
PRITZKER: Just that.
MCNAMEE: You thought it was a good deal?
PRITZKER: No, only, only that– My own view is that we need to focus on what’s best for people across the State of Illinois, not what’s best for any individual who serves in office.
MARSHALL: I assume we’ve all seen that tape. Anybody who’s the subject of that tape is unelectable. Mr. Pritzker cannot win in the general election.
MCNAMEE: Anyone else have a particular view on that tape?
HARDIMAN: it’s a real simple view. Governor Bruce Rauner is a failed leader in Illinois. He made a comment that he was not in charge, and studying folks like Mr. Pritzker… I’m just saying this in general, the politics is has become too negative, with commercials in the media. We have to change that narrative. Governor Rauner should have to focus on his failed administration instead of pointing fingers at other people. That’s my take on it.
FUSCO: Another Facebook question that just popped in was gerrymandering and how do you guys feel about that system and what needs to be done to fix it?
PRITZKER: I put up — actually put forward — my own view that we need independent maps of the state. I believe that we want more competitive elections across the State of Illinois. You know, right now people feel like they walk into the voting booth and because of the way that their district has been gerrymandered they really only have one choice. I think we need competitive elections. And when you add that to leadership term limits it gets better government for the state.
TOM: Rather than go cross the whole board here on that question, does anybody fundamentally disagrees with the idea of that way of resolving the problems? Fixing the problem gerrymandering? Is there any other way to do it or a point of view on this?
MARSHALL: My plan would do different way. I would break the state up in three new states. Each new state would decide for itself out how to divide it into —
TOM: The ultimate gerrymandering
MARSHALL: No no — you have a new constitutional convention for each state and you can decide then how to do it.
KENNEDY: I disagree with that idea. I don’t think we should divide the state into three parts.
MARY MITCHELL: But before we move forward I just want to go back to something that Senator Biss said, and it was about a small group of rich white men running things. This is this a broken system here because you have a small group of rich white men running. That just down to the question of money in politics and the role of money in politics. We have two candidates leading in the polls: very wealthy men. They enjoy phenomenal name recognition. That would be Mr. Pritzker and Mr. Kennedy. Neither has ever held elected office, but you are serious contenders in this race. You’re starting at the top. Not at the bottom, from the bottom. Should we be troubled by that? Should voters be troubled that you can get your message out because of your wealth.
PRITZKER: Well I did not start out this race with universal name recognition, others may have. Instead, I believe this race isn’t about money, it’s about values. It’s about basic democratic values and over a lifetime I think I have proven that I have stood up for working families. Making sure that we’re getting quality child care and quality preschool for everyone and fighting to expand educational opportunities. Like I said —
TOM: I want to get to the heart of Mary’s question. It is not questioning your values and your agenda, but your ability to get that message out has a lot to do with the fact you can sell fund your campaign in a way that the person to your left can not is there something wrong with our system that that’s the reality we have here.
PRITZKER: Well sadly, Governor Rauner began this entire campaign funding his own. And so we’ve got a system that we’ve got to overturn. There’s no doubt about it. Citizens United kind of set the ball in motion, and now you’ve got unlimited money across politics. Unfortunately the Republicans have been in a much better position, in that world. To go win elections and that’s one of the reasons that Bruce Rauner won his election. We need to be able to compete. But we also need to create a system here in the state of Illinois where people can get, for example, some public funding, so that they have the ability to step up and run if they can’t do it themselves but it should be based upon their ability to raise contributions themselves. And we’ve got to go overturn Citizens United at the federal level and change this system where… by the way… somebody else that’s running here, actually broke the caps in the state. 250,100 dollars shouldn’t be the threshold by which somebody is able to break all the caps in our state.
FRISBIE: When you answer this question could you specifically say whether you support the proposal for six to one small donor matching?
KENNEDY: I do. Absolutely I do. Across the state. And we should learn from the experience that with that we’ve had. We’ve had an incredible money, spent 42 million dollars, he’s raised his profile, and he’s raised his profile among the voters without raising any issues around courage. There’s profile without courage. The question I ask all of us, is where are we on Joe Berrios. You asked about Mike Madigan. Just ask us that ask us that. Ask us where we stand on removing somebody who’s actions have been determined to be a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but whose office J.B. Pritzker used to make telephone calls to political supporters. And that’s the reality of this race and that’s why big money corrupts. When he gives all that money to Mike Madigan, he gets the support. When he gives 250,000 to the Cook County Democratic Party, that’s where he gets his support. You’re absolutely right. We need campaign finance reform in this state or only the billionaires are going to be able to run. We don’t want that.
DAIBER: Let me add to your question, OK? You asked the question in the beginning: Is there a concern about an individual becoming governor that has never held public office? OK? And I’ve been in public office longer than if you added up everybody on the on the kiosks here has served in public office. I have twenty years at all levels. City council, the township government, which represents most of Illinois. County government as a representative, and being a county-wide elected official. I don’t really care about Joe Berrios. I don’t really care about Mike Madigan. I care about the very fact that you have a president in the White House who never served in public office. You have a governor in the governor’s mansion and they never served in public office. And they were lacking something when they went into office, and that was the understanding how to govern. Because it’s an art. Governing is an art and it comes from experience. I couldn’t run a big business I’ve never been a big businessman. I’ve been a small business. There’s a big difference there, OK? So when you say: You’re going to go in and you’re going to become governor of a state, you should have a grasp on all those units of local government that we talk about that you have to deal with and the key thing that’s not talked about in governing is you have to understand the fiscal calendar that state operates on. And that’s what this governor missed. And that’s why we we’re at because every unit the government passes a budget does a levy and does appropriations throughout the year. And if you do that you put a state back on track. And if you elect another governor that doesn’t understand this that has had their way — I don’t care what kind of recognition you have — that isn’t a governor for all people — we are not going to get out of where we’re at.
MCNAMEE: Senator Biss
BISS: I just want to draw attention to something really scary that J.B. just did. J.B. initially answered the question by saying it’s not about money it’s about values. And then sort of pivoting right into a whole bunch of talk about everything other than money as though to say, “Hey, vote for me because of my values and it’s a really useful coincidence that I also happen to have all this money I can use in the campaign.” And then a second answer was whoa. Bruce Rauner put in $50 million. Democrats have to compete. Bruce Rauner put in all this money. Unless Democrats pick me — he says — with my bigger checkbook… there’s no way we can beat him. You can’t have it both ways. It’s either “vote for me because of my values and the money is a coincidence” or it’s “vote for me because you need my dollars to beat Bruce Rauner” and the value proposition that you have offered the Democratic Party establishment is “Hey, I’ve got the dollars. Bruce Rauner won because of his money and I’m going to beat him because of my money” and what I would say is the Democrats in 2018 have a choice to make about the soul of the party that Donald Trump is the President and Bruce Rauner or is the governor, and we can decide we’re going to do more of that because we’ve given up and we’ve assumed that’s the only way forward. Or we can build a fundamentally different vision of politics and that’s what’s on the ballot on March 29th.
PRITZKER: First of all, I think my record shows that I am nothing like Bruce Rauner or like Donald Trump. And I have done public service for decades. Both as a private citizen and in the public sector, running the Illinois Human Rights Commission, fighting to get universal preschool and child care. I have been engaged in the public arena for many many years and I think what I — the proposition that I am putting forward to the voters — is this: you want someone with real experience getting big things done when you elect your governor. Someone who actually understands how to get those big projects — creating seven thousand jobs by founding 1871 and building it up. Creating 23,000 kids’ opportunities to get school breakfast. Thousands of kids getting preschool and child care. Those are big things to accomplish over a lifetime, and I think you want to elect somebody who’s got that experience because — guess what — we have enormous challenges in the State of Illinois. And you’re going to want somebody who can tackle those challenges.
MCNAMEE: Mr. Hardiman.
HARDIMAN: Quickly, I’m going to be a champion for the poor and working class people in Illinois. When I ran in 2014, I had about 35,000 dollars give or take. And still secured 21.8 percent of the state vote. Now this is the point I’m trying to make here: I would like to be seen as the non-billionaire candidate for sure, but with the race that I’m running right now it’s all about hitting the ground, talking to the voters, I know about 400,000 people in Illinois it’s just about get them to come out and vote for us. My internal polls show Hardiman at 18 percent in the polls last month. That’s my internal polls. I think the media plays a role too, giving more privilege to people with big money opposed — you know — as far as covering their campaigns a little bit more than covering campaigns who don’t have the money. That’s something the media can help change that narrative as well. I have nothing against the gentleman sitting on the stage today here, but at the same time the media plays a role. I believe we should do away with the polling systems altogether and just let people run. And we see what happened on March 20th and just run this race. Because polling sometimes they — polls deceive people. They deceive the public. It makes it appear that this guy’s a front runner, this person is a front runner, then they may not be the case. Because I plan to go out and secure 200,000+ votes in this race right now and I don’t have the money the other gentlemen have but that’s my goal. 200,000+ votes in this March 20th Democratic primary. And it can be done without big money.
DAIBER: I think there’s another point that ought to be brought out here. It’s no secret that this is the most expensive primary in Illinois history. So what it begins to do — you know, the question was asked — why were were there no women running for governor? Why am I the first guy in 20 years from downstate Illinois to run as a Democrat for governor? Because big money deters who runs so it takes a tremendous amount of courage for a guy like me who’s the less funded to stay in the race, to fight every day, for middle class citizens to inspire some young person that’s not from wealth or from fortune. That they could become governor. You know, I was inspired by Barack Obama. I was inspired by this guy when I stood by him in the back of a tent on a rainy day in Southern Illinois. And he appeared to be an everyday guy.
FUSCO: Let’s do a couple rapid fire things here because people on social media are chiming in. Marijuana legalization. Do you guys all have the same — are you all for legalization?
FUSCO: Recreational, forgive me.
MCNAMEE: It’s the Facebook question of the day. Facebook question of–
MARSHALL: I don’t think we’re unanimous. We’re not. Someone–
KENNEDY: My point is that it should be guided by the University of Illinois. They should assemble scientists, the medical community, recovery community, we should accept their recommendations and not let corporate lobbyists determine the laws of the city.
MARSHALL: You’re either for it or against it.
MCNAMEE: I’m a little unclear about that. So the U.I.C. solution is what? Recreational pot is good? I mean I mean unclear what that means. So what’s your position there?
KENNEDY: What was your point about U.I.C.?
MCNAMEE: No I’m sorry I missed your point altogether. So the– on recreational marijuana…
KENNEDY: So I think the manner in which we legalize… It matters. I don’t think we should turn the process over to lobbyists. I think we should embrace a third party. An honest broker like the University of Illinois.
MCNAMEE: That’s what I was–
KENNEDY: It comes together and
MCNAMEE: If the honest broker were to decide how we…
KENNEDY: What are the factors? One of the important things that we need to take a look at… well this is what Governor Hickenlooper told me after they had legalized it in Colorado. They said there were certain aspects of legalization that they didn’t understand. They didn’t know that they should — a ban on the edible makers from shaping the edibles that look like children’s candy because that resulted in bad outcomes. They — they didn’t realize they should have demanded tamper proof and child proof containers. They didn’t realize that they should confront the issue of T.H.C. content because today —
MCNAMEE: Is it fair to say your position would be you think there are a lot of questions we need to get good answers to —
KENNEDY: And not — and not — what the lobbyists decide and that’s the process I would use for legalization. I’d give the University of Illinois six months and by June of 2019 I’d have a legislative package ready to go.
MARSHALL: I’ve came forward and said that I’m in favor of it but it has to be by the will of people has to be like Colorado, has to be like California, there has to be a referendum for the people vote on it.
MITCHELL: But here’s the question. It’s not just legalize and what will be the consequence for people who have been involved in marijuana drugs sales, now sitting in prisons, you know throughout the country, is there any criminal justice reform that should be tied to this legalization?
BISS: That’s why I disagree with with Chris to me this is fundamentally a racial justice issue because of the profoundly unequal application of marijuana laws that I think creates a moral imperative to enable them to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and exactly as you say if you believe that, you’ve got to look back as well. So our campaign has laid out a bold comprehensive criminal justice reform plan that includes a significant change not only legalizing marijuana but ending the racist war on drugs and fueling drug use as a public health problem that it is. And fundamentally looking at the suite of sentencing changes that have led to mass incarceration over the course of these decades and then when you’ve done all that stuff, there’s going to be a whole bunch of people sitting in prison who — had the law previously been what we’re now going to make it — would no longer be there and we need to have a very aggressive effort on a case-by-case basis. Engage in clemency and commutations which only the governor can do, and most governors, I think, would be politically frightened to do. But I think is morally necessary if we want to reform the system.
HARDIMAN: Once I become the governor I plan to decriminalize, you know, the recreational amounts of marijuana and also commute sentences of individuals that were locked up for small amounts of marijuana because we have to get those people out of jail. That’s very important. Very important. So that way we can save money in the ideal budget I was talking Thomas —
I just jumped in and you know
MCNAMEE: I think I need a very clear direct answer.
HARDIMAN: I didn’t finish
MCNAMEE: I thought you were but go ahead.
HARDIMAN: No, I’m finished now because it just seems like when I talk you just go to somebody else, you look at somebody else.
HARDIMAN: Tina had a question for me, she didn’t even
MCNAMEE: Mr. Pritzker?
PRITZKER: Yeah well I put out a comprehensive plan about marijuana legalization that includes, by the way, giving opportunities to people who have been most ill-affected by the war on drugs the chance to have their own dispensaries in communities and production facilities too.
MICTHELL: Say that again.
PRITZKER: Production facilities and dispensaries to people in the very communities that have been so ill affected by the war on drugs.
MCNAMEE: What do you say to Mary’s question — which Mr. Hardman did answer — that that we need to go back and as Senator Biss said, we need to go back and look at people who are in prison.
PRITZKER: I sort of blurted out an answer and then was interrupted but commutation and expungement. That’s what I put forward, and I too, by the way, have put out a comprehensive criminal justice reform plan. In fact I was the first candidate to do so and there are significant parts of that that are focused on the idea that we need to reduce the fact that we’re taking people who need drug treatment and putting them in prison and instead give them — actually have treatment and have courts that address that. That’s also part of my plan to address the opioid addiction problem in the state.
MARSHALL: Well I’m the only candidate here to campaign for many years for legalization and many others have just come lately. By the way we’re going to discuss the 600 pound gorilla in the room? Pensions. Pensions. That’s the thing it’s bankrupting us. None of they want to talk about this. It’s time. We have to reform those pensions. You’ve got 100,000 people getting more than $50,000 a year. That’s what’s bankrupting us. We must have pension reform. Before we have any extra money for schools, before you have money for anything, we have to have pension reform. I’d like to have any one of these other two people put those two words together.
KENNEDY: I think you’re dead bang wrong. I think to say that you’re not going to fund the schools, give our children an equal chance, provide them a quality education until we fix the pensions, I think that’s wrong to hold young people hostage is not a democratic value.
MARSHALL: Right now the taxpayers is being held hostage.
DAIBER: There’s one other thing you know, Robert, we have a constitutional commitment to people who bargained. Who, people like myself, have paid ten percent of their earnings every year because it’s the pension system and are vested in this. They gave their life to it and now you’re saying you’re going to take their benefits away. That’s just not right.
MARSHALL: No, you’re going to reduce it. This is the only way to do it. Dissolve the state, break the state up, renegotiate these pensions however they want.
[cross talking and shouting]
FUSCO: What about renegotiating? Chicago [inaudible] is there savings to be had there by consolidating?
BISS: I think there’s fairly modest savings to be had by consolidating the larger pension systems. Like if you put the TRS and C.T.P.F. together it doesn’t make that big a difference. It’s the smaller police and fire pension systems across the state that are the reason that we have more pension systems than all but one other state, and they drive up costs and they create opportunities for corruption and you could consolidate those without touching anyone’s benefit taking away from anything for anyone to invest most of the better, it will be more efficient, and it would cost less, and that’s the right way to try to solve this problem.
MARSHALL: There is something in the light that should not be overstated on pension reform is that the pensions in the State of Illinois — there’s pensionomics. People who get pensions spend their money. They put the money in the Illinois economy. You’re cutting pensions twenty percent you’re cutting the economics of the state.
DAIBER: These people–
MARSHALL: Wait a minute–
DAIBER: These people are perfectly healthy, they can work. I know lots of them, they’re in their 50s, they can work.
MCNAMEE: We have ten minutes, we’re going to try to move on to another topic. Tina’s got a — go ahead.
TINA SFONDELES: We’re talking about medical marijuana. A lot of people talk about it as a way to help with opiate addiction and the crisis. Is that something that you would want to see an expansion of the medical marijuana program in this state, because so far it’s been pretty difficult for people to get into the program to get help.
KENNEDY: That’s the best example of why you don’t want to leave the legislature and the lobbyists in charge. Because when they legalized medical marijuana they screwed it up. [inaudible] has said that it needs to be expanded.
MARSHALL: As a physician–
KENNEDY: The opportunity to get the care that they deserve. Care that’s been determined by a medical professional. The idea that you can insert a politician between a doctor and their patient is ridiculous. Shouldn’t happen.
MARSHALL: That’s what’s happening now. As a physician, I like to answer your question. There’s a lot of evidence of that if you do legalize it, the opioid deaths go down because this — they do something else. You’re still — what’s happening now is that the government is between the physician and the smoker. I would I would eliminate that.
DAIBER: I just like to say the accessibility of medical marijuana I think needs to be made more readily available. I think there was a disappointment this last quarter with the actual revenue that came in because it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be, and I think the law impaired this and if you are a terminally ill cancer patient you should have full access to it.
BISS: I think it’s — I was in the legislature when the medicinal marijuana legislation passed. There was a lot of political pressure on me to vote against it. I voted for it, and I supported it then, I support it now. We have a really hard time passing that, because frankly, people in politics are scared of looking weak on crime, or soft on crime and so that was a multi-year process. The bill got tightened and tightened and tightened and tightened. And I think that that tightening process totally overshot the mark and that’s an evidence I think of the fact that this is an issue where the people are miles ahead of the politicians. And we ought to learn that lesson and legalize the recreational use in the first place which would solve this problem entirely.
FUSCO: There’s been a lot of the #MeToo obviously and harassment issues and some folks out there are wondering, hoping, that you can guarantee us that if you’re elected governor you’re not going to disappoint us on those issues. I think you can all nod your heads in agreement
MARSHALL: I made a statement two years ago when I ran for Congress. To address about women — the women should be believed. And that’s what I said two years ago when there was not an issue then.
MARLEN: I have a question on immigration. So we have, in Illinois, the Trust Act. Signed into law last year by Governor Rauner. It spells out when local police departments will detain undocumented immigrants on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and it prohibits cops from detaining immigrants solely based on their status, on their immigration status. So a lot of people are really happy with that bill but what more or maybe you think less can be done to keep undocumented immigrants from retreating further into the shadows. Because certainly under this presidential administration they are retreating further into the shadows.
PRITZKER: Yep. Thank you. I’ve spoken out repeatedly about this. And first of all we’ve got to have a governor it was actually willing to stand up to Donald Trump, and stand up to the federal government. But the Trust Act, though the governor signed it, he was reluctantly signed on. We need to actually enforce the Trust Act because signing it, having it into law, and then actually making police departments live up to the obligations of the Trust Act. Two different things. And governor around to prove that he’s a little bit unwilling to enforce it. Now, I happen to think that we need to expand it to make it easier for people to obtain U-visas which allow them, if they’ve experienced a crime, to stay in this country to testify, to get justice that’s one thing that we need to expand. And then I just want to make it very clear to people. That the president of the United States clearly is coming after Muslims. He is clearly going after Muslims and we, in the State of Illinois, need to say no. We need to stop him. And there was a provision originally in the Trust Act that would have protected Muslims in Illinois by putting a provision in that says that if they try to pass a registry, a Muslim Registry, at the federal level that we will not comply. In the absence of that you need a governor who’s actually going to fight for it, but I would say to you that when I am governor, if they try to pass a Muslim registry, I will be the first one in line to go sign myself up and register as a Muslim. And I will encourage every citizen of the State of Illinois to go do the same.
MARLEN: Chris Kennedy would you like to weigh in?
TOM: Let’s finish up the immigration question, I don’t think it will…
KENNEDY: I think the Trust Act is really an extension of community policing. The idea that we can create community between the police and people who live in our state. And it’s an effective strategy and has worked in places like New York and Los Angeles. New York is now celebrating the lowest homicide rate since 1959. That’s unbelievable and that progress, they will attribute to the notion of creating a relationship between the police force and the community when we– when we– when we threaten deportation… when we threaten people who live in our state… when they see the police as a threat… they’re not going to cooperate. We destroy the very bonds that we need to create safety in our communities. And when we see it through that light I think it brings clarity as to why we do it as a community and not just for moral reasons.
DAIBER: I’d just like to make a statement that I supported the Trust Act. And you know, any time we’re talking about detainment or deportation, we’re moving towards creating a state of orphans. Because we’re taking parents from children and that’s the wrong thing to do. And in Illinois if I’m governor I will lead as a humane governor and it will be a place of welcome. Because we’ve had many discussions today about people leaving Illinois. I will walk among those immigrants, I will help those immigrants, and I’ll help them become business owners and business developers, and we’ll grow a new Illinois. We’ll grow a new generation of people like Illinois was built on in the 1800s so my ancestors came here.
HARDIMAN: We support the trust that as well. We believe in facilitating a process where people that are undocumented will have a pathway to citizenship here. OK.
FRISBIE: We really only have three minutes left. We’ve had twenty years of disinvestment in higher education followed by a real body blow from Governor Rauner’s two years of no budgets trying to just restore funding isn’t going to be enough. How would you get Illinois back to a point where it has an outstanding higher education system that earlier in this very meeting people have said that we need.
PRITZKER: We need to recognize the enormous economic opportunity that exists for us in investing in higher education and in our community colleges. You know we’ve lost 72,000 college students over Bruce Rauner’s term. From the state, our university faculty are being fired, laid off across the state. The best thing we’ve got going in the State of Illinois is our highly educated and dedicated workforce. But you’ve got to continually invest in it. And if we lose students, those are our future economic resources. They’re also our kids so we need to make sure that we’re not raising tuitions on them, instead we’re making college more affordable for them. We’ve got to make sure that our faculty stay in place. That we hire, not fire. And that we use our universities in their local communities. Eastern University, Eastern Illinois University, Western Illinois University, Southern. Both campuses. As economic development hubs and I have talked significantly about incubators and creating small businesses around those hubs, investing in those places around the state that need it most.
MCNAMEE: This jobs question will be the last question for time so I want to make sure you can get a chance to answer that question. Because it’s the last one.
MARSHALL: When a politician says invest, he means higher taxes. I’m against higher taxes, period. But what this does, by the way, it increases competition between all the universities. Competition helps everything else. It drove the price of televisions down. This would solve the problem of universities. It increases competition.
DAIBER: If you look at what happened in higher ed, we need we need to go back and reinstate a 2012 funding level because that’s when we had a stable state university system. And the other thing is, the investment in research, on our campuses. You know, our research is what drives individuals to those campuses to become engaged in research and if we’re not bringing in grants from the National Science Foundation. and foundations throughout the country on these university campuses to do research there is not an attraction for young people to come to Illinois to be engaged in that. I’m proud of fact both my boys attend state university in Illinois: Southern Illinois University in Evansville. And it is a very affordable place to go to school, and we have selling points on the affordability of education in Illinois but we have to market it. and that’s what we need to do
BISS: So it’s not only that we’ve seen faculty fired and students flee the state. So we’ve seen faculty poached by institutions that, maybe a decade ago, they wouldn’t have wanted to go to but they’re just scared about the instability of Illinois institutions. And we’ve seen a lot of students who didn’t have the financial ability to leave the state and pursue an education elsewhere but simply couldn’t afford the tuition in Illinois or didn’t trust the Illinois institutions to be reliable for them over the course of two or four years. This is a crisis. This is a crisis. It’s a moral crisis. It’s an economic justice crisis. It is certainly economic crisis for the future of the State of Illinois. And so yes, of course, I mean, one of the dangers in this race is Bruce Rauner sets the bar so low, it’s hard to talk about with things we ought to be talking about. Yeah let’s talk about budget. Let’s fund our universities sustainably. Let’s fund community colleges sustainably. But then let’s talk about the fact that our investment isn’t adequate for the modern economy. Right? We decided that hundred years ago as a people… that you needed an access to high school education to be an equal participant in the economy and therefore we created a system of free public elementary and secondary school. It was expensive. It was bold. It was kind of radical, and it was transformational as a tool to lift people. And to equal participation in the economy. It’s 2018. To be an equal participant in today’s economy you need some form of post-secondary certification in most cases. It can be vocational, it can be a community college degree, it can be a public university degree. But some sort of post-secondary certification is usually necessary. And so for the same reason that we created free high school we ought to be creating free college now. The only way we’re going to afford — not only free college — but any of the more ambitious tuition decreasing programs you’re going to hear about from other candidates who have a less bold tuition program than mine is if we’re willing to engage in a fundamental restructuring of the tax code. Yes, repealing the flat tax provision of the Constitution but to go back to our initial conversation acknowledging that the economy is changed. And if we’re going to afford a state that actually works in the way the people of Illinois needed to lead to fundamentally transform the way we think about a revenue system. Tax financial transactions. Close the carried interest loophole. And actually have a government that serves the people of Illinois.
KENNEDY: The state of California, which was massive a decade ago, has emerged with a six billion dollar surplus in the state budget. Much of the much of the benefit of what’s happening in California occurred recently, when they adopted a progressive graduated income tax. But much of what occurred there did not occur under Jerry Brown but instead under his father Pat Brown, when they committed to a system of higher education: of universities, colleges, and community colleges, all linked in a master plan. And it drove the success of the California economy. There’s only one great economic development tool that’s worked in multiple cities, in multiple decades, in the United States, and it’s the power of the higher education. It’s what drives the economy of Silicon Valley, of Austin Texas, Research Triangle, North Carolina of Pittsburgh, Boston, and New York. We’re the largest college town in America here in Chicago and we’ve great public colleges next to every population center in the State of Illinois. If we invest in those, we can have the great outcomes they’ve had across the country and around the world. We can jumpstart our economy, keep our kids close to home, and rebuild the educational assets in our state.
MCNAMEE: Mr. Hardiman, you have the final word.
HARDIMAN: Well, quickly, within the heart of every 2020 plan, we support the House bill 453. When I become a governor, I’ll sign that bill. That’s the financial transaction tax, and I would like to suggest that you may want to revisit, to take a look at tax in more detail to see what kind of revenue it can actually bring in. Based on what I’m looking at it can bring in three billion dollars in new revenue. With that tax and the progressive tax along with legalizing recreational amounts of marijuana we can bring in close at another ten billion dollars to the state economy. And I will use part of those funds for free college tuition up until the bachelor’s degree level for college students here in Illinois to invest in higher education here. That’s very important. That’s my answer and I won’t take long.
MCNAMEE: We’ve had a really good conversation, we’re glad you all came in. There’s a lot we wanted to ask about but I want to ask about the Amazon deal but we’re not going to get there today, good luck to all of you, and thank you for all being here today. Thank you. Thank you all.