Garry McCarthy, candidate for mayor
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The Sun-Times Editorial Board sent mayoral candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city. Garry McCarthy submitted the following responses (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Garry McCarthy?
His political/civic background: I am a public servant who’s served in law enforcement for more than 35 years, including 17 years in leadership positions in Newark, Chicago and New York City police departments.
His occupation: Private security professional
His education: Bachelors in History from State University New York Albany
Campaign website: garryformayor.com
Chicago is on the hook for $42 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, which works out to $35,000 for every household. Those pensions, in the language of the Illinois Constitution, “shall not be diminished or impaired.” Should the state Constitution be amended to allow a reduction in pension benefits for current city employees or retirees? How about reducing pension benefits for new employees? Please explain.
Garry McCarthy: No, the constitution must not be amended. Reduction of benefits for newly hired city workers after a certain date, AKA Tier III benefits, would be the ideal scenario.
However, many veteran city workers who work side-by-side with new hires have expressed hostility toward lesser benefits for employees doing the same job they are. For example, two firefighters are both putting their lives on the line. Why would they want their partner to receive any less benefits? Rather than creating a new Tier III, I recommend a graduated pension tax with living requirements.
Many retired city workers have fled Chicago. The original intent of requiring current city workers to reside in Chicago is for tax purposes. Once we allow our retirees to leave – and take their pension money with them – our city loses out on its originally intended idea to capture revenues from city workers investing in neighborhood economies.
To stem this, we must implement a graduated pension tax on all who pull a pension. Those who keep their primary residence in Chicago will be subject to lesser benefits taxes. Those who choose to leave Chicago, or those who are collecting a pension or multiple pensions collectively higher than 1.5x the median US income, will be taxed at a higher percentage.
This plan also allows our retirees ample time to financially plan for retirement either within the city limits for a lesser pension tax, or outside the city limit while still constitutionally guaranteeing the originally defined benefit.
Of the following often proposed sources of new revenue for Chicago, which of the following do you favor, and why?
- A Chicago casino
- Legalized and taxed recreational marijuana
- A LaSalle Street tax
- A commuter tax
- A property tax increase
- A municipal sales tax increase
- A real estate transfer tax increase
- Video gambling
Garry McCarthy: We definitely need new revenue. But first, we must stop the political spending spree. For example, I oppose spending $95 million on a new police training facility because that is a political response to a serious public safety challenge (not to mention that $95 million is really $190 million because nothing gets done on budget or on time in Chicago); and TIF spending is the most egregious example of political spending, where much of it is actually illegal. Done correctly and legally, TIF funds could provide a large infusion of cash to pay for schools, infrastructure improvements and spurring economic opportunity in neighborhoods where it’s needed most.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Garry McCarthy: For new revenue I support a Chicago casino, legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana and video gambling because these revenues could generate sustainable, reliable revenue against which we could more safely issue government bonds for addressing our pension crisis and for funding large-scale capital improvements. Also, I believe these revenue options have the best chance for approval by city council. Lastly, these options add little burden on existing and prospective Chicago businesses. In fact, I am certain each of these revenue ideas would actually spur economic growth in Chicago, which is the real solution to our revenue woes.
The City of Chicago has entered into a federally monitored consent decree to overhaul the training and practices of the Chicago Police Department. Civil libertarians say it is long overdue, but others say it is unnecessary and could make it tougher for the police to do their job. What’s your view?
Garry McCarthy: First, it is important to note that CPD’s use of force is consistent with the national average. Second, this fact partly demonstrates why I view the consent decree as a political document that hardly addresses the real challenges facing our police officers when they’re confronting violent criminals on the streets of Chicago. Much of the decree is already state law and in some cases it undermines public safety by diverting supervisors from their primary job of ensuring quality police work to focusing on administrative and reporting responsibilities. Lastly, the consent decree is another example of politicizing law enforcement as no one has been able to identify the police policy experts who helped draft the decree; and no one has indicated how much money these new restrictions will cost to implement and enforce.
The real question is whether the consent decree is now the state standard for all Illinois municipal police departments or has Chicago been singled out as a lone bad actor? Shouldn’t the State of Illinois have uniform policing standards?
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Garry McCarthy: We have to use data-driven policing strategies to enhance professional management, and put more police officers on the streets, not behind desks. Policing data here in Chicago and elsewhere, including New York City, clearly shows we can remove illegal guns from the streets and reduce murders all while making fewer arrests. We can achieve this by implementing an enforcement strategy that de-prioritizes routine drug arrests and puts possession of illegal-firearms and anti-gang strategies as our first concern. Lastly, it is critical that we stiffen penalties for illegal guns and demonstrate a resilient, united front against guns and violence, from the courts down to the beat officer and community leaders.
In addition to your thoughts on how to stem the problem of illegal guns, what else should the next mayor of Chicago do to reduce the rate of violent crime in our city?
Garry McCarthy: The next mayor needs to do what we were beginning to do when I was CPD superintendent: work to restore legitimacy to city government by eliminating the political manipulation and micromanagement of the police department by City Hall. What the CPD needs most is dynamic, honest, and professional leaders in positions of responsibility, as well as a more balanced partnership with City Hall and community leaders. As I mentioned above, the most effective public safety strategies are informed by rigorous data in order to prevent crime and empower communities to own their neighborhood safety efforts. These strategies are clearly outlined in a policing report issued by President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force. Ninety-five percent of the recommendations in that report were already implemented by CPD while I was superintendent. The results from these strategies was the lowest murder rate in Chicago since the 1960s.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system? Should the Chicago Board of Education be solely appointed by the mayor, as is now the case? Or should Chicago switch to an elected school board or some hybrid? Please explain.
Garry McCarthy: My views on charter schools have evolved since I’ve observed more labor union involvement in charter school employee negotiations. I now believe that charter schools can be good neighborhood schools, especially in communities where neighborhood schools have been closed.
After leading CPD with one hand tied behind my back, I know the importance of joining accountability with the authority to effect the change parents, activists and students are yearning to see in Chicago schools. That is why I support a partially-elected school board. As mayor, I would appoint half of the board members and maintain some responsibility for the school board’s decision-making, while the other three board members would be elected by Chicago voters.
What else would you do as mayor to improve the quality of public school education?
Garry McCarthy: I’ll ensure wrap around services in “community schools” that leverage neighborhood schools as a resource for students and local families; reinvest in neighborhood schools using the proceeds from sales of closed schools, currently estimated at $32 million, including repurposing closed schools for affordable housing and social service hubs; and I’ll advocate for Chicago’s special needs students, women and children by throwing the weight of the mayor’s office behind the fight to end draconian cuts to special education, childcare and early childhood learning funds, especially funding for Pre-school For All (PFA). I’ll also bring accredited training in the trades to all CPS high schools by partnering Chicago union locals to expand Chicago’s skilled labor workforce and ensure a CPS diploma has real economic value in the job market.
Chicago, by ordinance, is an official “welcoming city.” This means the Chicago police are generally prohibited from detaining undocumented immigrants on behalf of federal immigration authorities. What’s your position on this policy? What more — or less — should be done with respect to undocumented immigrants who live in Chicago?
Garry McCarthy: CPD officers should not be pressed into service by federal law enforcement agencies to do the job they are charged to do. Not only is this unconstitutional but it is impractical for reasons that include CPD officers’ lack of training on immigration law enforcement. However, all undocumented persons facing felony charges should be tried, prosecuted and deported, if found guilty. No exceptions.
Obviously, immigration is a very important issue nationally. However, the practical components of these policies are being played out in America’s urban centers, especially here in Chicago. As mayor, I would lead a council of big city mayors to advise Congress on how these policies are impacting immigrant families, local law enforcement and the delivery of social services and benefits.
What are the top three environmental concerns facing the next mayor of Chicago?
Garry McCarthy: The most pressing environmental threat to Chicagoans is lead and other toxins in our drinking water, especially in CPS schools. As a father of a two-year old son, I am very concerned that Chicago’s drinking water may have a deleterious impact on our children’s cognitive growth. Our campaign is drafting a full remediation plan that addresses this challenge. Also, I’m committed to cleaning up Chicago’s brownfields, abandoned buildings, homes and other dangerous structures that invite crime and health risks. Lastly, air, light and visibility pollution are serious threats to Chicago’s livability and property values; and I fear such pollutants may be driving upward our local healthcare costs.
Chicago is famously a city of neighborhoods, which is part of its charm, but also in some ways a weakness. It can make it hard to build bridges across racial, ethnic and social lines. What would you do to build those bridges?
Garry McCarthy: Now is the time to hold open, honest discussions about race relations in Chicago. I am the only candidate in this race who’s initiating these critical public discussions. But we have to do more than talk. We have to acknowledge grievances harbored by African Americans after centuries of social hardships and the very imminent challenge Latinos face as we struggle to shape a fair, compassionate immigration policy. We build bridges by thinking beyond equality to equity, where everyone has access, not necessarily to the same resources, but rather to the particular resources each community needs to thrive–because we all don’t start from the same place. Frankly, before we can build bridges that connect us to one another, we have to build bridges to opportunity, hope and a future that leaves no one behind.
What past or present Chicago mayor would you model yourself after or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Garry McCarthy: Chicago has had some great leaders but I don’t know that I’d model myself after any of them. My leadership style is premised on sound business management principles, where data, facts and expertise are leveraged to make sound decisions for our future and progress toward our goals. I am not a politician. I am a public servant who believes transparency and integrity are the pillars on which we’ll establish the mutual bonds of trust between Chicago families, government and its institutions, including CPS, CPD and City Hall.
Other than “Boss” (because everybody says “Boss”) what’s the best book ever written about Chicago, non-fiction or fiction. There are no wrong answers, of course, so we hope you’ll have some fun.
Garry McCarthy: Devil In The White City because even though this story is set in a period more than a century ago, much of the same problems persist in Chicago, including corrupt politics, editorializing, murder and rampant crime.
Also running for mayor: