The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent mayoral candidates a list of questions to find out their views on a range of issues facing the city. William M. Daley (who goes by “Bill”) submitted the following responses Dec. 27 (the Sun-Times does not edit candidate responses):
Who is Bill Daley?
His political/civic background: Commerce Secretary 1997-2000, White House Chief of Staff 2011
His occupation: I’ve spent most of my career in the financial services industry, but I have also served in two different roles in the federal government.
His education: Loyola University Chicago, BA, John Marshall Law School, JD
Campaign website: daleyformayor.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.
Bill Daley: Yes. Our existing pension system is unsustainable. Our current liability is an anchor holding Chicago back, and a threat to our public employees’ future benefits. If we don’t solve this now, the problem will continue to grow, impacting tax payers and workers. To protect pensions, we must reform them and to reform them we must amend the Constitution. Current benefit adjustments give retirees raises that outpace inflation. We cannot find a sustainable, long-term fix without changing the constitution.
I’ve talked with unions across the city, and I’ve told them face-to-face that we must revisit pension payments. Voters and pension recipients deserve an honest discussion of this issue and I’m committed to having it. We are past the point of cheap political promises. I’m considering every viable source of additional revenue and studying ways to save money that can pay for our pension obligations, but there are no silver bullets. The sustainable solution is a combination of additional revenue, more efficient services, and amending the constitution to revisit pension obligations.
New employees are an important part of this discussion. They city needs to continue attracting and hiring talented employees, but private companies do not offer the same increases we see today in city government. Chicago can hire great public servants without mortgaging our future.
Of the following often proposed sources of new revenue for Chicago, which of the following do you favor, and why?
- A Chicago casino
Bill Daley: I am open to a Chicago casino, but it should not be the first source of new revenue. It must be publicly-owned and professionally-managed. As with all options in this list, a casino will not solve all our revenue issues, and it must be part of a larger set of new revenue and reforms.
- Legalized and taxed recreational marijuana
Bill Daley: I support recreational marijuana. Other states have made this change and I will work with the governor-elect to carefully manage implementation. Most importantly, Chicago must get a fair share of the tax revenue, and we must carefully consider the social costs, equitable licensing, criminal justice reforms, and employment rules that may accompany recreational use.
- A LaSalle Street tax
Bill Daley: I am opposed to a LaSalle Street tax. It is not viable. This tax will raise very little revenue and push business out of the city.
- A commuter tax
Bill Daley: I am studying a commuter tax. I am not committing at this time, but nothing on this list will solve our financial issues by themselves. We need to look at all viable options.
- A property tax increase
Bill Daley: I have committed to not raising property taxes in the first year. After year one, I’ve committed to matching every dollar of increased tax with a dollar of cuts.
- A municipal sales tax increase
Bill Daley: City residents face a high sales tax burden, and the tax impacts those least able to pay. While I can’t rule out a sales tax increase, I would prefer to start with other options first.
- A real estate transfer tax increase
Bill Daley: I am open to a progressive Real Estate Transfer Tax that increases the rate for high priced properties but will not impact the majority of Chicago home buyers or sellers.
- Video gambling
Bill Daley: I am open to video gambling, but we must take a close look at the share of revenue that goes to the state. Unless Chicago gets a greater share of the revenue, this option is not viable.
What other sources of new revenue do you favor or oppose?
Bill Daley: Chicago deserves its historical share of state income taxes. Chicago is the economic engine of the state, and today we get only $0.80 of every $1 of taxes we pay back from the state. Part of the issue is that Chicago’s percentage of Illinois income tax revenue is lower today than it was eight years ago. Especially as Springfield considers additional tax changes, and the potential for a graduated income tax, Chicago revenue must be part of the discussion.
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?
Bill Daley: The consent decree is an important step that can go a long way toward rebuilding trust. I support increased training for Chicago police, greater emphasis on community policing, and better transparency as outlined in the consent decree, because we can’t continue with the status quo. Too many Chicagoans don’t trust the police, the clearance rate for shootings and murders is unacceptable, and officers aren’t getting adequate mental health support. My goal is a more professional force that has the trust of communities they protect. The consent decree is a useful tool to build that trust.
Chicago will succeed in implementing the consent decree by investing in our police. My crime plan emphasizes professional development for police, and I call for immediately requiring 40 hours of annual training. The consent decree only calls for 16. Some district commanders in Chicago are innovative leaders who have built relationships in the communities they police. In line with the focus on community policing in the consent decree, I will emphasize better information sharing across districts, and continue to create a results-oriented culture in the Police Department.
I support the consent decree, but it will be expensive to implement. Improving any organizational culture is difficult and it takes time. Meeting the requirements of the decree could take a decade, and I think the city’s cost estimates are too low. For the consent decree to be successful, every part of the police force, city leadership, and monitor must be on the same page. The next Mayor and Police Superintendent must commit and gain buy-in from the commanders and cops.
What should Chicago do to reduce the number of illegal guns?
Bill Daley: I am a strong supporter of tougher gun laws and increased focus on violence prevention. I realize the importance of reducing our jail population, but we cannot afford to treat gun possession or the use of a gun as a minor offense. These crimes should be treated as felonies and sentencing must follow tougher state guidelines. I’ve called for better enforcement from all levels of government. Federal, state, county, and city law enforcement must not shy away from the task of getting guns off our streets.
Part of this effort must include a closer look at the sources of guns. One in ten Chicago guns connected to a crime come from just two Cook County gun stores. Tougher enforcement for gun possession must be paired with increased scrutiny on sellers.
Lastly, I am committed to better intervention and increased focus to keep people out of situations where they would need a gun in the first place. I’ve committed $50 million to create an office of violence prevention. It has worked to curb violence in other cities, and it will work in Chicago.
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?
Bill Daley: Chicago’s crime numbers are unacceptable. We’re going to end another year with over 500 murders and nearly 3000 shootings. To reduce the rate of violent crime in our city, we need to set ambitious goals and demand safer streets. My goal is a 75% reduction in shootings and a comparable reduction in murders. We can do this. Reductions of this magnitude would put us on par with LA and New York.
In addition to tougher gun enforcement, my crime plan includes an increased emphasis on police training, better use of technology, and commitment to violence prevention. Like any other profession, Chicago police officers need annual training to stay current on best practices, update their skills, and learn lessons from others’ experience. As I’ve mentioned before, my crime plan calls for 40 hours of professional development training per year. I’ve also highlighted the impact of increased technology including drones. Our police need the best tactics and best tools to do their jobs.
I’ve met with experts and advocates across the city and from other parts of the country. It’s clear to me that the police cannot solve violent crime by themselves, and we must better engage the community. I will create an office of violence prevention to resolve conflict, provide alternatives to crime, and teach the vital skills to get a job and avoid criminal involvement.
What is the appropriate role of charter schools within the Chicago Public Schools system?
Bill Daley: It’s time to move beyond the debate of charters vs. traditional public schools and recognize that they are all public schools. Parents just want a good school and the debate should focus on what is in the best interests of kids. Charter schools offer different learning options for families. They offer laboratories of innovation from which the traditional system can learn. There are over 150,000 open seats in CPS, and 60,000 open seats in tier 1 schools. We should be working together to give as many kids as possible the best educational fit close to home, whether it is traditional neighborhood schools, charters, magnets, or schools with a special focus, including ARTS, STEM, dual languages or IB.
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.
Bill Daley: Chicago needs more community involvement in the school board, but the mayor must also be held accountable. I support a hybrid board — with the mayor appointing four seats, including the board president, and the local school councils feeding up recommendations for the other three seats. The process to recommend community board members must include all Chicagoans including permanent residents, and undocumented individuals. An election administered by a board of elections would leave important voices out of the process.
Major votes, including budgets, tax hikes, and school closings, would require a super-majority of five meaning at least two board members appointed by the mayor or one from the local school councils must support the measure. Chicago Public Schools has difficult problems to solve including enrollment issues, and poor college or career outcomes, but we can fix these issues. It will take buy-in from the mayor and input from the community. This hybrid school board provides both.
What else would you do as mayor to improve the quality of public school education?
Bill Daley: You can’t have a great school without a great principal, and today we do not have 623 great principals. In concert with my neighborhood school focus, I will recruit and empower better school leaders. I will shrink the CPS bureaucracy and shift dollars to the school level so great principles have the resources they need to succeed.
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?
Bill Daley: I support immigrants and will keep Chicago a welcoming city. Immigrants built Chicago and give our neighborhoods their character. My goal is to grow Chicago to a city of three million, and to do that we must attract new people to the city. Immigrants—documented or otherwise—are an important part of that goal.
I will maintain Chicago as a sanctuary city, but I will not rest there. I will invest in communities that will continue to attract immigrants, and I have emphasized the need to include the undocumented in building a hybrid school board.
What are the top three environmental concerns facing the next mayor of Chicago?
- The top environmental issue is lead in the water supply. Tackling this will take long term and coordinated investment to improve our water system and replace aging infrastructure.
- Asthma rates in parts of our city are unacceptably high. I am exploring ways to grow and innovate Chicago’s manufacturing and logistics sectors, in a way that creates new jobs, and reduces negative impacts on air quality.
- Flooding on the South and West sides causes significant property damage and hurts investments in neighborhoods. I am studying innovative solutions to better capture rain water and improve green spaces.
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?
Bill Daley: My goal is to grow Chicago to a city of three million by investing in the diverse neighborhoods that make Chicago unique. Building bridges across racial, ethnic, and social lines starts with this investment. Disinvestment in the South and West sides have created economic isolation, and it has started Chicago down the path of becoming two different cities. While Chicago is a leading destination for white millennials, 400,000 African Americans have left since 1980. To start building bridges, we need to change paths.
I plan to coordinate $1 billion of public investment across departments and sister agencies and use those investments to attract an additional $6 billion of private investment. The creation of economic opportunity zones, opportunity to better focus TIFs, New Market Tax Credits, and City-controlled programs like the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund present a unique opportunity for the next mayor. I will coordinate City-controlled programs and convene civic leaders to end economic isolation and make these neighborhoods the home of future economic growth.
Future industries like advanced manufacturing, next generation food production, or advanced logistics can thrive in Chicago if we leverage our existing strengths, bring good paying jobs to people who need them, and take advantage of the talent we have all across our city.
Economic bridges are the crucial starting point, but we also must continue to nurture the unique civic pride that makes Chicago great. I love this city, and I want all Chicagoans to share in the city’s prosperity and story. Building bridges across neighborhoods is about trust, education, and community. It includes better policing, better schools, cultural preservation, and neighborhood development. Everything I’ll do as mayor will impact the bridges we build between communities. I will keep that in mind.
What past or present Chicago mayor would you model yourself after or take inspiration from? Please explain.
Bill Daley: In addition to my father and brother, who brought fairness and efficiency into government, I am inspired by Harold Washington who built a multi-racial coalition.
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.
Bill Daley: My favorite books on Chicago are “Devil in the White City” and “The Jungle” and don’t worry, I was not planning to say “Boss.”
Also running for mayor: