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Chuy Garcia speaks to the Chicago City Club... 'Trickle down is actually not a new policy at City Hall. Theyve been at it for a quarter of a century...'

One week before the Chicago municipal election, mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia gave a significant speech to the City Club of Chicago. The speech outlined the major issues facing Chicago's voters between now and April 7, when at 7:00 p.m. the voting (which began with early voting on March 23) will end. In addition to electing a mayor, Chicago's voters are also facing elections in runoffs in 18 wards, including two where Chicago teachers are in the race.

Mayoral Candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia addressing the City Club of Chicago. In his speech, the candidate outlined the problems that have been created in Chicago by the truncated policies of Rahm Emanuel, who has been mayor since May 2011.

Full text of Jesus "Chuy" Garcia speech to the City Club of Chicago:

Thank you, Jay, and all the members of the City Club for inviting me here again.

Today, Im going to do something a little different than most candidates do a week before an election. Today, Im going to tell you a hard truth: Chicago is becoming a city of the very rich and the very poor, with fewer and fewer people in between.

We are becoming a city of glittering buildings surrounded by crumbling neighborhoods

a city with the finest restaurants surrounded by communities full of people who cant afford a decent meal

a city with some job growth in a small area downtown surrounded by a vast area where unemployment rates are twenty five or thirty percent

a city with fancy shopping areas surrounded by other areas with boarded up business districts.

As measured by the number of people in the top five percent of income and the bottom twenty percent, the Brookings institution ranks Chicago among the top 10 most unequal cities in the nation.

Thats the record of this Mayor, and its not a record to tout.

The consequences of it are devastating.

We read about them every day. Chicago is now one of the gun violence capitals of the civilized world.

There have been ten thousand shootings since the Mayor took office.

There have been 362 shootings since the beginning of this year.

The relationship between the citys inequality and the citys violence is as plain as day.

The vast and growing chasm between the wonderful little city right outside these walls and the other much bigger city that surrounds it is wrong.

Its unfair.

Its unjust.

Its not in the interest of a single person in this room.

And its got to change.

Now dont get me wrong: I am not running to be Mayor of the poor or the rich. I am running to be Mayor of all Chicago. I love downtown Chicago. Ive worked here for years. And I will continue to support development in our central business areas as Mayor.

But there is more to Chicago than just downtown. Much more.

In our debate last Thursday, the Mayor defended his policy of over-investing in the central areas of our city. He said quote it gives us the resources to invest in our neighborhoods.

In another time and place, there was another name for the Mayors philosophy: they called it trickle-down economics.

In our first debate, both candidates were asked what big project wed take up in the next four years as Mayor. I committed to revitalizing the Port of Chicago. What did the Mayor say hed do? Build more river walks. If you want to see the difference in what the Mayor and I think is important to our citys future, that pretty much sums it up.

Trickle down is actually not a new policy at City Hall. Theyve been at it for a quarter of a century. Under this Mayor, though, its accelerated. In fact, its become the hallmark of his administration.

Just look at the TIF funds.

TIFs were invented precisely and specifically to subsidize development in areas that would not be developed but for their words, not mine these funds.

Where has the money gone in Chicago?

Nearly half of the citys TIF money 48% to be exact has gone to an area stretching roughly from the Gold Coast on the north to McCormick Place on the south and from the United Center on the west to the lake. In other words, our TIF money goes downtown.

These locations contain just 11 percent of Chicagos population and five percent of its geographical area. But theyve gotten half of the $1.3 billion in TIF money the Mayor has passed out since he took office.

Put plainly, the Mayor of Chicago is spending TIF money in the exact opposite way it is supposed to be spent after promising not to do it.

Its Robin Hood in reverse. Its been going on for years.

And the results of this misguided policy are plain to see.

In the last fifteen years, Chicago has lost over 200,000 people. They just up and left.

In 1970, nearly 70 percent of the city was middle class. Today, its less than 40 percent.

There are now more poor people than working class people in Chicago. Combined, the very rich and the poor are now over 60 percent of the city.

People arent voting on this trickle down policy in elections. They are voting with their feet.

Its easy to figure out why.

The best areas of the city are too expensive for middle class families. So they have to choose between other, more affordable, areas of the city and the suburbs. If more affordable areas are slowly deteriorating or overrun by violence, middle class families leave. Its really that simple.

Its especially true of young families with children. They dont just want safe neighborhoods. They want and have the right to demand good schools. If Chicago cant provide these good schools, they leave too.

Unfortunately, our city government is developing even actively promoting two school systems, one for the fortunate and the other for everybody else.

The Mayors solution to the problems in our public schools is charter schools which are just the newest form of privatization. Weve seen voucher ideas tax credit ideas and now this. I will give the school privatization folks credit: they never give up.

In the end, things like vouchers and charters are all different verses of the same old song: give up on public schools and let them be run privately.

I say all this as the product of Chicagos Catholic schools, as a proud graduate of St. Rita high school.

I believe in private schools. I went to one.

But I just as firmly and fundamentally believe that public school money should be spent on public schools. Its a principle in this nation that goes back to Thomas Jefferson and I see no reason to change it.

After privatizing so many schools, what happens to the remaining public schools? They become the places for families and kids who have no choice.

Notice the pattern here? Great neighborhoods for the fortunate, deteriorating neighborhoods for the less fortunate.

Good schools for the fortunate, substandard schools for the less fortunate.

Faced with this situation, what happens to those in the middle?

They leave.

And those that remain get poorer.

In the year 2000, 19 percent of Chicagoans lived in poverty. Today, its over 22 percent.

Thats 500,000 people living in poverty in Chicago right now.

The citys increasing poverty and declining middle class has a direct consequence on the citys finances.

In the flurry of numbers and charges and counter-charges, nobody talks about this: Chicagos growing inequality puts increasing pressure on our citys resources and a declining middle class puts increasing pressure on our ability to pay our bills.

Not talking about the real consequences of economic inequality and middle class flight in Chicago will not make those consequences go away. It will make them worse.

The solution is simple to say but hard to achieve.

Its growth.

Real population growth.

Its our only real way out of this mess.

The hallmark of my administration will be social justice not just because its the right thing to do, but because it is good public policy.

A more equitable city will be a more attractive city.

A more attractive city will grow.

It will be less violent.

It will be more educated.

It will have a growing middle class.

It will prosper.

So how do we get there?

The first thing you do when youre in a hole is stop digging.

We need to end the policies that have increased inequality in Chicago and are driving the middle class out of Chicago.

We must completely revamp the TIF program and spend the money where its supposed to be spent in neighborhoods that need the money. Its not a slush fund for wealthy special interests, developers and campaign contributors. And in a Garcia administration, it wont be.

We need to change how the city collects money and from whom. The Mayor has raised over $700 million in taxes and fees on cable bills, phone bills, water bills, sewer bills, every kind of bill he can find. And hes hauling in an extra $70 million a year by essentially running a citywide red light camera speed trap.

These taxes and fees and tickets hit the poorest among us hardest.

Its not just wrong. Its bad policy.

How much can you squeeze poor and working people in Chicago before theres nothing left to squeeze?

But heres the problem: if we massively increase taxes on our fragile middle class to shoulder the burden of our mountain of unpaid bills, more of them will leave and the city will become more unequal and the bill pile will grow and on and on eventually spiraling out of control.

In the end, we need to reform our entire tax structure to stop squeezing the people who can least afford to pay and making sure we get revenue from those who can most afford to pay.

First, this means reducing our reliance on property taxes, ending the practice of tacking endless taxes and fees onto every bill that shows up in the mail, and stopping the use of hidden camera traffic tickets as a source of revenue.

Second, it means expanding the sales tax base to include big time services, excluding small services like family trips to the vet, and adding a new luxury surcharge on things like yachts and fur storage.

Third, it means finally getting a real progressive income tax in Illinois, which will do more to increase revenue and reduce our reliance on property and other taxes than anything else.

Fourth, we need to look at every innovative way to deal with our massive fiscal imbalances and regressive revenue collection practices.

All of this will take time. It will take work, here and in Springfield. It will take commitment. And, yes, it will mean that the wealthy will pay more. But it must be done because we cannot go on like this.

We must end the violence on our streets. It will be my personal mission.

The Mayor promised to hire one thousand new police officers, but he broke his promise just as he did on the TIF money.

Today, we have four hundred fewer police officers and ten thousand more shootings in Chicago than on the day the Mayor took office.

How can we let this go on? How long before it becomes harder and harder for a business to recruit a new IT manger from Dallas or an Administrative Assistant from Columbus if all he or she reads is how forty seven more people were shot in Chicago over the weekend?

And when he or she is recruited, where will they choose live? In Chicago or in Naperville?

How do we keep people in the city if this is all they hear and see?

I will hire the police the Mayor promised to hire, train them in community policing, and work to stop the epidemic of shootings in this city.

We can phase in the hiring over four years and pay for half of it with the money that currently goes to police overtime. Toss in the money just from one luxury hotel TIF subsidy, and youve got the other half.

I will fight for new laws from the local to the federal level to get the guns off our streets.

I will do it. So help me God.

We must finally commit ourselves as a city, together to making Chicagos public schools a model for the nation.

Its a long road between here and there, but heres how we start.

First, we must cut class sizes, especially in the early grades. Study after study has shown that smaller class sizes in the early years have a significant impact on educational achievement. And which students show the most improvement? Low income students. If we really want to do something about poverty in this city, lets start by helping our most needy kids.

Second, we need to stop investing time and money teaching students to take standardized tests. Lets start teaching students what they need to learn instead. And we should broaden our definition of education to include music, the arts, physical education, critical thinking and cultural growth.

Third, we must add seats in selective enrollment schools. Every year, thousands of children qualify for admission to these schools but cannot attend due to a lack of seats. This factor in particular drives many families to move to the suburbs when their children reach high school age. It is inexcusable to drive our strongest students and their families out of the city.

Fourth, we must work with stakeholders in our schools parents, students, and, yes, teachers instead of battling with them and trying to impose our will on them by fiat.

Finally, we need to get City Hall and its politics out of the schools once and for all. The fighting with teachers and school profit making schemes by friends of the Mayor have eroded public confidence to the point where between 83 and 93 percent of voters chose to elect the school board in the last election. And thats exactly whats going to happen in my administration: were going to let people elect the school board. The people of Chicago will almost certainly run our schools better than the Mayor and they sure cant run them any worse.

Where can we find the money to do these things? Well, in the last four years, Chicagos schools have lost $900 million in property tax revenue that was diverted into the Mayors TIF operation. Another $30 million was spent on contracts to just three politically connected contractors and school consultants. Another $5 million was forked over to companies connected to a member of the school board. It goes on and on.

I am not new to these issues. In the State Senate, I worked to pass a sweeping law to help middle and low-income families stay in their neighborhoods, even as those neighborhoods began to gentrify. The bill we crafted was a model of fairness and equity that can guide our city policies as we work to achieve new growth.

Ive fought for fairness and for people my whole life. Like our President, I spent time as a community organizer, and thats not a bad thing. We picketed a rat-infested movie theater on 26th Street. We used a sit-in to shame a corrupt bureaucrat who was doling out summer youth jobs to the kids of cronies. At UIC, we forced the administration to create the Latin American Cultural Center, which exists to this day. We forced City Hall to build the first new school in our community in over one hundred years.

I built a neighborhood charity thats helped thousands of people find homes and jobs.

I have deep roots in our citys philanthropic community, and my experience in philanthropy has taught me one thing: our citys civic leaders are good, decent, kind people who understand that we are all in this together.

Benjamin Franklin once said that we all must hang together or surely we will hang separately. I understand that. Every civic leader Ive ever met understands that. Everyone in this room understands that.

People in Chicago arent asking for much.

Just a little

for their lives to be a little more secure

their families a little stronger

their streets a little safer

their schools a little better

Its not much to ask.

We cant have one Chicago for the fortunate and another one for the rest of us.

Its not right.

It doesnt work.

We can change Chicago

make it work for people.

And thats what were going to do.

Together.

Thank you very much.

And now I will be happy to take your questions.



Comments:

April 1, 2015 at 3:04 PM

By: Jean Schwab

Chuy

This a keeper- great plan!

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