Here’s a to-do list for Chicago mayoral candidates
Voters will decide the Chicago mayor’s race shortly. Here are the issues and policies the candidates should champion if they want a more prosperous and vibrant city.
Whether Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot wins re-election or one of her eight challengers unseats her, the next mayor will face plenty of problems. Crime is the first thing on everyone’s mind, but there are major issues with the city’s fiscal health, education and corruption.
Here is what the next mayor should support to put Chicago on track.
Pensions: Support constitutional pension reform.
In order to stabilize city finances, prevent further crowd-out of other city functions and secure retirements for city workers, Chicago’s mayor must support pension reform. Lightfoot recently pushed this issue as did her predecessor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, late in his term.
- That will require amending the Illinois Constitution to allow for changes to the growth of future benefits. The mayor must lobby state lawmakers to place that amendment before the state’s voters.
Taxes: No new taxes or fees, no hikes in current taxes or fees.
Chicago’s mayor needs to make a commitment to families and businesses that they will not continue to be nickeled and dimed with ever-increasing taxes and fees.
- Top priority should be placed on property taxes, which increase hundreds of dollars annually for the average homeowner in the city, as well as raise rental prices.
- The mayor should commit to freezing the city’s property tax levy, including forgoing the automatic annual increases under the state’s Property Tax Extension Limitation Law.
Budget: Truly balanced budgets with a long-term financial plan
Chicago’s mayor must commit to truly balanced budgets, in which revenues meet or exceed expenditures.
- The city often relies on “scoop and toss” budgeting practices, such as refinancing and restructuring debts, which delay expenses.
- It also relies on one-time revenue sources, fund sweeps or other “efficiency and savings” measures to “balance” the current year’s budget.
As long as the city relies on budget tricks, it will not be able to provide long-term financial stability to its residents.
Education: Prioritize students over politics
Chicago Public Schools are losing students and academic achievement is dropping. The next mayor needs to safeguard the city’s future by helping its children thrive, and that includes:
- Negotiating a Chicago Teachers Union contract that places students above politics, including the removal of provisions that prohibit students from taking advantage of charter schools or other educational options
- Appointing school board members who value student achievement, parental rights and public transparency
- Advocating for policies that protect taxpayers from increased spending that has failed to strengthen student achievement
Corruption: Continue pushing reforms in City Hall
Chicago is the most corrupt city in the nation, but the mayor can continue reforms Lightfoot started. The mayor should:
- Abolish aldermanic prerogative
- Increase fines for ethics violations
- Strengthen conflict of interest and lobbying rules
- Remove aldermen from the process of redistricting the city’s wards
Early voting has started ahead of the Feb. 28 city election. Those who vote from the comfort and safety of their homes can research where the candidates stand on these important issues and assess how likely they will be to lead Chicago away from problems related to city pensions, education and corruption.