Chicago Election For Mayor A Classic Haves Vs. Have Nots
The upcoming mayoral election likely is the most important trip to the polls Chicagoans will make in our city’s history.
Although only 40% or less of the registered voters are expected to vote, some analysts say the April 4th runoff election between Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson is a classic encounter of the “haves” versus the “have nots.”
In his 40 years of government service, Vallas, 69, was director of the Illinois Economic Fiscal Commission, Chicago Revenue Director and Budget Director, so he may be the best Windy City bean counter on the ticket. This writer has wholly endorsed him.
From the real-estate, crime and educational points of view, here are other strong planks in Vallas’ platform that he hopes will turn around the “City of Big Shoulders” on several fronts:
• In the assessment of the Chicago Tribune, which endorsed Vallas, he is “the candidate best positioned to tackle the city’s existential problem of violent crime.”
Vallas is endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police and major building-trade unions. And recently received the endorsement of Arne Duncan, former U.S. Education Secretary. Here are a few of Vallas’ strong points:
Vallas proposes a “fast-track” plan to “cap” soaring real estate taxes to stop the exodus of homeowners to the suburbs and other cities and states.
Vallas out-right rejects Johnson’s proposal of a “Mansion Tax” on the sale of homes priced at $1-million or more. The tax revenue to make the “ultra-rich pay their fair share” would be targeted to the homeless, said Johnson, who notes that 35% of North Side families earn $100,000 a year or more, while half of the West Siders and South Siders make less than $25,000 a year.
“The proposed 2023 NASCAR race is offensive,” said Vallas. “The event would close off Grant Park to city residents and a major section of the lakefront thoroughfare would prohibit traditional recreational purposes for weeks on end in the heart of summer.” While NASCAR may be hard to stop in 2023, if elected Vallas says he would cancel the event for 2024 and 2025.
In the area of education—Vallas’ great focus and life-long expertise—would:
Decentralize the board of education, cut bureaucracy, and direct more funds to schools and classrooms. Currently, only 60% of the money homeowners pay for schools actually get to the classrooms. In Cook County, 57.5% of property taxes go to fund public schools.
Vallas, who served as Chicago Public Schools CEO from 1995 to 2001, argues that CPS test scores have “plummeted” with a mere 6% of Black students meeting state standards in math, and only 11% measuring up in reading.
Vallas would extend the school day and year, and give parents 100% choice to send kids to any school of their choosing—public, private or parochial. He also plans to open schools after hours for community programs and services.
However, both candidates agree the biggest campaign issue is public safety. “Black Chicagoans are far more likely to be the victims of crime, which is why so many voted for Vallas or businessman Willie Wilson, who ran far to Vallas’ right on the issue,” noted the Tribune in its endorsement.
Thousands of lakefront North Siders voted for Vallas, and so did residents of the Far Northwest and Far Southwest sides. Many of these voters are long-time Chicagoans who are over the age of 45. Constituents that are shocked by Gold Coast riots, looting and city-wide car jackings, want to see expanded and improved police protection.
“Fear of crime is about more than the murder rate in a particular neighborhood. It is about the basic human need for safety and security,” noted the Tribune.
Vallas emphasizes that Cook County States Attorney Kim Foxx has not been aggressive in keeping dangerous repeat criminals off of the streets.
He promises to bring back hundreds of retired police officers to fill staffing shortfalls, plans to move more cops to local beats, and wants to graduate two classes a year from the Police Academy to help fill 1,700 job openings. Vallas also would create a dedicated Transit Unit to provide security on the CTA, replacing the current private security forces.
While Johnson, a self-described Democratic Socialist who is endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), says he will not raise property taxes if elected.
Johnson is proposing a stream of new revenues—mostly new taxes on big business, including a “big business head tax” and higher hotel taxes.
Vallas said Johnson’s close ties to the teacher’s union as a paid organizer for CTU presents a conflict of interest. He says the city needs fiscal experience, not Socialist rhetoric.
Johnson, 46, is best known as part of the CTU, who believe that schools will improve when they’re fully funded and in neighborhoods with resources. He didn’t start teaching until age 31. Later, he landed jobs with the state legislature and the New City YMCA. Within only four years, he traded teaching for CTU organizing.
Johnson, a Cook County Commissioner, wants to invest $1-billion in social programs bankrolled in part by an $800-million increase in taxes.
Four business groups—the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturing Assn., the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Assn. and the Illinois Retail Merchants Assn., oppose tax hikes and back Vallas.
No matter who wins the election, this writer believes hiring more cops and rebuilding the Chicago Police Department brick-by-brick is essential.
This writer also believes the majority of the newly hired cops should be minorities. Train them to be “officer friendly” cops who are dedicated to a defined beat area. To build trust, they should knock on every door on their beat and introduce themselves as “your neighborhood cop, assigned to serve and protect your family.”
As for education and building a pool of minority jobs, who says every kid from the inner-city needs a college degree? Everyone shouldn’t aspire to be a computer programmer, or a newspaper reporter. There is a palpable shortage of skilled blue-collar workers in the building and essential trades, such as mechanics and service technicians.
For example, if an inner-city high-school graduate signs up with the 6,000-member Plumbers Local 130’s five-year apprenticeship program, here is an outline of wages and benefits:
In years one through three apprentices work four days as helpers on the job and spend one day in the classroom. The beginning wage is $17.95 an hour for the first six months, and $19.55 an hour in the second six months. In year two, the apprentice earns $23.25 an hour, and that wage rises to $39.60 an hour in year five, plus benefits.
A journeyman plumber earns $52.80 an hour, plus benefits, which include health insurance, a comprehensive pension plan, set work hours and overtime rates.
Plumbing-contractor companies currently charge a whopping $198 per hour for a service call, including the first 30 minutes of labor, and travel time. After that they bill at $192 per hour. After hours charges are $297 for the first 30 minutes of labor, plus travel time, and then $288 per hour. That’s $72 per every 15 minutes.
In Illinois, plumbers earn more than any other state in the nation. The average journeyman plumber’s annual salary is $86,120, reports Fieldpulse.com. The average Illinois college professor with a master’s degree earns $61,537, notes Indeed.com.
“As in all union building-trade jobs, you have to pass drug tests and be willing to work really hard,” said a recently retired union electrician. “However, at retirement, you can live a comfortable life.”