Investing In Our City. Preparing Our Workers. Rebuilding Our Neighborhoods.
A great city is a reflection of its people. But unless a city invests in all of its people, true greatness will always elude it.
Gery knows that Chicago is the biggest city in the country that is losing population. This negative trend is happening because too many working families have been affected by crime and slammed with billions of dollars in taxes – while not being able to find well-paying jobs to support their families.
At the same time, far too many Chicagoans face real poverty and lack of opportunity. This challenge is not new. The inequality that exists in our city started long ago and has been sustained in large part by the continued segregation of Chicago’s neighborhoods. This is a fact, and as a city, it is imperative for us to face up to our history in order to forge a stronger future.
Gery understands that Chicago’s downtown and airports are our city’s economic engines. Both are booming, with nearly 50 construction cranes downtown and at O’Hare International. They’re seeing record numbers of passengers and investment. But those economic gains are not being seen or felt by every Chicagoan in every neighborhood. And without economic opportunity, people often turn to crime or move out of the city. In fact, over the last year, Chicago’s employment growth was the slowest of the 12 largest cities in America.
Gery believes it doesn’t have to be this way, and this is why he is focused on a plan that will bring jobs and economic growth to all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Gery will implement a strategy that includes an array of economic development programs in every corner of our great city.
At the same time, Gery is always keeping his eye on the financial side of the equation. He has been creating revenue, balancing budgets and generating surpluses for decades in city government. As a former Mayoral Chief of Staff, President of the Chicago Public Schools, President of the Chicago Park District, Chair of the City Colleges and Chair of the Illinois State Board of Education, Gery’s experience managing hundreds of millions and multi-billion dollar budgets runs wide and deep.
In addition, as the founder and principal of a 15-year old law firm, he knows what it takes for a business to generate revenue, meet payroll and be responsible for employees.
Both through his work as a leader in city government and as the managing partner in his law practice, Gery has delivered results for Chicagoans in every ward of the city. The wide range of development projects he has brought to fruition include: affordable housing, public parks, healthcare service providers, public elementary and high schools, youth empowerment organizations, infrastructure improvements as well as retail and commercial use spaces (for more information on Gery’s track record both on finance and economic development, see further below).
The bottom line is that Gery Chico is the only candidate who possesses decades of experience investing in Chicagoans of all ages, creating economic development and jobs in our neighborhoods and balancing complex budgets. He also has a strategy for how to do this for the entire city as our next mayor. Gery will be ready on day one to apply his experience and expertise to execute on every piece of the Chico Neighborhood Economic Development and City Finance Plan.
Part 1: Jobs And Neighborhood Economic Development
Growing The Middle Class And Protecting Workers
Gery knows that our government policy and our economy have funneled most of our prosperity to the few and have lowered wages and removed safeguards for working families. Gery believes we grow our economy from the middle out – with a thriving middle class – not from the top down. Gery strongly supports workers’ rights to organize in a union – union pride is part of his DNA for as long as his family has held membership in the Plumbers Local 130, the FOP, and the Steelworkers. To grow the middle, Gery will focus on:
- Expanding training programs through the City Colleges of Chicago to upskill workers so they can get high paying jobs with benefits in manufacturing, transportation and logistics and other sectors where there is a shortage of skilled workers. Gery will work to take advantage of City Colleges programs in Health occupations, Advanced Manufacturing, Logistics, and Technology.
- Pushing for increased state funding to promote Chicago globally as a tourist destination which creates tax revenue and generates jobs in restaurants, hotels and other hospitality-related businesses.
- Fighting for a $15 minimum wage because no one should work 40 hours a week and live in poverty. No one should work full-time and not be able to support their family. A $15 minimum wage does not completely solve this problem, but it is an essential step in the right direction.
- Maintaining sick leave protections so that workers have sick time to care for a loved one or themselves.
- Helping Chicagoans expunge petty drug offenses and other non-violent convictions so they can find gainful employment and pay taxes. The demographic and geographic breakdown of those with criminal records in Chicago is one of the clearest examples of how the history of race relations in our city has brought us to today. We must change it, and one way is to give people fresh opportunities to work and succeed.
- Cracking down on employers that take wages and benefits from low wage workers as well as employers that misclassify workers as employees to avoid paying benefits.
- Ensuring that everyone who wants to work has the chance to do so by enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws and working with employers to provide more opportunities for people with disabilities and those from the LGBTQ community.
Rebuilding Our Infrastructure
- Gery knows that Chicago’s appeal to so many employers is our central location and infrastructure. But gridlock in Springfield has led to the state not passing a capital bill that funds infrastructure projects in nearly 10 years. To be a world class city, we need modern infrastructure that is second to none: To rebuild our infrastructure, Gery will focus on:
- Fighting in Springfield for a capital bill to fund new infrastructure and repairs to the city’s aging infrastructure.
- Using tools like the Transit TIF to fund needed public infrastructure projects and investments.
- Expanding use of Small Business Improvement Funds (SPIFs) in targeted communities to aid commercial and industrial property owners in repairing their facilities for their own business or on behalf of tenants.
- Replacing aging water lines starting with those to our schools and our parks to ensure our children have lead-free drinking water and completing the replacement of all lead-lined pipes to homes.
- Ensuring completion of O’Hare 21 – the ambitious modernization of O’Hare airport which will allow our city to continue to grow.
- Securing funding for the Red Line Expansion to 130th Street, from federal, state and local sources (such as a Southside Transit TIF).
- Reversing the decline in M/WBE opportunities and boosting opportunities for minority and female firms to bid on city funded construction projects, in particular for firms that hire from underserved areas.
- Expanding the Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles to ensure that everyone has access to public transportation.
- Speeding up the resurfacing of neighborhood streets that have been put on the back burner for too long.
- Requiring developers of large parcels – like Burnham Lakefront and Chicago River District – to add significant green space and pedestrian and bike friendly transportation spaces to their developments.
- Ensuring that developments like the new police training facility and the Obama Library catalyze larger neighborhood development by including shops, restaurants, and small businesses to ensure that entire neighborhoods reap the benefit.
Development for Every Neighborhood
Gery knows that with a revitalized infrastructure we can attract businesses to every part of our city. As well, he knows that far too many neighborhoods have historically been neglected, and that this pattern has created a feedback loop that sustains broken social infrastructure, lack of opportunity and increased crime. To bring development and increased prosperity to every neighborhood, Gery will focus on:
- Fighting to reduce property taxes for everyday homeowners by ending massive and unfair tax breaks for Chicago’s wealthiest commercial properties and homes. He will use the additional money to target development in every community.
- Reducing fare bus circuit routes to push back against Chicago’s expanding food deserts on the city’s South Side that greatly deprives residents of access to healthful food and necessities. The problem is not a lack of food, but a lack of access to food. There are more than half a million people in Chicago without access to food sources.
- Leveraging modernized infrastructure to lure transportation and logistics companies to locate throughout the city at the confluence of rail and highways – much like what is currently happening in the Pullman neighborhood.
- Upgrading the city’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund by leveraging downtown growth to make direct investments into neighborhood businesses across Chicago’s South, West and Southwest Sides.
- Expanding the city’s Retail Thrive Zones program to which will provide additional help to small businesses and entrepreneurs applying for economic development incentives in targeted areas.
- Drawing on his extensive legal career working with businesses, Gery will dial corporate CEOs from around the world to sell the benefits of Chicago and ensure their expansion projects are located here.
- Cutting red-tape in the city’s Large Lots program to more quickly sell back to residents vacant and abandoned property.
- Executing on the current Garfield Ridge – Cicero Avenue Plan to ensure increased opportunities throughout the community.
- Focusing development on commercial streets in every neighborhood so that each community’s entrepreneurial spirit can thrive and help bring back vacant storefronts.
- Partnering with Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) on community development support. In particular, Gery will implement and augment LISC’s ongoing projects in Auburn Gresham, Austin and Englewood.
Part 2: City Finance
When Gery ran for mayor eight years ago against Rahm Emanuel, he warned of massive taxes on working families, and over the past eight years working families have been smashed with new taxes, fines, and fees. Now, Chico reminds voters that Toni Preckwinkle created a soda tax as well as a new penny sales tax. In Springfield, Susana Mendoza voted for billions in new taxes, and Bill Daley proposed a new commuter tax. Chico says the wealthy must pay their fair share. When he’s mayor, those buying million-dollar-plus houses will pay an extra one percent to the city, and owners of Chicago’s commercial office skyscrapers will finally pay what they owe.
Gery believes in growing our economy from the middle out – and this means putting money back into middle class wallets. To do this, the wealthy must pay their fair share to fund our schools and fix our roads. Gery will get the middle class back on track by:
- Demanding that the Cook County Assessor reforms our property tax system and stops undervaluing office skyscrapers and mansions which force condo and bungalow owners to pay far more than their fair share in taxes. If necessary, take action against the Assessor, so that skyscrapers are properly valued and millionaires are required to pay their fair share for our schools.
- Adding a millionaires’ tax to any property sold for more than a million dollars.
- Taking the long view on our budget by requiring revenue and expense projections over the next five fiscal years so that the city can plan.
- Legalizing cannabis and collecting taxes on it.
- Sweeping surpluses out of TIF districts to build new schools.
- Fighting in Springfield to get a casino in Chicago so we can use that revenue to fund pensions and our schools rather than having Indiana take our tax dollars.
- Legalizing sports betting so that government can collect revenue from this multi-billion industry.
- Increasing revenue by advertising on blue carts, garbage and recycling trucks.
- Treating certain city business activities more like enterprises and using targeted sponsorship and advertising to increase revenue for city purposes.
- Working with Springfield to ensure the state accurately funds the per pupil funding recommendation of the State Advisory Body on school funding.
- Examining all fees, taxes and associated paperwork to reduce unnecessary regulation and spending.
- Eliminating The City Treasurer and City Clerk’s Offices and merge functions into existing city department.
- Integrating and updating technology throughout all city departments to streamline operation and reduce cost.
- Utilizing a zero based budgeting system to ensure we are prioritizing every dollar the city spends instead of just doing it the way we have always done it.
- Reforming TIFs to use our money on public works projects that benefit our neighborhoods.
- Harnessing Smart City technologies to drive down costs.
Behind the Chico Neighborhood Jobs, Economic Development and City Finance Plan lies Gery’s decades-long track record of accomplishments on behalf of Chicagoans. Chico knows how to achieve the goals he has presented in the above plan – because he’s done it before. The following is just a sample of some of the programs and projects that Gery has managed and completed:
CHICO BUILT AND RENOVATED SCHOOL FACILITIES ACROSS THE CITY
- Chico raised and spent more than $3 billion for school repair and construction.
- Chico built 16 new schools, 27 new annexes, and 29 additions to existing buildings.
- Chico created 1,137 permanent, new classrooms.
- Chico oversaw that 339 schools received new windows, 325 received new roofs, and 317 received masonry repairs.
- As Chico resurrected the faulty infrastructure at CPS, he turned a projected four-year $1.3 billion deficit into a $345 billion surplus.
CHICO HAS LED NEIGHBORHOOD DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS AND INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS THROUGHOUT THE CITY OF CHICAGO
- Chico worked to implement the Strategic Neighborhood Area Plans (SNAP), which were designed to invest city resources on small neighborhood sections throughout the city to improve the neighborhoods’ quality of life.
- Chico represented the receiver for the Gatreaux Assisted Housing Program, to bring about affordable housing for African-Americans who were being discriminated against and shut out of predominantly white neighborhoods.
- Chico helped to develop the Graffiti Blasters program, which eliminated graffiti and gang-related vandalism on private and public property.
- Chico represented a private, not-for-profit health system in the development of their Brighton Park Health Care Center, which is anticipated to provide healthcare services to 20,000 low-income Chicagoans.
- Chico worked with a developer to initiate the Homan Square development on the West Side of the city in North Lawndale. The Homan Square development included affordable housing, commercial development and healthcare services. The project also invested millions of dollars in road, sewer and infrastructure improvements.
- Chico worked with the Puerto Rican community to develop the Paseo Boricua along Division Street in Humboldt Park. Paseo was part of a Humboldt Park Redevelopment area, which “was an innovative and landmark effort within the city to promote housing and economic development” along Division Street.
- Chico worked to bring the national award-winning Parade of Homes to the Bronzeville and Kenwood neighborhoods.
- Chico worked on the Ogden Commons project in the North Lawndale neighborhood. Ogden is a $200 million mixed use development with 400 residential units and 120,000 square feet of office and 20,000 square feet of retail space.
- Chico worked to bring retail development to 95th and Stony Island in the South Deering.
- Chico represented a developer that built a 150,000 square foot shopping center on South Pulaski Road that provided goods and services, jobs and generated significant amounts of sales and property tax revenue.