During one of his first appearances since he announced plans to run for mayor, Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Chicago) shared his concerns for the city including conditions of struggling neighborhoods, injustices for low-income people of color and the challenges young people face in the education system.
Garcia, former 22nd Ward alderman, raised many topics that likely will be part of his campaign against Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
On Wednesday, Garcia told political science students at the University of Illinois-Chicago that he wants to help the city, which he thinks is not headed in the right direction.
Garcia, 58, announced his intention to consider running after Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis was diagnosed with a brain tumor and suspended her exploratory campaign. Garcia will need 12,500 signatures by Nov. 24 to get on the ballot, according to Chicago Board of Election Commissioners regulations.
“We inherited a deficit of $479 million, which is not chump change,” Garcia said. “I believe that we demonstrate through our actions that we can live within our means.”
Garcia said when Karen Lewis dropped out, he received calls from across the city. Garcia, who grew up in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, said education would be one of his priorities as mayor.
“Closing schools is not a good thing, and as for community safety, Chicago is the murder capital of the U.S., and that isn’t pretty,” Garcia said. “The idea of incarcerating young people is not a good one.”
Separating the “shiny city center” from the surrounding neighborhoods is a prime concern for Garcia. Another so is making sure problems such as the war on drugs, which mostly take place in urban areas, and other ways to ensure the safety for people of color, are covered.
“The war on drugs has been ineffective and has resulted in the incarceration of poor people of color,” Garcia said. “We need to reconsider a better approach to dealing with drugs, especially in urban areas.”
Garcia spoke about possible consequences for minor offenses such as the loss of time with family for those with drug dependencies, issuing tickets instead of jail time and programs preventing kids from dropping out of school.
“When you bring people together, when you listen to people, when you have a predisposition to do something good, good things will happen,” Garcia said.