In the days leading up to Chicago’s mayoral election on February 24th, WGN News is profiling the candidates as an opportunity to get to know them a little better. WGN’s Julie Unruh has a look at Jesus “Chuy” Garcia—a Mexican immigrant who, since the age of 10, claims he is Chicago through and through.
Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has made politics a full-time job for himself for most of his adult life working for the state, the county, and the city of Chicago.
He says focusing on Chicago’s neighborhoods is the first right step toward fixing what ails the city right now: violent crime, desperate finances and troubled schools. Despite the odds in this race, Garcia says he’s in it to win it.
“If you pursue public service with certain principals, your time may come,” he said.
Garcia hopes that time is now. Currently a Cook County commissioner, the 58-year-old has also served as a state senator and a Chicago alderman backed by former mayor Harold Washington. He says Washington would be pleased to know Garcia was running for mayor today.
Says Garcia, “He might say, it’s about time .. What took you so long?”
But Garcia makes no apology for his timing. Chicago has problems and the Democrat with a flair for connecting with people is ready to listen before he acts. He calls himself a consensus builder. Fixing the public schools is a top priority. He wants to do it by electing, not appointing, a school board.
Garcia was not in favor of the 2013 Chicago public school closings and he thinks the Emanuel administration has but one real goal with the controversial red light cameras, to pick the pockets of drivers. He’s in favor of a presidential library in Chicago, of course, but would like to see more input from the public when it comes to building the Lucas Museum.
His take on crime: 1,000 more officers for $120 million more dollars. He says if we need it—and we do, he claims—the mayor can find the money. Rearrange other expenses or make some cutbacks. It’s that simple, he says. As for pension obligations costing more than a half a billion dollars in 2016, he’s hoping for relief from Springfield and he’s waiting for some answers from the state supreme court.
“I’m willing to look at the TIF to see if a small portion of it could be paid as a small gesture of commitment that needs to be made,” Garcia said.
Garcia respects his mayoral opponents one and all, but thinks he has what it takes to win this season because he is interested in the people behind the votes, the people walking their city blocks, trying to pay their taxes and educating their kids. He says listening to them keeps him in touch. The Little Village resident has been married for 38 years and has three children and grandchildren. He is a runner and has finished three Chicago marathons. He loves jazz. He says it helps him relax. He was the first in his family to graduate from college and go on to get a master’s at UIC.
Garcia is grateful for where he’s at but the real journey, he hopes, is just beginning.