In mayor’s race, ‘Chuy’ García floats property tax relief grants while Brandon Johnson unveils public safety plan
U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García on Monday pitched an emergency property tax relief program funded through taxpayer grants, while Chicago mayoral opponent Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson released a safety plan that he said would address root causes of violence.
García, who is making his second bid for the city’s highest office, proposed finding money in Chicago’s budget to hand out means-tested grants for more than 21,500 property owners struggling with high taxes. The first set of grants would be a one-time $250 check to homeowners making no more than $43,800 as individuals and $66,700 as families. The households’ tax bills must be at least $1,000.
In rolling out his latest bundle of proposals for the city, García, one of nine mayoral candidates in the Feb. 28 election, said he would also attempt to negotiate a property tax reform bill with state lawmakers but did not elaborate, saying that would not likely happen in the current legislative session.
“People are hurting now. They need assistance now. All over Pilsen, people have called my office,” García said while appearing in the traditionally Latino neighborhood that has seen significant gentrification.
He also blamed Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is running for a second term, saying the city “could have taken some measures to mitigate the shock that people in this neighborhood are experiencing now.”
Under the plan, residential property owners, including landlords, would be eligible for $500 grants if they make under $58,350 as individuals and $83,400 as families — as well as if they experienced a property tax hike at least double the city’s average and of at least $2,000. The 2021 market value of the property must not exceed $400,000.
In addition, businesses that saw an increase in their tax bills of at least double the city average and at least $3,000 would be eligible for a $1,500 grant. But the 2021 market value of the property cannot top $600,000.
Other ideas García touted include convening a “Chicago Council of Corporate and Community Leaders” to catalyze more economic development downtown, launching a “Chicago Green Bank” to focus federal and local funds into environmentally friendly investments, and incentivizing businesses to hire people who were recently released from incarceration.
Johnson, meanwhile, unveiled a plan Monday that he said would train 200 new police detectives from the existing rank and file, double summer employment opportunities for at-risk youth to more than 60,000 jobs and expand support for victims of crime. Those programs and increased support for homeless people and those with addictions will help curb crime, Johnson said.
“The best way to reduce violence in the city of Chicago is to invest in people,” Johnson said.
Asked what role police have for addressing crime, Johnson said, “If we believe that public safety is confined to policing, that clearly is inaccurate.”
“I can tell you the role of policing is not being social workers and counselors and therapists,” Johnson said. “It’s concentrating our efforts in a smart way to make sure that where the crime is more likely to take place that a police presence is there but it’s also solving crime.”
Johnson said most violence in the city happens in relatively small areas and not enough cases are being solved by officers.
On the campaign trail, Johnson has repeatedly sought to separate himself from Lightfoot, García and former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas by criticizing them for what he says is an overreliance on policing. That has led to criticism from Lightfoot that he wants to defund the police.
Johnson was also asked Monday if he would reduce the number of police to pay for his programs and he sidestepped the question. Johnson said “the supervisory to rank and file ratio is just out of whack” and said there are almost 1,000 officers on desk duty who could be redeployed.
“It’s about being smart, and making sure that police officers are in the best possible position to make sure that we’re bringing some closure to families who are looking for closure, but it’s really more about investing in people,” Johnson said.
But, Johnson said, policing as a strategy is what’s led to the problems Chicago has now.
Lightfoot, for her part, has also criticized an overreliance on policing and noted that public safety must be addressed with the “root causes,” especially poverty.
Also Monday, activist Ja’Mal Green announced new advertising for his mayoral campaign, including a video that highlights his opposition to parking boots and demonstrations against Chase Bank’s lending practices among the Black community, earning a ban for the establishment’s branch locations — but also a promise from the bank to increase mortgage lending to Black and Latino families.