Updated 11:19 a.m.
Chicago mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle on Tuesday said she would only serve two terms at City Hall if she’s elected on April 2.
However, Preckwinkle repeated her stance that she does not support term limits for Chicago mayor, arguing that elections serve the same purpose. She’s also previously come out against imposing term limits on aldermen. Her opponent in the April 2 runoff, Lori Lightfoot, has spoken in support of mayoral term limits.
Preckwinkle, who is 72 years old, would be 80 at the end of two terms in office.
In a wide-ranging interview on WBEZ’s Morning Shift Tuesday, Preckwinkle also agreed to limiting the use of “aldermanic privilege” when it comes to affordable housing.
The practice, which is not written anywhere in the city’s municipal code, gives local alderman unilateral power over zoning changes in their ward. A former alderman herself, Preckwinkle has maintained her support of aldermanic privilege throughout the campaign, despite a widening City Hall corruption scandal largely involving City Council members allegedly abusing that power.
But citing a recent federal complaint brought against the city by affordable housing advocates, she said she’d support curbing some aldermanic power.
“One of the things I would do is say that it’s no longer required that an aldermanic letter (of support) be in the folder to move an affordable housing project forward,” Preckwinkle said. Those projects still, however, would require City Council approval.
Preckwinkle also said she would want to look at restoring some of the cuts made by outgoing Mayor Rahm Emanuel early in his first term.
The first are the roughly $5 million in spending cuts for the public libraries done in 2012. That led to reduced hours and staff at many locations across the city. The other thing Preckwinkle said she hoped to restore is the city’s Department of Environment, which was also eliminated in 2012.
Below are highlights from WBEZ’s interview with Toni Preckwinkle.
On her aversion to term limits
Toni Preckwinkle: My view is that we’ve always had term limits. They’re called elections. Frankly, at the national level, we ended up having a two-term limit for the president of the United States because the Republicans were mad at Franklin Delano Roosevelt for having won four terms in a row. I think that it makes sense to give the electorate an opportunity to choose the best candidate, and that may be the person who presently holds the office and has held it for some time. It doesn’t make sense, it seems to me, to limit the electorate in that way.
Jenn White: If you are elected, do you have any idea of how many terms you’d want to serve?
Preckwinkle: Not more than two, but that’s not the point. The point is that elections are, by definition, term limits. And I think that’s appropriate.
On spurring affordable housing developments
White: How do you get affordable housing in every ward, so people actually have an option about where they get to live in the city?
Preckwinkle: One of the things we need to do is, as the mayor, say that this is a priority for the city. The mayor has to have a vision of the direction which we need to go, but we also have to build consensus in the city counsel to support it. One of the things I would do is say that it’s no longer required that an aldermanic letter be in the folder to move an affordable housing project forward. I think the city is presently being sued I think by the Shriver Center around this issue, and we just ought to say, “Yes, that’s right, we should move forward with affordable housing developments whether or not there’s a letter of aldermanic support.”
On Eddie Johnson remaining police superintendent
Preckwinkle: I’ve made it clear that there’s to be a transition there. I’ve said, first of all, the superintendent of police has to acknowledge that there’s a code of silence in the police department. And secondly, that there’s racism in the police department. And we’re not there.
You cannot address problems you don’t acknowledge. And these are real challenges within police culture. … In addition to implementing the consent decree, we have to work on the culture in the police department and police community relations. I talked about the importance of investing in community policing, but we also have to invest in changing the culture in the police department and that is a long term and difficult process, but one that we’ve got to begin.
I think that it’s hard for ordinary residents to have confidence in the police department when, as I said, we have leadership that doesn’t acknowledge either the code of silence or racism that plagues that institution.
White: If not Eddie Johnson, who would you look to to lead CPD?
Preckwinkle: Well, that would be a long term process. I would assume that Eddie Johnson would stay around until the end of the year, at least I hope so, and that it would give some time for transition.
On climate change and the environment
Preckwinkle: Early on in his administration, the mayor eliminated the department of the environment. So I think we need to restore the department of the environment and I think the reporting has shown that there was a dramatic reduction in the number of inspections around air and water pollution as a result of the elimination of the department, so we need to put the department back together and see that it’s properly funded.
We need an entity within city government that’s focused on the environment and sustainability as we have in the county. And we need to set goals for reducing our climate footprint as we have in the county, and we’re actually ahead of schedule on reducing our carbon footprint. But you have to focus attention on it and the best way to do that is to have a department that has that as a responsibility.
On restoring funding to the city’s public libraries
White: There were cuts to staff and hours made by the Emanuel administration. Would you look to restore those cuts?
Preckwinkle: I think that’s really important. Libraries are critical institutions for community learning. And we need to support them every way we can. Yes.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Justin Bull. Click play to hear the full conversation.