State Comptroller Susana Mendoza is the latest candidate to join the crowded race for mayor of Chicago. The possibility of a mayoral run was in the air for several weeks, but Mendoza still surprised some voters with her announcement which came just eight days after winning her re-election campaign.
Morning Shift sits down with Mendoza to talk about why she’s running, the issues she would champion as mayor of Chicago and how she plans on tackling the city’s growing financial problems.
Why she’s running despite winning another term as state comptroller
Susana Mendoza: My belief from the very get-go, and what I said, was that if Gov. Rauner got re-elected that there’s no way I would have run for mayor because [the state comptroller’s office] would be where Illinoisans need me the most. But I also believe that, now that Gov. Rauner is in the past, it’s important to focus on the future of Chicago, and not just the next four years, but the next generation. And this will be an amazing opportunity for Illinoisans to actually have a Chicago mayor who actually cares about the rest of the state, who understands the needs of the rest of the state, and who can fight for the rest of the state. And that’s not mutually exclusive — it’s not one or the other.
On bringing big business to Chicago with tax breaks
Mendoza: I don’t think there’s one solution to how we deal with corporate America. The reality of it is that, look, Amazon was here and they’re gone. No need to cry over spilled milk.
Tony Sarabia: But there will be other companies in the future.
Mendoza: There will be other companies in the future. So number one, I think the process should be very transparent. We shouldn’t give away the kitchen sink to bring businesses here because we can do a lot to invest in growing businesses right here ourselves without waiting for a Daddy Warbucks, for example, of corporate America to come and try to make a case as to why they’re the salvation for our city. Of course we want to attract big business, and great business opportunities that create significant jobs at good pay, but again, we don’t need to wait for an Amazon to get started on that. We can start looking at how we redevelop our neighborhoods, how we bring our partnerships with corporate America in our loop, into better realization in the neighborhoods.
On property taxes in poor neighborhoods
Mendoza: A big reason Fritz Kaegi won the [Cook County] Assessor race is people were fed up. On the West and the South Side of the city you’ve got some of the lowest incomes, yet property taxes are ridiculously out of control. It doesn’t make any sense. The system has been rigged. So I think fixing that system and having a new assessor who’s committed to doing that, and to actually modernizing the system — utilizing technology and methods to be fairer across the board, where the corporate folks aren’t getting major tax breaks at the expense of poor people. That’s something that has to happen…
Sarabia: So you think an evening-out, if you will, would prevent the next mayor, if you’re mayor, from raising property taxes to bring in new revenue?
Mendoza: Not only that, Tony, but also the realization that Springfield just doesn’t pay its fair share in education funding. And, you know, this is something I’ve been fighting for over the last two years as comptroller. People were saying, “Why were you so involved in supporting the education funding reform?.And it’s because you’ve got to do that if you expect property taxes to ever have a chance of staying lower, [if] possible, because the state of Illinois doesn’t fund education anywhere near as much as your average other state… when we’re not paying our fair share at the state level, then local taxing bodies have to go to the only revenue source they know, which is property taxes, to make up the difference.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation, which was adapted for the web by Char Daston.
GUEST: Susana Mendoza, state comptroller and Chicago mayoral candidate
LEARN MORE:Mendoza Recorded Mayoral Announcement Video — But Still Plays Coy (WBEZ 11/2/18)
Eight days after winning comptroller election, Susana Mendoza announces run for Chicago mayor (Chicago Tribune 11/14/18)
Susana Mendoza: “You cannot just be in the business of closing schools” (Chicago Sun-Times 11/15/18)
Fact-check: Peeling back Vallas’ swipe at Mendoza’s city sticker record(Chicago Sun-Times 11/18/18)