On Tuesday, Chicagoans will vote in the first contested race for city treasurer since 1999. State Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin says her experience in the private sector can help raise money for residents.
Conyears-Ervin finished first in February’s election for treasurer, but since she didn’t get more than 50 percent of the votes she will face second-place finisher Ameya Pawar in a runoff election on April 2.
Conyears-Ervin stopped by The Morning Shift to talk with Jenn White about her plans for transparency, new sources of money, and taking a closer look at public schools, transit and parks.
On Chicago’s underfunded pension system
Melissa Conyears-Ervin: I have a four point plan to promote transparency, accountability and efficiency. One of the components is to make certain we provide an independent and unbiased analysis of our pension funds. We need to look at that annually. We need to know what the health of our pensions are, how we’re investing, and making certain that we’re getting the greatest returns on our investments.
Second, I believe that we need to have a financial analysis of our budget, as well as the pension deals that are being proposed and new revenue streams. All of that will fall on The Council Office of Financial Analysis, which I am proposing to be transferred to the Office of the Treasurer.
The third component is to look at not only at CPS, but the other sister agencies by conducting a financial analysis annually so we can really see what’s under the hood.
Fourth and foremost, we need an all-encompassing financial analysis of our city. Currently, the financial analysis of our city is being conducted by the Office of the Mayor. That’s like the fox watching the hen house. We need an independent and unbiased analysis so residents can truly know the financial state of Chicago, the health of the city, and how we can move forward to make sure we’re getting the real story.
On how to help underserved communities
Conyears-Ervin: There are several programs right now that are in place. One of the programs that current Treasurer Kurt Summers initiated is really providing more access to checking and savings accounts to residents in underserved communities. But that program really wasn’t marketed much, and I really want to expand to expand it.
Summers also initiated the Catalyst Fund to reinvest in underserved communities. It has been provided with $100 million from the city of Chicago, however it has not been able to obtain a private donor match. That’s why I believe that me coming from the private sector and having those relationships can bring the private donor match so that $100 million will not continue to just sit there.
On auditing public schools, transit and parks
Conyears-Ervin: We need to look at exactly what’s being done with our money. How our money is being spent. That’s what I want to look at, and I want to be able to provide that transparency to taxpayers. Right now, we truly don’t know how our money is being spent.
This interview was edited for clarity and brevity by Libby Berry. Click play to hear the full conversation.