Garry McCarthy never planned to get into the Chicago mayoral race, but groups of people kept lobbying him to do so.
He would politely turn them down and they would come back with even more supporters.
Trying a different spin, he said, “Look, if you show me that we can win and that we can raise the money, then I’ll consider it.”
When money started to roll in and a poll in January 2018 showed he could win, McCarthy said, he started to give the race serious consideration. He said he came to the realization that he needed to run for the benefit of the city.
“First of all, I live here. I’ve got a 2-year-old son. I own property here,” McCarthy said. “… I can’t stand by and watch what is happening here, and eventually, as I always say, my public service DNA got to me.”
The former Chicago police superintendent said the final factor in deciding to run was when police Cmdr. Paul Bauer was killed Feb. 13.
“You have a high-ranking police officer killed in the shadow of City Hall by a four-time convicted felon wearing body armor with an extended magazine in his firearm in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon in the Downtown business district,” McCarthy said. “It kind of points out that we have a real big problem.”
McCarthy said there is very little return for him in being mayor “other than the satisfaction of maybe doing an incredible thing at an incredible time in a great city’s history.”
With his grandfather a policeman who converted to being a fireman, his father a police officer and his older brother a state trooper in New York, McCarthy said public service was always on his radar.
“I was a police officer for 35 years. As I like to point out, I’m not a politician, I’m a public servant,” McCarthy said.
The candidate said he would not simply tell people what they want to hear in typical Chicago political fashion. “I will tell them the truth,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said you simply need to look at the President’s 21st Century Task Force on Policing put together by Barack Obama in 2014. He said of the best practices compiled by that panel, 90 percent of them were already in place in Chicago while he was police superintendent.
He noted that under his watch the city had the lowest murder rates in back-to-back years (2013 and 2014) since 1965 — and he did with a lower headcount of police personnel than the city has now.
“The bottom line is those practices are out there. We just refuse to do them here in Chicago because of all the politics,” McCarthy said. “The thing that holds Chicago back is Chicago politics.”
McCarthy said he is not a “go-along-to-get-along” kind of guy and he would not have let things spin out of control the way they have regarding crime in the city, if he had remained police chief. Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired him in 2015,
The candidate said he has been wrongly characterized as wanting to lock everybody up and throw away the key.
“I’m on record for 20 years saying otherwise. It’s about keeping the right people in jail, not putting everybody in jail,” McCarthy said.
He said he would stem the tide of people fleeing the city because of crime and high taxes and the business economy in neighborhoods withering on the vine while Downtown is doing OK.
“This is unsustainable,” McCarthy said. “… If you think we’re on the right path, then let’s keep doing what we’re doing because obviously everything is fine.”
He said City Hall needs to be more accommodating to residents.
“What are the first five answers you get if you are trying to get a permit or talk to somebody? The answer is ‘no,’” McCarthy said. “How could you be less friendly? I talk about it all the time, we need a compassion in government.”
He said whether it is Superintendent Eddie Johnson or someone else running the Police Department when he is mayor, the person will not have to worry about McCarthy constantly looking over his shoulder.
“I’ve never been a micromanager,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said he has the experience to run all facets of the city, not just turn the crime problem around.
“I’ve been a manager since 1985. I’ve been in chief of police positions for major cities,” McCarthy said. “… I’ve managed a $1.4 billion budget. Do you think I am going to budget how much we spend on certain line items? I am going to hire experts whose job it is to know about these things. That way no one in the city has so much power.”
McCarthy said he brings passion and proven leadership to the position.
“I have so much law enforcement leadership experience. I have seen so much and am still not cynical,” McCarthy said. “No other candidate has the vast experience that I have.”
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