City Clerk Miguel del Valle, 59, was the first officeholder to announce his candidacy for mayor of Chicago. Del Valle, who got his start in politics as a volunteer for Mayor Harold Washington, served 20 years in the state senate before taking on his current job. Ward Room talked to him this morning.
Q:Why was it so important to you to be the first candidate to join the race?
A: It just turned out that way. Once the mayor made his announcement, I consulted with my family and the next day I made the announcement, given in the past I said I would consider running for the office if the mayor retired. I was the first to establish a campaign office, I was the first to establish a website, I was the first to establish a Facebook page, and I was the first to air a TV spot.
Q:Did you feel you had more of a challenge in name recognition?
A: Absolutely, and it’s one of the reasons I decided to move quickly. I know what I’m up against in terms of candidates with more name recognition, and more money -- a lot more money -- and the support of special interest groups. I’ve always run grass-roots campaigns, and this one is not going to be any different. My campaign will be an issue-oriented campaign. Today, I’m going to file a resolution calling for an advisory referendum that shall pose the question, “Shall the City Council continue to prohibit video gambling in Chicago?” There’s an ordinance that was filed in the licensing committee that would allow video gambling in Chicago. What my resolution says is let’s give the voters a chance to voice their opinion on whether they want video poker in every liquor store in the city of Chicago.
Q:You also say you want to ban mayoral candidates from taking money from people with city contracts. Isn’t that an underfunded candidate trying to level the playing field?
A: When I was in the legislature, I supported a bill to prohibit contributions to legislators and constitutional officers by people who contract with the state. In my four years as City Clerk, I have not accepted campaign contributions from people who do business with the city. I asked all the mayoral candidates not to take money from people who do business with the city. I haven’t heard back from any of them on it.
Q:In 2007, you were Mayor Daley’s running mate. How are you going to be different from him?
A: We need a democratic process in the city of Chicago that ensures a more deliberative legislative body. I think the meter lease would have been different if there had been more deliberations, and so I am calling for a more active council. I think that there should be City Council involvement in looking at contracts over a certain amount. Unlike this administration, I would encourage the City Council to play a greater role.
Q: Would you want them to be more involved in making the budget?
A: Absolutely. We’ve got a $650 million deficit. The mayor has yet to unveil his budget, but my guess is he’s going to tap into some of the TIF dollars. He’s not going to propose an increase in property taxes, and I would not, as mayor, propose an increase in property taxes. But the City Council has to assume more responsibility for determining where revenue’s going to come from. Regardless of who’s mayor, I think that’s going to happen. You’re going to see an emboldened City Council.
Q:How do you stand on selling or leasing city assets to private entities?
A: What’s there left to sell? I’m not in favor of privatizing water filtration. What’s left? Midway Airport? That can be looked at.
Q:What about TIFs? Some people are critical of TIFs because they say Mayor Daley has raked off the money into a slush fund.
A: We have to go back to the original intent of TIFs, which is to help blighted areas. There are too many TIFs right now, and some of the TIFs we have are not in the right places. The concept is one I support, but I also feel that TIF dollars should be used to construct schools, to relieve overcrowding. TIFs should not be used just to help a business, or businesses. I think that TIFs should be limited to areas in need of economic development. I think there is a need to look at all these TIFs and see when they’re going to expire, and where are there areas on the South Side and the West Side that need additional help.
Q:Latinos make up 30 percent of the city’s population, but only 15 percent of the voters. How do Latinos achieve influence to match their numbers when you have that kind of deficit?
A: A candidacy should not be about ethnicity. That’s why my slogan is “Mayor For All Chicago, Mayor For Every Neighborhood.” Any candidate has to be able to reach segments of every population. That’s the only way you can win. I came into politics under Harold Washington, when we believed in coalition politics. It was African-Americans, Latinos, and progressive whites.
Q:Do you think because ethnic coalitions were so important when he was mayor, people are jumping to the assumption that that’s how this one is going to go?
A: I think that we’ve grown tremendously as a city. Younger folks didn’t live through those times. You describe those times and they look at you like, ‘What? You’ve got to be kidding.’ Younger folks have grown up in integrated settings, and they’re not into the kind of racial politics that we saw back then. I’ll be strongly advocating against any moves to put us into that arena. It would be wrong for the city.
Buy this book! Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland's book, Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President , is available for pre-order on Amazon. Young Mr. Obama includes reporting on President Obama's earliest days in the Windy City, covering how a presumptuous young man transformed himself into presidential material. Buy it now!