City treasurer candidates discuss city’s money woes

By SAMANTHA SMYLIE
Staff writer

Rep. Melissa Conyears-Ervin (10th) and Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), candidates running for City Treasurer, debated between long-term solutions and short-term steps to solve the city’s financial woes.

On March 28, the League of Women Voters of Chicago, WCPT 820 AM and UChicago Political Union sponsored a forum between Conyears-Ervin and Pawar hosted by Joan Esposito at the U. of C.’s Kent Chemical Laboratory.

Each candidate was given two minutes to introduce themselves and their platforms to the audience at the beginning of the forum. During the event, each candidate had to answer a question from the organizers or audience within a minute.

Both Conyears-Ervin and Pawar understands that there is a lack of transparency on what the office of City Treasurer has done for Chicagoans in the past. To make the office more inclusive of working-class, people of color in Chicago and accountable to taxpayers, both candidates offered vastly different solutions — when solutions were offered.

As a daughter of a working-class, single mother, Conyears-Ervin is concerned with immediately changing the conditions of working-class Chicagoans upon entering office. During the event, you could sense Conyears-Ervins urgency to solve the city’s troubles with quick solutions.

Her four-point plan — which she could not explain in full due to time constraints — can be summarized as a way to increase transparency, accountability, and efficiency.

When asked about how to increase pension funds, Conyears-Ervin said “As the next city treasurer, I plan to conduct the next financial analysis of our pension funds, because we need to know how we are investing those funds. We need to know if we are making a smart investment. Also, make certain taxpayers know where we are investing and making sure we are making the greatest return on our investment.”

Pawar offered new ideas to transform the function of the office of city treasurer. He sees an opportunity to use the office to advocate for marginalized Chicagoans. During the event, Pawar explained ideas for his vision to the audience.

When asked about his proposal for a public bank, Pawar said “Large financial institutions report to their shareholders. A public bank report to their taxpayers. These big financial institutions, recently, are financing things like private prisons, immigrant detention centers, and gun manufacturers. I think we need to find a moral compass.”

“This would be a democratized bank. We could invest in affordable housing something that banks are currently not doing.”

When asked about reducing money spent on police misconduct trials, Conyears-Ervin reiterated her point on doing a financial analysis on the city revenue streams.

“Currently, the Council Office of Financial Analysis, COFA, is ineffective. It is not timely, and it does not provide information to our taxpayers. We need an independent and unbiased analysis of these deals,” Conyears-Ervin explained. “We need to make certain that we are getting the true story.”

s.smylie@hpherald.com