*** July 22, 2013 10.22A ***A part of this story has been redacted due to serious editorial issues in another, unrelated, publication. ***
Editor’s note: An important update to this story is available on The Bulldog. Comments are generally closed two weeks after a story is published.
The Bulldog sat down earlier this week to talk to Ameya Pawar. Mr. Pawar recently announced he plans to run against 47th Ward Alderman Eugene Schulter in the 2011 city elections.
Q: About Arne Duncan’s clout in schools list. This was published in the Chicago Tribune. It noted that when Arne Duncan, now the US Secretary of Education, was the chief of the Chicago Public Schools he kept a list of requests for applicants to schools. His office would follow-up on it. Secretary Duncan said he did this to relieve pressure on principals from fielding these calls.
There are cases of ordinary citizens, also business people and politicians calling and inquiring about people. An alderman noted: “people call us and ask for help and this is what we do.”
What’s your reaction?
A: I heard that Mayor Daley wants to put in a new process that makes it available to everyone. I think that’s… If we’re going to have an appeal system, if someone’s child or relative is unable to get into the school of their first choice: that there is a process for them to appeal that decision. And, ultimately what matters is that people feel they have access to the system, that the system isn’t just available for the well-connected.
So, long as anyone who feels they should appeal can apply, I’m okay with that.
Unfortunately, it didn’t seem like this clout list was secret but that people didn’t realize they could access (it). I think that was the fundamental problem there.
Q: So, that people weren’t aware they could access an appeal is the fundamental problem?
A: I saw on Chicago Tonight that roughly 35 – 40 percent of the people who were on this list got into the school. What I want to know is how the system is designed. What are the factors used to make an appeal. Is it just because you know someone or are there other extenuating factors that contribute to an appeal.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to comment on?
A: (Illinois) HB 6000 is an interesting issue (that) came out of committee. It was introduced by Representative Joseph Lyons (and it) would impact the 2011 election. The petition drive… The spirit of the law: it increases the minimum signatures to 500, so it’s no longer the two percent of voter turnout. It doubles what is required in Ward 47. Also that if a resident signs my petition and Alderman Schulter’s, that signature is thrown out.
The difficulty is that you’re not asking for someone’s vote that day.
Q: I understand that the Board of Elections is applying this rule that if you sign one petition that you cannot sign another petition or both signatures are thrown out. It’s not Illinois law, but the interpretation of the Board of Elections that handles the petition campaigns. Is that correct?
Q: So, people get very aggressive and gin-up the numbers on the petitions, which makes it difficult for people who enter later or who don’t have the street organization to compete.
A: Exactly. It is going to become difficult when an incumbent can soak up all the signatures. Without resources to have a more robust street operation it’s going to be difficult. My objection is what is this bill trying to accomplish?
We submitted an op-ed to the Chicago Sun-Times about this:
At the heart of any election is the notion that the people, presented with a number of candidates, will choose the one that best represents their interests. It is in recognition of this fact that I recently began my campaign to be alderman in the 47th Ward and committed myself to focusing on the issues and bringing more voices to the table. If adopted, a bill recently passed through the Rules Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives would restrict the ability of challengers, like myself, to campaign for the changes they believe are necessary to improve our city.
The bill represents a serious threat to the future of free elections statewide. In Chicago, this bill would (1) increase the minimum number of signatures needed to get on the ballot to 500 (in many wards this represents a three- to four-fold increase); (2) ban you — the voting public — from signing more than one candidate’s petition. Since you will be allowed to sign only one candidate’s petition, essentially, voters will have to choose their candidate before the election even takes place.
I am calling on all Chicago aldermen, the mayor, Illinois legislators, and the governor, who I know value free elections, to publicly debate the merits of this bill.
We want a public debate. We want to understand what this bill is trying to do. What are the merits?
Q: The petition drive for aldermen starts in September?
Yes, it is six months out from the election.
Q: Thank you Mr. Pawar.
A: Thank you.