Greek-American Paul Vallas, the former CEO of the Chicago public school system, is among the top candidates in a congested race for mayor of the Windy City. The election is scheduled to be held on February 26, 2019.
Vallas is among fifteen candidates for the post. The winner will succeed incumbent mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is not running for a third term.
“The city is in a severe financial crisis,” Vallas said in an exclusive interview with the Greek Reporter.
“Crime is rising, the police department has been degraded, taxes and fees have been increased to record levels, the schools have lost over one hundred thousand students.”
Vallas headed Chicago schools from 1995 to 2001 and has served as superintendent for multiple other school districts in New Orleans, Bridgeport, Connecticut and Philadelphia.
In 2001, the New York Times credited him for leading the turnaround of Chicago’s troubled school system which became a national template for urban school reform.
The influential Chicago Magazine threw its support behind Vallas. “No one has shown a better grasp of a mayor’s essential duties than Vallas,” the magazine stated.
The Chicago-born offspring of working-class Greek immigrants vows to restore Chicago’s finances.
“There is no other candidate capable to tackle the tough financial situation. I have done it in four different states, and abroad, in Haiti and Chile, where I balanced several multi-billion dollar budgets. I know how to run the city” he declared.
Vallas is angry over what he calls the “pay-to-play political culture” which dominates politics in Chicago and in America overall.
“I am not part of it …The entire government is dominated by this pay-to-play political culture. Elected officials make money on the side,” he told the Greek Reporter.
He says he has one more reason which makes him more determined to work for Chicago; the loss of his youngest son Mark, who died in February of 2018.
“My son lived with drug addictions. He aspired to do social service as a counselor for people who had drug addictions of their own” he explained. After his son’s death, the Greek-American felt “there was more to do.”
Vallas is proud of his Greek heritage, which has given him great work ethic. He noted that his father worked until he was over 80 years of age.
“Greeks thrive in every community. We adapt and are accepting. I grew up in a house where I never heard a racial slur.”
Vallas has done extensive work in rebuilding devastated communities around the globe. Along with two-time Academy Award-winning actor Sean Penn, he led humanitarian relief efforts and worked in education reform after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti that killed 230,000 people.
The Chicago mayoral candidate sits on the board of JP/HRO, an organization caring for 60,000 displaced Haitians over a three-year period that followed the earthquake and a subsequent outbreak of cholera.
In an interview with the Greek Reporter, Penn expressed his enormous respect for Vallas and his campaign.
“What he’s got is that will of service, the thing we miss in politics today,” Penn noted.