Chicago mayoral candidate U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia on Tuesday unveiled his “Women’s Agenda.”
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file
As Chicago’s second female mayor and first who is openly gay, Mayor Lori Lightfoot believes her ongoing fight for pay equity, paid parental leave, reproductive care and a fair share of jobs and contracts for women to be among her greatest strengths.
But it’s apparently not enough to satisfy mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.
On Tuesday, Garcia outlined a “Women’s Agenda” that includes everything from free City Colleges tuition and student loan forgiveness for “women, immigrants, trades, veterans and adult learners” to advocating for “legislative solutions” that, he claims, would “make child care universal and affordable.”
Without saying what it would cost or how he plans to pay for it, Garcia noted that, “Universal pre-K alone would save Black families over $1.2 billion” each year.
Garcia’s Women’s Agenda also calls for:
• Promoting what he calls “community birthing options” by “allowing licensed certified midwives to practice as primary birth attendants, increasing birth center reimbursements and reducing unnecessary administrative rules.”
• Working with the Chicago Department of Public Health, community health centers and Cook County to eliminate what he calls “pharmacy, contraceptive and health deserts” on Chicago’s South and West sides.
• Increasing capacity at reproductive care facilities to accommodate the surging demand for abortions from pregnant women from out of state and establishing “reproductive health care pilot projects to support innovative approaches and patient-centered collaborations to safeguard patient access to abortions, regardless of residency.”
• Training Chicago Police officers to sensitively handle emergency calls and cases involving gender-based violence and the LGBTQ+ community and requiring “cultural competency training for all public-facing” city employees.
• Providing and distributing “free sanitary products” at the CTA — similar to the distribution of free masks during the pandemic — to address what he calls “period dignity for unhoused women.”
• Appointing a deputy mayor focused on gender equity and narrowing a pay gap has Latinas in Illinois earning an average of 53 cents for every $1 earned by white men, even though 40% of Latinas are the primary earner in their families.
• Committing to “gender parity,” including members of the LGBTQ+ community, at City Hall and at all agencies of local government and the boards and commissions that oversee them.
The Lightfoot campaign accused Garcia of parroting the mayor’s ideas for the second time in less than a week.
“After years of tethering himself to Me-Too magnet Michael Madigan, copycat Chuy Garcia decided to release a plan to ease the plight of women in Chicago — much of which was lifted from our woman mayor’s policy accomplishments,” campaign spokesperson Hannah Goss was quoted in a statement.
Accusing Garcia of similarly mimicking the mayor’s anti-violence plan, Goss said, “Instead of trying to pass off the mayor’s policy agenda as his own, perhaps the cngressman should join in the work she is already doing to support women across this city.”
Throughout her first term as mayor, Lightfoot proudly maintained an all-female financial team that includes Chief Financial Officer Jennie Huang Bennett, Budget Director Susie Park and Comptroller Reshma Soni. She has appointed more women to leadership positions than any other mayor in recent history.
Last summer, Lightfoot vowed to expand paid parental leave for city employees, conduct a continuous “pay equity audit” and challenged the private sector to do the same to remedy a pandemic-driven “she-cession” that’s had a disproportionate impact on women of color.
She subsequently granted 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all 32,000 city employees but has been accused by the Chicago Teachers Union of rescinding a similar promise to teachers and school employees.
Her $16.4 billion 2023 budget includes $3 million for reproductive services tied to the influx of women descending on Chicago seeking abortions outlawed in their home states.