The results are in! 

The commitment to transparency, accountability and equity within city government is key for any elected official. After all, we can’t successfully attack our most pressing problems without improving the very foundation of honest and transparent governing. Allowing the release of public documents through the Freedom of Information Act and committing to good governance is important to every Chicagoan.

The results of the BGA Policy mayoral questionnaire below will help residents of Chicago make their decision on February 28th. We thank each candidate who submitted their results to us.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot declined to respond to the BGA Policy questionnaire.

Candidates had a chance to check “yes” or “no” and had the option to explain their answers.

2023 Mayoral Candidates

Kam Buckner

State representative for the 26th District

Jesús ‘Chuy’ García

U.S. Representative

Ja’Mal Green

Community activist

Brandon Johnson

Cook County commissioner for the 1st District

Sophia King

Alderman for the 4th Ward

Lori Lightfoot

Mayor of Chicago

Roderick T. Sawyer

Alderman for the 6th Ward

Paul G Vallas

Former CEO for Chicago Public Schools

Willie Wilson

Wealthy business owner and previous mayoral candidate

The Questions

1. Do you agree that FOIA violations are a threat to democracy and to the proper functioning of City government?

Kam Buckner: Transparency and accountability are essential to good government – and that includes complying with FOIA requests. The current administration’s disregard for FOIA is unacceptable.

Jesús “Chuy” García: Yes. FOIA violations are also violations of law. They have to be true violations. It is within the proper function of government and democracy to exercise its independent judgment as to what properly is within the scope of FOIA, taking into account the conditions set by the law.

Ja’Mal Green: A functional government relies on mutual trust between leaders and their constituents. Transparency is the only way to maintain that trust- from careful following of the Open Meetings Act to faithful compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Cities should not hide behind exemptions when it is not strictly necessary.

Brandon Johnson: Open access to information and open government are essential to our democracy. The role of the press, in particular, is “to serve the governed, not the governors,” and FOIA requests by media outlets are key to providing access to information for the general public. Many requests, however, are made by non-journalists, which makes engaging in the process an act of engaging in democracy. FOIA violations threaten democracy and erode trust between government and individuals who have elected “governors” to serve. And as we have seen in Chicago, with more than 100 lawsuits filed against the Lightfoot administration, the pursuit of information becomes more of a story than the information itself.

Sophia King: Yes. It is fundamental to the proper functioning of our government that the records of the City of Chicago are accessible to the citizens it serves.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: Simple: The press has a crucial role as government watchdog to ensure transparency and prevent corruption.

Paul G Vallas: It is critical that all governments operate with full transparency; so that way the constituency can hold leadership accountable. In my previous positions of leadership I ensured that we operated with the utmost transparency and built trust with the community we served.

Willie Wilson: The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), allows the public access to records from any government agency. That includes the mayor’s office. This law allows citizens to know what is happening within their government. I will work with the press and public to ensure that my office is fully transparent.

2. Will you commit to the timely release of all Inspector General reports and limit redactions only to information that would compromise third-party privacy or undermine an ongoing investigation?

Kam Buckner: We need government accountability and transparency, and it’s the Inspector General’s job to provide that. The people of Chicago deserve to receive findings from these investigations promptly and clearly. Heavily redacted documents create a culture of opaque corruption. More than once, I have called upon the Lightfoot Administration to fully release IG reports.

Jesús “Chuy” García: Yes. We support the timely release of Inspector General reports as qualified by the question.

Ja’Mal Green: The previous administration, and administrations before have wielded redaction powers to avoid the release of embarrassing information, or information that would undermine the Mayors office and their claims of success. That must end. As Mayor I commit to running the most transparent administration the City of Chicago has ever seen.

Brandon Johnson: I would absolutely commit to the timely release of Inspector General reports, and limit redactions only to sensitive and/or compromising information. Why dither, or delay? Not only is access to information important, but so is expedient access to that information. Urgency is evidence that these investigations and the subsequent reports are priorities to an administration, and as such, prioritized for the people of the city of Chicago.

Sophia King: Yes. The citizens of Chicago deserve to know what the independent assessments of the Inspector General are. I will ensure that my administration protects the privacy of third-parties or private citizens, but is also very transparent and swift with the release of reports.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: The IG is an extremely important part of City government and reports from that office are essential to running a good, fair, honest and equitable city.

Paul G Vallas: Every case is unique, there are times where in order for the inspector general to properly investigate connections then some redactions must be made until the investigation has come to a conclusion. I support the limiting of redactions as long as it does not come at the cost of compromising the investigation of the inspector general or violating the privacy rights of an individual.

Willie Wilson: The public has a right to Inspector General reports. The reports identify the problem(s) and recommends corrective action. The taxpayers pay for the IG and must have an opportunity to see the reports and track corrective measures.

3. Will you commit to implementing recommendations of oversight agencies, such as COPA and Inspectors General of the city and its sister agencies, and to providing a detailed explanation in any case where you opt not to implement a recommendation?

Kam Buckner: This administration has a habit of ignoring recommendations and requirements (i.e., the consent decree). I respect the independence and recommendations of COPA and the Inspector General and their role in maintaining a fair and accountable government.

Jesús “Chuy” García: Unlike the current administration, I will commit to full cooperation with oversight agencies, to giving full weight to their recommendations. In any case where I reject a recommendation I commit to fully explaining that decision, subject only to consideration of privacy or in the case of an ongoing investigation.

Ja’Mal Green: We have Inspectors General and civilian oversight boards for a reason. It would be a grave mistake to discount their wisdom and guidance as we work together to make a city we can all be proud of.

Brandon Johnson: There must be trust in decisions and recommendations that are made by agencies that provide oversight of city services. To outright reject recommendations from entities such as COPA and Inspectors General runs counter to the need for checks and balances in our government. To have oversight that mayoral administrations are constantly at odds with erodes credibility and contributes to mistrust from the general public. Let oversight perform the task it is entrusted to perform, and in instances where recommendations are rejected, city leaders must provide the proper analysis to justify that decision in a pragmatic and transparent way.

Sophia King: The independent assessment of city actions, personnel, and processes by COPA and the inspectors general of the city are a key component of good governance, and if I elect not to pursue the suggestions provided by them I will provide a detailed explanation of the thinking and process which went into that decision.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: Oversight agencies serve the public, their recommendations should be heeded. I would work closely to make their recommendations into policy or law. If I were to disagree on any details or specific solutions, I would explain in full.

Paul G Vallas: Organizations that allow the residents and stakeholders of Chicago to provide oversight are critical to ensure that leadership is serving the needs of their community and as such I believe that they deserve an explanation from the administration as to whether they implement strategies or not. This is crucial in maintaining transparency with the people of our city.

Willie Wilson: I am committed to working with oversight agencies and incorporating their recommendations if they are in the best interest of our citizens. If I disagree with their recommendations I will be transparent regarding my decisions.

4. Do you commit to disclosing and abiding by an open and uniform appointment process for filling aldermanic vacancies?

Kam Buckner: City Council should be representative of the people, and allowing the people to play a role in the appointment process for aldermanic vacancies is critical to ensuring fair representation in each ward.

Jesús “Chuy” García: No reply.

Ja’Mal Green: For too long, political appointments have been decided in back rooms by the leaders of machine style politics. As Mayor I will put transparency, equity, and accountability at the forefront of all decisions.

Brandon Johnson: I fully support any process that brings consistency, clarity and transparency to the process for filling vacancies on the Chicago City Council. Democracy must be for all, but it must start with the people entrusted with governing our city.

Sophia King: Mayoral appointments to the City Council are one of the most important responsibilities that falls to a Chicago mayor. I will commit to an open and uniform process for filing aldermanic vacancies so that the city knows the alders who serve them are standing up for their interests everyday.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: I oppose appointments and would NOT appoint if an election were to be held in the near future, maybe in the next six months, as an example. Alders step down to create an incumbency advantage that benefits the mayor. If truly unable to work, I would appoint a place holder, perhaps the chief of staff, who commits to not running in the next election..

Paul G Vallas: The process for filling aldermanic vacancies should be created that is inclusive of the thoughts of the very community they will be representing. As Mayor I will develop a clear and consistent process that is fully transparent and utilizes community input when filling aldermanic vacancies.

Willie Wilson: I will work with citizens in the ward where the vacancy occurs. I will have a fair and equitable process that we will follow. That includes an application and interview process. This will include citizens and key leaders from the ward where the vacancy occurs.

5. Will you commit to releasing a full dataset including appropriations, revenues, and positions as part of your mayoral budget proposals? (Currently, positions are stored in a separate dataset that is not linked to the appropriations data, and revenues are not included in either dataset.)

Kam Buckner: A budget is a moral document and taxpayers should have full awareness about how their money will be spent. The current disconnect between human resources and the organizational charts in agencies is problematic.

Jesús “Chuy” García: Yes. This is included in my proposals on budget transparency.

Ja’Mal Green: A full dataset is integral to both council and the public having a full understanding of the budgetary process.

Brandon Johnson: Mayors have used the City of Chicago budget to hide, obfuscate and misrepresent actual City spending and commitments for years. The City budget – and the budget presentation – is convoluted by design. Leadership means telling people the truth. The truth starts with greater budget transparency, especially in the release of information to the press and the public.

Sophia King: To the extent that we can release this information in compliance with all legal restrictions, and without endangering the privacy of any third-parties, I will strive to do so.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: In an open, transparent government all of this data should be available to the public, and it will be in a Sawyer Administration.

Paul G Vallas: I believe that the budget should be handled in a way that keeps it transparent to the people of Chicago so they are able to be a part of oversight of the process. I am supportive of developing systems that will not only increase transparent but give the public a direct opportunity to be included in the process.

Willie Wilson: I believe in full transparency. I will make the process easier for citizens to understand the budget process.

6. Direct introductions of proposed ordinances are often made in committees with no public posting of the text. Do you commit to making all direct introductions of legislation publicly available at least 48 hours in advance of the meeting?

Kam Buckner: The public has to be a part of the process and needs ample time to assess proposed ordinances. I have called for complete City Council reform which would include making it easier for resident led ordinances to make their way through the process.

Jesús “Chuy” García: Yes, unless there is a situation of exigency, and in such cases I will describe those circumstances.

Ja’Mal Green: As we have seen in our congress, lack of public notice and posting requirements for proposed legislation leads to lawmakers voting on massively bills they have not even read. The values of transparency, accountability, and equity that I’ve spoken on must also be applied to our lawmaking process.

Brandon Johnson: City Council committees should not be a black hole of backroom dealing and rubber stamps. Legislation introduced in Council impacts the lives of residents throughout the city of Chicago. The public has every right to have access to legislation prior to committee meetings, to allow time for residents to engage with their alderpersons about the scope of proposed ordinances.

Sophia King: The citizens of Chicago deserve to know what their city council is working on, voting for, and implementing on their behalf. Having a clear and reasonable time frame for the submission of legislation is an important component of the transparency that must undergird good governance, and I will commit to making all direct introductions of legislation publically available 48 hours before the beginning of the meeting.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: My #ResetChicago plan is based on reforming Chicago to make it more open, honest, and transparent. And there is no more important place to start this than in the legislative body where our laws and policies are created.

Paul G Vallas: The public should be made aware of ordinances that directly affect them well before they are publicized and voted on.

Willie Wilson: Again, full transparency gives our citizens confidence in government. Every ordinance introduced should be made available to the public within 48 hours.

7. Will you require heads of “sister agencies” – the CTA, CPS, Park District, etc. – to appear before City Council committees when requested?

Kam Buckner: Heads of these agencies should operate in such a transparent way that appearing before a committee and being held accountable is an expectation. What has happened recently with the heads of CTA, CPS and CPD is totally unacceptable. I also won’t wait for a request. They will brief the Council once a quarter.

Jesús “Chuy” García: I will make sure that the City Council has ample and regular opportunity to hear from and to question the heads of our sister agencies. Additional reasonable requests by the Council will be met in a timely manner.

Ja’Mal Green: You can’t have accountability without the ability to even question those in leadership positions. I will absolutely insist that heads of sister agencies appear before City Council. in open session, to answer questions.

Brandon Johnson: My administration will require leadership of the CPD, CTA, CPS, Chicago Park District and other agencies to appear before Chicago City Council committees when requested, and especially during periods of crisis and/or concern. Prior to these requests, however, my administration will encourage committee chairs to actually hold regular meetings with their colleagues, and perform the duties for which they are entrusted and appointed. An active City Council is how we truly make Chicago work for its people.

Sophia King: I believe that the accountability and transparency that is generated by having the heads of the sister agencies appear before the council is crucial. It is something that I have fought this administration on, and certainly something that I would ensure that my appointees would do.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: These agencies MUST answer to more than just the mayor. The legislative body elected by the people can’t run an effective city without more cooperation from the agencies that provide some of our most essential services.

Paul G Vallas: The aldermen are also elected officials of the City and should be worked with as partners in making Chicago thrive. It is important for me as Mayor that the city council is empowered to do their obligation of representing their community and working towards their best interest in all structures of city government.

Willie Wilson: The sister agencies are accountable to taxpayers of Chicago and must come before the city council to answer questions.

8. In your administration, how will appointments to City Council committees and leadership positions be made?

Kam Buckner: I’m committed to reforming City Council as mayor and will propose that Aldermen choose their own leadership. City Council should operate like any other legislative body that picks its own committee chairs.

Ja’Mal Green: I believe appointments to committees and leadership positions should be based on qualification, skills, and the needs of all of our communities to be represented.

Jesús “Chuy” García: I intend to build a constructive relationship with the members of the City Council, and that begins with work on committee structure, rules, and leadership. I do not want to over promise here. While Chicago can benefit from a high- functioning and independent City Council, my top priority is building a high functioning, progressive, and impactful administration. I will, of course, support efforts from within the Council that make that body more effective.

Brandon Johnson: I believe the Chicago City Council must function as a robust and democratic body that legislates in the best interests of residents of the city of Chicago. To that end, I will reset the relationship between the Council and the mayor’s office, regain their collective trust, and work collaboratively and respectfully with alderpersons to determine committee leadership positions and composition.

Sophia King: Appointments to City Council committees and Leadership positions within my administration will be made through a transparent process which will take into account a diverse collection of individuals, their skills, their experience, and their vision for how we can make Chicago safer and stronger.

Ald. Roderick T. Sawyer: I would immediately end mayoral appointments of committee chairs, which is a system the Mayor uses to whip alders into line and can then undermine the very mission of the legislative body. I’d like to see the council have a president, elected by the alders, who would have a hand in such decisions. Committee chairs would be elected by their peers in the council and the appointments would be based on passion and knowledge for a specific subject, proven leadership in that and other areas, and a reputation of having the best interests of the city at heart.

Paul G Vallas: I believe that as an equally elected official in the City of Chicago, I intend to treat them as so and work collaboratively as we solve the issues Chicagoans care about most.

Willie Wilson: I will make them based on what is in the best interest of the citizens of Chicago. I will look at experience, interest, and talent. I will form a Task Force of experienced citizens in city government to make recommendations city council appointments.