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Before the Polls:
Meet Chicago mayoral candidate Neal Sales-Griffin

By Tiffany Walden

Neal Sales-Griffin

This story is a part of our Black mayoral candidate series, Before the Polls. Click here to read about the other Black mayoral candidates before hitting the polls on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Neal Sales-Griffin can talk about technology all day. It’s his thing, considering that he co-founded The Starter League, the first coding bootcamp program, in 2011. In fact, if you talk to him long enough, you’ll learn that the 31-year-old Chicago mayoral candidate sees tech and entrepreneurship as the solution to many problems within Black Chicago.

When asked how he’ll improve Black and Brown neighborhoods without pushing people out, he points to repurposing schools into vocational training facilities similar to The Starter League and his latest coding school, CodeNow.

“It’s going to draw in more people to want to move back to the South and West sides of Chicago to learn skills that are actually going to get them six-figure jobs one day, start their own companies and become millionaires some day,” Sales-Griffin says in between sips of a drink called Great Expectations at Hyde Park’s Bibliophile gastropub.

When asked what he would put in West Garfield Park instead of a cop academy, he circles back to tech.

“How about a code academy?” Sales-Griffin begins. “These people need beacons of hope, places of opportunity to actually get back on their feet.”

Lastly, when asked what he says to people who think his running for mayor is a waste of time, since he’s virtually unknown to many, his thoughts eventually loop back to technology.

“I’m not interested in being the faster horse. I want to build the Model T,” he says. “I want to build a new system for candidates and for the public to actually own up to the promises that they’re making.”

Sales-Griffin spent weeks trying to get his name onto the ballot after his signatures initially were challenged by fellow candidate, businessman Willie Wilson. Despite that victory, Sales-Griffin is landing at the bottom of the polls. Chicago Magazine ranked him number 14 in their mayoral power ranking during the week of Feb. 11. In a Chicago Sun-Times poll, conducted by We Ask America, he received no support.

The TRiiBE sat down with Sales-Griffin on Feb. 17 to chat about his background, political stances and mayoral campaign. Read our conversation below.

(The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)

The TRiiBE: Tell me a little about you. Where’d you grow up? How did your upbringing play a role in your decision to go into politics?

Neal Sales-Griffin: I grew up on 49th and Drexel, and 52nd and Dorchester, between my mom and my dad’s spots. They weren’t together. My folks came from Englewood, Roseland, Hyde Park and South Shore. My mom came to Hyde Park before she had me because she got robbed at gunpoint in South Shore. It would’ve gotten worse if her key didn’t jam in the door when the robber was trying to take her inside. She came to Hyde Park[and] met my dad. He was a big, tall, 6’2 police officer and he was really interested in safety at the time. So [she] made that investment, and made me. 

I decided to focus on how I can help the most people in the shortest amount of time, and turns out I ended up working in municipal bonds. Then I helped start a tech company that ended up becoming a billion-dollar company, but I wasn’t around for the billion-dollar part. I was only around for the million-dollar part, but that was still an amazing experience because at 18 years old I’m raising a quarter-million dollars. We had a tech company downtown. I’m hiring people twice my age. I’m running this business. I’m learning things I never thought I would learn, and I’m a freshman at Northwestern University.

Sophomore year I opened up two barbershops over here on the South Side. And then junior year I worked in venture capital, which was insane because at 20 years old, they weren’t hiring undergraduates to do venture capital back then. They were hiring MBAs to be interns. So I wiggled my way into a venture capital firm, one of the largest Black-owned, women-owned private equity firms in the country: Smith Whiley & Company. I worked at OCA Ventures downtown. When I graduated from college [in 2009 with a degree in Education and Social Policy], I didn’t know what I wanted to do next because I had done a lot and I was still trying to reflect on how I [could]  make the biggest impact.

The one thing I hadn’t picked up that I thought was going to be really important was the ability to wield software and digital tools to scale up all of my ideas and my solutions to people’s problems. So I basically just out of nowhere quit my job. Everybody thought I was insane. And I said, I’m going to teach myself how to solve problems for people with software. 

TT: So how did all of that turn into politics?

Sales-Griffin: I got asked to join the Obama campaign. I was going to join the technology team with my buddy Harper [Reed], who was the CTO for Barack Obama’s [2012] re-election [campaign]. He asked me to be one of the project managers, which was a pretty big deal. So I had that offer, and then I had this idea. I said, you know what? I think I can help other people learn what I just taught myself. I think if I do that, I can change the world.

So I made a huge bet. I declined the Obama offer and I tried to start a school that I didn’t know how to run or do or anything like that, and I figured it out. When we launched that school [The Starter League], not only did we succeed, but we attracted people from all over the world to relocate and move to Chicago, to move their families here, to change their lives, and to bet thousands of dollars on me that I could teach them a skill that they were dreaming and hoping that they could have so they could have a better life.

[Mayor] Rahm [Emanuel] appointed me the chair of the Tech Diversity Council for the city of Chicago. So I organized all of these leaders and we made this technology plan that’s online. There’s a problem with that plan though. I helped put that together, but there’s a lot of stuff in there that you nor I have any idea on how it’s going, and it’s a microcosm of the problem in Chicago. The reason I say that is because it’s a PDF. And when you try to figure out the status of any of these projects, it’s a guessing game. You can look through press releases. You can try to trace and see what the activity is, but Chicago hasn’t caught up to how open and accessible people can be with their progress, how actions are being taken, who’s owning an initiative and who’s seeing through it and how you define success.

TT: At what point did you decide to throw your hat in the ring for mayor?

Sales-Griffin: I decided to take on Rahm Emanuel almost two years ago. It was not too long after J.B. Pritzker’s announcement [about] running for governor. After that there were a lot of questions about what I was going to do. Running for mayor became the answer. That was before anyone else, except for Troy LaRaviere, [president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association]. Troy had been campaigning for a long-ass time. And then Willie [Wilson] and Paul [Vallas], [former CEO of Chicago Public Schools] [announced], then I announced.

TT: Because of your age, and your short time in politics, you’re considered a rookie in the political game, especially compared to folks like [Cook County Board President] Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot, [past chair of the Police Accountability Task Force]. Are you prepared to handle the responsibilities that come with being mayor? How so?

Sales-Griffin: Yeah. I think it’s a feature, not a bug. I think the problem with a lot of these experienced folks is [their] experience is what we’ve been basing our criteria on [when] selecting our leadership for this long. How is that working out? It’s not about Neal and his experience alone, because I do think I have the qualifications to do this. I think it’s more about bringing everybody in with me because you elect one of those folks mayor, [and] they become the next Chicago boss. I don’t think Chicago needs another boss. I think what Chicago needs is somebody that can bring the community down to City Hall with them to shake that thing up and actually not make City Hall a downtown thing, but to make City Hall a neighborhood thing. So I don’t want City Hall downtown anymore. I want City Hall in every neighborhood.

TT: Folks have been criticizing a lot of the candidates because everyone ran into the race after Rahm Emanuel’s announcement. Folks are saying why wasn’t anyone prepared to run against Emanuel when he was running for re-election, especially in the Black community. Why is it that you waited?

Sales-Griffin: Those people thought Rahm was good enough. They weren’t brave enough to run against him. Where’s your spine? Where’s your courage? Until he dropped out, you was chilling. You were fine. It’s that simple. I don’t have more of an argument than that.

TT: Everyone is vying for the Black vote. Black people in Chicago really trusted Rahm Emanuel. He got into office twice. But we suffered a lot under his leadership…

Sales-Griffin: People settled for him…

TT: We’ve lost schools, all the police brutality that’s going on. Our population, especially in Austin, has declined tremendously. What is your plan to retain and rebuild Black Chicago?

Sales-Griffin: So rebuilding Black Chicago was what got me into this race in the first place, and that is well documented. My specific plan to get people to come back is related to the core issues that I identified when I interviewed more than 50 people who have families who have recently moved away. When I had those conversations, what I learned is what we already know, but I needed to do my own research to validate it. One of the number one reasons that people I talked to leave is because their kids don’t have access to a great school in their neighborhood, and enough was enough. So when you’re planning a family, or you get pregnant, or if you have a kid and you’re trying to think about where you want your baby to go to school so that they can have the best life that they can have, they look at their situation in Chicago and realize they gotta go. They want to stay. They love the city as much as I do, but they gotta go.

So the number one thing in my specific plan is to make sure that every single neighborhood in the city of Chicago has a great school within walking distance. Full stop. If we do that, all of these other issues start to come together. We start addressing safety. We start addressing economic opportunity, because we have more vocational training and better curriculum and more pathways to excellence for Black families. But that’s the number one thing. And the way you fix that is you make sure that we’re not just allowing the mayor to appoint the CEO and the full board of the schools. And then you change that by making sure that the curriculum itself isn’t simply based off of test scores.

TT: We watched Emanuel shut down all of these schools over the last few years. Most of them were in the Black neighborhoods. In your opinion, what do these closures say to Black youth, and how do you plan to remedy the CPS problem?

Sales-Griffin: So that was a communication failure because there should have been a larger conversation with the communities that would have been most affected by that with the mayor himself directly, where he faces the music. It’s not OK to hide behind [former CPS CEO] Barbara Byrd-Bennett and go on a ski trip when the announcement is made that all these schools are getting shut down. I remember reading the news because I was running my own school at the time. I was at 1871 Code Academy with J.B. Pritzker and all these folks. I’m teaching kids and high schoolers and college-age folks and adults of all ages how to code and design and start their own companies and get great jobs, and I remember reading about the school closings.

I remember the quote from Rahm Emanuel, “I will absorb the political consequences for the future of our children.” So I said why. There must have been some sort of rational conversation in some set of rooms with this mostly colorful school board. These aren’t just all white men running the school system. These are people of color. These are people who care. These are people who mean well. Our leadership is a Black woman. What’s going on? How is this happening? Why is this happening? So that was where my energy was.

TT: How do you fix the CPS problem?

Sales-Griffin: I think the first step is making sure that the leadership itself isn’t simply selected by the mayor but the community’s more involved. That’s a very common proposal that everybody is about: [an] elected school board. I am taking a more nuanced approach to it. I want a majority-elected school board so that the people have full say, but I do want the ability as mayor to be able to appoint a few positions as well so that I can promote some of the innovation and stuff that I represented, but not to have direct control of the system or to sway the vote. Even though the community selects the leadership, that does not dissolve the mayor from that responsibility, in my opinion.

TT: Chicago has become more and more expensive to live in over the last few years. We’ve seen Black residents and business owners starved out of the city. Why is it that Black neighborhoods never see quality grocery stores, or businesses outside of churches, liquor stores and funeral homes, until white folks start to move in?

Sales-Griffin: ‘Cause as soon as folks here make money, if [they’re] in a place that’s not a good place to be in, they’re trying to get out. That’s it. Just talk to them. They’re trying to get out to the suburbs. They’re trying to go somewhere where they get more bang for their buck.

TT: How will you improve our neighborhoods without pushing people out?

Sales-Griffin: So there’s a few levels to it. There’s inputs and outputs. The inputs are regarding what the city can do to make sure that we’re directing more resources to the neighborhoods that are struggling, but the other end of it is making sure that folks in the community are actually gaining wealth and staying when they gain that wealth. As soon as folks start making money, they have good reason to leave because the community that they’re in is getting worse. We’re not directing enough dollars and resources towards opportunities to grow businesses locally in those communities. I don’t know how many people running for mayor know how to teach people how to become independently successful and wealthy, but that’s something I’ve been doing my whole adult life. So the solution isn’t just having a mayor who cares. The solution is enabling the community to take care of itself by growing its own wealth, by building businesses, improving on businesses, getting contracts and opportunities and incentives to buy and own more property and buildings in those neighborhoods.

TT: What do you do specifically to change that?

Sales-Griffin: I would repurpose all of the schools that aren’t active right now and aren’t being properly utilized. I would redesign the majority of them to make sure that we’re providing the kind of vocational training that I pioneered back in 2011. Not just coding and technical stuff, but all the pathways to the future of work and the future of jobs needs to be embedded into these programs. It’s going to draw in more people to want to move back to the South and West sides of Chicago to learn skills that are actually going to get them six-figure jobs one day, and start their own companies and become millionaires some day. There’s no one more qualified to do that than me.

TT: We talk about Pritzker a lot in this conversation. He is getting ready to legalizing weed...

Sales-Griffin: That’s a start, but we can do it faster. We can do it better.

TT: For Chicago, and as mayor, what will that mean for Black folks who have been imprisoned for marijuana charges?

Sales-Griffin: We need them out. It’s not just about legalizing weed. We’ve got all of these folks who’ve been in jail for these petty crimes, wrongfully, because we know we’ve been doing them wrong this whole time. They need to be out and their records need to be expunged.

TT: What will that mean for Black entrepreneurs who want to get into the marijuana industry?

Sales-Griffin: They need to be the priority. The people who have been taken advantage of in this system, the people who are just trying to survive and feed their kids and make their rent, and are struggling in this disinvested environment, they should be the first in line to get the opportunities to become entrepreneurs and build their own businesses and get licenses and get training and access to resources and support. But right now, big business is coming in and the people running those organizations and entities do not look like you and they don’t look like me.

TT: This question is tailored toward you. We’ve seen the relationship that you have with Pritzker. In this campaign, we’re talking a lot about where people’s money is coming from...

Sales-Griffin: He didn’t give me any money. He’s given a lot of other people money, all the aldermen and all of that. I don’t have anything to do with any of that. I worked with J.B. in one capacity. I worked with him to open up one of the largest technology hubs in the country [1871] because I got to teach people of all ages, especially poor folks, especially Black and Brown folks, how to get successful through becoming independent, becoming happy, by learning a skill set that very few people know. That was the basis of me working with J.B. and I’m proud of that work.

TT: But we’ve seen you in his campaign ads. How can Black people trust that your loyalty and your allegiance will be toward the community and not toward J.B.?

Sales-Griffin: I don’t owe him anything. We’re not like that. It’s not like call me, give me something. That’s the Chicago political way. I don’t know nothing about that. So there were no favors ever asked of me. There was no conversation about what can I get, what can you get, give me some money, this and that. Nope. None of that. It was, hey. You’re doing good work here. I like your platform on these issues. We agree on these fronts. We don’t agree on all fronts. That’s O.K. too.

Overall, out of all the choices, I know that man. I’ve seen him treat people well. I’ve seen him do right by a lot of folks. He is imperfect. He has said a lot of things that I don’t agree with. He’s done some things that I don’t agree with, but unfortunately in politics you’re going to have to work with people you disagree with. And he’s one of the more wholesome ones out there. He ain’t great but he’s pretty damn good. I don’t have a J.B. tattoo or allegiance or anything like that. I just work with people who I think care about folks and mean well and want to do good work, and I’m happy to disagree with him when the time comes.

TT: So this past summer, Ald. Willie Cochran referred to the Black Caucus as gangsters...

Sales-Griffin: Yeah. We knew that about them. They just got caught talking crazy on camera but that’s already been a thing for decades. We knew that. They wanted me to be there. Somebody invited me to come to that thing. I knew better.

TT: So what do you as mayor do to ensure that the Black aldermen operate in a way where City Hall, the aldermen, and the community benefits so it’s not this thing of Black politics rubber-stamping the mayor?

Sales-Griffin: Sunlight disinfects. It’s not just the Black aldermen that are the problem. It’s all aldermen. Now, I think it’s right that you’ve called out the Black aldermen, and how you hold them accountable, because they have a caucus and they were supposed to speak for a group of folks who don’t feel fully represented right now. I’m a part of that group too. And until we have full accountability and transparency for how business gets done in City Hall, and we root out the corruption through campaign finance reform, through radical transparency with decision making in our budget, through term limits, we aren’t going to have the progress that we need. 

TT: So how do you shift the culture in City Hall?

Sales-Griffin: You run for mayor. You step up as a leader. You don’t accept all of this ridiculous behavior that has gone on for decades in Chicago: cronyism and nepotism and pay-to-play and backdoor deals and all the bias and favoritism and no big contracts and lack of accountability and transparency. All of that stuff has to go, but you need somebody in a position of leadership and influence to enact those changes who isn’t interested in keeping their job, who isn’t interested in wielding their power too strongly, who’s more interested in actually honoring the structure in government design of a weak mayor system. 

TT: Do you support the cop academy? And if you’re elected mayor, what would happen to it?

Sales-Griffin: No. I don’t. So city council’s already approved the progress on it. There’s a lot that still can be done to adjust the allocation of those funds. The reason I don’t support it isn’t because I don’t think that eventually important systems of government and service in our city need to be improved. The reason I don’t support it is because the conversation with the community was inadequate. You had one vote against it: 48-1. [Ed. note: Alderman Willie Cochran, was absent during the vote]. That means that 48 wards in the city of Chicago somehow, some way, said that we support this initiative. So that means the majority of the public supports that initiative on paper. Does that mean it in reality? No. So that has to be honored. Are all of our aldermen on the same page in a way that our people were not? That’s a problem. Maybe we need to rethink our government and who’s leading it and who’s in charge and who we continue to elect and re-elect.

TT: Do you have ideas for what you would put in West Garfield Park instead of a cop academy?

Sales-Griffin: Yeah. A different kind of academy. How about [a] code academy? How about these resources that not only help young folks get pathways to success and intrinsic motivation and pursuing their dreams and starting companies and becoming doctors and lawyers and teachers and everything that they can imagine? But on top of that, [how about] we help adults, ex-offenders, people who got fired, who need a new job, who [are]  trying to change their lives, people who are unhappy with their work, folks thinking about grad school but can’t afford it? These people need beacons of hope, places of opportunity to actually get back on their feet. And if you make them successful in these neighborhoods and in these communities, and you incentivize them to stay, you can turn this whole city around.

We need good, effective police. They’re trying to protect people. They are trying to keep people safe. But some of them are also taking advantage of people and abusing people and harrassing people. I was one of those people who got harassed by the police when I was a teenager even though my dad was a cop for 30 years. They didn’t know that. They didn’t care. I was just a Black kid trying to walk down 35th Street. I don’t think that’s where we start, with making cops more functional and more resourced. I think that it is important to keep people safe. It is important to support our service workers. But I want them to have less to do when it comes to policing communities because people are starting to do well for themselves. They don’t need to go to lives of crime because they’re on the right track. That won’t change unless you start with trust. You don’t start with criminalization. You start with restorative justice. You start with trying to have conversations with people, not throw them behind bars because you don’t like them. If we put them on, they don’t want to pick up guns. They don’t want to harm people. They don’t want to hurt people. That happens after they get the exposure to this world that we’ve allowed to exist in Chicago where the resources on the North Side and downtown and they’re completely lacking on the South and West sides. We just don’t have a leadership who subscribes to that understanding because they’re not from here. They didn’t grow up here, and they didn’t go through these things. We only got a week left. Damn. I want people to get to know me.

TT: If you are elected mayor, what will happen with the privatized parking meters and targeted ticketing practices, which Black folks don’t benefit from?

Sales-Griffin: My God. [I’m] doing every single thing I possibly can to reduce the impact of all of these ridiculous choices that we’ve made. So bad. I got the Black and Brown experience on the South Side of Chicago. But I’ve also got the finance experience. I can tell you and go through those deals and tell you how messed up it was and what was actually going on. I’m comfortable in the numbers. I’m comfortable in the spreadsheets. I’m comfortable in the negotiations and making those terms and understanding what’s a good deal, what’s a bad deal in the long term. 

TT: Can you share a little bit about what went wrong in those deals?

Sales-Griffin: Sure. Basically we sold the farm for the sake of immediate returns. We made enough money with that parking deal to cover our short-term obligations, but we sacrificed so much long-term revenue that we made one of the worst business deals of all time as a city government. The money that the parking meter privatization made, in a matter of years, covered the cost that they had to provide to actually buy those meters from us. So we sold off those parking meter deal revenues, and now they’ve made more than enough money to make up for that. Now they’re just making all profit. That’s money off the table for Chicago [and] money on the table for people that aren’t interested in anything about Black progress. That’s it. It made a lot of people rich.

TT: Is there a way to remedy any of that?

Sales-Griffin: Well unfortunately the commitment that we made is rigid, but again I go back to sunlight disinfectant. What I just launched is my beginnings of a forensic audit of our finances in the city. We’ve got almost $22 billion [in the city budget]. I’m breaking down the budget fully to show people exactly how money is being spent because if we do that, and we talk about where revenue is coming from, and what expenses we have, we can right this ship. But it’s going to take more than one mayor. It’s going to take probably more than a decade to solve this puzzle. I’m analyzing the mayor’s pension obligation bond to see the trade-offs of that. I’m exploring all the new revenue ideas that all the candidates are talking about.

Unfortunately I think I’m in the minority in saying that I’m not pro-casino. I’ve seen too many of my friends and family members spend way too much of their money, their low income, on the lotto and going to Indiana and going to the Horseshoe [Casino] and all that. So I don’t have faith in the Chicago casino as the first idea for new revenue. I’m sorry but that’s just the truth. I’m open to anything to make sure that we balance the books, but it can’t start there.

TT: If you are elected mayor, what will happen with affordable housing, and folks losing their homes to taxes?

Sales-Griffin: We have affordable housing ordinances now that aren’t being enforced well enough, that protect the rights of people. We need to enhance that. We need to explore the tradeoffs of rent control and vouchers and understanding what systems have worked in other cities and how we can apply those systems in Chicago with our unique challenges. So there are affordable housing policies to protect people but the most effective thing for affordable housing is to make housing affordable because people can afford it with raising prices and costs. And the way that that happens is by making sure people are making enough money in the city. So again, it goes back to making sure that if you have a job, you can keep that job. If you have to get another job, you can get paid what you deserve for that job. The only problem is that there’s a lot of white folks moving into the city who are taking those jobs and there’s not a lot of folks who have the education and training who are here right now who are qualified to get those positions. We have to make them qualified. We have to teach them how to be qualified. That’s what I’ve been doing.

TT: If you are elected mayor, what will happen with the relationship between police and Black people in Chicago, where Black people have a complete distrust in the department?

Sales-Griffin: Yeah. There’s a complete loss of trust. The consent decree is just the first step in building and earning that trust from ground zero as far as most people are concerned. That trust has to start from the city to the people, not the other way around. If I’m mayor, I think I’m going to be able to have that conversation with the community. I’m not going to go into a room and say y’all need to listen to me. I’m going to go in a room and say I need to listen to you because we’ve failed you so far. So again this is my responsibility.

TT: Do you support the leadership of Supt. Eddie Johnson? The Intercept released an investigative report about him, basically saying that he has a history, other than Laquan McDonald…

Sales-Griffin: Short answer is no.

TT: So does that mean that you would want to oust him?

Sales-Griffin: Yeah. He’d be treated like a new hire, as a candidate, like everyone else – if that’s the job that he even wants. He’s been working with a mayor that a lot of people have issues with and the mayor and the superintendent can’t be decoupled at this point. So that relationship would have to be rebuilt.

TT: The community in Woodlawn is pushing for some kind of agreement with President Obama and the library that’s being built. Do you support that agreement? If you support it, what would you do to make sure that it happens?

Sales-Griffin: Yes, I support the Community Benefits Agreement. I think one of the challenges with that was kind of a slight comment from Obama himself, where he said oh well, when you have one of those CBAs you get folks coming out of the woodwork and 20 different nonprofits asking for something. I’m sorry but that’s not a good enough excuse. I know they had lots of meetings, but they still decided to just do what they wanted, and that doesn’t restore a lot of faith in the community. Instead, you got a lot of people who don’t look like us that are now trying to access property and moving in and over South Shore and beyond ‘cause they know what’s coming.

So I will make sure that this CBA gets heard. As mayor, I would have the ability to make that a key issue.

TT: What was Rahm Emanuel’s biggest mistake in office, and what would you have done differently? And what would you have done differently?

Sales-Griffin: Losing the trust of the community. Not making every single day about earning that trust back. That’s the number one currency here. That’s the solution to our problem with the police. That’s our solution when it comes to these schools getting reopened, and repurposed and reinvested in. That’s the solution when you’re interacting with students and kids and struggling community members who just need a leg up. It’s trust. You have to start with the areas that are struggling. If you improve those areas first, everyone benefits. Folks on the North Side are worried about crime. Where is that crime coming from? Folks [who] live over here. What’s going on over here that’s making it so that they have to go over there and take something from you? You ever think about that, or you’re just trying to build walls?

TT: So how do you do it differently as mayor?

Sales-Griffin: Again, it’s investing in those places first and foremost. That’s it. It’s actually that simple. We like to complicate things with detailed plans and all that, but I think it’s a value thing. It’s making sure that your budget and your leader reflect your values. Those two things not decoupled. 

TT: What do you say to people who say you should quit the race now? People in the Black community just don’t know who you are.

Sales-Griffin: I respect you. I love you. I also respectfully disagree that I’m supposed to sit down when I see problems and I want to make a difference and contribute. I think everybody should have a right to run for office. I think everybody should have a right to be heard, and not everybody is going to be able to do that in the same way that they would expect a traditional politician to do it. I’ve gotta do my own thing. I’ve gotta do it my way and the reason being is because this system wasn’t designed for folks like me to have an opportunity. Y’all can relate to that. So, yeah. Nobody knows about me because I got stuck in this system trying to get my ass on the ballot for five months. But I did it. So folks know [mayoral candidate] Amara [Enyia], right? They didn’t know her in 2015 when she ran for mayor the first time and didn’t make the ballot. They didn’t know her for the past four years either.

They know me now. I made it this far. And I’ve got something to say. And I’ve got a lot to give. So I think I’ll be worth hearing out, but that won’t happen with the design as it currently is. So what I’ve been thinking about [is this]. There’s all these forums and all these events and all these activities and programs, and it is a mess. It is crazy. I got on the ballot like, I don’t know, three and a half weeks ago [on Jan. 22]. We got 13 candidates who are on the ballot before me. If I just try to play catch-up to all of them, I’m going to lose for sure. I could’ve just said I’m going to say yes to all of the events now. I’m going to go to everything, but then I wouldn’t be building the systems and tools that I think can actually solve our problems in the city and craft a message that I think is most important to share in this final week. So that was a sacrifice that I made. I’m not interested in being the faster horse. I want to build the Model T. I want to build a new system for candidates and for the public to actually own up to the promises that they’re making. Who’s actually putting something together right now to hold their feet to the fire? So my way of showing that I’m going to be a good mayor isn’t by trying to do what everyone else is doing and what you’re used to getting from them. My way of showing you that I’m a good mayor is rather than campaigning, I would rather be leading. The way I’m leading is by doing things that no one else has done.

Sales-Griffin on jobs

Fight for $15 minimum wage, invest in businesses owned by Chicagoans, attract big companies (but not at the expense of residents, and create an office of Vocational Training and Employment.

Sales-Griffin on education

Provide access to a great education within walking distance, expand pre-K programs across the city, rebuild and prioritize our special education programs, and endorse a partially elected school board to include community voices.

Sales-Griffin public safety

Create an office for Violence Prevention, leverage data to reduce the use of force and racial disparities in policing, provide access to mental health services to all Chicagoans, and recruit police officers from the communities they serve.