Candidate Questionnaire: Gery Chico, 54

Former chairman, City Colleges of Chicago; attorney, Chico & Nunes, P.C. Lives in South Loop

1. How do you define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago? And what do you see as the city’s role in funding the arts and fostering growth in the cultural economy?
Art and culture are essential to the fabric, character and economy of the city. Chicago has earned an international reputation in the arts which bolsters the viability of the city by attracting visitors and tourists from around the world. Without question, the arts are critical to Chicago’s overall health, future and quality of life. The city’s promotion of its early developmental programs, for example, have resulted in successful, safe platforms for our youth to express themselves, which in turn, perpetuate and build upon the involvement of the arts in the development of the city’s future.

2. Where do you stand on the proposed promoters’ ordinance, which aims to increase the regulatory and insurance requirements on local event promoters?
The ordinance, as written, may have a potentially negative effect on the independent/local artists. It unduly regulates the independent/local artist in its current form. The ordinance should be reasonable—and not unduly burdensome. It should not have a negative impact on our ability to attract and develop artists and local events involving the arts.

3. Where do you stand on legalizing cook-on-site food trucks, as many other cities have done?
They need to be held to the same health and safety standards as bricks and mortar restaurants. As long as the source of the food is safe and the equipment used to store and sell the food is safe, I believe it will enrich our experience as citizens to be able to taste foods and have culinary experience from other cultures throughout the city.

4. Where do you stand on the merging of the Department of Cultural Affairs with the Mayor’s Office of Special Events?
Government needs to operate leaner and smarter. I believe we can achieve that goal without having a negative impact on cultural activities and the arts.

5. What was the last live local performance you attended? When? And what did you think of it?
Sins of Sor Juana. Excellent play, and I was very pleased that the [node:33901 link=Goodman Theatre;] had devoted a month to Latino plays. I am planning to see Billy Elliot soon, and looking forward to it.

6. What was the last local cultural institution you visited? Are you a member of any cultural institutions?
The last local cultural institution I visited was the National Museum of Mexican Art. I am a member at the Chicago Architecture Foundation;], the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute, including the Modern Wing, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I spend a lot of time at different Chicago Park District locations which have performances. During my time as president of the Chicago Park District, it was a key initiative to redevelop a large number of playgrounds and performance areas to bring fun, safety and culture into the neighborhoods.

7. What is your favorite local band? How about your favorite theater company? Restaurant? Artist? Comedian or other performer?
I enjoy all kinds of music and classical is one of my favorites, specifically the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. My favorite local theater company is the Redmoon Theater. My favorite restaurants are: Café Laguardia, Gage, Rosebud, Manny’s and Morton’s. My favorite artists are Charles Vickery and Claude Monet. My favorite comedian is Chris Rock.

8. What will you do to bring the arts to underserved communities, as well as to children, around the city?
I would encourage partnerships to build mentorship programs/relationships to bring more resources to local art communities. In my time as Chicago School Board president, I led the way to restore the murals in the CPS buildings, and this made art available to scores of our buildings, especially those that were done during the WPA. I also led the way to restore musical instruments and music programs. I took a full inventory of all of the art holdings in CPS, cataloged and insured them so the art would live in our schools for posterity.

We have to make sure children in schools throughout the city, public and private, have a very healthy access to our cultural institutions throughout all neighborhoods. We need to come up with creative strategies to ensure the instruction of arts in schools is properly funded. There is solid research that links student achievement and the arts.

9. Do you see Lollapalooza as a boost for the local music scene or a challenge to local venues?
Huge! I see it as a huge boost to the music scene because of the attention that it draws on our city as a host to one of the more exciting musical programs in the country.

10. Do you favor privatizing city festivals?
Not without consulting those it would directly affect. I would host an open forum with local artists and the City Council to gain everyone’s sense of the impact of privatization before making a decision.

11. Where do you stand on allowing a casino within the city limits?
I would be open to discussing the idea because of the substantial economic development that will come with such a program, including jobs and tax revenues. It certainly makes little sense to see those jobs and tax revenue operate across the border in Indiana. However, the impact on the neighborhood cultural scene, local and convention businesses, public safety, as well as individuals suffering with gambling addiction, would have to be thoroughly discussed and weighed.

12. Would you support the sale of naming rights to Soldier Field or Wrigley Field? How about more advertising signage at Wrigley?
Soldier Field is dedicated to the memory of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for this country. It should remain so.

The question of more advertising signage at Wrigley Field is an issue that needs to continue to be worked out between the Cubs owners and the Wrigleyville community. Changing the name of the ballpark from Wrigley Field would be extremely unpopular among Cub fans. The owners would be wise to heed the fans’ wishes.

13. Do you have a personal connection to the arts community (i.e., are you an artist yourself, or do you have friends/family in the arts community)? If so, what is it?
I have many personal connections to the arts community. My wife, Sunny, is on the Board of the Illinois Arts Alliance, Latino Film Festival and Goodman Theatre.

14. Should the number of available liquor licenses for bars and clubs be increased, reduced or stay about the same?
They can be increased, however we must adopt a sensible approach for business growth, balancing neighborhood safety and community concerns and interests.

15. Mayor Daley cites the Theater District as perhaps his most cherished cultural accomplishment. What cultural achievement would you hope to see as your most important legacy?
I worked side by side with the mayor on the development of the Chicago Theater District, including the Chicago Theatre, the Goodman Theatre and the Palace Theater. I held a key role in each of those, and I look forward to expanding the presence of our cultural institutions, including theater, when I am mayor of Chicago. I would like to expand those efforts into local neighborhoods and create theater districts within them.