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Candidate for Chicago City Treasurer

About the Candidate

Name: Peter Gariepy
DOB: Feb. 8, 1983
Family: Wife (Karishma), daughter (Reshma), and rescue dog (Baloney)
Occupation: Certified Public Accountant
Political Experience: Candidate for Cook County Treasurer in the 2018 Democratic primary
Website: peterforchicago.com

Candidate Statement

Hello, my name is Peter Gariepy and I am a certified public accountant running to be the next treasurer of Chicago.

With rising taxes, a staggering pension deficit and no easy decisions left, our city is entering a critical time in its financial history, and it is imperative that taxpayer money, your money, is managed by a licensed professional, not just another politician.

If you’re not familiar with the city treasurer’s job, well… it oversees your tax dollars and protects that money from threats both political and incompetent.

We are talking about the treasury of America’s third largest city; how can we entrust that to a politician with no practical experience? We need someone whose knowledge and ability has been tested and verified.

As a licensed CPA, I will lead the treasurer's office to combat poverty and income inequality on Chicago's south and west sides by investing in banks and credit unions that invest in Chicago, I will use our tax dollars to attract private capital where it is needed most while generating a return that eases the burden on exhausted taxpayers.

Together, we are entering a challenging time for Chicago. So when you cast your vote for mayor or alderman, do not forget about the treasurer’s race.

When you ask yourself who you want managing your tax dollars, is it a licensed professional or another politician already thinking about their next campaign?

I am Peter Gariepy. A CPA for Treasurer of Chicago, because you, the taxpayers of Chicago deserve qualified professionals serving in elected office.

Join our campaign at PeterForChicago.com. And thank you.

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

With unprecedented financial challenges awaiting Chicago’s next four years, it is imperative that the city treasurer’s office remains under the leadership of a qualified financial professional.

As a CPA, I received my license to practice from the State of Illinois only after having met the educational, testing and experience requirements to ensure that I reached or exceeded all necessary functions indicated by my license. I am qualified to oversee the City of Chicago’s operational funds and investment portfolio, both of which fall under the city treasurer, and the mismanagement of either can decrease resources available to meet the city’s more pressing financial needs, such as adequately funding the four city pensions.

By virtue of the office, the city treasurer is a board member of the four city pension funds for Laborers, Municipal Employees, Police Officers, and Firefighters. The aggregate unfunded balance of those four funds currently stands at $28 billion with a required annual payment of $1 billion. That yearly payment will more than double to $2.13 billion in 2023.

In the 2019 race for city treasurer, neither of my opponents possess any formal financial experience and with a board seat on the each of the four city pension funds among the responsibilities of the Chicago City Treasurer, it is not appropriate for someone without proper experience and training to be making decisions that impact the financial security of those who have earned a city pension and the taxpayers who are obligated to cover any funding shortfall.

I am a married father of one with another child on the way, and a rescue dog. I received my Bachelors Degree in Accounting and a Masters Degree in Taxation from Fordham University and my Masters in Civil Engineering from Northwestern University. I am not a career politician who is running for this office only to turn and run for another office in some personal quest up the political ladder. I am running because my qualification and interest align with an office for which I am qualified to serve our city at a time when its financial future is at stake like never before.

From replacing lead water pipes, to finding revenue and savings to fund our city pensions, to making sure that our police have the resources and support they need as the consent decree is implemented, all of these issues come back to the city treasurer’s office because if the office and the person elected to lead it do not perform, it creates a financial shortfall that will fall back on an already exhausted tax base.

As treasurer, I will effectively manage the city's liquidity to meet short-term payables so that those who provide services to our city are paid fully and on-time. I will establish a formal policy within the Treasurer’s Office to invest in projects and funds that meet goals (developed in concert with Chicago’s labor community) for Responsible Contracting. I will lead the City of Chicago’s $8 billion investment portfolio to create and strengthen union jobs, through vehicles such as the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, while generating a return for Chicago’s taxpayers that should be put toward the city’s $28 billion pension deficit. As Treasurer of the City of Chicago, I will invest in labor to meet the commitment Chicago has made to labor.

I will maintain Chicago's commitment to the United Nation's Six Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) because the pursuit of a financial return and an investment's positive non-financial impact are not mutually exclusive goals.

Among the PRI’s objectives is that annual financial reports integrate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, standardized and set by tools such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Under the leadership of Treasurer Summers, the city's portfolio has grown from $48 million to $109 million while reaching ESG milestones that surpass the average of all other investors measured by the same ESG portfolio scoring system.

I will lead the treasurer's office to combat poverty and income inequality on Chicago's south and west sides by attracting capital to those neighborhoods of Chicago where the city has historically underinvested. I will selectively pursue investments within Chicago’s 130+ Opportunity Zones; created under the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Opportunity Zones allow private investors the chance to defer paying tax on an unrealized capital gain if that gain is quickly reinvested in a defined project within a designated Opportunity Zone’s borders. By combining taxpayer-funded investments from the city treasurer’s office with private dollars, we will mitigate investment risk to taxpayers while supporting the creation of a tangible economic benefit for a Chicago neighborhood hungry for investment.

New Market Tax Credits will remain an essential tool to incentivize private investment in Chicago communities most in need of investment. Part of 2000's Community Renewal Tax Relief Act, the New Market Tax Credit program offers a federal tax credit for investments in businesses and real estate development within financially distressed communities. These credits represent another proven avenue for the treasurer's office to partner with private investors to invest Chicago's money where Chicago needs it most.

Additionally, under my leadership, the treasurer’s office will continue depositing funds in financial institutions that invest in communities most in need of financial support. To be among the depositories considered, institutions must have a Community Reinvestment Act rating of “satisfactory” or “outstanding.” The office will follow best practices set forth by the Government Finance Officers Association, which would include a quarterly bank review of all current and potential banking institutions to ensure that those banks and credit unions in which Chicago invests, are regularly investing in Chicagoans across the socioeconomic spectrum.

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

The city’s foremost challenge over the next four years is generating the revenue and savings needed to afford the rapidly ballooning pension payments while remaining mindful an exhausted tax base and Chicago’s pensioners who have upheld their part of the bargain.

The City of Chicago is statutorily required to make the actuarial estimated payment each year to the four city pension funds. That annual payment currently stands at $1 billion and will rise to $2.13 billion by 2023. Any mismanagement of those pension funds or underperforming investments under the city treasurer’s office increases the likelihood that Chicago’s city council and mayor will be forced to raise the sales tax and other fees, along with the levy administered through property taxes before the 2023 municipal election. Thus, it is in the best interest of taxpayers, and city officials, for a qualified professional to serve as city treasurer.

Chicago faces colossal financial challenges over the next four years and Chicago voters must be wary of any candidates selling half-baked ideas as easy answers to multifaceted challenges. One of the proposed “easy answers” floated in the city treasurer’s race is the creation of a municipal bank for the City of Chicago.

Banks may only be chartered by the federal government or a state government. Therefore, given that a municipal-owned public bank would first need to make its way through Springfield, I support the continued analysis of HB0107, the Community Bank of Illinois Act. Introduced by Representative Mary Flowers in January 2015, the financial report of the bill projected a $9.8 billion minimum capital requirement (assumes a capital to asset ratio of 10%). The bank's deposits would be guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the State of Illinois, rather than the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. Additionally, staffing the bank with 100 new positions is projected to cost more than $11.5 million annually. On January 10, 2017, the General Assembly adjourned without appointing a day to debate the bill further.

To create a municipal-owned public bank, Chicago would necessitate a capital requirement between $3.5 and $4 billion. Given the city's current and forthcoming financial challenges and the encumbrance of future tax revenue, along with the fact that the bank's deposits would be solely guaranteed by the full faith and credit of the City of Chicago, it is logical to conclude that capitalizing the bank is imprudent while more pressing commitments to its pensioners, public schools, civil servants and residents all go underfunded. Additionally, a municipal bank’s solvency could be in question should Chicago be faced with Chapter 9 bankruptcy once the mandated pension payment balloons in 2023.

It has been mentioned that should Illinois legalize recreational marijuana; a public bank could reap a financial windfall to the benefit of taxpayers. Unfortunately, that claim is not valid as proven by the States of Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia; each of which has legalized the recreational use of marijuana and not a single one has established a public bank. While at first glance, a publicly owned bank could do business with whomever it pleases, the infrastructure undergirding our financial system is federally regulated, and without access to that infrastructure, much of the public bank's marijuana-driven benefit is negated. The lack of a public bank has not materially hindered the generation or collection of marijuana-related revenue for the states mentioned above. While it is inconvenient to deal in large sums of cash, that has not stopped the states, the dispensaries or the customers -- and it is clear that this is an issue that would benefit all interested parties with a policy change at the federal level.

For meaningful progress to provide access to commercial banks for marijuana-related funds, federal leadership must remove marijuana's designation as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Congressmen Ed Perlmutter (D-CO) and Denny Heck (D-WA) are actively building support for the SAFE Banking Act, which could address the problem and allow money from legal marijuana businesses into federally regulated banks.

There are no easy answers to difficult problems, particularly to the challenges facing the third largest city in the United States. For Chicago to fulfill its obligation to its pensioners and its citizens, its city government must be served by serious individuals who are aware of the facts and willing to make difficult choices within the bounds of financial and political reality.

I am running for Treasurer of Chicago to ensure our city meets its commitment to those who have earned a city pension while protecting taxpayers who are exhausted from endlessly rising fees and taxes. The financial health of Chicago and the growing burden on its taxpayers deserve a CPA who is the only financial professional in this race, rather than another politician offering shallow policies that will not serve Chicago and its taxpayers at this critical time.