After talking down would-be killers in neighborhoods beset by gang violence, Democratic gubernatorial hopeful and activist Tio Hardiman says he's up for Illinois' budget crisis and legislative dysfunction.
Among his goals are reducing violence by banning assault weapons, improving public schools while not funding charter or private schools, and holding the line on casino expansions.
Having grown up in an impoverished Chicago neighborhood, Hardiman told the Daily Herald editorial board Wednesday he's the only candidate out of six who understands from "the ground level" violence, racial discrimination and the role of police.
"I've lived it personally," Hardiman, now of Calumet City, said. He recounted intervening to save the lives of two boys after a troubled youth shot through the window of their grandmother's house in Chicago. "Don't try this at home," he said jokingly.
Hardiman's solutions to shootings include more comprehensive background checks for gun purchases, banning assault weapons and appointing a violence prevention czar.
In Illinois, "no one needs a semi-automatic weapon that shoots 300 bullets at one time ... I would understand if we're at war, but we're not in Afghanistan or Iraq," Hardiman said.
But it also takes intervening personally to prevent shootings and turn troubled kids' lives around through education and support, said Hardiman, founder of Violence Interrupters, an anti-crime program in Chicago.
His violence prevention czar would work on similar initiatives in the city, Hardiman said.
As for suburbs seeking to reduce violent crime, "I would meet with the mayors of Aurora and Elgin ... and I would implement the same type of violence-reduction programs and reach out to the highest-risk individuals and help them become productive members of society," he said.
Hardiman added he supports the rights of legal gun owners.
To solve the state's financial problems, Hardiman advocates levying a tax on transactions at the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange and introducing a progressive income tax of 7 percent to 10 percent on those earning $250,000 or more.
These efforts would raise funds to support public schools, Hardiman said, adding he opposes vouchers or using taxpayer funds for charter or private schools.
"The state should not be funding private schools," he said.
"There shouldn't be a competition for state funds."
Another new revenue source would be decriminalizing recreational use of marijuana with age restrictions, said Hardiman, who would commute the sentences of people jailed for possession of small amounts of the drug.
Hardiman originally endorsed extending casinos in Illinois but changed his mind after watching gamblers.
"I saw a lot of people on the slot machines spending their last pennies ... it was a sad sight to see," he said.
Hardiman is running against Democrats state Sen. Daniel Biss of Evanston, Madison County Superintendent of Schools Bob Daiber, developer Chris Kennedy of Kenilworth, physician Robert Marshall of Burr Ridge and billionaire and Hyatt hotel heir J.B. Pritzker of Chicago.