CHICAGO — The Chicago mayoral election is just more than six weeks away, and voters are eager to hear the ideas that the next leader will bring to City Hall.
Hundreds of people attended the latest candidate forum Saturday at UIC Forum.
Attorney John Kozlar began the session by addressing the corruption scandal surrounding Ald. Ed Burke — as well as Burke’s ties to one of the perceived frontrunners in the race, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle.
“Instead of giving your friends $100,000-a-year jobs like Toni Preckwinkle,” Kozlar said, “let’s start investing in our community members. Let’s start giving those jobs to the citizens of Chicago because they should be treated fairly.”
Candidates were told to simply provide their ideas, not criticize others.
Former Chicago Public Schools Board President Gery Chico addressed economic development and public safety.
“If you want the fastest way to make our neighborhoods safe,” Chico said, “let’s put back in the stores. They’re dark right now; there’s nobody there. If the city works hard to bring local entrepreneurial business, we’ll bring crime down.”
Consultant Amara Enyia stressed her objective: empowering communities.
“My job is to amplify your voices in the corridors of power,” Enyia said. “Because that’s what’s been missing in the city of Chicago for decades.”
Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas fashioned himself as a problem solver who has a mastery of the details.
“Forty of the wards have seen no investment,” Vallas said, “and many are in depression states. And when you have crime rates that exceed L.A. and New York combined, and when you have a pension debt of $28 billion — that could be $78 billion if the projections are off — you need a problem solver.”
Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County Dorothy Brown touted her independence.
“I say: Enough is enough,” Brown said. “We can no longer let the Chicago machine put the stranglehold on the city of Chicago. I’m a Democrat, but I’m un-bought and un-bossed.”
Preckwinkle made a personal point on race and policing.
“As each of my kids got be teenagers,” Preckwinkle said, “I sat down with them and had 'the talk.' And it wasn’t about sex. It was about how you deal with police on the street. Every black and brown parent that I know has had that conversation with their kids. White parents don’t have those conversations.”
Former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot stressed her knowledge of one of the city’s most pressing issues: police reform.
“I don’t need to learn on the job,” Lightfoot said. “I will start Day 1 to make this city safe, bring communities together, because it’s essential to making a safer Chicago.”
Former Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy fashioned himself as a crusader against corruption in government.
“I love when people talk about restoring trust,” McCarthy said. “You can’t restore something you never had, and the distrust is not just about the police, it’s about the system and the politicians who have been running this city for decades.”
Illinois Comptroller Susanna Mendoza said the next mayor must serve as a check on President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.
“Right now,” Mendoza said, “City Hall has to step up for the immigrant population more than ever before. And we need a leader who will fight for the rights of everyone, regardless of their immigration status.”
Businessman Willie Wilson argued in blunt fashion that it’s time for a fresh start.
“I say: Forget about all this b.s.,” Wilson said. “The jokers have done us wrong at City Hall. They need to resign and shut up and get out of City Hall and let new people come in, alright?”
Former Ald. Bob Fioretti said all of the candidates should borrow each other’s good ideas for the good of the city.
“We can talk about schools,” Fioretti said. “We can talk about development and crime, but it’s all related. And we must work together, and I think we can.”
Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, who served as the chief of staff to former President Barack Obama, called for a unified Chicago.
“We cannot, through this campaign, pit neighborhood against neighborhood,” Daley said. “We cannot pit Mt. Greenwood against East Garfield, or Edgebrook against Englewood. That will destroy the city, and we’ve got to come together, and we’ve got to move forward.”
Two declared candidates, Jerry Joyce and La Shawn Ford, did not attend.