CHICAGO — Brandon Johnson and Paul Vallas squared off in the latest mayoral forum held ahead of Chicago’s mayoral runoff election Saturday.
The forum, hosted by One Chicago For All, an alliance made up of 28 community organizations around Chicago, asked each candidate questions based on seven topics, which included public safety’s effect on the youth, education, affordable housing, and how each candidate would support small businesses, among others.
“We have to create opportunities for those economic drivers a lot earlier, before you even get to high school,” Johnson said. “So, that’s about trades, that’s about manufacturing jobs.”
Both candidates verbally committed to working with the collective on various topics if elected into office.
“I already told all 24 unions that are endorsing me that they are going to have to create work study opportunities for both our high school, as well as college students,” Vallas said.
When asked about small business support — specifically for minority owners and their access to capital — Vallas focused on systemic mechanisms pushing development forward, while Johnson emphasized a need to be more proactive when it comes to funding small businesses.
“We need to set up a mechanism so that we create an economic development authority that focuses exclusively on these areas,” Vallas said. “But promoting the types of businesses that can create local leadership and local wealth.”
“We need to move away from reimbursements and towards grants,” Johnson said. “Many small business owners need that additional seed in order to jump start the business.”
When it came to affordable housing, Johnson emphasized his push for generational wealth with down payment assistance programs, while Vallas focused on the City’s vacant properties and turning them over to community organizations.
On education, each candidate was aske dhow their platform will engage the community before making decisions on things like funding and instruction.
“The first thing I will do,” Johnson said. “[Is] make sure CPS endorses the funding formula model that will put more resources in our schools.”
“No. 1, community schools is my model,” Vallas said. “And that means to push the $30,000 per child that is being spent in the Chicago Public School system, down to the local communities.”
Public safety and its effect on Chicago youth also took center stage during the forum.
“We need to restore social service infrastructure whether that’s mental health services, opioid crisis services,” Vallas said. “I lost my youngest son to the effects of long term drug addiction.”
For Johnson, positively influencing public safety’s impact on youth also means investing in long-term opportunities.
“I’ve committed to doubling the young people that we hire,” Johnson said. “Not just for summer programs, but for year round hiring opportunities.”
While the runoff election is scheduled for April 4, early voting is currently available across Chicago, and the City’s website offers a guide about finding where you can cast an early ballot.