Future mayor hopefuls debate issues

By Meghan Keyes

There are 20 candidates for mayor of Chicago. Half of them attended the first public forum since the filing deadline for mayor has passed.

The 10 discussed their campaigns and plans in front of a nearly packed Illinois room at the University of Illinois at Chicago, 750 S. Halsted St., on Dec. 1.

Notably missing from the forum were former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, former Chicago Public Schools and Chicago Park District President Gery Chico and former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.

In attendance were Rep. Danny K. Davis; Rev. Wilfredo de Jesus; City Clerk Miguel del Valle; Department of Water Management engineer Ryan Graves; real estate broker John Hu; citizen Fenton Patterson; hypnotherapist Jay Stone; former CEO of a community development corporation Patricia Van Pelt Watkins; former aide to Mayor Harold Washington William Walls; and Frederick K. White, Department of Streets and Sanitation.

“It’s exciting to see 10 candidates on the stage, but the bad news is it’s very disappointing to know a number of candidates are not here,” said Andy Shaw, a panelist at the discussion and executive director of the Better Government Association. “From a good government standpoint, from the standpoint of civics and democracy, let’s hope … they all understand the importance of taking their cases to the people, like you’re doing today.”

The panel was moderated by Steve Edwards, content development director at Chicago Public Media and host of “Best Game in Town” on WBEZ-FM. In addition to Shaw, the panel included Dick Simpson, chairman of political science at UIC and former 44th Ward alderman, Maria de los Angeles Torres, professor of Latino studies at UIC, and Saad Jamil, president of UIC’s undergraduate student government.

“It is our hope this forum will help the UIC community and the city of Chicago’s voters to learn more about all the candidates—their platforms, values and visions for the city of Chicago and its future,” said Warren Chapman, vice chancellor for External Affairs at UIC.

Each candidate was given two minutes for an opening statement and one minute to respond to each question. Topics ranged from the global economy, the city’s budget, higher education and immigration reform.

Direct answers were absent in response to a question about the protection of undocumented immigrants in Chicago.

“While everyone admits our immigration system is broken, neither Congress nor the White House have acted to reform it,” Torres said. “More people have been deported under this administration than any other in the history of the U.S.”

Candidates were split on the DREAM Act, proposed legislation that will provide the path to citizenship to undocumented individuals, or avoided it altogether. Some, such as Patterson and del Valle, supported its passage. Hu said he was worried about federal money not going to American citizens.

After explaining immigration reform is a national issue, del Valle took this opportunity to criticize Emanuel.

“One of the candidates who is not here today is responsible, to a great extent, for not allowing immigration reform to move forward, as a congressman and then as chief of staff of the president,” del Valle said, followed by applause from the audience.

White explained his plan to create a water bottling plant which could create 300 to 600 jobs and revenue for the city.

“Bottled water is a billion dollar industry, they have it all over the place,” White said. “Why aren’t we producing it, why aren’t we doing it? Why aren’t we using this money to pay for our city services?”

Hu described the Midwest as the new Silicon Valley, focused on nanotechnology and working with global companies. Many candidates elaborated on small business initiatives, and Graves mentioned tax

increment financing.

Each candidate offered a different perspective in a race Chicago will watch until the Feb. 22 election.