Five candidates for Chicago mayor make their case for city’s top office at progressive forum

By Amaris Edwards, Staff Reporter

Five candidates for Chicago mayor sought to offer their vision for the city at a progressive voter forum on Jan. 26, covering a range of issues around violence prevention, housing, workers’ rights and education.

Ja’Mal Green, Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner, Paul Vallas, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson and Alderman Roderick Sawyer, who represents Chicago’s 6th Ward, are among the 10 candidates vying for mayor. The crowded field includes Mayor Lori L. Lightfoot.

The forum, which was held at the New Mount Pilgrim MB Church, in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood, was hosted by the People’s Unity Coalition. The coalition is a citywide multiracial group of neighborhoods, community organizations and labor unions.

These are the forum highlights from each candidate on a selection issues:

Ja’Mal Green, community activist

Mark Clemons, a Jon Burge torture survivor, spoke about his experience of sexual assault, violence and racism at the hands of the Chicago Police Department.

The candidates were then asked what policies they would adopt to make communities feel safer and how they would ensure funds for public safety were spent wisely.

  • Green said investing in police is not the answer and investing in young people with year-round apprenticeships are. Green added that bringing trade and tech hubs back into schools is apart of the solution.
  • “Our kids are smarter than Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos,” Green said. “And the problem is that we don’t have institutions that are investing in them all throughout our communities.”
  • Green promised to allocate funds back to the youth if elected.
  • “We’re going to put our money where our mouth is and it’s not going to be on police it’s going to be on young people,” Green said.

Paul Vallas, former chief executive of Chicago Public Schools

Marketta Sims, a member Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, told her story of seeking out housing and reintegrating society after incarceration.

Candidates were then asked about their vision is to ensure that everyone in Chicago has stable and affordable housing.

  • Use tax increment financing dollars to support the Bring Home Chicago Ordinance.
  • Enforce the Affordable Housing Ordinances.
  • Take the 15,000 residential facilities/homes that are abandoned and turn them into community based organizations and allow use for affordable housing.
  • Need to cap property taxes on homeowners and renters.

Kam BucknerIllinois state representative from the 26th District

Diane Adams, a member of Southside Together Organizing for Power, detailed her experiences with mental health illness after losing her son to gun violence. She received assistance from Auburn Gresham Wellness Center until it closed.

Candidates were asked their vision for investing in public mental health care systems and their stance on the city contracting services out to private and non-profit agencies.

  • Will pass “Treatment Not Trauma” in the first year of Buckner administration.
  • “Making us choose between having public options for mental health care and private options for mental health care is like telling us that we can’t have both libraries and book stores at the same time,” Buckner said. “It’s a false choice”.
  • Buckner administration will open four mental health clinics that will be open 24/7 and 365 days a year
  • Invest into mobile units to meet people where they are and a “pure responder model” with CPD instead of a co-responder model.

Roderick Sawyeralderman representing the city’s 6th district

After Alfredo Romo, the executive director of Neighbors for Environmental Justice, discussed environmental racism in communities of color, candidates were asked how they plan to address the issue.

  • Proud to vote against the McKinley Park Housing Development- built next to mad asphalt plants.
  • Commission level department of environment
  • Supports replacing lead pipes in Chicago.

Brandon JohnsonCook County Board commissioner representing the 1st District

JC Muhammad, a member of the Chicago Gig Workers Alliance and part-time ride share driver, discussed the concerns about the exploitive business model of ride share companies such as Uber and Lyft and lack of systems for their safety.

Candidates were then asked how they would ensure that workers for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and InstaCart receive good wages and safe working conditions.

  • Ride Share, Living Wage, and Safety Ordinance will be passed under Johnson administration. The ordinance would help protect driver’s safety, in addition to allocating funds to provide more services for drivers.