Chicago Mayoral Candidates Discuss The Great Displacement

Monday night, I had the pleasure of attending the mayoral forum "The Great Displacement: Candidate Forum on Reversing African-American Pushout and Building a Chicago for the Many," hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union.

Up to this point, I had not seen any of the previous mayoral debates or forums, so I was excited to see, with minimal exposure, how I would feel walking away from this event. It was a packed event, with most seats full. I will admit that I am terrible at recognizing and identifying the political elite in Chicago, but a few faces I absolutely recognized included Commissioner Larry Suffredin, political watchdog and former Cook County Board candidate George Blakemore, U.S. Representative Bobby Rush, and CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

In a brief highlight to my evening, while waiting for the forum to start, two men walked up to fill the seats ahead of me. One of them happened to be Senior Advisor of Public Policy and Community Affairs for Go Chicago Ken Bennett, who recognized me!

We shook hands, and exchanged pleasantries, and he asked me how things have been going. Mr. Bennett and I had contact at my last job, and in an embarrassing exchange outside Lurie Hospital years ago, involving his son Chance, aka Chance The Rapper. That was a small victory for me. My motto for 2019 is "Hustle until they don't have to ask who you are!" I'm on my way. Also, allow me to say that Mr. Bennett is a class act.

Ok...enough name dropping! The event started with words by CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates. She started by acknowledging the tragic events at Mercy Hospital, and commenting on the countless acts of senseless violence under 8 years of Rahm Emanuel and the tenure of Gary McCarthy.

She next laid out a bell ringer for attendees; a list of things that would not be allowed, other than Rahm and Gary...most of which were not to disrupt the proceedings, to allow for the free flow of information. That was immediately met with a disruption, which I will talk about in a moment.

She finished by reminding us that we were in Jackie Vaughn Hall, "...the house that Karen [Lewis] built." She proceeded to remind the crowd that Karen Lewis was poised to be mayor of Chicago, that she would have been mayor of Chicago, if she'd been able to run, how momentous that would have been, and how amazing that on a stage of 5 mayoral candidates, 4 were women, and 3 of those black.

How amazing is that? It's important to add that the 4th woman is Latina.

How our city is poised to change.

Gates also went on to make a few fine points about what we as Chicagoans will not tolerate in our next mayoral leader.

For years now we've been "Building a new Chicago." For who? We're here, and we're not going anywhere.

The next mayor needs to know that we will not stand for school closing. There should not be surplus money for housing while people sit on an endless list. We should not build edifices to the police department, and we most definitely should not spend millions on downtown while ignoring the south and west sides of the city.

The candidates at this forum were Lori Lightfoot, Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Community activist, organizer, and lawyer Dr. Amara Enyia, and former CPS CEO and budget director of Chicago Paul Vallas.

Now, I'm not going to recap the entire night for you. You can turn to the Tribune, Sun-Times, or Block Club Chicago for that. What I will offer are my takeaways from the evening, as a potential voter in the upcoming election. Candidates are listed below in the order they sat on the stage (left to right).

From the start of the event, the events at Mercy Hospital earlier in the day appeared to weigh heavy on her mind, and her initial statement of the evening mentioned the shooting, and talked about violence being a preeminent concern of our city at this time. She stressed several times throughout the evening her resume and experience, and if you're not familiar with her background, definitely look it up. It surely is impressive. Specifically, she mentioned a comprehensive housing plan that can be found on her campaign site, a desire to get rid of aldermanic prerogative (I agree), and that we as a city have to be much more proactive in dealing with our homeless problem (agree). She came off as likable, and I must say that I like the idea of Chicago's first black female mayor also being our first gay mayor.

I'm ashamed that I don't know more about Toni Preckwinkle. I had no idea that she was a history teacher (10 years in the classroom). I was a history teacher too. She also talked about her resume and experience, particularly in creating housing as an alderman. I have to do a lot more research on her. In a segment where candidates were allowed to ask one question of another candidate, Mendoza hit her hard on the soda tax. She talked about her support of Fight for $15 from inception, as well as county employment training. She voiced her supported of an elected school board (that got a nice pop from the crowd), as well as support of lifting the band on rent control.

I've actually had the pleasure to meet Susana Mendoza in person. She has always struck me as a very pleasant person. However, any veiled attacks on her during the forum were all about her track record of being buddy/buddy with Rahm, and how a mayoral run under her would be more of the same. I must admit that this charge gives me serious pause. "I'm worried about the next generation, not just the next 4 years." She talked about having to leave Little Village as a kid due to violence, and later returning there to make a difference. During the cross-questioning portion, Preckwinkle hit her hard on her previous support of the death penalty. She tapped dance well on the topic, however, it further pushed the narrative that a Mendoza mayoral run will be an extension of the Emanuel regime.

Amazing public speaker. She has a charisma that the stage full of career politicians have simply lost. This was my first time seeing her in person, and you easily understand why so many people are already backing her for Mayor. This was the first time I'd ever heard her referred to as "Dr. Enyia"...the press needs to do a better job. The language she uses his wholly different than the other candidates. She talked about the city requiring a paradigm shift of how it operates, and diversifying economic ecosystems. A phrase she used that I loved was "educational equity lens"...this city certainly needs an equity lens.

Full disclosure: I do not trust Paul Vallas. I doubt I will EVER trust Paul Vallas. His despicable views on education have destroyed not just 1, but multiple school districts, and I certainly feel his name falls somewhere in the discussion of violence in this city, and how it has been exacerbated over the years due to failed education policies. If the CTU were to give him their endorsement, we would make a very clean break as friends.

The Interruption:
Early in the event, during the introduction, there was an interruption from a gentleman sitting in the front row of the crowd. While I didn't hear his exact words, they amounted to something akin to,
"This is bullshit. Why don't you have any black men on that stage?"

Later in the program, the same gentleman stood up and said,

"I'm out of here. This is bullshit. There aren't any black men running for mayor?"

It certainly didn't fall deaf on my ears that both outbursts were accompanied by applause and murmurs of "he's right, he's right." I really don't have much to say about it beyond what I would always say to someone with a similar opinion; if you're unhappy, be the change you want to see. Get off your ass and you run.

The Unknown Factor:
I assume that one of these candidates will be receiving the endorsement of the Chicago Teacher's Union, as well as the various groups that cohosted this event with them, including the SEIU, whose president offered closing remarks to end the event. That's a lot of backing. I can't imagine the CTU will endorse Paul Vallas, so in short, the CTU will likely be endorsing a woman of color as the next mayor of Chicago.

We also don't know who Rahm will endorse. I feel like that kiss is more an arrow than a blessing. Perhaps in true Chicago politics fashion, he should threaten to endorse candidates unless they give his people cushy jobs.

I kid.

Lori Lightfoot made a great statement in her opening remarks of the evening:

"This race is about who you can trust."

She's absolutely right. Of these 5 individuals, plus an additional 7 more??? Who do you trust? I have a lot of research to do before I can answer that question. I also have to find an apartment stat so I can vote in the upcoming election (I live 5 blocks outside the city limits). This is a pivotal time for our city. I challenge you all to do the research, attend the forums and the debates (so much more fun than watching on TV), and ask the tough questions of all the candidates.

So, let me ask you...who are you favoring in this election thus far? Any candidates that you know you absolutely won't be backing? I'd love to hear thoughts and insights below.

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This post was created on an HP Pavilion x360. 

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