On Sunday, January 9, 2011, the 48th Ward Democratic Party had an endorsement session featuring the four major candidates for mayor. The session included the four candidates speaking for roughly fifteen minutes followed by a fifteen minute question and answer session. It was an excellent session with some lively questions and answers and an opportunity to listen to candidates. Provided below are some observations of each candidate's presentation, starting with facts and arguments provided by the candidate and finishing with my personal opinion and feeling of the candidate. The candidates are provided by their order of appearance before the forum:
Mr. Chico started by providing his extensive resume for the room. He was Chief of Staff for Mayor Daley, President of the Chicago Public Schools, and Chairman of the Chicago Park District (among other things). He has been in politics for well over 20 years and by "in politics", he means on the streets learning about problems with city services- he does not send a staffer to learn about problems on the streets, he does it himself.
Chico warned that the Chicago budget for 2011 will have a roughly $600-$700 million deficit and Chicago Public Schools will have a $950 million deficit. Because of these numbers there is no time for on the job training, as he put it. As President of the Chicago Public Schools, Mr. Chico claims to have inherited a school district with an over $1 billion deficit. He stated he was able to fix that deficit in 45 days (this is not verified, rather, Mr. Chico's claim in the forum). His plan is to run the city more like a company and promises that before he raises taxes, he will find other ways to raise revenue.
My thoughts: I was very impressed with Gery Chico. Words I wrote down in my margin include "impressive" and "passionate." He is clearly passionate about the city of Chicago and clearly knows our neighborhoods and the people working in them. I would feel comfortable with Gery Chico as mayor. And I think our city would be a better place with Gery Chico involved.
Please note that I was indifferent about Gery Chico when I arrived at the forum. After leaving, I told myself that I might vote for him. Impressive candidate.
Mr. Emanuel started with an introduction and endorsement from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Mr. Emanuel had three main points for taking the city into the future: Schools, Streets (crime) and Economy. With respect to schools, he has a three tiered approach: a) dedicated principals not afraid of being accountable; b) quality teachers and c) parental involvement. To Rahm, parental involvement is the most important of the three elements. He views the fundamental question as being whether we are rewarding or discouraging parental involvement.
He wants Chicago to be the first city with its own Race to the Top program, modeled on the program started by President Obama. He said that he would fund the program with monies outside of CPS. He said with his knack for fundraising and he would raise the money himself through a partnership with civic and business leaders.
Rahm quietly stated that he knew his reputation and stated, again quietly that it was earned. He then roared it was earned by standing up to the NRA. It was earned by standing up to financial institutions. It was earned by standing up to insurance companies.
My thoughts: He was cerebral. For the majority of his time before the crowd, he didn't have half of the passion that Chico showed. But then, he started talking about getting hope back to underprivileged children and he got emotional and raw. He was even a bit frightening when speaking about how he earned his reputation, as he pounded the podium with his fist for emphasis. I thought about the story of him using a steak knife stabbing a banquet table for emphasis when he listed the people he wanted dead after the 1996 election. Overall: impressed by his intelligence. Dry sense of humor. I also got the feeling you don't want to mess with him.
MIGUEL DEL VALLE:
Miguel Del Valle is our current city clerk. He discussed his upbringing in the neighborhoods of Chicago. He made certain we knew that he was the most "common" (for lack of better words) of the candidates. He lives in a bungalow in Belmont Cragin neighborhood on the city's west side. He's proud that he lives and works with us. Like many of us, he takes great pride in getting his three children through college, with his youngest daughter just starting law school. He made certain we knew that he is the poorest candidate with the most to offer.
He talked much about TIF money and wants that money to go for what it was intended: rebuilding economic engines in blighted communities. He is a firm believer that our city will be a world class city after we have world class neighborhoods. All of them.
My thoughts: rambling and nonspecific at times although he has a good vision for the city. I question whether his lack of focus during a fifteen minute presentation would occur while running a city with 3 million people in it with thousands of problems and an estimated $650 budget deficit forecasted. Good man, but on a tier below Chico and Rahm.
CAROL MOSELEY BRAUN
Started out by telling a story about being a little girl in an area of the city where she couldn't walk to school with the girl next door because her neighbor's parents found it unacceptable for their child to walk with a black girl. She told the story about how she and her friend would leave the house at a predetermined time, each walk toward school on different sides of the street and then turn the corner. After they were out of sight of their homes, they would come together and hold hands walking the rest of the way to school. Carol Moseley Braun provided her impressive resume, but spoke of her time in the United States Senate in a short sentence only calling it unusual because of her colleagues, who at the time included Strom Thurmond.
She remembers a day where children could go to the neighborhood school in Chicago and receive a quality education. She admits that day has passed, but it is her intent to work hard to bring those days back. She discussed her tea and coffee business and got across the point that she knows that because of the significant amount of red tape, it is very difficult to start a small business in Chicago. She wants to change that.
My impressions: I was impressed; she is a great speaker. She has a nice cadence and tone to her voice. She's very easy and pleasant to listen to. She is obviously very intelligent. I was surprised on how she opened, pointing out racial divisions that existed when she was nine years old in Chicago. Yes, the divisions still exist in that in many areas you don't have white and black families living next door to each other. But the story painted a picture of how Carol Moseley Braun views the city- in generational terms. She is still in the 1950s and 1960s. And although the past lessons learned are relevant, we need to look forward and therefore need someone forward thinking.
My final impression was that it comes down to a two person race: Gery Chico versus Rahm Emanuel. Do your own research and narrow the field down for yourself as well. Do some research and listen to candidates speak about the issues. And then get out there and vote on February 22nd.
I should note that after the endorsement session, the 48th Ward Democratic Party endorsed Rahm Emanuel for Mayor of Chicago.