Chicago mayoral race focuses on crime, education

Race for Chicago mayor focuses on crime, education and the economy

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Courtesy mayor's office.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Courtesy mayor’s office.

With the election seven weeks away, candidates for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s title are challenging his policies and calling for change in Chicago’s leadership.

“It is time to take this city in a new direction,” said Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who on Monday announced Tania Unzueta, an undocumented community organizer, as his Latino campaign director.

The economy, education and, most of all, crime top the list for big issues in this year’s mayoral race.

Garcia, a Cook County Commissioner and a former state senator, is one of four challengers for the mayor’s position this year. He is joined by William “Dock” Walls, III, a political activist and former National Political Director to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH; Dr. Willie Wilson, a philanthropist and businessman and 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti, a civil rights attorney in Chicago.

Jesus "Chuy" Garcia

Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia | Courtesy Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.

It should come as no surprise that one of the election’s hot issues is crime and public safety, with all the candidates demanding better-protected neighborhoods and safer streets.

“We should be focused on a state of emergency here in Chicago,” said candidate Walls.

Despite the recent announcement that crime decreased overall in Chicago in 2014, shootings rose 12 percent since 2013, according to Chicago Police Department Superintendent Garry McCarthy. Gang violence is also rampant and controls swathes of the city’s neighborhoods.

Candidates say that the current mayor failed in protecting the city against crime and violence.

“It doesn’t matter what part of the city you’re in, crime is a problem,” said Fioretti.

Bob Fioretti | Courtesy Bob Fioretti

Bob Fioretti | Courtesy Bob Fioretti

Fioretti is calling to hire 500 more police officers and increase foot patrols in high crime neighborhoods. The Chicago Police Sergeants’ Association endorsed Fioretti in early January.

Garcia said that better relationships are key to improving public safety. He wants to implement a Community Policing initiative to help citizens better relate to police.

For his part, Emanuel has enacted several pieces of legislation since coming into office, including gun sale rules and regulations that require every purchase be videotaped. He also enacted the Safe Passage Program for students walking home through dangerous streets. However this program has taken a lot of criticism for its shortcomings.

But violence is only one of the issues that plague Chicago. In 2014, Chicago Public Schools shut down about 50 public schools across the city.

The shut downs led to protests in the streets and appeals to reconsider from school staffs and parents alike.

“When you close 50 schools, you close hope,” said Wilson.

Wilson

Dr. Willie Wilson | Courtesy Dr. Willie Wilson

Wilson said that if elected he will focus on reopening schools based on community input. He also said officials should consider reopening some of the shuttered buildings as trade schools.

Fioretti is calling for an elected school board appointed by the citizens, instead of City Hall. He also wants to stop standardized testing and use the money to invest more in school support staff, according to his campaign website.

Moreover, Garcia was endorsed by the Chicago Teacher’s Union back in November saying the candidate would include more “civic participation in his policy decisions and offer a more democratic, inclusive and transparent leadership style [if elected], in contrast to Mayor Emanuel’s panache of closed-door, aggressive governance.”

In his term as mayor, although marred by the school closing controversy, Emanuel implemented longer school days and expanded kindergarten in CPS schools to full day programs. According to his website, he supports free pre-school education to all low-income 4-year-olds.

Another big issue candidates are talking about are revitalizing neighborhoods and the economy. Candidates accuse the mayor of poor financial planning in the areas outside of the downtown business districts and giving favor to large corporations while smaller shops board up windows.

“We have not seen the level of prosperity in the neighborhoods as we have in the business district,” said Garcia.

William “Dock” Walls, III,

William “Dock” Walls, III | Courtesy William “Dock” Walls, III

As the mayoral race heats up ahead of the February election, look to hear more from these candidates on policies and challenges to each other’s platforms.

Wilson campaign says new TV ads are set to air in order to challenge the Emanuel’s campaign ads that solely dominated the airwaves since last year. And Garcia’s campaign continues to canvass neighborhoods door-to-door and looks to earn support from millennials and other young voters, who have traditionally stayed away from mayoral elections.

Walls also said he will canvas more to get his message out across the city.

Moreover, Fioretti called out Garcia and Emanuel last Friday saying they’ve been dodging and hiding from the organized debates he’s agreed to take part in. Then on Monday the mayor’s campaign released a statement agreeing to five mayoral debates over two-week period.

With $11 million raised for his re-election bid, Emanuel seems fine with letting the other mayoral candidates challenge him openly and continues to release information on his website via press releases and updates to his policy pages.

His campaign office did not return EXTRA’s requests for comment at the time of publishing.

The elections are scheduled for Feb. 24.

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