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9 mayoral hopefuls discuss economy, policing at UIC forum

With 45 days to go before they face off in the election, Chicago mayoral candidates on Saturday offered their proposed solutions to grow the city’s economy and rebuild trust between residents and the police.

Nine of the 13 candidates who remain on the ballot showed up for the 90-minute One Chicago for All forum at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Isadore and Sadie Dorin Forum, which was packed with community groups from around the city.

The candidates remained cordial for the most part, as Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle appeared onstage with other candidates for the first time since she was indirectly mentioned in the federal complaint against indicted Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

Only University of Chicago grad John Kozlar took a shot at Preckwinkle over her Burke ties, saying “instead of giving your friends a $100,000-a-year jobs, like Toni Preckwinkle, let’s start investing in our community members.”

Candidates answered two questions on economic development, one on immigration and another on police reform.

“We have to believe that all of you in this room know what’s in the best interest for your communities,” Austin Chamber of Commerce director Amara Enyia said. “That means that the community organizations on the front lines of doing the work, must be at the decision-making table.”

Ex-Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy echoed those ideas, saying “the issues of economic development, education and housing are all intertwined.” He suggested spreading Tax Increment Financing district dollars to neighborhoods rather than downtown developments.

Former CPS CEO Paul Vallas said he’d take a third of all TIF funds and invest it in an equity fund for the West and South Sides. Former Ald. Bob Fioretti said the city needed to re-open its mental health clinics.

Preckwinkle said she’d create an office of criminal justice, bringing the community and the police together.

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On supporting immigrants, Preckwinkle said she’d create a welcoming city ordinance because “we can’t have our police working in collaboration with immigration and customs enforcement.”

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said “right now City Hall has to step up for the immigrant population more than ever before.” Former CPS President Gery Chico called for an end to any city partnership with the Gary Airport, which federal authorities use to deport undocumented immigrants.

Sharon Moy, who lives in Bridgeport, said she was glad the candidates came with ideas for solutions and acknowledged they would all have to work together despite who’s elected. Amara Enyia and Lori Lightfoot stuck out to her.

“I think this is the most interesting Chicago mayoral election. These are tough topics, but they’re important and I respect each candidate for trying to find solutions or ways to work … together.”

Austin resident Caprisha Martin said she liked the points Enyia, Lightfoot and businessman Willie Wilson made, but felt “only a few candidates really spoke to how they would combat issues at the root instead of surface level claims.

“I hope [the next mayor] listens to our voices more,” Martin said. “I hope they come to our neighborhoods and ask us ‘What is needed? What do you need? What needs to be done so we can make this place more affordable, more safe or better for your children?’ “

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