By Chinta Strausberg
During the last mayoral debate held Tuesday at the DuSable Museum of African American History, four candidates took turns pounding Mayor Rahm Emanuel who stuck to his script bragging about implementing longer schools days for kindergartners, improving the graduation among high school students and ending corruption in Chicago.
To the mayorâ€™s left stood Bill â€œDockâ€ Walls who spoke about Chicago being the most segregated city in America where he said Blacks â€œhave not been treated any betterâ€ under Emanuelâ€™s administration â€œthan we were under Jim Crow.â€
Mayoral hopeful Jesus â€œChuyâ€ Garcia was furious over Emanuelâ€™s political mailings including the one showing Garcia voted for a 37 percent pay hike for himself. â€œJesus â€˜Chuyâ€™ Garcia voted to raise his salary by $15,000 a year, a 37 percent increase. But never passed a raise in the minimum wage,â€ Emanuelâ€™s mailing stated.
â€œPoliticians like Chuy Garcia raise their own pay and take care of themselves, but not us. Thatâ€™s old school Chicago politics,â€ Emanuel said on the flyer.
Holding up both of Emanuelâ€™s mailings, Garcia said, â€œ$7, $8, $9, $10 million later, it hasnâ€™t purchased him any love.â€
While Wilson and Walls pounded the mayor on issues involving unfairness towards African Americans, Walls chided Wilson, who runs a $60 million-a-year-business, for using factories in China and accused him of not hiring any Chicagoans. Wilson fired back saying, â€œI do have employees in Chicagoâ€¦about 10. I have 4 in China. I do business in China because itâ€™s a global economy. The clothes you are wearing, Mr. Walls, are from China in case you didnâ€™t know itâ€¦.â€
After the debate, all but the mayor held court with the media where Walls criticized the mayor for not â€œdoing anything to move Chicago forward in the international realm. We do not have an industry to call our ownâ€¦. The city of Chicago is stagnant under Rahm Emanuel.â€
Asked if he favored Charter schools, Walls said, â€œThose persons who get to the front of the line are the people with money and clout. Poor people would be at the end of the line. There is no fair system for allowing poor people, underprivileged people to get to the front of the line. Even the lottery is weighted against themâ€¦. At the end of the day, vouchers will not serve poor people. They help rich people get to the front of the line.â€
Asked if President Obamaâ€™s coming to Chicago next week to declare the Pullman neighborhood a national monument would help boost the support of the mayor, Wilson suggested Obama should stay in D.C. saying, â€œHe should stay out of the local politics. He has enough to do in Washington, D.C. He came here for Gov. Quinn and it did no goodâ€¦. He went back emptied handedâ€¦.â€
Wilson said, â€œIf he (Obama) is coming here,â€ Obama should be asked if it is OK to close down 50 schools, â€œCHA got $1.2 billion and only $144,000 got to African Americans and Latino? Is it OK to have a red light cameraâ€¦? He should stay in Washington, D.C. â€œ Walls said Obamaâ€™s support for then Gov. Pat Quinn didnâ€™t help that candidate and it probably wonâ€™t help Emanuel.
Walls said that Obama and his wife have one vote each. â€œI donâ€™t think his coming to Chicago will influence this election. This is an unusual election. The needle has not moved on Rahm Emanuel.â€ Walls said Obama coming to Chicago â€œis a mistake.â€
Fioretti said Obama coming to Chicago â€œshows sheer politicsâ€ because in March of 2013 he introduced a resolution calling for a national park in Pullmanâ€¦.â€
â€œThis mayor does things by dividingâ€¦. He did it with the Obama library, which is now pitting a public interest against a private interest, the West Side against the South Side. It shows his failed leadership on all counts,â€ Fioretti said.
Ald. Fioretti, who accused the mayor of allegedly engaging in a â€œpay to play and pin stripe patronageâ€ scheme, said, â€œItâ€™s the selling of City Hall bit by bitâ€¦. I introduced seven ordinancesâ€¦. They are languishing in the Rules and Ethics Committee.â€ Fioretti called for another debate.
Asked his opinion on the right-to-work program that is being touted by Gov. Bruce Rauner, Wilson said, â€œI made a mistake on thatâ€¦. I think I have to changeâ€ his opinion on that issue. He vowed to do more research on policy. However, he added, â€œThe unions need to get their act together. They need to have equal opportunity for contracts and jobsâ€¦. I do think you should have a right to decide whether you want to belong to a unionâ€¦.â€
Asked if elected what would be the first thing he would Â do, Wilson said he would push for economic development, economic empowerment then introduced a bill calling for those doing business of Chicago would reflect its residents.â€ Wilson added, â€œThis city is not for sale like this mayor has done with $30 millionâ€¦.â€
Asked if he and his son, Samuel, benefitted from a deal involving his son who received free legal help from the law firm Mayer Brown with the help of a $100 million bond deal that paved the way for Mayer Brown to get the bond counsel job, doesnâ€™t that make him â€œsoul brothers under the skinâ€ since there is a conflict of interest,â€? Garcia hotly denied that allegation.
â€œWe donâ€™t share much of a soul in what we believe in and certainly in what we believe inâ€¦,â€ Garcia said referring to the mayor.
â€œThe services that were provided were not provided as a request that came from me,â€ Garcia said. â€œThere is no conflict of interestâ€¦. â€œ
Garcia accused the mayor of â€œrunning scared. Thatâ€™s why heâ€™s doing to everyone that he can to ask for their help. Heâ€™s afraid he is not going to raise his popularity above 42. Money canâ€™t buy you love. $7, $8, $9, $10 million later, it hasnâ€™t purchased him any love because love isnâ€™t for sale in Chicagoâ€¦,â€ Garcia said accusing Emanuel of allegedly behind the leaking of the story about his son.
Wilson, who ended the debate with a prayer, was asked if he supported prayer in schools. â€œI support prayer everywhere. I think prayer is the key to our problems
There was a group of blacks and Hispanics protesting outside of the museum accusing organizer because they it was an invitation-only event.
But when it was time for the mayor to ask one of his challengers a ten-second question, he said, â€œIâ€™d rather talk directly to the voters about their questionsâ€¦.â€ Fioretti growled, â€œfollow the rulesâ€¦.â€
To Garcia, the mayor accused him of â€œvoting for the largest property tax in the history of Chicago which the people are still paying for and then you took an $8500 illegal deduction. Why would you do that given the consequences that everybody has to now still pay for the largest property tax increaseâ€?
Garcia referred to the year 1986 after he was elected as alderman â€œwe broke the Vrdolyak 29 and the machine politicians that hampered Harold Washington. We have to deal with the deficit from the previous administration. We finally did itâ€¦. We did the right thingâ€¦.â€
Before the debate began, a group of students protested outside of the museum accusing organizers of locking them out of the debate.
Early voting runs through Saturday, February 21, 2015. The winner must get 50 percent plus one but if not there will be a runoff on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
Chinta Strausberg is a Journalist of more than 33-years, a former political reporter and a current PCC Network talk show host. You can e-mail Strausberg at: Chintabernie@aol.com.