1,000-plus jam may­oral can­di­dates fo­rum

Fo­cus: Im­prov­ing all of Chicago’s 77 neigh­bor­hoods

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - By Bill Ruth­hart bruth­[email protected]­bune.com Twit­ter @Bil­lRuth­hart

A stand­ing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 peo­ple packed the Univer­sity of Illi­nois at Chicago Fo­rum on Sat­ur­day morn­ing to watch a Chicago may­oral fo­rum focused on do­ing more to im­prove all of the city’s 77 neigh­bor­hoods.

Prospec­tive vot­ers in the Feb. 26 elec­tion waited in long lines out­side in the snow to pass through se­cu­rity and hear 12 may­oral can­di­dates dis­cuss jobs, eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, im­mi­gra­tion and polic­ing dur­ing a 90-minute fo­rum dur­ing which or­ga­niz­ers banned can­di­dates from launch­ing any po­lit­i­cal at­tacks against one an­other.

And as part of a suc­cess­ful bid to pre­vent loud out­bursts from the ca­pac­ity crowd, au­di­ence mem­bers were en­cour­aged to wave green plac­ards when they heard some­thing they liked and red ones when they didn’t.

As a re­sult, the fo­rum was heavy on mini, one-minute pol­icy dis­cus­sions from the large group of can­di­dates, but it broke lit­tle new ground as the may­oral con­tenders largely re­peated pol­icy po­si­tions they al­ready had re­leased and dis­cussed in other venues.

The event was hosted by One Chicago for All Al­liance, a group of 30 com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions, and was mod­er­ated by Chicago Sun­Times colum­nist Laura Wash­ing­ton.

There was no dis­cus­sion of the fed­eral cor­rup­tion charge against em­bat­tled vet­eran Ald. Ed­ward Burke that dom­i­nated the last may­oral fo­rum. And this time, Cook County Board Pres­i­dent Toni Preck­win­kle at­tended af­ter back­ing out of the last event.

The liveli­est dis­cus­sion of the UIC fo­rum focused on im­prov­ing polic­ing in the city. Can­di­dates were asked whether they backed the pend­ing fed­eral con­sent de­cree to re­form the Chicago Po­lice Depart­ment and what they would do to “re­store trust, ac­count­abil­ity and fair­ness” while im­prov­ing “po­lice ef­fec­tive­ness” since just 17 per­cent of homi­cides re­sulted in an ar­rest last year.

For­mer Chicago Pub­lic Schools CEO Paul Val­las said 80 per­cent of the con­sent de­cree was “com­mon sense,” such as more train­ing and bet­ter equip­ment for of­fi­cers. He noted that the city has 10,000 stu­dents, 90 per­cent of them mi­nor­ity, in mil­i­tary acad­e­mies in the city and CPD should be work­ing to re­cruit of­fi­cers from those pro­grams to hire “the next gen­er­a­tion of cops from the com­mu­nity.” He also slammed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ad­min­is­tra­tion for al­low­ing the Po­lice Depart­ment to shrink dur­ing his ten­ure.

“Do not un­der­es­ti­mate to the de­gree this Po­lice Depart­ment has been de­graded, not fill­ing close to 2,000 va­can­cies, al­low­ing the de­tec­tive di­vi­sion to be gut­ted al­most in half, go­ing from 1-to-10 to 1-to-30 sergeant ra­tio,” Val­las said. “That’s ac­count­abil­ity you can be­lieve in.”

Mo­ments af­ter Val­las said CPD needed to hire more of­fi­cers to fill va­can­cies and bring de­tec­tives out of re­tire­ment, pub­lic pol­icy consultant Amara Enyia was push­ing for some of the money in the po­lice bud­get to be set aside to “build stronger in­sti­tu­tions in our neigh­bor­hoods first,” in­clud­ing fund­ing block clubs in the city’s neigh­bor­hoods hard­est hit by vi­o­lence. And, she said, Chicago stu­dents aren’t go­ing to sign up to be cops un­til the depart­ment be­comes le­git­i­mate in their eyes.

“You can­not build trust where there is no re­la­tion­ship. You can­not build trust where there is no le­git­i­macy. And you cer­tainly can’t re­cruit any­one into a depart­ment that lacks le­git­i­macy,” Enyia said. “Im­ple­ment­ing the con­sent de­cree is a mat­ter of restor­ing le­git­i­macy to an in­sti­tu­tion that has the power to de­ter­mine life and death in this city. We have to do it.”

Preck­win­kle backed the con­sent de­cree while say­ing the city has “deep-seated is­sues with trust” be­tween mi­nor­ity com­mu­ni­ties and the po­lice. Un­like the other can­di­dates, she ap­peared to read from pre­pared re­marks for most of the event.

“As each of my kids got to be a teenager, I sat down with them and had the talk — and it wasn’t about sex, it was about how you deal with po­lice on the street,” Preck­win­kle said. “You’re al­ways re­spect­ful. You never ar­gue. You keep your hands where they can see them. If they take you to the po­lice sta­tion, call me. Ev­ery black and brown par­ent I know has had that con­ver­sa­tion with their kids. White par­ents don’t have those con­ver­sa­tions.”

For­mer U.S. Com­merce Sec­re­tary Bill Da­ley de­clared the crime chal­lenge “the sin­gle big­gest is­sue fac­ing our city” and called for 40 hours of manda­tory train­ing for all of­fi­cers in the first year of the con­sent de­cree. State Comp­trol­ler Su­sana Men­doza re­peated her child­hood story of be­ing afraid of crime in Lit­tle Vil­lage grow­ing up and said she would im­ple­ment the con­sent de­cree while plac­ing so­cial ser­vices in 50 schools in the city’s most crime-rid­den neigh­bor­hoods.

City Hall vet­eran Gery Chico again threat­ened to sue In­di­ana and Wis­con­sin over their lax gun laws that he said feed Chicago’s crime, and busi­ness­man Wil­lie Wil­son re­peated his plan to hire four po­lice su­per­in­ten­dents who would di­vide the city in quar­ters. Cook County Cir­cuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown said she would bring in “law en­force­ment ex­perts to over­haul CPD in its en­tirety” while for­mer fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor Lori Lightfoot re­peated a fre­quent line about her ex­pe­ri­ence mak­ing her best pre­pared to han­dle the crime prob­lem with­out hav­ing to “learn on the job.”

Bridge­port at­tor­ney John Ko­zlar re­peated a plan to re­quire 60 per­cent of of­fi­cers in any po­lice dis­trict to live in that dis­trict. For­mer Ald. Bob Fioretti de­liv­ered the clos­est thing to an at­tack in the fo­rum, tak­ing a notso-veiled shot at for­mer Chicago po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent Garry McCarthy, who was sit­ting at the other end of the stage.

“We need a pro­fes­sional su­per­in­ten­dent. That’s been the prob­lem,” Fioretti said. “That’s al­ways been the prob­lem for the last 20-plus years. We need to make sure we have some­one who en­sures there is proper train­ing and hir­ing.”

When it came to his turn, McCarthy didn’t ad­dress Fioretti’s slight. In­stead, he said the city couldn’t have “a le­git­i­mate Po­lice Depart­ment un­der an il­le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment,” adding that it was time to “do away with the Chicago way.” McCarthy also re­sponded to the staffing crit­i­cisms from other can­di­dates by say­ing the num­ber of of­fi­cers and the de­tec­tive di­vi­sion are at the high­est they have been in 10 years, pro­claim­ing “that is not the prob­lem.”

The for­mer top cop drew a wave of green plac­ards from the crowd as he ad­dressed the lack of trust be­tween the com­mu­ni­ties and of­fi­cers, and called on the depart­ment to im­ple­ment the rec­om­men­da­tions of for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s task force on 21stcen­tury polic­ing that he said worked when he ran the force.

“We need to have a very dif­fi­cult dis­cus­sion about race. We have to talk about slavery, black codes, seg­re­ga­tion, Jim Crow, redlin­ing. That’s what put us in this po­si­tion,” said McCarthy, who has de­scribed him­self as a con­ser­va­tive Demo­crat. “I love it when peo­ple talk about restor­ing trust, but you can’t re­store some­thing you never had.”

That line drew an au­di­ble “Oooooo” from the crowd and more green cards of praise from au­di­ence mem­bers. But McCarthy didn’t men­tion one key cam­paign po­si­tion that wouldn’t have gone over so well: He is op­posed to the con­sent de­cree.

ABEL URIBE/CHICAGO TRI­BUNE PHO­TOS

Gery Chico, one of 12 may­oral can­di­dates in at­ten­dance, an­swers a ques­tion dur­ing the One Chicago for All Al­liance fo­rum at UIC on Sat­ur­day.

In a bid to pre­vent loud out­bursts at the fo­rum, au­di­ence mem­bers were en­cour­aged to wave green plac­ards when they heard some­thing they liked and red ones when they didn’t.

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