Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=176437
Story Retrieval Date: 5/18/2013 1:27:06 AM CST
Chicago’s mayoral candidates are pushing messages of civic responsibility, focusing on community involvement and neighborhood organization.
Rather than trumpeting their individual qualifications at a student forum hosted by WTTW Chicago Public Media Monday, the candidates proposed solutions to the typical problems of crime, jobs and education that would rely on constituents as much as the future mayor.
Advocating partnership between parents and teachers, former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, “You got to get kids, guns and drugs off the street,” using a phrase he has repeated during his campaign.
School security should evolve out of students and faculty creating a sense of camaraderie and community, rather than being the result of metal detectors and guards, Emanuel said in response to a student’s question about fighting in schools.
English instruction should be available to parents as well as students “so it is a more comfortable space at home – not just in school – for English to take hold as a second language,” he said, in response to a question on bilingual education.
Former senator and ambassador Carol Moseley Braun claimed that the neighborhood theme was one she had championed early in her campaign for mayor.
“I would begin to focus on redeveloping our neighborhoods so they’re safe, so there’re jobs created in the neighborhood, so that kids can go to school and walk to school in the neighborhood in which they live and receive a world-class, quality education,” she said.
“If more young people had an opportunity to work, there would be less lure to the gang culture that gives rise to so much of the violence.”
“We need to get back to community policing, real community policing,” she said. When her father was an officer with the Chicago Police Department, beat cops were an important part of police work, she said.
Contrasting her successes with the life of her brother, which ended with a drug overdose, Braun said that keeping kids off drugs takes broad community involvement beyond the immediate family. “It’s not just parents,” she said.
Braun tied public transportation to community improvement, with a benefit to the environment and a way for people get to jobs. “All these things are connected,” she said.
According to city clerk and mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle, police ranks should be filled with community members that reflect the demographics in which they serve. “The force should look like the neighborhood,” with officers tied to the community that know business owners and kids in the neighborhood, he said.
“We have to have an agenda in the city of Chicago that focuses in on the neighborhoods and that helps organize neighborhoods one block at a time,” del Valle said. Community organization can affect the success of small businesses, create safer environments, provide jobs, encourage economic stability and increase home ownership, he said.
The sense of community living needs to permeate schools so that students of varied sexual orientation, race and scholastic abilities learn to live with each other, del Valle said in response to a question about teen bullying.
Gery Chico offered a couple specific ideas on how community involvement might be obtained. A former president of Chicago Public Schools, Chico told the students that one solution to school security is to involve parents as supervisors “because none of you wants to cause a problem for another student’s parent.”
He supports bringing back vocational education, relying on neighborhood groups, unions and community colleges for facilities and equipment, he said.