Chicago mayoral candidates criticize “the Chicago way” and vow to eliminate corruption

Mayoral Forum Panel 1

By Ariana Puzzo
Medill Reports

“We have candidates on this stage right now who are not corrupt,” said attorney and mayoral candidate John Kozlar.  He and others took swipes at  accusations that have surfaced during the race for mayor and aldermen.

“The people who got us in this mess are not going to be the ones who get us out of it,” Kozlar said.

Other candidates at Saturday’s mayoral forum at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple added that voting for a new type of leader in the mayoral election would bring citywide improvement.

Garry McCarthy, the former Chicago police superintendent, said the problems that affect Chicago today are based on decades of political corruption in the city, state and county.

“Concepts like ‘the Chicago way,’ concepts like, ‘Well, I gave the money back,’” McCarthy said. “Well, if you rob a bank and give the money back, you’re still guilty of bank robbery, folks.”

McCarthy’s comment about returning money was made during the second of two candidate panels and indirectly responded to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s earlier statement about Ald. Edward Burke (14th).

Preckwinkle said she returned all the money she received from Burke for her campaign and that she took a strong position against him, saying that she called for his resignation. Burke, who is running for reelection, faces a criminal extortion charge after being accused of using his position to financially benefit his property tax law firm, Klafter & Burke, WTTW reported.

Preckwinkle didn’t participate in the second panel as the candidates rotated through the back-to-back forum events. Kozlar sat alongside Preckwinkle during the first panel.

“I don’t support Mr. Burke,” Kozlar said. “I never accepted a nickel from him and therefore, I don’t have to pay him back anything.”

Toni Preckwinkle, Paul Vallas, John Kozlar
Attorney John Kozlar,  the youngest candidate, says Chicago’s image can improve if people stop voting for the same candidates. (Ariana Puzzo/Medill)

Kozlar said that his decision to run for mayor was based on his lack of support for Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Several candidates stressed their early entry in the mayoral race prior to Emanuel’s announcement that he would not seek re-election.

Audience members were also critical of the current mayoral leadership. South Loop resident Ann Crepin, 64, said she attended because of issues such as property taxes and gun violence. Property taxes have risen sharply since Emanuel was first elected as mayor in 2011.

“I’m glad Rahm Emanuel is not running again and that we have an opportunity to look at other candidates who may do a better job,” Crepin said.

City residents gather on Saturday to hear Chicago mayoral candidates discuss women’s issues, including equal pay for equal work, access to health care and immigration. (Ariana Puzzo/Medill)

Chicago Women Take Action Alliance hosted the Women’s Mayoral forum, which followed earlier forums focused on issues ranging from education to technology. The alliance was founded in 2014 and consists of more than 50 women’s groups.

The forum focused on topics such as female small business owners, access to reproductive health care and equal pay for equal work.

“[Citizens will] really look at the candidates and learn what … [each candidate’s vision] for the city is and how they plan to get there going beyond speeches and beyond commercials,” said Marilyn Katz, co-founder of CWTA Alliance.

These discussions were punctuated by questions about Chicago’s image and each candidate’s vision for the city. Sex abuse in Chicago Public Schools and police accountability galvanized candidates during both panels.

Paul Vallas, the former chief administrative officer at Chicago State University, said issues of sex abuse have worsened since the elimination of the Office of Crisis Intervention at CPS. The office offered 24/7 intervention for students experiencing abuse, Vallas said.

Garry McCarthy, Lori Lightfoot, Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th), Susana Mendoza, Bob Fioretti
The second panel at the Women’s Mayoral Forum includes Garry McCarthy, Lori Lightfoot, Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th), Susana Mendoza and Bob Fioretti. McCarthy said transparency is important to improving Chicago’s image. (Ariana Puzzo/Medill)

Gery Chico, the former head of the Chicago Board of Education, called for the removal of Eddie Johnson, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, during a discussion on police accountability. He referenced the trial of Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, sentenced to a controversial 4-year term for second degree murder of teenager Laquan McDonald, as well as the acquittal of three officers for allegedly attempting to cover up events related to Van Dyke’s shooting of McDonald.

“Eddie Johnson has in his record too many cases of looking the other way on police officer misconduct,” Chico said, “and that we cannot have in this city if we’re ever going to have a changing culture and a department that we can believe in.”

Photo at top: Eleven mayoral candidates attend the Women’s Mayoral Forum on Saturday at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. The forum divided the candidates into two panels where candidates discussed issues as they relate to women, including sex abuse in Chicago Public Schools, immigration and police accountability. (Ariana Puzzo/Medill)