By Ariana Puzzo
Eleven Chicago mayoral candidates stressed the importance of an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in city schools and the elimination of workplace discrimination. They spoke at a public forum on Saturday at the Second Presbyterian Church, one of several mayoral forums on city policies.
LGBTQ community organizations invited the candidates to speak so residents are educated about each candidate’s position and platforms regarding LGBTQ Chicagoans, said Anthony Galloway, the director of civic engagement for Equality Illinois. Equality Illinois was among the organizations involved in the forum, along with others including the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois and Pride Action Tank.
The candidates focused first on how to address high LGBTQ unemployment rates. Attorney John Kozlar said, as mayor, he wants to hire people on his staff who are part of the LGBTQ community to address such challenges since they are aware of the issues.
“We’re talking about this issue like we’re in the 1970s and that’s wrong,” Kozlar said. “We just have to treat people fairly and that’s what you will get under Mayor Kozlar.”
Other candidates, including Illinois Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-8th), agreed that tackling unemployment meant working with the community and that discrimination was not acceptable.
The candidates also addressed education and bullying. Each candidate discussed actions and polices they will take to protect LGBTQ young people and transgender students.
“I’m a former teacher,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “I spent 10 years in a classroom and I know how important it is that our schools be safe and supportive places for our students, and it’s hard to learn when you feel afraid.”
Others along with Preckwinkle proposed insuring an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum for Chicago Public Schools.
Attorney Lori Lightfoot, the only openly LGBTQ candidate, discussed her “comprehensive LGBTQ policy” released last year. The policy includes a plan for an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in CPS. She also proposed schools be equipped with social workers for students struggling with coming out.
Lightfoot said LGBTQ youth homelessness must also be acknowledged and addressed.
“We need to recognize that many of the homeless youth in our city are from our community,” Lightfoot said. “[We need to] make sure we have 24-hour walk-in shelters and places for them to go so it’s not just a ‘You can stay there until 9 o’clock and then you’re out on the street.’”
Lightfoot won a characteristic round of applause from the audience.
The candidates answered questions about what each of them and their administration would do to ensure that LGBTQ immigrants are protected in the city.
“My grandparents came here from Mexico to look for a better life and I saw them struggle … this is personal to me,” Gery Chico said.
Chico is a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, former president of the board of Chicago Public Schools and a 2011 mayoral candidate who was defeated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Galloway said the conversation on these issues did not begin or end at the forum.
“It’s a continued conversation,” Galloway said. “The forum is certainly a mechanism in making sure that we keep these issues on top for the candidates at large.”
A calendar of future forums extend to the Chicago mayoral election on Feb. 26.
Jan. 25 – Mayoral Candidate Forum at the Lincoln Ballroom
Jan. 26 – Mayoral Candidate Forum at St. Monica Catholic Parish
Jan. 27 – ATU Transit 4 All Mayoral Candidate Forum
Jan. 28 – Mayoral Forum on Civil Rights
Jan. 29 – Kennedy-King College – Mayoral Candidates Forum
Jan. 30 – 49th Ward Meet the Mayoral Candidates
Jan. 31 – Chicago Mayoral Candidate Forum on Education
Feb. 2 – Women’s Mayoral Forum
Feb. 5 – Chicago Communities Mayoral Forum at Theodore Roosevelt High School
Feb. 7 – Chicago Small Business Mayoral Candidate Forum
Feb. 10 – 2019 Chicago Mayoral Arts Forum