WGN Mayoral forum gives candidates chance to sparkle

WGN Mayoral forum gives candidates chance to sparkle

WGN Mayoral forum gives candidates chance to sparkle

WGN hosted a fast-paced mayoral forum that brought 13 of the city’s 21 candidates who are running for mayor to the forefront. Although the forum didn’t get down into deep details on issues, it gave the public a chance to get a broad sense of which candidate they favored, and who the candidates liked among their rivals.

By Ray Hanania

WGN TV’s moderators Tahman Bradley and Lourdes Duarte did a great job at keeping the 9o minute timeline in a fast-paced and topic-driven focus.

It wasn’t a debate where candidates could sling mud, which is probably why Toni Preckwinkle didn’t attend. But 13 of the candidates did show up, including one Jerry Joyce who had a previous engagement but did arrive during the last half hour of the event to answer questions.

Those who did show up were seated in alphabetical order by last name: Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Bill Daley, Amara Enyia, Bob Fioretti, La Shawn Ford, Jerry Joyce, John Kozlar, Lori Lightfoot, Garry McCarthy, Susana Mendoza, Paul Vallas, Willie Wilson.

Duarte and Bradley asked questions that allowed only for 1 minute answers, and lightning rounds with Yes or No answers.

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The forum wasn’t great to drill down into detail, but you could watch it and assess the participants in terms of who stood out overall. My favorites were Gery Chico who has the best line during the forum, offered during his one minute opening debate, saying, “we are not an ATM Machine for lazy governing,” meaning that the city can’t can’t rely on throwing money to solve problems.

Mayoral candidate John Kozlar

Lori Lightfoot also probably came across as the most thoughtful and informed of the candidates. She is very articulate and clearly knows what the issues are. The forum gave her a good opportunity to convey that steadiness in intellect to the audience that I think people could see.

Amara Enyia was loved by some of the WGN pundits during the discussion after the show, but she seemed to come across as too ideological, an ideologue. Her answers were charged and clearly focused but they seemed to appeal to the radical nature that we often see in outsiders to the system.

Very impressive was John Kozlar, who is only 30 years old, the youngest candidate to ever run for Chicago Mayor, he said, and who graduated with a law degree from John Marshall Law School. He was very articulate, very focused and very smart who complained that Chicago elections tend to elect “the same old sam told” which he explained causes the city to follow the same paths of corruption, failed efforts to strengthen education and fight crime.

When it came to fighting crime, Garry McCarthy was the most knowledgable.

Chicago Mayoral Candidate Gery Chico

Chicago Mayoral Candidate Gery Chico

The Yes or No questions were themes interesting. Asked if Ald. Edward M. Burke should resign from the Chicago City Council, all said yes except Chico, Daley, Fioretti, Ford, Lightfoot, McCarthy and Valles.

Daley came up with the best idea to put cameras on every street and use drones to protect neighborhoods. That may not go over well with the news media, which immediately turns to issues like “Big Brother” or government control, or leftists who argue that criminals are not the problem but rather the social environments and bad economy. And it probably wouldn’t go over very well with the criminals who are behind Chicago’s horrible crime rate. But families who are victimized probably would see the idea as one that would help protect their families and homes. It was courageous to say what needs to be said, not what some people want to hear.

The lightning round question towards the endow the forums as also fascinating that asked each candidate if they had to chose a tuning mate from one of the candidates at the forum Thursday, who would they pick. Brown picked Lightfoot. Chico picked Vallas. Daley picked Lightfoot. Enyia hesitated and as the timer ran out blurted out Ford. Fioretti picked Ford. Ford picked Enyia or Fioretti. Joyce replied “anyone.” Kozlar picked Enyia. Lightfoot wouldn’t identify who she would pick saying there were a lot of good choices and probably moved that so many of her rivals picked her. McCarthy picked Lightfoot or Wilson. Mendoza picked Aniya. Vallas picked Eniya, Lightfoot or Wilson. And Wilson wouldn’t answer.

WGN TV's moderators Tahman Bradley and Lourdes Duarte

WGN TV’s moderators Tahman Bradley and Lourdes Duarte

Alderman were a target during the mayoral forum. All of the candidates agreed that they opposed allowing elected officials or aldermen to have outside incomes and saying they should be full-time officials. All of the candidates said they supported Term Limits. Most of the candidates said they favor electing the Chicago Public School board, not appointing them, but Daley. Kozlar and Vallas said there should be a mix of elected and appointed.

Eniya and several candidates said they believe that crime in Chicago is directly related to poor economic conditions. When asked what she would do to confront car-jacking, she replied that crackers are pushed to carjack. “This is a question of investment.”

McCarthy slammed the system saying that there is no accountability on the criminal justice system, that it is hard to get prosecutions. He said violent criminals should go to jail but others in non-violent situations should be dealt with by giving them less time and more chances to remediate themselves.

There were only a few jabs at other politicians, although Mendoza and the absent Preckwinkle took the most criticism.

Wilson repeated many times that he believes that the key to strengthening Chicago is to lower property taxes and other taxes to bring people back into the city and revive it. He also blasted Mendoza and Preckwinkle. And so did Kozlar and Brown, they criticiZed Preckwinkle, too, probably because Preckwinkle is allegedly behind efforts to remove some of the candidates.

Kozlar also offered a great line in response to a question about freezing property taxes, saying “There are too many new taxes,” adding the city “can’t tax our way  out of the problems.” Joyce said the city must lower property taxes and can’t rely on residential property owners to shoulder the burden of solving the problem, meaning with higher taxes. That brought a compliment from Lightfoot who said we need to lower taxes.

Everyone said they supported a Chicago Casino except for Lightfoot and Joyce. Everyone said we should legalize marijuana, though Kozlar said for adults, not children, and McCarthy said “yes, but with conditions.”

Daley urged the reopening of neighborhood mental health centers that were closed during the Rahm Emanuel administration. No one had anything good to say about retiring mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Asked in a lighting round Yes or No questions who would be the first person they would call if elected once inside the mayor’s office at Chicago City Hall, Ford said “Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Joyce said his wife, as a joke, and then said the people in the neighborhood, which was pretty much the response the rest gave, too.

In response to rising pension burdens, Kozlar suggested that beginning in 2020, new hires should be entered in 401 K programs, not government pensions, a great answer.

The only problem with the forum is WGN needs so new more articulate analysts for after-show discussions. It wasn’t great.

You can get more information on the forum and their answers to all the questions by clicking this link taking you to WGN TV’s website.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Click Here to LISTEN to Hanania's live radio show on 2nd Friday every month 7 AM CST. Click here to listen to Ray's Podcasts. 

His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.

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