Who says political forums are boring? If you didn’t attend the one held last Thursday at Malcolm X College, sponsored by WVON 1690 AM, you missed a good one. First off, any political forum held on the West Side is sure to be a doozy. And this one sure fit the bill.
Four candidates running for the office were in attendance: Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown, Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-7th), Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, and current President of the Cook County Board Todd Stroger – all in rare form.
Dorothy Brown took the lead with the flying barbs that went back and forth the entire evening. As she told of her accomplishments, she made a reference to not needing “training wheels” to do the job. Ouch! I’ll let you folks guess to whom that comment was targeted.
Danny Davis, formidable educator, gave us wonderful background regarding the two major functions of the county government: health care for the less fortunate as well as running the jail. He told of the money he has brought back to the county from the federal government and mentioned the poll he commissioned that put him in the lead over the other three candidates. One candidate had like 33% name recognition (Brown), one candidate had negative name recognition (Stroger) and one candidate had so little name recognition that it was negligible (Preckwinkle). Note: all the previous names in parentheses are from me and not from the congressman.
Stroger did strike back with a touché moment when he acknowledged how much Davis has done for the county health care system and then slyly suggested that Davis’ services would best be served staying in Washington and leaving the running of the county government to him. Ouch!
I wish I could say something remarkable about Preckwinkle’s performance. But her lackluster style, in comparison to the fiery Brown, commensurate politician Davis and slickster Stroger, left everyone bored every time she opened her mouth to speak. She was even booed as she tried to claim some credit for demanding higher “minority participation” for the 2016 Olympics should we happen to get it. Her comments were met with shout-outs of “which minorities?” The outburst referred to the fact that politicians always speak to a predominantly black audience about “minorities” only to discover that it translates into Hispanics, Asians, and white women getting opportunities, not black folks.
Cliff Kelley from WVON was the moderator. Although many of us asked questions on index cards, he stuck to his own questions which, though scripted, did little to hit the candidates with unusual queries. For example, I still want to know why the Cook County Board won’t try to save Kiddieland by leasing them the land on the northeast corner of North and First avenues.
There were several questions asked about Cook County Jail and decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of marijuana. With the number of ex-felons on the West Side – especially those who have been held at the jail while waiting for their trials or being sentenced – one has to wonder how come those individuals weren’t out in full force to ask questions and hold the feet of those who desire to be president of the county board to the fire. Oh yeah, all the candidates did agree to make marijuana possession a fine and not a jail sentence.
Brown kept telling us how her department runs in the black, and she has saved taxpayers over $150 million. One of her accomplishments is that she has allowed inmates to bond out of jail using a credit card. I’m sure the white collar criminals appreciate that, but I wonder how many poor folks in jail have credit cards to use to take advantage of that option.
The last question asked was hypothetical. If you have to get out of the race, which of the other three candidates would you vote for? Brown said she was in the race to stay; Davis said he’d vote for one of the other three; Preckwinkle and Stroger concurred with Davis. The better question, and one which would have put them on the spot, would be to ask if they don’t win, will they run for mayor? It would have been fun to see how they squirmed out of that response. I hope this forum is just one of many held in the coming months.
From having the highest sales taxes in the country to the roughest jail to spend the night in, we need to ask the tough questions now before we vote.