Chicago’s four mayoral candidates squared off February 10th in the last of five debates held in a two-week span.  Incumbent, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd), Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, businessman Willie Wilson and community activist William “Dock” Walls fielded questions on several issues including taxes and the minimum wage.  

As Chicago’s largest community, Austin has more than its share of residents living in extreme poverty, and its ever-increasing crime rate poses new challenges everyday. 

I spoke with several Austin residents and asked what question they would like to ask of the mayoral candidates.  

Kent Brown said, “I would ask them why the current mayor closed all those grammar schools and moved the kids to a different school?  I’d like to know if they would reopen the same schools that were in the neighborhoods.”

“I would like to know how they are going to keep the crime down,” said Charlean Cirton. “They can do it by putting more police on the streets.” 

In a similar statement, Leo Johnson specifically addressed gun violence, saying “Every other day some teen is being shot and killed. I think they should not only put more police out here, but the right police out here.”

The Chicago Sun-Times, WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, The League of Women Voters and the Chicago Urban League hosted the other four debates. The candidates were asked questions on education, public safety, ethics economic development, pension reform, and of course, taxation.  

All candidates except Emanuel favored moving Chicago to an elected school board.  Many citizens have expressed strong support for such a move and believe that an elected board of people with no allegiance to the sitting mayor would be an important step towards improving Chicago’s public schools.

Taxes revealed the greatest difference between the candidates. Emanuel said he would not rule out property tax increases. Fioretti wants to impose a commuter tax on those earn who their living in the city, yet live outside of it. Garcia proposes cutting pension benefits to current retirees. Wilson gave his stock answer, but added, “I also believe in attracting businesses by lowering taxes.” 

As Election Day, February 24, quickly approaches, all of Chicago’s citizens have to make a decision and vote for the candidate they believe will be best for the city. Sitting out this election should not be an option. All registered voters must go to the polls and cast your ballots. 

CONTACT: | Twitter: @Austinweeklychi