“Don't go on dates until you're 25, kids.”
By Maya Gorman
“Don’t do drugs, kids,” was one of the responses Mayoral Candidate Jon Kozlar gave in response to a question about bettering the communities of Chicago. He also instructed Northsiders not to go on dates until they are 25. On Dec. 5, Northside hosted a Mayoral Forum, sponsored by the social justice group Students United for Change. “We had a really large turnout which was really great and we got the cooperation of over 10 CPS schools,” Pooja Patel, Adv. 901, said when asked about the success of the forum. “It seemed like all the candidates connected with the students.”
Of the 21 candidates running for Mayor of Chicago, six -- Dorothy Brown, Gery Chico, Amara Enyia, Ja’Mal Green, Jon Kozlar and Garry McCarthy -- participated in the town hall.
When asked to give her introduction, Brown immediately grabbed the mic and stood up. She told her life story to the students, detailing how she grew up humble on a cotton farm in Louisiana, obtained her license as a Certified Public Accountant, and became the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. She bragged about turning down a bribe to be City Treasurer, portraying herself as someone who has beaten the machine. She engaged the audience, telling them that she would not let anyone control her because she is a strong, independent woman. This resonated with the audience, who gave her a round of applause. Throughout the forum, Brown addressed issues of allocating funding to CPS schools by saying if she were elected, she would recreate the Board of Education with people she personally approved. She did not mention the Federal Investigation looking into a $15,000 bribe she allegedly accepted to employ someone.
Next was Chico, who was rather calm in demeanor. During the forum, he explained that he was once the president of the board for Chicago Public Schools and that he had a hand in building Jones, Walter Payton, and Northside. His response to various questions surrounding the topic of education was that he had the personal experience of lobbying the state for education funding from his time on the Board of Education.
After Chico came Enyia. She stressed that the city of Chicago belongs to everyone and it is everyone’s responsibility to create change. So far in the race, Enyia has tried to appear as the most progressive candidate but has received pushback for accepting campaign contributions from wealthy donors like Kanye West and Chance the Rapper while not being credited with much community outreach in the city.
Green, perhaps the most widely recognized candidate in the forum, spoke next. After running late as planned, he introduced himself as a man who grew up in the city of Chicago, specifically the Southside, and therefore was someone who knows and has experienced the problems facing Chicago firsthand. He said he has spoken to leaders from his own community and has personal insight on the problem of gun violence and lack of educational funding for Chicago Public Schools. Critics say he focuses his work too much on the Southside and call him immature because of his outward frustration when he was not backed by Chance the Rapper, a childhood friend of his. Green held a press conference to address this controversy, but did not show up to speak. Showing up to the forum late also sparked other questions about his maturity. He is the youngest candidate in the race, at only 22 years old. While this connects him with the youth of Chicago, it is uncertain if he has the experience necessary to lead a city.
“I feel like Ja’Mal Green and Amara Aniya connected with them the most because they stayed behind and talked with the students after the Forum,” commented Patel. “The students seemed to like them a lot.”
Second to last was Kozlar, who proclaimed his disgust with the Chicago Teachers Union. Kozlar seemed natural until he made a rather aggressive remark about how the media likes to “blow up” police shootings of African-Americans instead of focusing on the real problem that is community members shooting each other. Currently, he does not have a campaign team assembled.
Last to speak was McCarthy, a former Police Superintendent of Chicago. In his introduction, he stressed how he has led some of the major organizations fighting crime in Newark, New Jersey, and New York City, New York. While this may make him appear as a man with experience, there is considerable controversy surrounding his competence as he was the head of the Chicago police force when Laquan McDonald was shot. He does not have the support of the progressives of Chicago and some are worried that he will pull the vote of Chicago Democrats who heavily favor the police.
Overall, the Mayoral Forum gave the students of Northside, as well as local community members, a chance to participate and be heard in the political debate happening in Chicago right now. One can only hope that this leads to increased participation by the Chicago youth in the February election for the Mayor of Chicago.