Mayoral candidates debate city's problems

January 28, 2011 4:22:10 AM PST
The first real televised debate moderated by professional journalists was facilitated Thursday by the Tribune Company.

Rahm Emanuel's residency victory was the first topic in the debate between the four leading candidates in the race. But it was quickly overshadowed by the other issues in the race.

"Now that the residency issue is behind not just myself but everybody, we can focus on the issues," said Emanuel.

The other candidates agreed that it was time focus on the city's problems. And with all four candidates in the same room and on the same Chicago television screens, they took plenty of shots at each other.

"Taking no government loans or anything like that, whereas, just be honest, Gery, most of your clients, are people who do business with the city of Chicago," said Carol Moseley Braun.

"Never has there been a suggestion that I did anything but pursue the public interest in any one of those jobs," Chico responded.

Moseley Braun defended her business acumen, saying she was proud that her troubled organic beverage company is surviving the recession. Then, she accused former school board president Gery Chico and former Clinton administration aide Emanuel with profiteering from their public service.

"You have gone from one government, one revolving door to another. And quite frankly, Rahm, you have gone from one government appointment to another. And there's a difference...public service when it is for the benefit of the public versus public service when it endures for the benefit of your private pocketbook," said Chico.

Miguel Del Valle, the self-described neighborhood candidate, targeted the multi-million dollar campaign funds of Emanuel and Chico.

"We are known as the state of pay to play. Now we have added, with this campaign, with the millions and millions of dollars that been brought in by Rahm and Gery, we have added pay to influence," said Del Valle.

Chico made an issue of Emanuel's proposal to lower the city sales tax and replace it with a tax on services.

"I propose a 20-percent reduction in the sales tax here in the city of Chicago. We have the highest sales tax in the city. I do not think it's fair for a single mother with two kids who are trying to buy school supplies to pay higher sales tax when people who have charter planes, private planes don't pay," said Emanuel.

"If it's the way it's described right now, as far as I understand it, is to charge that same single mom for child care 9 percent, to charge that same single mom to take her pet to the groomer to get clipped 9 percent more," said Chico.

The candidates also re-visited the education issue. Moseley Braun and Del Valle called for strengthened neighborhood schools differing with Emanuel and Chico on the expansion of semi-private charter schools.

Meanwhile, candidates Patrick Van-Pelt Watkins and William "Dock" Walls were excluded by debate organizers. They have not done well in recent polls on the race. Watkins says the decision to exclude her is a disservice to every voter in Chicago.

The candidates will square off again next month, just days before the election. Their debate will be broadcast on ABC7 live from the Oriental Theatre on Thursday, February 17 at 7 p.m. You can also watch the debate live on our website, The debate is sponsored by ABC7, the League of Women voters and numerous community organizations.