Candidates discuss issues in mayoral forum

February 14, 2011 9:14:36 PM PST
Four major mayoral candidates were grilled on the issues at a forum Monday night.

The event, broadcast on public television, was the next to the last scheduled debate in the campaign for Chicago mayor. The candidates have just one week left to convince voters they are the best-qualified for the job.

The relatively casual discussion was civil, with only a couple of moments when the candidates attacked each other.

It was not until nearly 45 minutes into the program that Miguel del Valle accused Gery Chico of being Mayor Daley's chief of staff when illegal patronage armies were formed, including the Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), that Del Valle said helped get Rahm Emanuel elected to congress.

"When Gery was chief of staff, HDO was born, and then three years later, they worked Rahm Emanuel's congressional campaign," said Del Valle.

"I have nothing to do with HDO - I couldn't even tell you who was in it, I didn't know anything about it," said Chico. "If you're asking me if I was chief of staff when an organization was created, you're probably right, but I didn't have anything to do with it."

Emanuel did not deny the city hall patronage army worked for his election, but he said it was not the only help.

"A lot of people worked on my campaign - people in the gun control movement, and also in the environmental movement," said Emanuel.

Then Moseley Braun questioned how Emanuel made $18 million as an unofficial lobbyist after he left the Clinton White House.

"When you talk about ethics and reform and battling corruption it kind of starts at home," said Moseley Braun.

Braun and Del Valle said they would not cut pension benefits if elected. Emanuel and Chico would not commit one way or another, but they said all city workers would have to sacrifice to the city's financial challenges.

Millionaire Emanuel made news when he said he would not accept a city pension if he is elected.

"A mayor and the city council will share in the sacrifices," said Emanuel.

There was no mention during the hour-long session of a proposed sales tax swap in which the levy on retail items would be reduced and a new sales tax added to services.

Chico, who opposes the services tax, and Emanuel, who supports a swap, have fought bitterly over it.

Chico was disappointed the issue was not raised as he characterized Emanuel's answers to most of the night's questions.

"What Rahm has turned out to be is a pathological evader of the truth," said Chico.

Recent, independent polls suggest Chico is trailing Emanuel who is nearing or already above the 50 percent support level. If no candidate gets 50 per cent plus one...the top two finishers will compete in a runoff.

The strategy of Chico, Del Valle and Braun this week appears to be to keep Emanuel under 50 percent and to force a runoff.

The candidates will debate live from the Oriental Theatre Thursday evening - a debate that will air live on ABC7 at 7 p.m. The debate will also stream live on

Hitler comment, red-light camera revenue discussed during day

Candidate Carol Moseley Braun spent part of Monday working to defuse controversy over comments she made about apparent mayoral frontrunner Rahm Emanuel.

"I'm trying to talk about how we rebuild our city," said Moseley Braun. "You guys pick on the point that isn't the point at all."

Before Moseley Braun could begin greeting commuters at the 95th Street CTA Red Line stop, reporters wanted to know more about her comment on Sunday.

She said that Rahm Emanuel in his television commercials is portrayed as "kind and gentle" in the way that the Hitler character in the Mel Brooks comedy The Producers was portrayed.

On Monday, she said she was not comparing the former White House chief of staff to the Nazi dictator

"I was celebrating Mel Brooks' comedy," said Moseley Braun. "I was celebrating the fact that Mel... and... why am I defending this? This is ridiculous."

Emanuel, who is Jewish, campaigned at a Northwest Side senior citizens' breakfast. He says he was not offended by Moseley Braun's reference to the film, which incidentally was made by a Jewish director.

"Look, she's already said it was - the way its being interpreted is not the way she meant it. I take her at her word," said Emanuel.

Also Monday, Emanuel predicted Chicagoans would ignore anti-Semitic flyers opposing his candidacy that were distributed the same morning at el stops.

"I have all the confidence in them that if they see anything that doesn't support and is [not] consistent with who they are they will reject it out of hand," said Emanuel.

In Greektown, City Clerk Miguel del Valle said if elected, he will review Chicago's use of red light cameras to raise revenue.

"That is not the purpose of cameras, and it's obvious we have turned to cameras as a revenue generator," said Del Valle.

The self-described progressive took another shot at Gery Chico, who over the weekend was endorsed by a conservative Tea Party faction.

"He's decided to accept the endorsement of the tea party, and that's his decision," said Chico.

Chico, who did not deny accepting tea party support, issued a statement this afternoon that read: "I did not seek the endorsement of this group and in reality, have nothing in common with them."