CHICAGO (WLS) -- The race for Chicago mayor has put a major focus on crime, including how to best combat it and who should lead the police department.
One of the frontrunners in the race for mayor laid out his economic vision for Chicago and traded barbs with Mayor Lori Lightfoot over their plans to address the most challenging issues.
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Paul Vallas was the city budget director under Mayor Richard M. Daley in the early 90s. On Tuesday, he laid out his plan to foster community development across Chicago, prompting a war of words from the woman he wants to replace in City Hall.
Vallas called Chicago a city in crisis, and that he says calls for change. But he said before you can talk about how to help grow Chicago's economy and bring more people and businesses downtown, there's a more pressing issue: safety.
"In order to grow into a thriving future, our first priority must be to make Chicago safe for everyone," Vallas said.
The cornerstone of Vallas' economic plan is one that focuses on development in communities by groups and businesses based in them.
"We need to create independent community development authority composed of community based contractors and organizations that would drive economic development," Vallas said. "It would operate free of City Hall politics of the 5th floor and of aldermanic privilege."
Lightfoot's campaign responded that it sounds a lot like her signature economic plan, Invest South/West, which has pushed development in under-invested parts of the city.
Vallas fired back at Lightfoot, saying that's not so.
"Her Invest South/West plan is just kind of warmed over Rahm Emanuel with some one-off projects," Vallas said.
With a recent poll suggesting Vallas and Lightfoot are in a dead heat among the nine candidate in the mayor's race, Lightfoot recently made it clear she relishes the possibility of taking on Vallas in the runoff.
Vallas brushed that off.
"She needs to have an enemy. She needs to, to have a candidate that she thinks she can run against," Vallas said. "And regardless of that candidate's record, she's going to try to paint that candidate so that that candidates fits her narrative."
Vallas attributed his rise in the polls to his being out in the communities meeting with people at countless forums and focusing on issues instead of other candidates. He's not worried that low early voting numbers could mean that many people are still undecided in the mayor's race.