CHICAGO—February 28 is Chicago’s mayoral election, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot has intentions to remain in that seat, all while eight candidates are vying to replace her.
Mayor Lightfoot is the first Black woman and the second woman after Jane Byrne to hold the city’s top position. There have been several community forums hosting the various candidates, providing them an opportunity to explain to residents why they should be the next mayor of the “Windy City.”
On January 26 a few of the mayoral candidates convened on Chicago’s West Side at New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, for a community forum hosted by the grassroots organization, The People’s Unity Coalition, to state their views on issues such as: housing, education, air and environmental quality, community safety, and worker’s rights.
Mayoral candidates in attendance inside the packed church were Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Illinois State Representative Kam Buckner, community activist Ja’mal Green, and former Chicago Public Schools Chief Paul Vallas. Not in attendance were Mayor Lightfoot, Ald. Sophia King, U.S. Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and businessman Willie Wilson.
“If we can spend $170 million on a police academy, $170 million, then we can make sure that we can open up the mental health facilities in the city of Chicago,” Ja’mal Green stated. “We can make sure that we stand on the side of the mothers who lose their kids to gun violence in the city of Chicago and give them housing and mental health care. We’re going to reopen those centers and they’re going to be public health centers so that we can have control over the public health in the city of Chicago,” the young activist and leader added. Green was referencing the new state-of-the-art police and fire academy newly opened on the city’s West Side.
“We need to restore social services and we need opioid and drug addiction centers. These centers need to be public, and they need to be owned and operated by the community,” stated Paul Vallas.
Brandon Johnson also addressed the challenges of providing adequate facilities to address these needs facing Chicago. “Mental health facilities must be opened and publicly funded with good paying union jobs. Under my administration, mental health facilities will be reopened,” he said.
Throughout the forum, the crowd cheered enthusiastically for each candidate, especially on the subjects of mental health and community safety.
“I want to say that the city of Chicago needs to have a fully funded and fully staffed Department of Environment, that is one of the things that we must do. It is so important that these neighborhoods have clean air. My administration is going to build public grocery stores, we are going to have access to fresh produce,” said Ja’mal Green.
All the candidates proposed implementing a “green” Chicago under their administration to combat environmental racism. Each candidate also laid out plans to raise living wages for rideshare drivers, to address the extremely low pay rate drivers currently earn.
—Shawntell Muhammad, Contributing Writer