A crowd of newly-thrown mayoral candidates gathered for the first time on Saturday afternoon for conversations about issues affecting the city’s disabled community.
Seven nominees—Community activist Jamal Greene. Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. Rep. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago); former CEO of Chicago Public Schools Paul Ballas; Aldo. Sophia King (4th); U.S. Congressman Chui Garcia (D-Ill); and incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot for an almost cordial debate at the Access Living Forum in River North We sat in a row at a long table.
Garcia said he was “running on the smoke” as he flew to Chicago early Friday morning, just days after the vote that elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Cafe) as Speaker of the House.
Missing from the forum were two candidates, businessman Willie Wilson and Aldo. Both Roderick Sawyer (6th) failed to complete the questionnaires required to participate.
Lightfoot took the brunt of the criticism on the forums and quickly faced it.
“We need someone who can lead by communication, not by arguing,” King said in a barb directed at Lightfoot in his opening statement.
Responding to questions about how the city is serving residents with mental illness, Valas and Green both said mental health clinics in the south and west that were closed during Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s tenure were closed. I attacked Lightfoot for not restarting.
As a candidate, Lightfoot, who has promised to reopen clinics, supports her team’s strategy of providing “culturally appropriate” mental health care, which her administration has promoted across Chicago. Lightfoot also said the city’s budget has increased funding for mental health care, much of which is set aside as subsidies for local clinics.
“When we heard from the professionals, and we heard from the patients, they didn’t want the clinician care that our clinic provides,” Lightfoot said. What we wanted was a neighborhood, culturally relevant mental health service.”
Garcia suggested the city work with the county to combine mental health efforts and bring more resources to local clinics.
“You can’t just shut up and keep working,” Garcia said.
Reforming the criminal justice system proved to be a high-profile issue, and candidates found ways to differentiate themselves.
Lightfoot said that when she took office, “there were no resources” for those previously imprisoned, but claimed that the Reentry Council she created had made progress.
“It’s not just about hiring someone to head the office. [things],” Valas counterattacked Lightfoot. The former school principal said the city needed more educational and job training opportunities for those leaving prison.
Mr. Vallas has called for police to address citywide issues, including plans to set up mental health centers in city police stations and plans to fire the private security guards hired by the Lightfoot administration to patrol the CTA. said to use the resources of Instead, put cops on stations and trains.
Johnson said that Valas’ plan was a “failed approach” given past atrocities, and that Chicagoans with disabilities and the general public were confronted at the hands of police officers.
Johnson and Vallas, along with Greene and Buckner, were able to find common ground in wanting to fund the city’s program of clearing snow from sidewalks in the winter, what the city now calls “community’s shared responsibility.” Icy roads can be dangerous to navigate for residents with physical disabilities.
Lightfoot has secured federal grants to help Red Line and Purple Line modernization projects and Red Line expansion projects improve transit accessibility, and most recently to help pay for more improvements I advertised what I did.
Buckner promised to make the CTA “100% accessible” if elected.
” [Americans with Disabilities Act] It has to be the floor, not the ceiling,” Buckner said.
Closing out the forum, Andrés Galagos, moderator and president of the National Council on Disabilities, urged the audience to use what they say will help them make decisions at next month’s race. .
“Go out and vote like your life depends on it,” Galagos said.