The candidates for mayor of Chicago all met on one stage for the first time on Wednesday night, at a forum sponsored by the Chicago Defender. At the DuSable Museum of African-American History on the city's South Side, the candidates spoke to a crowd of 500 people. Due to a scheduling conflict with an LGBT mayoral forum that was scheduled just before the debate at the DuSable Museum, the candidates had to scramble to make both events. The Chicago Defender forum was supposed to take place last week, but was rescheduled because of the blizzard.
With less than two weeks until the first round of voting, and Rahm Emanuel leading in a recent poll, the former White House chief-of-staff took shots from all directions. Perpetual candidate William "Dock" Walls pointed to Emanuel's time in Washington -- and absence from Chicago. "Mr. Emanuel, when you were chief of staff, we had children dying in the streets of the city of Chicago," he said. Carol Moseley Braun criticized Emanuel's record in Washington. After the debate, she faulted Emanuel for holding down President Barack Obama, saying that as chief of staff he "spent two years dragging his poll numbers to the ground, damaging the president’s agenda, a lot of people in Washington think so."
Gery Chico continued his criticism of Emanuel's tax plan and his proposal to cut pensions. Chico said, "I will not tax people. I am not going to expand under the guise of a tax swap the very largest tax increase we’ve seen." And Miguel del Valle pointed out the campaign war chest Emanuel has accumulated, suggesting that he is buying the office.
The most raucous moment came as the candidates answered questions about reparations for slavery. All six agreed that African-Americans at entitled to reparations, but Emanuel's proposal that the funds be used for economic development drew the ire of Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins. "Fifty-five percent of adult black males in the city of Chicago have felony records, meaning they can’t work, they can’t get public housing,”she said. “It’s a cycle that keeps us in a state of poverty. Let’s stop acting like black folks are the only ones who commit crimes." Watch the exchange here.