Chicago mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson highlighted their campaign strategies Thursday evening in a contentious debate where they were given the opportunity to ask one another a question.
Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, went first, asking Vallas to disavow a group of demonstrators who crashed one of his campaign events that morning.
Vallas, a former Chicago Public Schools CEO, did not acknowledge the event and instead said “supporters on both sides” have caused a ruckus during a “rough-and-tumble campaign” in Chicago.
“I really don’t know quite what he’s talking about,” Vallas said. “At the UIC pavilion, I continually was interrupted, particularly my closing comments, and I’ve said nothing about that.”
Johnson in his rebuttal indirectly compared the disruption with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol two years ago — an attempt to paint Vallas as an extremist.
“We know there are a lot of people who are animated, but we also know that Jan. 6 was a brutal day for this country,” Johnson said.
Vallas then used his turn to ask Johnson about his past support for the “defund the police” movement and his plans to raise taxes such as the hotel tax.
“Now, first of all, Paul, I’m not going to defund the police, and you know that,” Johnson said. “… You can’t run a multibillion dollar budget off of bake sales. … You refuse to offer any real budget plans of how we’re going to generate revenue to save lives.”
Vallas scoffed and said, “I’m basically debating with someone who never managed a budget … So please don’t lecture on managing multibillion dollar budgets.”
The hourlong debate, moderated by ABC-7 anchor Judy Hsu, was the latest forum in which the candidates argued about schools, crime, and economic development.
Vallas and Johnson also argued over the shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vallas attacked Johnson over the Chicago Teachers Union’s refusal to teach in person.
The exchange started after Vallas blamed juvenile crime spikes on closed schools. He said schools should remain open evenings and summers and have work-study programs.
Johnson, meanwhile, accused Vallas of creating policies in the 1990s that later led to school closings under ex-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“What has failed us is the politics of old,” Johnson said. “My opponent talks about school closures. Well, he set up the market for schools to be closed. He got so good at it, he went around the country doing it.”
Johnson then argued there is a link between violence and neighborhoods that faced school closures or privatization. To that, Vallas said his opponent is the one who should be to blame for any classroom shutdowns.
“The only one up here who has closed schools is my opponent,” Vallas said, before touting new schools built and rising CPS enrollment when he led the school district. “… Have you ever been to New Orleans? Have you ever seen New Orleans after Katrina? Eighty percent of the schools were destroyed.”
“I had rebuilt this school district out of nothing, from scratch,” Vallas continued. “Every single child is in either a brand-new school or a completely renovated public school governed by local community boards. … And that school district led the state for seven consecutive years after Katrina.”
Johnson retorted that there was a “100-year pandemic” and said: “I have been to New Orleans. And I’m going to take a vacation there once I become mayor of the city of Chicago. … People from New Orleans actually came here to Chicago today, Paul, to talk about your failures,” a reference to a news conference Johnson held earlier Thursday with parents from school districts Vallas previously led.
On crime, Vallas and Johnson argued over law enforcement resources and Johnson’s past remarks in support of defunding the police.
Johnson said he would hire 200 detectives, implement the consent decree and force red flag laws for individuals with guns while also spending money on violence prevention investments. Meanwhile, Vallas said the city needs to put police officers on CTA platforms and get cops across the city out in their beats and patrolling the streets.
“The bottom line is my opponent wants to defund the police,” Vallas said in the first negative attack of the night. “He doesn’t want to fill the (1,500) vacancies. He does not want to bring back retired officers. … You’ve got to fill the ranks. You’ve got to fill those vacancies and you’ve got to deploy the police into the community so that there are officers there to respond when those 911 calls are made.”
Johnson responded: “First of all, I’m not going to defund the police. I never said it.” That was misleading, however, as Johnson was a vocal supporter of redirecting money from police budgets starting in 2020 but has since backed away from that position during the mayoral race.
Asked to speak on how to keep neighborhoods like Little Village safe, Johnson and Vallas again disagreed over their policing plans. Johnson knocked Vallas for criticizing his plan to promote 200 cops to detectives and said, “Paul doesn’t believe that hiring people to solve crime solves crime. That doesn’t make sense. For these small vendors, know that you will have somebody that’s willing to listen, to actually help come up and devise a plan that the community can get around.”
Vallas replied that his plan to attract more Chicago police recruits is a better strategy and that once he restores “morale,” old cops will return.
“Now, if you want to protect the vendors, you have to have patrol,” Vallas said, adding that he’d held a forum in his office with vendors who said they were afraid “there are no consequences for them being intimidated or threatened, and that when they call,” it can take “two to three hours for the police to respond.”
Each candidate also again promised not to raise property taxes, with Johnson defending his plan for a bundle of levies by saying that Democrats believe in raising taxes on the rich. Then he blamed Vallas for the city’s structural deficit.
“I’m surprised he’s not criticizing me for being behind the grassy knoll in Dallas,” Vallas remarked before moving on to attack Johnson on finances. “You are not going to promote business by raising the head tax.”
After arguing that Johnson’s plans for adding a $4-per-employee tax on Chicago companies, raising the hotel tax and more are not “tax the rich” ideas, Vallas ended by saying: “If you knew something about budgets, you would know that the first priority is to assess and evaluate how those budgets can be spent more effectively.”
Johnson responded: “Look, I’ve passed multibillion budgets. You clearly don’t know much about budgets, because everywhere you go you’ve failed.” Then he defended one of the proposals — raising the hotel tax — by harkening back to his father.
“We’re talking about $1 per room,” Johnson said. “I was raised in the Eighties. My father is as frugal as they come. Even Dad can find $1, right?”
Source : https://www.chicagotribune.com/politics/elections/ct-chicago-mayor-race-brandon-johnson-paul-vallas-abc7-debate-20230317-yrcebvmg7vd5va2dtj6bknk7wm-story.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/