Updated 01/26/11 – 6:06 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – As the candidates for mayor were waiting to find out if front-runner Rahm Emanuel will get to stay on the ballot, they were out talking Wednesday about their plans to fight crime in Chicago.
Former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico said Wednesday that he’ll hire 2,000 more police officers by the end of his first term if he’s elected — 500 officers every year — by cutting waste from the city budget.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports that Chico presented his public safety plan on Wednesday in the Chicago Lawn police district, which has one of the city’s highest crime rates. He also said he’d beef up the city’s anti-loitering ordinance and expand early childhood education programs.
“We want to make sure that we are giving everything we can and being as efficient as we can to bring police resources down to the distirct level and the community level,” Chico said. “Let’s say you’re gonna need $50 million next year. That’s less than 1 percent of the city budget next year. … If you don’t think i could find one percent in the city of Chicago budget to increase our police manpower, I don’t need to apply for this job.”
Chico’s plan was, by far, the most ambitious of the four top candidates running for mayor.
Emanuel has pledged to add 250 new officers, paid for with TIF funds — which Chico claims is illegal — and to cut administration costs and attack abuse of medical leave and absenteeism.
City Clerk Miguel del Valle wouldn’t commit to any specific numbers, although he also wants to beef up the police force.
“I am not, in order to gain their vote, going to lie to the voters and tell them that I, in my first year, am going to add all these police officers,” del Valle said. “I am going to tell the voters the truth and that is that it’s going to take time because we have a huge deficit in the city of Chicago.”
Carol Moseley Braun also has said she wants to put more cops on the street, but other than moving existing officers them from desk jobs, she doesn’t know where the money would come from.
All the candidates for mayor have said they wouldn’t renew the contract of Chicago Police Supt. Jody Weis, even though crime rates have dropped steadily under his command.
Weis has been under fire practically from his first day leading the department because of steps he took to reorganize command staff and because, as a former FBI agent with no police department experience, he’s seen as an outsider by rank-and-file cops.
But the elephant in the room, where Emanuel was meeting with veterans today, was the impending Supreme Court decision in his residency case.
The Illinois Appellate Court has ruled he doesn’t meet the one-year residency requirement to be mayor and said he should be kicked off the ballot. But the Supreme Court has issued a stay to keep Emanuel on the ballot for now while it reviews his case.
Emanuel played down the stress of the waiting game on Wednesday.
“It’s not difficult. Look at these people sitting here, they have faced harrowing situations,” Emanuel said at an event with military veterans. “What I’m facing … pales in comparison to what they’re facing. Obviously i would like certainty, not only for myself, but for the city.”
There has been no official word from the Supreme Court as of Wednesday evening, but Justice Anne Burke’s presence here in Chicago at an unrelated charity event seemed to indicate they are not meeting face to face, but by phone. A decision, perhaps in the form of a simple order, is expected any time.
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