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Mayoral Candidates Spar Over Reparations

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Mayoral Debate

The six candidates for mayor debate at the DuSable Museum of African-American History. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – All six candidates for Chicago mayor went head-to-head Wednesday night at a debate at the DuSable Museum of African-American history.

At the debate, the candidates – Rahm Emanuel, Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins and William “Dock” Walls – discussed job creation, budget deficits and whether they support reparations for descendants of slaves.

They all supported the notion of reparations but had different ideas about what reparations were, gave no details about who would pay them or where the money might come from. The forum was sponsored by the Chicago Defender, the city’s historic black newspaper.

Braun said she always has supported reparations. Chico said he would support them too but said he hoped any money could be used to help children augment their education. He also talked about money to help develop community businesses.

Emanuel said he would support reparations but with a cautionary note. “I think we have to be honest and frank with ourselves,” he said, adding that the city has serious budget problems to solve and that means tough choices about investing in areas of economic growth.

Watkins lashed out at Emanuel for talk about budget deficits when discussing reparations.

“When I hear Rahm Emanuel talk about a budget deficit when he talks about reparations to me that’s offensive,” she said to some cheers from the audience at a South Side museum.

“This country was built on our backs; the backs of our ancestors. They bled, they died, they came in chains, and they died in pain,” Watkins continued. “So don’t talk to me about budget deficits right now.”

On reparations, City Clerk Miguel del Valle said he believes in economic development and wants a federally-funded youth employment program, something he considers a reparation.

Candidate William Walls said reparations need to be money given to African-Americans. He dismissed the idea of educational reparations in part because some people are older and no longer go to school.

Economic issues were also a major theme.

“We have a budget deficit that also needs to be addressed, and that means making sure, though, as we make the tough decision, that we’re investing in the areas that are going to lead to economic growth,” Emanuel said.

“Too many of our neighborhoods are missing out on the action, and this has been going on for decades,” Chico said. “We’ve been driving by vacant lots; vacant stores. This has got to stop.”

Braun said in addressing the budget deficit, the action cannot be limited to cuts.

“We have to have growth. You can’t just cut your way to eliminate the deficit. You have to grow the economy, and that means in the neighborhoods,” she said.

Added Del Valle: “We are going to treat our neighborhoods the way we treat our downtown area – an opportunity to build those bridges between communities.”

Emanuel, who has led the other five candidates in the polls and in fundraising, was a frequent target of the criticism during the debate. The candidates are competing in the Feb. 22 election to replace the retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley. A candidate needs 50 percent of the vote plus one vote to win the election outright and avoid an April runoff.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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