CHICAGO (CBS/WBBM) — The four principal mayoral candidates squared off in their first televised debate Monday night, with a focus on education.
The debate between Gery Chico, Miguel Del Valle, Rahm Emanuel and Carol Moseley Braun was held at WTTW-Channel 11, 5400 N. St. Louis Ave. Moderators Phil Ponce and Carol Marin handed off the microphone to several participants in a room full of Chicago Public Schools students.
LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mary Frances Bragiel reports
The first student to question the panel, whose mother is a veteran Chicago Police officer, asked the candidates how they would prevent violence among the city’s youth.
“The police are an important part of fighting crime, and they give a level of security and safety. That’s why I believe in adding 1,000 additional police officers on the street,” Emanuel replied. “But while you have to put more police on the street, the truth is you’ve got to get guns and drugs off the street.” He called for a push for better after-school activities.
Braun largely agreed with the answer: “I think that we’ve gotten away from the wisdom that said law enforcement is not just top down, it’s bottom up as well. Communities have to be involved with law enforcement.”
Another student said in his Morgan Park neighborhood that he is more often a victim of police harassment than police protection, and asked how the candidates would improve relations between police and the community.
Answered Chico: “It’s about recruitment. We have to make sure that the people coming into the Police Department are recruited appropriately. We need judgment in our police officers. The first thing that any police officer is going to do – it’s an extraordinary amount of power that they have – is have the ability to arrest people. We have to make sure that the persons that we are recruiting are of ample age and training so that when they encounter a citizen, they use judgment to do the right thing.”
Del Valle also weighed in on the question: “I think the Police Department should be reflective of the community it serves, which means that the force should look like the neighborhoods – people who have grown up in the community who have decided to go into law enforcement and can work in that community, and have ties to the community.”
The candidates also answered questions about school reform, the selection process for a chief executive at the Chicago Public Schools, bullying, and even recycling.
After the debate, some students weighed in. One student, Joshua Escobare, said he did not leave the forum very impressed.
“It is basically the same things over and over again, because I’ve seen the commercials, I’ve heard stuff on the radio about this, and they’re just repeating what they said,” Escobare said.
Another student, Taylor Brown, believed the responses were lacking.
“We’re just still getting the same basic numbers that they’re going to give – like even the police officers, ‘We want 1,000 new police officers,’ OK, these are all on-paper points,” she said.
The candidates ignored the criticism saying the students asked good questions about topics that everyone is talking about.