Chicago mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson highlighted their campaign strategies in a controversial debate Thursday evening where they were given the opportunity to ask each other questions.
Johnson, a Cook County commissioner, went first, asking Vallas to dissuade a group of protesters who had crashed one of his campaign events that morning.
Wallace, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, did not acknowledge the incident and instead said that “supporters of both parties” created a ruckus during a “rough campaign” in Chicago.
“I really don’t know what he’s talking about,” Vallas said. “At the UIC pavilion, I was constantly interrupted, especially during my closing remarks, and I didn’t say anything about it.”
In his rebuttal, Johnson indirectly compared the disruption with the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol two years earlier – an attempt to portray Vallas as an extremist.
Johnson said, “We know there are many people who are excited, but we also know that January 6th was a brutal day for this country.”
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 give money to the police, and you know that,” Johnson said. “… you cannot run a multimillion dollar budget off bake sales. … You refuse to offer any real budget plan for how we are going to generate revenue to save lives.
Vallas scoffed and said, “I’m basically arguing with someone who’s never managed a budget… So please don’t lecture on managing billion-dollar budgets.”
The hour-long 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 changes to distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wallace personally attacked Johnson over the Chicago teachers’ union’s refusal to teach.
The exchange began when Vallas blamed juvenile crime spikes on closed schools. He said that schools should remain open in the evenings and summer and have work-study programs.
Meanwhile, Johnson accused Vallas of making policies in the 1990s that later led to school closures under ex-mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Johnson said, “The thing that has failed us is old politics.” “My opponent talks about closing schools. Well, he marketed to close the schools. He got so good at it, he traveled around the country doing it.
Johnson then argued that there is a link between violence and neighborhoods that face school closures or privatization. To this, Vallas said that his opponent is the one who should be blamed for any class shutdown.
“The only one here that has closed schools is my opponent,” Vallas said before talking about building new schools and increasing CPS enrollment while leading 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.”
Vallas continued, “I rebuilt this school district from scratch, from scratch.” “Every single child is in either a new school or a completely renovated public school governed by local community boards. … And that school district led the state seven years in a row after Katrina.
Johnson retorted that there was a “100-year pandemic” and said: “I’ve been to New Orleans. And I’m going to vacation there after I become mayor of the city of Chicago. … The people of New Orleans are really the people of Chicago today.” Came here to talk about your failures,” Johnson said, referencing a news conference earlier Thursday that was led by parents of Vallas school districts.
On crime, Vallas and Johnson argued over law enforcement resources and Johnson’s previous comments in support of defunding the police.
Johnson said he would hire 200 detectives, enforce consent decrees and enforce red flag laws for persons with guns, while spending the money on violence prevention investments. Meanwhile, Vallas said the city needs to put police officers on CTA platforms and police across the city to patrol their beats and streets.
“The bottom line is that my opponent wants to discredit the police,” Vallas said in his first negative attack of the night. “They don’t want to fill (1,500) vacancies. He does not want to bring back retired officers. … You have to fill the ranks. You have to fill those vacancies and you have to deploy police to the community so that there are officers there to respond to 911 calls.
Johnson replied: “First, I’m not going to defund the police. I never said that. However, this was misleading, as Johnson was a vocal supporter of redirecting funds from the police budget starting in 2020, but It has since retreated from that position during the mayoral race.
When asked to speak about keeping neighborhoods like Little Village safe, Johnson and Vallas again disagreed on their policing plans. Johnson knocks Vallas for criticizing his plan to promote 200 cops to detectives, saying, “Paul doesn’t believe that hiring people to solve crime solves crime. It doesn’t make any sense.” For these small sellers, know that you will have someone who is willing to listen, to genuinely help, and to lay out a plan that the community can meet.
Vallas responded that his plan to attract more Chicago police recruits was a better strategy and that once he restored “morale”, the old police would return.
“Now, if you want to protect the vendors, you have to patrol,” Vallas said, adding that he held a forum in his office with vendors who said they were afraid “to intimidate or intimidate them.” has no consequence.” , and that when they do call, “it can take two to three hours for the police to respond.”
Each candidate pledged not to raise property taxes again, with Johnson defending his plan for a bundle of levies, saying that Democrats believe in raising taxes on the wealthy. He then 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 attacking Johnson over finances. “You’re not going to boost business by raising the head tax.”
After arguing that Johnson’s ideas of adding a $4-per-employee tax on Chicago companies, raising the hotel tax and more “taxing the rich” are not, Vallas ended by saying: “If you look at the budget If you know anything, you would know that the first priority is to assess and evaluate how those budgets can be spent more effectively.
Johnson replied: “Look, I’ve passed the multibillion budget. You clearly don’t know much about budgets, because everywhere you’ve failed.” He then defends a proposal – raising the hotel tax – by upsetting his father back.
“We’re talking about $1 per room,” Johnson said. “I was brought up in the eighties. My father is as frugal as they come. Even Dad can have $1, right?”