Guv candidates address social issues at Trinity’s public meeting honoring MLK

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Illinois Sen. Daniel Bliss and Rep. Litesa Wallace (center) at the 2018 King Day Commemoration and Public Meeting at the Trinity United Church of Christ, on Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Candidates for governor took pledges to end cash bail, enact a progressive income tax and establish an elected Chicago school board amid a public meeting held Sunday in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

State Sen. Daniel Biss, Madison County Schools Supt. Bob Daiber and former CeaseFire director Tio Hardiman appeared at Trinity United Church of Christ in Washington Heights for its King Day 2018 Commemoration and Public Meeting.

Organizers held the meeting, with a strict agenda, to address social issues like poverty and criminal justice reform in King’s memory. Speakers advocated for a commuter tax and against a planned $95 million public safety training campus.

Over the discourse hovered reports that President Donald Trump referred last week to certain nations as “shithole countries” and complained that, “we don’t need more Haitians.” The Rev. Otis Moss III, the pastor at Trinity United, was among those who responded Sunday.

“There are people that have been possessed by confederate rhetoric that are always offering ignorance, whether they are in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or whether they are living downstate,” Moss said. “And so, let me break a few things down: My name is Otis Moss, and I am proud to be a part of a city named Chicago that was founded by a Haitian by the name of Jean DuSable.”

However, the meeting was also an opportunity, weeks before the primary election, for Democrats like Biss, Hardiman and Daiber to get their message out. Each was allowed to speak after agreeing with the group’s agenda items.

They did so despite strict prohibitions against “electioneering.”

“I’m not even going to speak about my run for governor,” Hardiman began. “I’ll speak about my work as a community activist. How I’ve been standing up on the different causes here throughout Chicago forever.”

Hardiman went on to say, “We are not going to stop the killings in Chicago until black men unify all together.”

Biss, who lives in Evanston, joined the calls for an elected school board in Chicago.

“The public school district that my two children go to has democracy,” Biss said. “Here’s how it works: They close our schools, we vote them out. They hurt our children, we vote them out. They enact racist policies, we vote them out. They cut our services, we vote them out.”

Daiber, from downstate Marine, pointed to his own credentials in education when it was his turn to speak.

“I will also tell you this as a teacher and a mentor to many young people who have been incarcerated — their pathway to success in society is by someone giving them a hand up, not a hand down,” Daiber said.

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