What mayoral candidates agree on — and what voters want from the next mayor

The candidates don’t agree on much, but they all agree on ending cash bond. Meanwhile, a poll shows crime, taxes and schools are top priorities. And what about arts and culture?

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From left, Chicago mayoral candidates Ja’Mal Green, Ald. Sophia King (4th), Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner, Willie Wilson, Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Paul Vallas, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), and Rep. Jesús ‘Chuy’ García prepare for a Mayoral Forum at NBC 5 studios on Feb. 13 in the Peacock Tower.

From left, Chicago mayoral candidates Ja’Mal Green, Ald. Sophia King (4th), Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner, Willie Wilson, Cook County Board Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Paul Vallas, incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), and Rep. Jesús ‘Chuy’ García prepare for a Mayoral Forum at NBC 5 studios on Feb. 13 in the Peacock Tower.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times

At a recent Chicago mayoral forum aired on NBC 5, all nine candidates faced off on a range of issues, including the city’s ongoing public safety challenges. In what was a heated debate, divisiveness appeared to settle when the topic veered toward the recently passed Pretrial Fairness Act and its elimination of money bond.

Passed in 2021, the Pretrial Fairness Act proposes historic changes to Illinois’ pretrial system to eliminate wealth-based jailing and curb growing jail populations.

While this transformative law represents the culmination of years of thoughtfully executed research and advocacy inclusive of those harmed by mass incarceration as well as crime victims and domestic violence survivors, a lawsuit filed by several state’s attorneys temporarily halted the law from taking effect.

Most of those incarcerated statewide are being held pretrial simply because they cannot afford to pay their way out, and the overwhelming majority of them are Black.

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The Illinois Supreme Court will rule on the lawsuit. At the mayoral forum, we saw a fair degree of consensus among all nine candidates that jailing people based on the size of their bank account is unfair, racist and outdated,

Perhaps even more importantly, we observed the candidates make the same argument that has been demonstrated by research: Money bond does not make us safer. Attaching a price tag to freedom causes employment loss, housing loss, family disruption and a cycle of poverty and future incarceration.

While coverage of the ongoing lawsuit may seem to cast doubt on our state’s desire to embrace meaningful pretrial change, the shared attitude toward abolishing money bond displayed by Chicago’s mayoral candidates mirrors the democratic collaboration used to pass the law and reveals the lawsuit as desperate and anti-democratic.

Kareem Butler, pretrial justice fellow, Chicago Appleseed Center for Fair Courts

Voters to next mayor: Fix crime, taxes, schools

New polling shows most Chicagoans want to stay in our city. City leaders must make remaining in this magnificent city an easier choice.

A recent poll by Echelon Insights in partnership with my organization, the Illinois Policy Institute, shows crime (71%) and high taxes (27%) at the top of the list when it comes to what needs fixing here.

The polling results make sense considering Chicago’s murder rate is higher than those of big cities such as New York and Los Angeles, and carjackings here have soared during the past three years.

Polling shows a majority (51%) of Chicagoans favor tackling crime by putting more police officers on the streets and ensuring prosecution of offenders, while 45% of Chicagoans would rather leaders focused on underlying causes, such as joblessness and poverty.

Chicagoans also feel the pinch from taxes. During the past 10 years, the Chicago property tax levy doubled. Between 2020 and 2021, tax bills shot up $472 for the average homeowner in some neighborhoods. A citywide property tax freeze had the support of 69% of respondents to the Institute’s poll. There’s one popular solution to our housing affordability problems.

Also a priority? Our schools. Just 33% of Chicagoans were satisfied with public education in Chicago. We agree this is an issue that needs addressing, especially given the startling statistics coming out of Chicago Public Schools. Nearly 80% of Chicago 11th-graders could not read or perform math at grade level, according to state data from 2022. Meanwhile, nearly half of CPS students were chronically absent during the 2021-2022 school year.

The poll also found 62% of Chicagoans support school choice, with 65% of Chicagoans supporting Invest in Kids, a state tax credit scholarship program that gives low-income students access to scholarship funds that allow them to pursue the education that best fits their needs. In 2023, lawmakers will have a chance to make this popular program permanent. If they don’t, it goes away.

Chicago voters have nine choices for mayor on the ballot. Whoever advances to the runoff should pay attention to what Chicagoans are very clearly telling them: Enough with the politics, it’s time to get to work so Chicago can thrive again.

Amy Korte, executive vice president, Illinois Policy Institute

Weigh in on culture and arts

Discussion about culture in Chicago is conspicuously missing from the race for mayor.

Culture must take a back seat to debate on urgent issues, including crime, the economy and infrastructure. But it should not be ignored.

Culture and the arts are more than just baubles. They weigh heavily on livability and the city’s capacity to attract visitors, business and conventions.

For all his faults, former Mayor Richard M. Daley scored a couple of big accomplishments with the opening of Millennium Park over an abandoned rail trench downtown in 2004 and the Cows on Parade exhibition in 1999.

Not all ideas succeed, as the disappointing Great Chicago Fire Festival in 2014 attests.

I would like to hear candidates’ ideas about their near- and long-term vision to enhance Chicago culturally.

Craig Barner, Lincoln Square

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