Mayor Rahm Emanuel had pulled out of Wednesday’s mayoral forum at Chicago State University, but then apparently did an about-face, according to the South Side college,
Emanuel campaign spokesperson Steve Mayberry denied the mayor pulled out, saying Emanuel had never committed to the proposed forum, due to a scheduling conflict which his campaign had shared earlier in the month with CSU.
It was as a result of the misunderstanding with an African-American Studies professor spearheading the event expected to draw a predominantly black audience that the mayor on Wednesday shortened his stay at another event in order to participate, Mayberry said.
On Wednesday morning, Chicago State had issued a press release informing the public that the long-planned forum with Emanuel and mayoral challenger Jesus “Chuy” Garcia was to be held without the mayor’s previously confirmed participation.
“In an effort to give both students and voters in neighboring communities an opportunity to have their voices heard in the electoral process, CSU invited both Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia to a Mayoral Forum. Commissioner Garcia has agreed to participate, however, we were recently informed that Mayor Emanuel has chosen not to attend the forum,” the university said.
“On behalf of the CSU community, we feel Mayor Emanuel is missing an important opportunity to address the needs and concerns of a community that is often underrepresented and underserved,” the university added.
The morning announcement led to the issue being hotly debated on black-owned radio station WVON, where callers and talk-show hosts expressed outrage, characterizing the alleged pull-out as a show of disrespect to the black community. The mayor’s non-participation became immediate fodder for social media stories and postings.
And by early afternoon, Chicago State issued a new press release announcing a change of events.
“Chicago State University is pleased to announce that both mayoral candidates will be in attendance for a candidate forum tonight,” the new statement read. “We are very thankful to both Mayor Emanuel and Commissioner Garcia for making themselves available to the students and community members of CSU. We look forward to an informative and substantive forum.”
Reached later, CSU Professor Kelly Harris sheepishly admitted he never received written confirmation from the Emanuel campaign, but said he was led to believe he had a commitment after the campaign’s initial email expressing interest, and subsequent phone conversations with the campaign negotiating changes to the format.
Regardless, Emanuel was not going to allow stand a “false” impression that he had pulled out of a black community event, Mayberry said.
“The mayor is looking forward to participating in a community discussion at Chicago State University and the campaign is doing everything possible to get him there tonight despite some long-standing commitments,” Mayberry said.
The debate, moderated by ABC-7 Political Reporter Charles Thomas, will be held at 6 p.m. at the university’s Jones Convocation Center.