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Mayoral candidates’ rhetoric on gun violence, other issues needs close scrutiny

Crime scene in the 5700 block of South Winchester in Chicago

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

This year there’s no point in looking in the rear view mirror.

And with 18 people still on the ballot, we’re no longer talking about a mayoral race. We are talking mayoral marathon.

As with any political campaign, you’re going to hear some bold promises. It will be more important than ever to listen to what the candidates are proposing.

Now is not the time for pie-in-the-sky.

OPINION

Chicago has some huge problems, beginning with a $276 million pension payment due in 2020; festering inequities in the public school system; disinvestment on the city’s West Side and South Side, and last, but not least, a criminal element that grows bolder by the day.

When two men can snatch a woman off the street in Brighton Park, drive to an alley and sexually assault her without being seen by anyone, then throw the woman out of the car and drive off, no one should feel safe in any neighborhood.

Police described one of the assailants as a 250-pound black man with a “pot belly.”

And while we have heard of cases where a woman lied about the race of an alleged rapist, the police haven’t canceled this alert.

As a mother, a grandmother, and a citizen, I’m worried — so worried that I would like to see girls being taught self-defense in gym classes at all public schools.

And then there is the proliferation of guns.

The Chicago Police Department announced that it is on track to have taken a total of 9,500 illegal guns off the streets by year’s end.

So far this year, 4,249 people have been arrested on gun-related charges.

But in many cases, these people are back on the street before the paperwork is completed.

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks at a news conference following a violent weekend in which 71 people were shot. | Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times

Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson, with Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, speaks at a news conference. Some candidates for mayor already have said Johnson will be out if they are elected. | Colin Boyle/Chicago Sun-Times

A recent editorial about where the candidates stand when it comes to gun offenders getting more time shows a divide in their views on punishment.

For instance, the candidates favoring tougher sentencing were Bob Fioretti, John Kenneth Kozlar, Paul Vallas, Bill Daley and Gery Chico.

The candidates outright rejecting the idea that longer sentencing would reduce gun crimes: Amara Enyia, Neal Sales-Griffin and Toni Preckwinkle.

Preckwinkle, an early champion of criminal justice reform, said “unless we are willing to engage in cruel and unusual punishment by locking folks up for 15 or 10 year for mere gun possession, longer sentences won’t prevent recidivism.”

Enyia said she’s had conversations with young men “who have stated that they would rather take the risk of being picked up by law enforcement for carrying a gun for safety reasons than risk being without protection in dangerous neighborhoods.”

That’s easy to say when you’re looking at probation.

And, you have to wonder why a law-abiding person couldn’t get a FOID card or a concealed-carry permit so they can legally protect themselves.

Other candidates, — Willie Wilson, Susana Mendoza, Dorothy Brown and Jerry Joyce — appeared to have a foot on both sides of the debate.

But the most disingenuous solution to surface so far is the call to fire Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson.

Chico claims there are “too many questions swirling around” Johnson, while Preckwinkle argues that Johnson has to go because he “refused to acknowledge that there was a code of silence in the Police Department.”

That’s just showboating.

Johnson, who managed to hang on through strident calls for reform and through his own health challenges, will be out because that’s the way it’s been done in the past.

And every mayor wants to choose his or her own police superintendent because ultimately it is the mayor who is held accountable when things go wrong.

Mayor Richard M. Daley forced out former Supt. Philip Cline after a public uproar over Cline’s inaction when videos surfaced showing police officers beating civilians.

When Emanuel was elected, he made it clear that Cline’s replacement, Jody Weis, had to go. Emanuel appointed Garry McCarthy in 2011, but fired him in the midst of the uproar over the Laquan McDonald police-shooting.

Emanuel was so determined to choose his own police superintendent, he bucked the recruitment process to appoint Johnson — who hadn’t even applied.

As Ja’Mal Green points out, promising to fire Johnson is a “political move for everyone to get cool points.”

So don’t even go there.

Tell us something we don’t know.