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Preckwinkle, Lightfoot listen to black community concerns at DuSable forum

Toni Preckwinkle (left) and Lori Lightfoot (right) listen to questions at the AARP/Chicago Sun-Times community forum Wednesday in Hyde Park. | Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Toni Preckwinkle and Lori Lightfoot listened to Chicagoans on Wednesday evening as they discussed issues important to the city’s black communities at a lively forum ahead of next month’s mayoral runoff election.

The two candidates showed up in the latter half of the event and spoke to hundreds in the primarily black audience at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Hyde Park.

Preckwinkle addressed the Chicago Police Department’s relationship with black residents, which was a heated topic earlier in the forum.

“It’s really important that we work collaboratively with police,” Preckwinkle said. “Many of them are good, decent people who struggle every day to do a difficult job well . . . We haven’t invested enough in supervision and training of our officers, and we also haven’t held our police officers accountable.”

Lightfoot said the city “must do better” in developing its neighborhoods and providing economic opportunities on the South and West sides.

“When we have a city where 25 percent unemployment is routine in neighborhoods across the South and West sides,” Lightfoot said, “where we have so many African-American children living in poverty, and neighborhood after neighborhood where the vast majority of people have to depend on government assistance to be able to survive every day, I know that we can and we must do better.”

Preckwinkle and Lightfoot’s short speeches followed a forum that featured questions from audience members, who raised topics ranging from the candidates’ outreach to black residents, to men’s support of women candidates and the police department’s relationship with black residents.

The forum — hosted by AARP and the Chicago Sun-Times — was moderated by Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco and included four panelists: Sun-Times columnists Mary Mitchell and Mark Brown, WVON-AM 1690 host Maze Jackson and AARP Illinois State President Rosanna Marquez.