Note: This is the first in our series of three mayoral candidate forums.
• Recap: 4 Candidates for Mayor Address Crime, Finances, Housing in 1st Forum
• Bonus video: Candidates participate in a post-forum press conference
• Second forum: Paul Vallas, Willie Wilson, Toni Preckwinkle, Bill Daley and Susana Mendoza
• Third forum: Garry McCarthy, Gery Chico, Amara Enyia, La Shawn K. Ford and Lori Lightfoot
In less than two weeks, 14 candidates will appear on the ballot for mayor of Chicago. The issues they face are daunting and seemingly endless, from perilous municipal finances to a stubborn crime problem to ethics reform to infrastructure needs – as evidenced by this week’s cracked bridge on Lake Shore Drive.
This is not a traditional debate: There are no opening or closing remarks. Each candidate will not necessarily get the same questions. And while answers are not timed, our moderator may interrupt at times in an effort to cover as much ground as possible.
Joining us, in ballot order:
Jerry Joyce is a small business owner and an attorney with Bizzieri Law Offices. He’s a lifelong resident of Beverly, where he currently resides with his wife of 19 years, Jannine, and four children. Joyce’s father, Jeremiah Joyce, is a former 19th Ward alderman and state senator, and his brother Kevin Joyce is a former state representative. In his candidate statement for the WTTW’s Voters’ Guide, Joyce said: “The most pressing issue facing Chicagoans is their lack of confidence in the competence of those charged with the responsibility of leading our city and solving our problems. I would solve this by leading a transparent, accountable administration that is responsive to the voices of those living in our more than 200 neighborhoods.”
Neal Sáles-Griffin, born and raised in Kenwood, is the CEO of CodeNow, a national nonprofit that teaches coding and technology skills to young people. He previously co-founded the coding bootcamp The Starter League, which has worked with Chicago Public Schools and the City Colleges of Chicago, and which he later sold. He’s also an adjunct professor at Northwestern University and a faculty coach with University of Chicago. In an interview on “Chicago Tonight,” Sales-Griffin said he was inspired to run for mayor of Chicago, as opposed to smaller political office, after he lost family members to gun violence and because of the lack of educational opportunities in Chicago. “You get to a point where you realize the problem cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that helped perpetuate it or create it,” he said. “I didn’t start with mayor, but once I broke down the system and how it worked, I realized that we had to implement true reforms in order to transform Chicago into a more trusting government.”
Bob Fioretti is a civil rights attorney and former 2nd Ward alderman. He has run for several offices over the last 10 years, including for mayor (he challenged Mayor Rahm Emanuel four years ago). According to his campaign website, Fioretti was born and raised on Chicago’s South Side and now lives in the West Loop with his wife, Nikki. In his candidate statement for the WTTW’s Voters’ Guide, he said: “In the short term, Chicago’s epidemic of violent crime has residents in every part of the city of edge. My program … is to hire the correct number of police officers and detectives, re-open the mental health clinic, re-invest in our neighborhoods to ensure good jobs and excellent schools are not limited to the downtown area, and to open our very own Chicago crime lab to drastically reduce our backlog of unsolved crimes.” These steps “will go a long way to making Chicagoans everywhere safer,” he said.
John Kozlar is a Bridgeport native and, at 30 years old, the youngest candidate running for mayor of Chicago. Kozlar ran for 11th Ward alderman in 2011 when he was 21 years old, almost forcing a runoff with then-Ald. James Balcer who had been in office for 13 years. Kozlar did this with only $520 in his campaign coffers, according to his campaign website. In 2015, he ran for alderman of his ward again. This time he was victorious in forcing a runoff, but he eventually lost to his opponent, Richard M. Daley’s nephew, Patrick Daley Thompson. In an interview with “Chicago Tonight,” he said, “The experience of politics is a little bit different … you can be worse off in year number eight than you are in year number one. Political experience doesn’t mean good experience.”
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