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Emanuel And Garcia Spar In First Debate

By aaroncynic in News on Mar 17, 2015 5:45PM


Mayor Rahm Emanuel and challenger, Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, faced off last night in the first of three scheduled debates in the runoff race for Chicago Mayor. During the televised discussion, the two squared off on mostly familiar topics—Chicago’s looming pension crisis, red light cameras, crime and schools—and stuck to the well-worn criticisms of each's respective campaigns.

Emanuel called out Garcia for his lack of specific details on exactly how his proposed administration would pay the pension bill and other spending measures he's suggested. “You laid out a commission, not a plan,” Emanuel said, taking a shot at the Commissioner’s fiscal policy. "I'll represent myself, Mr. Mayor,” Garcia retorted, trying his best to keep Emanuel on the defensive.

Garcia also repeated his criticisms of Emanuel, saying that the mayor was “out of touch” with agendas like an elected school board and economic development outside of the Loop and critiqued the mayor's administration for lacking transparency. “There have not been any audits of any department in the city of Chicago,” Garcia said, who promised to “open the books” on the city’s finances if elected. “Chicagoans need to know the true state of our financial situation.”

Both candidates agreed that Chicago is too well-known for its out-of-control crime problem, each proffering the idea that the city needs robust community policing. Emanuel had the following to say about it:

“From Garry McCarthy down to the beat officer, everybody practices community policing because it’s about building trust between the police department and residents, and that’s how you make sure you reduce crime”

Garcia responded that "the mayor has hired one community policeman in Chicago. He has 999 more to go,” and later added that he had been to more funerals for shooting victims after a life spent in Little Village.

Emanuel attempted to lay some of the blame for CPS’s fiscal woes on Garcia, pointing to a 1997 vote the candidate made as a then-state senator for a pension payment holiday for teachers. Meanwhile Garcia blamed the mayor for underfunding neighborhood schools and took a shot at one of Emanuel’s campaign crutches, the longer school day. “Half of our schools have no librarians,” said Garcia. “Our schools lack the basic resources to take advantage of the mayor’s longer school day.”

While some might contend the hour-long contest was over quickly in favor of Emanuel, the mayor even admitted that what he defines as his successes are the same as his weaknesses. A comprehensive audit that’s open for review has been needed for too long, and in four years, Emanuel’s come up short on his promises of transparency in government.

If anything, though spirited, the first debate lacked deeper substance as each candidate relied on familiar criticisms of their opponents while remaining light on a better plan for the future. The pair will debate two more times before the April 7th vote, on March 26th on Fox 32 and March 31st on WTTW 11.