Two weeks ago, I attended the Raise Your Hand Coalition/Better Government Association's Mayoral Forum on Education. Only four candidates were present: Gerry Chico, Miguel del Valle, Carol Moseley Braun and James Meeks. Danny Davis was voting in Washington, and it was said that Rahm Emmanuel didn't want to acknowledge the other candidates as competition by appearing in the panel.
At this stage of the game, I'm pretty much a one-issue voter. And that issue is education. So it was with a vested interest (although apparently not one that represents "the people of Chicago") that I attended the forum, listening closely to each candidate's answers to Andy Shaw's questions. It was a fairly calm event, put on in the style of a panel of pontification rather than a discussion or debate—heated or otherwise. We heard from each of the candidates in turn as they responded to both Shaw's and Walter Payton H.S. students' questions about the problems and proposed solutions—whether theirs or someone else's—on the table about lower education in the city of Chicago.
My impression of James Meeks hadn’t changed since I first encountered him on the PNC Bank-Tribune panel in September: he’s great for comic relief, but I wasn’t terribly impressed with his “we at the legislature want accountability” stance on public education. It doesn’t really matter: he nailed his political coffin shut with his prejudicial remarks on minorities and then dropped out of the race.
Gery Chico started speaking and I initially liked what he had to say, as the former president of the Board of Trustees of CPS. I’d like to examine his record—just because someone touts a positive action as his/her responsibility doesn’t make it true. (I can’t remember the last time someone took responsibility for a negative action/inaction or mistake.) The whole idea that there were six years of educational reform and progress in CPS seems amazing. Is it true? It probably depends on your point of view and/or an in-depth analysis of the politics of education in Chicago over the past 10 years. Can anyone point me to a policy/results comparison of 1996-2001 and 2002-2008? I can’t be sure, but the fact that Mayor Daley was critical of Chico recently is probably a positive indicator of his ability to run the city and the schools.
I was less impressed in general with Miguel del Valle, although I give him snaps for not taking campaign contributions from city vendors. I started tuning out on his plan after he suggested community learning centers as the answer for poor education/parenting.
Another candidate I liked at the forum was Carol Moseley Braun. Part of the reason that I don’t like Sarah Palin is that I think the person running the country/state/city should be smarter than me. Moseley Braun has the kind of C.V. and poise that leaves me in awe. This will probably mark me as an elitist, but the thought of her representing the city of big shoulders to the outside world makes me smile. That said, her comments were very high level; I found myself wanting more “meat.” If we’re going to hold “the schools accountable,” what does that mean? Her characterization of past Chicago events were spot-on, but so what? Knowing where you came from is important, but it’s not a solution. Give me the goods.
What about you? Did you attend the Mayoral Forum? Are you watching any mayoral candidates?