By: Caitlin Brown
On Monday, November 12th, Malcolm X College presented a mayoral forum hosted by the Business Leadership Council (BLC). The BLC’s mission is to encourage economic leadership within Chicago’s African-American communities and to remove barriers for those struggling to become business owners and entrepreneurs in their own neighborhoods.
Given the goals of BLC, the main topics of the forum primarily focused on the multi-faceted issue of economic development in Chicago’s West and South suburbs. As the post for the event notes, there were five key elements that the candidates were brought together to discuss:
- Growth of African-American owned businesses
- Access to jobs in the African-American community
- Quality education and training
- Economic opportunities
- Safety and gun violence
The candidates in attendance were Gery Chico, Amara Eniya, Lori Lightfoot, Toni Preckwinkle, and Paul Vallas. Although they only represent a small segment of the larger candidate pool, now even more crowded with the inclusion of Susana Mendoza, these figures helped shed light on what they consider Chicago’s most important economic issues.
For a brief recap of these candidates’ profiles:
Chico formerly served as Chief of Staff to Mayor Daley and board president of Chicago Public Schools.
Eniya, a political rookie, recently gained the endorsement of fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper.
Lightfoot served as Chair of the Police Accountability Task Force, President of the Chicago Police Board, and Assistant United States Attorney.
Preckwinkle served five terms as Chicago’s 4th ward alderman and is currently Cook County’s Board president.
Vallas served as CEO of Chicago Public Schools and Budget Director for the city.
In addition to the five aforementioned topics, the audience was given the opportunity to pose two questions to the candidates. The selected audience questions asked the candidates to discuss whether or not they felt anointed by God in their efforts for mayorship and how each aimed to address the prevalence of gentrification in Chicago’s neighborhoods.
The candidates addressed what they considered to be the foundational problems with Chicago’s economic infrastructure. Although all candidates largely discussed affordable housing, barriers to business ownership, and the decline of African-American wealth, the closing remarks of Eniya and Preckwinkle were distinctly profound.
Eniya argued that a lack of black ownership is the root cause of underdevelopment in Chicago’s South and West communities and stated that the problems facing these neighborhoods are, in essence, uncomplicated.
For her remarks, Preckwinkle tackled the issue of public safety, imploring fellow parents and grandparents to recognize this as the “issue of our time.” Preckwinkle declared public safety the first obstacle to securing stability; she ended her closing remarks with the assertion that “public safety is not just a commodity for the wealthy.”
While the forum provided these candidates with an opportunity to meet their constituents and take a stance on the highly-contested topic of economic health in the city’s most devastated neighborhoods, it is still too early to determine who will remain until the end days of the election.