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Chicago mayoral candidates have markedly different strategies on crime

PoliticsElectionsChicago mayoral candidates have markedly different strategies on crime
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CHICAGO — The two candidates in next month’s race for Chicago mayor have starkly different approaches to running the nation’s third-largest city, especially on issues of crime and policing, which is why many political Observers believe that Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for it. re-election.

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Paul Vallas, a former school administrator who placed first in last week’s general election, campaigned on a tough law-and-order message, calling for more police officers and cracking down on crimes such as retail theft and public nuisance offenses.

Brandon Johnson, a Cook County commissioner who came in second, excited liberal voters with a message of improving public safety instead of investing in social services, mental health care, education and housing.

Although Chicago is facing a myriad of issues, including a lack of affordable housing, declining student enrollment in public schools and high vacancies in city offices since the pandemic hit, concerns about crime dominated the general election.

In 2021, shootings across the city reached levels not seen in a generation, as gun violence began to rise in affluent, predominantly white areas in long-troubled South and West Side neighborhoods. Crime has repeatedly emerged as a top issue in public polls and candidate forums and is expected to be at the forefront of debate between Johnson and Vallas over the best plan to restore security ahead of the April 4 runoff election.

While the candidates have sharp differences on public safety strategies, they agreed on one thing: Chicago Police Superintendent. David O’Brown was the wrong choice to lead a troubled department and he must go.

on Wednesday, He announced that he was leaving.

Lightfoot, who placed third in a field of nine candidates last Tuesday — the first incumbent to lose re-election in 40 years — picked Brown for the job in 2020. Critics and many voters blame him for rising crime rates during his tenure, which began less than a year before the start of the pandemic and civil unrest over a series of deadly encounters between police and unarmed black Americans in 2020 . During the campaign, she took an awkward position between the two major candidates, attacking Johnson for not supporting the police enough while criticizing Vallas for his close ties to the police union.

Lightfoot said in a statement that the next mayor will select a permanent replacement for Brown, who will depart on March 16.

Brown’s resignation casts Johnson and Vallas on a new look at who should lead the police force as it grapples with a mix of challenges beyond crime rates: officers report low morale and residents report excessive use. Expressed disbelief on age-old complaints of force and corruption.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot loses re-election bid

Johnson, 46, a former public school teacher and union organizer, has called for transferring some duties for which he says police are not equipped, such as answering mental health calls, to qualified first responders. For. They argue that public safety can be achieved more quickly and equitably by shifting the vast majority of the police department’s nearly $2 billion budget to policing alternatives, including crisis interventionists, mental health counselors and social workers. .

“We are putting police officers in a position they are not qualified to address,” Johnson said in a recent appearance on the public television station. WTTW’s flagship program, “Chicago Tonight.“We are forcing police officers to behave as social workers. It is irresponsible.”

Johnson was the only candidate in the general election who did not explicitly pledge to increase the number of police patrols.

He has also personally made his pitch on crime prevention, often referencing the challenges and concerns he and his wife face raising their children in the Austin neighborhood on the city’s West Side. In 2020, there were 64 murders in the region, the 4th-highest by police district,

After his success in Tuesday’s race, Johnson continued to explain his argument that more police officers are not the answer when attacking Vallas. ineffective leader who is gone budget disasters in its wake, He called Vallas’ plan to restore the police force to 1990s-era staffing levels unrealistic and misleading.

“When Paul Vallas talks about hiring 1,000 more police officers, where are you going to get them?” Johnson said, arguing that it takes about two years for an applicant to become an officer on patrol.

As Cook County commissioner, Johnson sponsored a non-binding resolution in 2020 to divert money from the police and prisons for mental health, housing and job training, and said in an interview that same year that defunding the police was just was not a slogan, but a “political goal.” He retreated from the “defund” line on the campaign trail.

The strongest voters for Johnson in Monday’s election were from mixed-income white and mixed-Latino neighborhoods in the northwest and far north, which have begun to skew more affluent. He commanded a large voting population on the South Side, former President Barack Obama’s old stomping grounds.

Vallas, 69, is a longtime school administrator who ran for mayor in 2019 and finished ninth. He attracted attention early in the year’s race with his continued focus on law and order, and quickly gained the endorsement of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police. That support brought natural voting blocks on the city’s mostly white Northwest and Southwest Sides, historic enclaves for police and firefighters who are required by law to live inside city limits.

Since emerging to the top of the field Tuesday, he has focused on differentiating himself on the issue of crime and drawing on his experience as a former education administrator.

“I’m offering the type of quality leadership that’s needed,” Vallas said Friday during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He said Chicago was facing a “leadership crisis” and called the police department “disgraced, demoralized and poorly run”.

Vallas argued that the city has never attacked the underlying issues driving crime, which he said was a lack of community investment in the poorest parts of the city — a line that signals how he might appeal to lightfoot voters. Is.

Vallas has spent the past two decades branding himself as Mr. Fix-It for struggling school districts. In addition to his time running the Chicago public school system from 1995 to 2001, Vallas has worked in the Philadelphia School District when it was on the verge of state takeover after poor performance and Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Throughout his tenure running a public school, Vallas has been a strong proponent of “school choice” and has been critical of school privatization and the expansion of charters.

In addition to his 2019 bid for Chicago mayor, Vallas has run unsuccessfully for governor and lieutenant governor.

Vallas had to defend his Democratic credentials after being attacked by opponents for receiving campaign contributions from major Republican donors. He has also taken heat for past statements, including a 2009 appearance on a conservative interview show where he said, “I’m more a Republican than a Democrat.”

In a five-week sprint to the April 4 runoff, the candidates will compete for supporters of Lightfoot and Illinois Congressman Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who won a total of 30 percent of the vote. Lightfoot did well in predominantly black neighborhoods, while Garcia dominated Latino-dominated communities, where voters make up a fifth of the electorate in 2022.

Neither Lightfoot nor Garcia have yet said whether they will endorse either candidate.

Vallas has contributed more than $6 million to Johnson in contributions in the final days before the general election, compared to Johnson’s roughly $3.9 million, according to an analysis of Illinois State Board of Elections data.

Vallas’ biggest financial backers are in private equity, while Johnson’s are from labor groups such as the Chicago Teachers Union and the liberal labor coalition United Working Families.

The challenges of the racial and social dynamics that dominate Chicago and the race in other mayoral elections in large cities with historically Democratic leadership.

In the 2021 New York City race, former police officer Eric Adams (D) defeated more moderate primary opponents by promising to get tough on crime. Last year in Los Angeles, voters Emboldened Congresswoman Karen Bass (D) over former Republican and billionaire real estate investor Rick Caruso, who ran into her authority on law and order.

The crime is also threatening to drive a rift between some Democratic members of Congress and President Biden, who said Thursday he would support the GOP-led resolution to block municipal leaders from enacting a major revision of criminal sentencing laws in Washington, DC. The plight forced Biden to weigh a greater political obligation: appearing soft on criminal penalties or leaving Democrats have long supported DC home rule. Although the D.C. Council withdrew the bill on Monday, the Senate is still set to vote on the proposal.

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