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Massive mayoral forum (and who’s skipping it)

Nearly 3,000 activists from communities across the city are expected at a massive mayoral candidates forum on social justice issues, and every major candidate will be there – except one.

Gery Chico, Danny Davis, Miguel Del Valle, James Meeks, Carol Moseley Braun, and Patricia Watkins have accepted invitations to appear at the mayoral town hall at UIC Forum, 725 W. Roosevelt, 6:30 p.m. (Tuesday, December 14).

But a representative of the putative frontrunner, Rahm Emanuel, told organizers he prefers to meet voters one-on-one.

The forum is being held by New Chicago 2011, a multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of over 25 community and civic groups.  They’ve issued a platform stressing housing, jobs, schools, violence prevention, budget reform and human rights, and collected quetionnaires from candidates.

Tomorrow night several community residents will take turns presenting statements outlining concerns in each issue area and questioning the panel of candidates.

Emanuel’s refusal to participate is “a missed opportunity for him to get to know the people who live in the city and the issues we are living with every day,” said Eric Tellez of the Grassroots Collaborative.  The audience will feature a cross-section of Chicago residents who are among the most active and involved in their communities.

After two decades of mayoral elections with minimal debate, “this election provides a critical opportunity that we haven’t had in a very long time to engage on these issues,” said Jhatayn Travis of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

“Not participating in a candidates forum and denying people the opportunity to hear your positions” — and how they stack up against those of other candidates — “doesn’t necessarily support the democratic process,” she said.

Unlike the other candidates, Emanuel also declined to fill out the group’s questionnaire, Tellez said.

“We’re urging people in our communities to participate more fully, and when you have people running for positions of power and they don’t engage communities in a meaningful way, it’s unfortunate,” said Travis.

The name of New Chicago 2011 was chosen “because we’re looking for a new way of dealing with communities and policies that would be more democratic and open,” said Ed Shurna of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.  “His not attending isn’t a good sign that there would be anything new about his approach.”

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Category: democracy, elections, organizing

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