Winner of last night's mayoral forum? The Mikva Challenge (and other random observations)

January 18, 2011

The consensus in the media is that last night's mayoral forum was short on substantive news to takeaway. In short, it was a snooze fest. I don't mind though, because it gave me a chance to see our mayoral candidates up close and personal. Well, from my TV anyway.

Here are some random observations from the mayoral forum, presented by WTTW and Mikva.

  • Mikva Foundation puts teenagers to work on the political process. And judging by the amount of time the candidates spent promoting and lauding the foundation's mission, it is the single-most important initiative in the history of Chicago. Seriously, it was like Mikva was playing in the Rose Bowl. It has to help the recruitment process for years to come.
  • The major theme was education. The high school students all asked questions about education - and there was a fair amount of overlap between them. What about testing, safety, security, grades, violence, teachers, safety and grades? Little time was spent on other issues. That was by design, as the issues were reflective of the concerns of Chicago youth. When I first learned about the debate, though and heard kids would be asking questions, I was SO hoping we would be looking at talking babies, like the E-Trade commercial.  But alas, Chicago isn't ready for that kind of technology.
  • The takeaway on violence was: Rahm wants 1,000 new cops. Gery wants 2,000. They both cited TIF funds as a way to pay for more police. Rahm mentioned that $900 million of TIF money is unused? Is this true? Investigative reporters of the world, investigate! Gery wanted to look at the TIF funds and decide what was "good money "spent, and what wasn't. You know, the old "root out corruption" tact in election debates.
  • Carol Mosely Braun got into the mix on the topics of violence, crime and neighborhoods. She said, "I've never seen the neighborhoods in the shape they are now." She went on to say when she was younger, she would walk to school with no fear of drive-by shootings or rats. Drive-bys on one hand, rodents on the other. That's quite a wide range, eh? 
  • Miguel del Valle definitely has the best Chicago accent. He also cited the way that the blighted downtown neighborhoods turned around, so that gives hope that we can change other neighborhoods. His line of the night: "An organized community is a strong community."
  • One angry teen asked about public transit. They gave that heated, controversial issue to Carol Mosely Braun, who said (paraphrasing here): "Thank you for your question. Great question, very good question. Transportation is important." Then the forum went on, leaving that transportation answer as the only reference all night.
  • Miguel Del Valle's second best line of the night: A lot of damage can be made by incompetent teachers.
  • Most of the candidates took umbrage with the educational system we have now, hinting at reform. Longer school days, better accountability for teachers, different focus for curriculum. They outlined most of this in our questionnaire yesterday. All this education-reform talk sounds tough in debates and forums. But what about getting the Chicago Teachers Union on board? Let the fireworks begin! I would love a follow-up forum with CTU and the candidates. We'll just call it "And how is this going to work, exactly????"  
  • Gery Chico: "Thanks for your question. It was an excellent question."
  • Carol Mosely Braun: We should have an educator at the top of the school system. (BURN CHICO!!!!!)  She then went on to say that we don't need an administrator treating you like "widgets on a spreadsheet." My Excel skills are pretty bad - but what is a widget? 
  • Rahm Emanuel loves to be emphatic, then meandering. He makes a strong point with a short sentence, then realizes he has more time and circles around the same subject to end his longer than necessary thought with the same short sentence. Then Carol Marin tells him to tighten it up again, he interrupts, talks about what he did in Congress for another 30 seconds, mentions parents and then takes off his jacket.
  • AHHGHGHGH! Rahm brandishes the missing finger! He held up four fingers to illustrate a point. Luckily, he was only counting to four, so it worked.
  • Rahm and Chico want longer school days. Who is standing in the way of that? Oh, right: The Chicago Teachers Union.
  • Memo to Rahm: When you say "to be honest..." too much, then when you don't, we think you are lying.
  • Carol Moseley Braun was talking about cleaning up school or the streets. I think she said we have to get rid of the bad apples. But I heard, we have to get rid of the bad actors. Which is accurate, as well...
  • Also, what respiratory illnesses does Carol Moseley Braun have? She talked about air quality and referenced that she has personally suffered from it. That's why she went into organics. Which seemed to be a tad round about just to promote her business. I was hoping she would have pulled out a jar of lotion or something.
  • WTTW could lose the graphic. It's not their fault - it's TV's fault. Everything but the kitchen sink has to be in the lower-third, but that lower-third is creeping to the mid-third.
  • Right at the end, Emanuel took off his suit jacket. I wonder if his iPhone buzzed - I'd put money on it that he set the alarm to cue that move. "Oh, it's almost over? Great, one more move to seal it..." 
  • Chicago Tonight did a great job with the forum. Having Phil Ponce and Carol Marin yell at the candidates for time was great. And the on-line streaming continuing the debate was a great idea. And how bout this? In a world where everyone has a forum, Chicago Tonight has two! They did the Mikva sponsored one last night and they have another one next week, featuring the same candidates. 

Here are the questions I would ask if I were hosting the next forum:

For Rahm: So where were you during the Lewinsky scandal? The office next door, right? 

Carol Mosely Braun:  You have a lot of mortgages on your house. What's your long-term strategy to get out of personal debt? 

Miguel Del Valle: What's with that Chicago accent? 

Gery Chico: No seriously, how did you make that much money?