Public housing forum draws just three mayoral contenders

January 12, 2011

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(WBEZ/Sam Hudzik)
Candidates Patricia Van Pelt Watkins and Bill "Dock" Walls at the forum Tuesday evening.

There was little disagreement among candidates for Chicago mayor in a forum Tuesday evening devoted to public housing issues. But most of the major candidates didn't show.

More than 250 people, many public housing residents, packed into an auditorium at the Chicago Cultural Center. They heard three mayoral candidates talk about a key issue facing a city undergoing a massive overhaul of its public housing: how to economically integrate communities.

Bill "Dock" Walls talked of public housing residents who were displaced by the Chicago Housing Authority's "Plan for Trannsformation." He said many lacked education and some had drug addictions.

"They were placed in communities that weren't ready to receive them and accommodate them and address their concerns," Walls said.

"If we just try to just place people in different neighborhoods without engaging the residents in that neighborhood, we're going to have push-back over and over again," said Patricia Van Pelt Watkins, another candidate for mayor.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle said there are lots of poor families who are looking for affordable housing.

"But they're all painted with the same brush and landlords are reluctant to rent because they think that they're going to bring problems," del Valle said. "There's a need to educate the community about that.

Mayoral candidates Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico and Rahm Emanuel did not attend.