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Mayoral hopefuls face off at activist forum

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Chicago mayoral candidates are facing each other in three forums this week. But former White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel isn’t participating in any of them.

At a community activist forum Tuesday night, several of Emanuel’s competitors slammed him as they pointed to an empty seat with his name on it.

City Clerk Miguel del Valle accused Emanuel of stalling efforts to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws. “The individual who was supposed to sit in this chair is the individual most responsible for blocking immigration reform in the United States as a congressman [and] as the chief of staff to the president,” del Valle said. “How are we to expect him to protect the rights of immigrants in this city? It won’t happen.”

The only other candidate hit with criticism was lobbyist Gery Chico. Former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun answered a question about Chicago school closings by pointing to Chico’s years as school board president. “Quite frankly, Mr. Chico, you need to be responsible for some of the things that went on with the Chicago public schools,” she said. “We can do better. Our future depends on it.”

Chico responded. “In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly said our schools were in crisis, long before I got there. And by the time I left in 2001, we were on the upswing,” he said. “I didn’t close schools. We built them.”

About 2,000 people attended the forum, sponsored by New Chicago 2011, a coalition of more than two-dozen groups. It took place at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Besides education, topics included violence prevention, human rights, jobs and housing.

To hear the entire 74-minute forum, select “Listen to this Story” (above). Note that forum organizers turned off the microphone whenever a candidate exceeded a time limit.

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