Vallas and Johnson return to Women’s Mayoral Forum


Lily Lowndes

Mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson speak at the Women’s Mayoral Forum, hosted by Chicago Women Take Action Alliance, on Friday, March 10.

Mayoral candidates Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson have been here before, only last time, there were seven other candidates with them.

The two mayoral hopefuls were back at the Chicago Temple on Saturday to talk about women’s issues in the Women’s Mayoral Forum — runoff edition — held by Chicago Women Take Action.

The candidates spoke passionately about their platforms, answering moderators Cheryl Corley and Joan Esposito’s questions while emphasizing women’s interests.

Crime has been a critical topic in the mayoral race. Forum attendee Shirley Moore said it is her number one issue.

“The crime situation is the most important to me, the safety of the community,” Moore said.

Both candidates talked about their plans for public safety.

Vallas said his safety plan includes getting rid of all of the private security on the CTA. 

Johnson continued to advocate for the same plan that he has had since the beginning of the race, “treatment, not trauma.”

He said that he would make sure that police officers are not being put in situations that they should not be. Johnson said that police officers should be able to rely on other specialists for support in responding to mental health crises.

Stacey Simon, a leader in Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) attended the forum with other members of her organization to hear the candidates’ stances.

“We wanted to see what the two candidates were doing,” Simon said. “What they’re gonna say, how they felt about women in the workplace and how they wanted to push for more equity for the women.”

Simon said that COFI was looking for the candidates’ plans to help push equity for the Black and brown communities.

“I think both candidates kind of spoke to what was needed and [reassured] us, the people, that they were going to do something about it,” Simon said.

Vallas spoke about how he supported Black and brown communities during his time as CEO of Chicago Public Schools (CPS). He said that he secured “$1.7 billion in contracts from Black and Latino-owned companies.”

The former CEO of CPS said that he used targeted marketing and worked with labor unions. He said that the model he used can be applied to the larger city budget.

Johnson said that he is looking at helping Black and brown communities by investing in education and not raising property taxes, especially in gentrified communities.

Johnson’s budget plan includes securing additional revenue from state funding. When asked what he will do if he is not able to get the needed funds, Johnson said that he would look at cutting budget inefficiencies without laying people off. He also took a short detour to insert a jab at Vallas.

The Cook County Commissioner said that Chicago needs a Democrat to build the necessary relationships with members of the state government.

“That’s going to be hard for Paul,” Johnson said. “Just will be. I mean, not that we don’t want Republicans, you get my point though.”

Vallas has been called out by Johnson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot for a 2009 interview where Vallas said he identified with the Republican party and would probably register as a Republican.

Vallas hit back at Johnson by talking about his budget proposal. He criticized the proposal for its hiring taxes, taxes on people coming into Chicago from the suburbs and high hotel and motel taxes.

“It’s not a realistic list of tax increases,” Vallas said.

Dispersed between the attacks were moments of unity. Vallas said that both he and Johnson “are in this together,” even going as far as to say they would work together no matter who ends up in the mayor’s office.

“I look forward to, you know, talking with Brandon, whether it’s as mayor, having to negotiate with the Chicago Teachers Union, or whether helping him out on the things that I fought through,” Vallas said.

Simon felt that both candidates were willing to put their differences aside for the betterment of Chicago.

“The memorable moment is, even though they were going against each other, they see a kinship of being Chicagoans,” Simon said. “That [feeling of] ‘even though we’re battling against each other for one seat, we still will back each other, whoever gets elected.’”

The runoff election will take place on Tuesday, April 4. Early voting begins on March 15.