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Vote like the life of Chicago depends on it — because it does.

Ok, I get it! Johnson's going to tank the City if elected. On the other hand...err...

I'm trying to come up with something positive to say. I'm experiencing brain freeze.

Vote like the life of Chicago depends on it — because it does.

by Steve Huntley, Kass News

March 31, 2023

Every election is important. And it’s not unusual for media hyperbole to label a pending election the most critical one ever. Usually that’s overblown rhetoric. But it’s hard to argue that Tuesday’s mayoral primary runoff isn’t one of the most momentous elections in Chicago’s history — one that will decide whether the city that used to work can survive to maybe work again another day.

For several weeks now Chicagoans have witnessed a bruising, bare-knuckle, boisterous campaign through debates, voter forums, competing news conferences touting endorsements by this and that group or politician, and campaign ads blaring on all channels funded by millions of dollars.

By now Chicago voters should know the candidates and the issues.

And know what’s at stake.

Two women attacked and hit with a bottle by an assailant in the Loop in broad daylight. Armed robbers committing 18 holdups in five days across the city, including in once safe neighborhoods like Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Mail carriers robbed at gunpoint in West Rogers Park and on the West Side. A15-year-old girl sexually assault on a CTA train. A man killed in a Rogers Park home invasion. Robbery and carjacking sprees in Lakeview, West Town and Wicker Park during one night — a reminder that there were a total of 1,600 armed carjackings in the city last year. A man arrested with 38 stolen catalytic converters in his car. Two Logan Square banks robbed by the same man. School-age kids murdered in the streets.

On and on it goes, the litany of crime outrages recorded daily by the CWB Chicago crime-reporting website. It constitutes a dreary diary of a city gripped in an existential crisis threatening to deteriorate into a death spiral.

That’s the overwhelming issue facing voters — and the most consequential challenge facing the next mayor of Chicago.

In one corner is Paul Vallas, a proven reformer, the grandson of Greek immigrants with law enforcement officers in the family, and a thinker/planner/manager with a concrete plan to not just rebuild the ranks of the Chicago Police Department but to reinvigorate its morale with a pledge to have the back of the cop of the beat.

In the other corner is Brandon Johnson, a progressive who can’t run away from his defund-the-police advocacy. He’s a functionary of the Chicago Teachers Union who would promote the metastasis of malignant union power throughout city government, dooming hopes for a revival of Chicago as a vibrant, safe metropolis. To that end the CTU is pouring millions of dollars into Johnson’s campaign to keep Chicago on course for descending into hell.

Again, the central issue is the crime pandemic bleeding Chicago.

Yes, doing something about the city’s failing schools is important.

Yes, the need for investment in Chicago’s business economy and its neighborhoods is vital.

But neither will happen — can’t happen — unless the streets are safe, the neighborhoods are safe, the Loop and the myriad business districts across the city are safe.

It’s as simple as that. The choice in the mayoral campaign is as simple as that.

While the campaign has been mostly what you’d expect, charges and counter-charges, one especially revealing moment came in a debate in late March. The candidates were asked about Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, one of the George Soros-backed prosecutors with soft-on-crime policies that return criminals to menace city streets across the nation.

In what crime-weary Chicagoans would call a classic example of understatement, Vallas observed that Foxx “has not been aggressive at keeping dangerous criminals off the street.”

Johnson was having none of that. He called Foxx “a part of the type of reform that’s needed”— in effect doubling down on his defund-the-police and criminal friendly philosophy.

The choice couldn’t be clearer.

The same is true for education. Back when Vallas ran Chicago schools, math and reading scores rose. Things changed as the Chicago Teachers Union rose in power, with less than 11 percent of black students now meeting state reading standards, and math scores are even worse, in the single digits, as reported by Wirepoints. For Hispanic kids, the record is not much better — 18 percent reading at grade level in Illinois.

Who would want to import the CTU’s incompetency into the wider city government?

Better educational outcomes would combat one of the root causes of crime by giving young people the knowledge and skills to help them lift themselves out of poverty. To that end, the proven education reformer Vallas wants to empower parents with more school choice.

Likewise for economic issues. Johnson supports economy-crippling proposals for almost $1 billion in new taxes. Further evidence of his harmful economic ideas is far leftwing and socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, who never saw a tax increase he didn’t like no matter how damaging to economic prosperity, showing up in Chicago to back Johnson. No one would be safe from Johnson’s lust for higher taxes, not even people who don’t live in Chicago. Johnson’s schemes once included a nutty idea to tax suburbanites.

In contrast, Vallas has no interest in raising taxes, understanding that innovation and entrepreneurship in a thriving private economy are the sources of wealth to increase city tax collections.

It’s no wonder that the city’s top business organizations are backing him.

Also endorsing him is Sen. Dick Durbin who noted that when Vallas was Chicago’s budget director and CEO of Chicago schools, “He closed a projected $1.3 billion deficit. He balanced six consecutive budgets. … He left the (school) district with labor peace, no teachers strikes, fully funded pensions, $1.2 billion in cash reserves.”

Durbin has known Vallas for 40 years and his endorsement in effect brands as a lie Johnson’s repeated allegation that Vallas is some kind of closet Republican.

In an excellent analysis of the campaign, veteran political and public policy consultant Thom Serafin noted that only 35 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the Feb. 28 primary. That means nearly two-thirds of the city registered voters — more than one million — sat out that election.

To repeat, nearly two thirds of voters stayed away. Given the stakes for Chicago’s future, that’s hard to fathom. There are always apathetic voters who register but somehow forget or don’t care to vote. Others maybe never get over being undecided about the candidates.

At this stage of the campaign, it’s hard to believe anyone could be undecided with two candidates offering such diametrically opposed and contrasting views of how to tackle Chicago’s crime crisis.

Let’s hope the hard fought campaign conducted by Vallas and Johnson and the grave risks threatening Chicago’s future stimulate more Chicagoans to come out for the runoff primary.

This is an election that matters and matters big time. Vote like the life of Chicago depends on it — because it does.


Steve Huntley, a retired Chicago journalist now living in Austin, Texas, has contributed other pieces to johnkassnews, from an examination of the secret jail for Christopher Columnbus and other politically problematic public art to an essay on Americans suffering from Joe Biden gas pain.

For almost three decades Huntley spent most of his career in Chicago journalism at the Chicago Sun-Times, where he was a feature writer, metro reporter, night city editor, metropolitan editor, editorial page editor and a columnist for the opinion pages.

Before that he was a reporter and editor with United Press International (UPI) in the South and Chicago, and Chicago bureau chief and a senior editor in Washington with U.S. News & World Report. Northwestern University Press has issued soft cover and eBook editions of Knocking Down Barriers: My Fight for Black America by Truman K. Gibson Jr. with Steve Huntley, a memoir of a Chicagoan who was a member of President Roosevelt’s World War II Black Cabinet working to desegregate the military.

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