Chicago’s next mayor must not only work to reduce crime, but also revive the city’s economy and rebuild relationships with businesses following the previous mayor’s failures, a pastor in the city’s South Side said.
“Paul Vallas will be better for the city of Chicago,” Pastor Corey Brooks told Fox News. “We need someone who’s going to focus not just on the crime on the South Side and West Side, but also someone who can build back the relationships with businesses on the Magnificent Mile and on State Street.”
“Those economic quadrants are really important to our city,” he added.
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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lost her bid for reelection last month after enduring harsh criticism over the city’s rise in crime and her strained relationship with the police department, which faced a steep reduction in officer headcount under her tenure. Homicides in Chicago hit a 25-year high in 2021, according to police records, outpacing New York City and Los Angeles.
“We have to continue to put forth resources for violence prevention programs,” Brooks said. “We have to have a mayor who supports those types of endeavors because the previous mayor did not.”
Former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas holds a slim lead over Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union member Brandon Johnson in the April 4 Chicago mayoral runoff election, which will determine who replaces Lightfoot, according to a poll by Victory Research.
The candidates differ in their approach to public safety and reducing crime, which is a top issue for a majority of Chicago voters. While Vallas has pledged to hire more police officers to fill recent staffing shortages and endorsed putting more uniformed officers on public transportation, Johnson has focused on addressing the “root causes of crime,” and prioritizing non-police responses to mental health crises and domestic disputes.
“Paul Vallas would be the best for reducing crime,” Brooks said. “He has been supportive of the police department, and I’m more comfortable with what I believe he would do for violence prevention programs than I am with Brandon.”
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Johnson has been accused of supporting defunding the police in the past, but denied having supported the movement in a debate Tuesday.
In September 2020, Johnson was quoted in a Chicago Sun Times article titled, “Calls to defund the police no longer seem like such a radical idea,” saying, “We’re spending $5 million a day policing alone, and that hasn’t solved any of our systemic problems.”
And in a 2020 radio interview, he said he considered defunding the police “an actual, real political goal.” But in Tuesday’s debate, he clarified that while he “said it was a political goal. I never said it was mine.”
“Brandon has said things in the past that would be counterproductive to the crime that we’re facing in Chicago especially when he has mentioned defunding the police,” Brooks said of the candidate. “I don’t see him having a productive working relationship with the police department.”
Brooks founded Project H.O.O.D. (Helping Others Obtain Destiny), a non-profit focused on providing mentorship, training, and community for residents in Chicago’s South Side. Last year Brooks spent 345 days on a Chicago rooftop as part of a fundraising campaign, raising nearly $30 million toward a new community center intended to curb crime and create job opportunities, among other goals.
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In addition to curbing crime, Brooks said another key role for the new mayor will be reviving the city’s economy and attracting more businesses.
“Businesses have been hurt,” Brooks said. “The pandemic hurt a lot of businesses, and the relationships with city officials led by Mayor Lori Lightfoot hindered a lot of efforts as well.”
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Last summer, billionaire Ken Griffin moved his hedge-fund firm Citadel out of Chicago after citing crime as a major concern. Construction and mining equipment giant Caterpillar also moved its headquarters from a Chicago suburb to Irving, Texas, in 2022.
“I don’t think the business owners downtown had a great working relationship with the mayor, and that’s going to be central to make our city go forward,” Brooks said.
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