On Monday, Chicago's leading mayoral candidates gathered at WTTW studios for what turned out to be more of a forum than a debate.
Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle and Rahm Emanuel fielded questions from more than 250 Chicago Public High School students. The students were members of the Mikva Challenge, a "nonpartisan, not-for-profit group that helps low-income Chicago youth become involved in politics and public service," according to a release from WTTW.
While the format of the debate did not allow for much back-and-forth between the candidates, it allowed CPS students to shine. Their tough questions garnered some real responses--but even more of the typical non-answers many come to expect from debates.
"I actually don't think we got any information about the plans," Taylor Brown, a Curie High School student, told the Chicago News Cooperative. "We're still just getting the same basic numbers that they're going to give. I feel as though we asked questions that required more detail. ... I still feel like it's the same shady, simple answers."
Aside from questions about crime, education, recycling and taxes--one topic, bullying, gave the candidates an opportunity to discuss their childhood issues.
A Gage Park high-school student stood and asked del Valle how he would help reduce the bullying of gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students. He said that bullying of any kind should not be tolerated, and afterwards, host Carol Marin asked the candidates who had been bullied as youths to raise their hands.
Everyone but Gery Chico did.
Following the debate, according to WBEZ, the candidates were asked more about being bullied in school.
Emanuel, who is known by some in politics to be a bully himself, said kids were cruel to him when he transfered to a suburban school in 1968. From the Sun-Times:
Emanuel said thugs at his north suburban school "beat me up and took my bike" when he returned from a summer trip to Israel with a very dark tan. His younger brother, Ari, who was bigger, had to rescue him as the kids "said some things on a racial basis" to Emanuel because of his dark color.
Chico, who did not raise his hand, said his neighborhood was tough when he was growing up--and he avoided bullying by winning a fight or two.
Del Valle told reporters that he would literally run home from school in the 7th grade, since his family was the first Latino family in the West Town neighborhood at the time.
"I would sit in the back of the room so I could slip out of the back door of the classroom, go down the stairs, go to the boiler room, so I could get out the door leading to the alley that gave me a straight shot at running home," del Valle said, according to the Tribune.
Braun was the victim of a mean girl, she told reporters. One girl in class picked on her until she "went berserk" one day and the girl left her alone.
Aside from their opposition to bullying, the forum showed that candidates agreed on several issues: the need for more police officers on the streets, the need for a citywide recycling program and a way to provide Chicago's students a safe and quality place to learn.
WATCH the debate here: