The Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference hosted a forum on Saturday for the five candidates running in the 4th Ward Alderman special election.
This was the first time that current 4th Ward Alderman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointee Sophia King sat down at the same table as her four challengers. King is facing Marcellus Moore, Jr., Gerald Scott McCarthy, Ebony Lucas, and Gregory Seal Livingston in her bid to keep the seat. She was appointed alderman last April when Will Burns stepped down to take an executive job at Airbnb. The winner of the February 28 election will hold the 4th Ward seat until May 2019.
The candidates were asked a series of five questions on the topics of safety, public schools, public transit, housing, and local business in the ward. Each had two minutes to formulate a response. King often brought up the record she already has as alderman to stand out from her challengers.
“We brought jobs, youth engagement, and work with local educators to make sure we have the resources for our neighborhood schools,” King said. “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.”
Regarding public schools, all the candidates lamented the lack of funding, with Lucas stressing that the city council takes money away every year. “I support and fight for the schools to get the funding they are supposed to get. Money is taken out every year and is not put back into our schools,” she said.
By the third question, tension between the candidates was evident. Livingston began to directly criticize Emanuel and his policies, placing himself firmly against the mayor’s administration.
“I don’t owe Rahm anything...Rahm and me, we cool, he respects me, but I don’t need him to like me. I will fight for my community. Do we need more money in order to make the transportation system better? That is an absolute yes...we are left out,” Livingston said. “You must be able to stand up to the powers that be.”
When it came to housing and business, most of the candidates agreed that the focus in the ward should be on increasing affordable housing. McCarthy and Moore said they aimed to promote small business through a more positive perception of the area. McCarthy noted that the Obama Presidential Library could change how developers look at Hyde Park.
Livingston then continued with his assault on Emanuel. “I ain’t taking no money from Rahm, because Rahm’s a killer. Know this: Me and the appointee are not on the same side. She’s on Rahm’s side, I’m on your side,” he said. Reactions to these remarks were mixed; there was applause and a smattering of boos.
King, who has joined the progressive caucus, which typically opposes the mayor’s actions, called these allegations “alternative facts” and noted that Livingston has taken money from Republican sources.
Longtime Hyde Park resident Tessa Clark did not like the divisive feel on the stage Saturday morning. “I don’t like that they put all these people against each other,” she said. “There’s only one side.”