2018 Chicago Mayoral Candidates Disability Forum

Transcript / Realtime File

ACCESS LIVING
115 WEST CHICAGO AVENUE ‑ 4TH FLOOR
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2018
3:00 PM ‑ 7:00 PM

CART CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY:
ACS INTERPRETING AND TRAINING SERVICES
www.captionfamily.com

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Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility. CART captioning and this realtime file may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Testing 1, 2, 3. Can you hear me better? Okay. Perfect. Okay. Great.

(Captioner standing by.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. I was just informed that the candidates are running about 10 to 15 minutes behind. What I learned, politicians are like doctors, they make you wait. We'll be starting awfully shortly.

Ladies and gentlemen, again we're running about 15 minutes behind. The candidates had a previous engagement and they're making their way over here, so we'll be starting in about 15 minutes.

Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the candidates are arriving, so we'll get started here in a couple of minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're just waiting on one more candidate and we'll be ready to go here.

While I have you here, let me give some ground rules here. Please hold your applause, except when we finish introducing all the candidates and then when the panel ends, and remember we have two panels of candidates, six each. After the first one we're going to take a 15 minute break and then we'll reconvene with the second panel. This should be fun.

All of the candidates are here so we'll get started here in a minute.

The candidates will be making their way into the room in a minute here.

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome. On February 26, Chicago will elect its new mayor from a wide field of candidates. Today we're here to hear from candidates on their views on disability related issues. Issues affecting approximately over 292,000 people with disabilities who live in Chicago, and our families, friends, and employers. On behalf of Access Living, our CEO, Marca Bristo, and our ten co‑sponsoring organizations, I want to welcome everyone to this non‑partisan disability candidates forum for the Chicago's mayoral race. I'm the moderator, I'm Andrés Gallegos, chairman of Access Living's board of directors, a disability rights and health care law attorney at Robbins, Salomon & Patt here in the city. A few important housekeeping matters. First this event is being broadcast live via the Internet. It is being watched by many. It is being watched in an overflow room downstairs.

Second as you can see we have American Sign Language interpreters who will be visible on the forum.

We also have live captioning which is also available through a link on the same page as the webcast. For viewers on line to access captioning, click on the link and you can position the window for comfortable viewing. We also have Spanish translators in the building on this floor and also on the second floor.

You may also notice some people wearing social interaction badges. Those were created by autistic advocates as cues for social interaction. And finally this is a busy room and we have lots of people coming and going. If you find that you need a sensory break, there is space reserved on the third floor.

I'd like to take a moment to recognize the organizing committee. Ten organizations worked with Access Living to put the forum together, including the Arc of Illinois, we also thank for its generous financial support, Chicago Adapt, Equip for Equality, Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute on Disability and Human Development, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Greater Illinois Chapter, the Illinois Self‑Advocacy Alliance and the statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois. We thank you for bringing this forum together.

The organizing committee extended invitations to all candidates vying. 12 of those candidates accepted our invitation. Because of the large field of candidates, we are hosting two panels today, so that every candidate gets a chance to respond to the questions. The panelists were organized in order from when they accepted our invitation. With that please join me in welcoming the first Pam of candidates in alphabetical order. The clerk of the circuit court of Cook County, Miss Dorothy Brown.

Mr. Gery Chico.

Ms. Lori Lightfoot.

Mr. Garry McCarthy.

The president of the Cook County board, Miss Toni Preckwinkle, and Mr. Paul Vallas.

(Applause.)

Before we hear from our candidates, a little information about our format. The organizing committee asked the disability community to submit suggested questions. More than 50 questions were collected. Committee members called through ‑‑ culled through those questions to select six to be asked here. And an additional questions were submitted to the candidates in writing. Their answers have been received and are posted on Access Living's website. This event is a forum and not a debate. We wanted the candidates to speak to us on issues that we care about. We don't want you to attack each other. I'm sure there's plenty of other opportunities to do that between now and the election day. Each candidate will give a two minute opening and closing statement. In between I will ask all six questions one at a time. Each candidate will have two minutes to answer and I will call each candidate by name to the microphone when it's your turn. Responses will be timed. Sitting in front of you and to the left of the podium is Miss Bianca Barr. She is our official timekeeper. She will hold a piece of paper up to alert you when 20 seconds remain and another piece of paper to inform you when your minute is up. If needed she and/or I will enforce a time limit by interrupting and saying time. We prefer not to have to do that, and appreciate your cooperation in that regard.

Let me share with you though that earlier this year we had similar forums for the attorney general candidates and the gubernatorial candidates. Each of those candidates adhered to our rules, and if they could do it, I surely expect and am confident that you can too.

The issues we're discussing here are of critical importance to the city's disability community. A community that is made up of people of all ages, religions, economic class, gender, and of all types of disabilities. A community that anybody can join at any time, and chances are that if you live long enough, you likely will as well.

When you look at the photographs adorning the walls of this room, you'll see a pictorial history of the fight for disability rights. Those advocacy and civil disobedience efforts led to the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. And the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The photos tell a story of our past struggles for our rights.

And although it's been nearly five decades since the passage of Section 504 and nearly three decades since the passage of the ADA, those struggles continue.

2018 has been a turbulent year for persons with disabilities in the country, and in the city. Here we saw a number of requests for affordable and accessible housing continue to climb. We saw more people with disabilities having interactions with police that tragically ended in violence. We saw the Illinois State Board of Education take unprecedented steps to sanction Chicago public schools for years of negligence in special education. We saw a rise in immigration and related issues that impact people with disabilities. We saw continued attacks on Medicaid, Medicare, and our social safety net. Our community was also threatened by attempts to rollback protections afforded by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's in this environment that we convene today's forum.  

One of you may likely be our next mayor. We're eager to hear you talk about disability issues. With that, let's now hear from our first panel of candidates.

Candidates, each of you have two minutes to introduce yourself. As you do, please tell us if you have any personal connection to disability, if your campaign has a disability platform, what your vision is for the mayor's office on people with disabilities, and whether disability will be represented in positions of leadership throughout your administration. And with that, we'll start with Miss Brown.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: Thank you, and good afternoon.

I'm Dorothy Brown, of course, currently the clerk of the Circuit Court, and I have always been a strong supporter of the disabled community. Actually this came home to me specifically in 2014 when I became disabled when I broke my ankle and had to use a cane and I had to use a walker and I had to use a wheelchair. I have two disabled siblings who are disabled as a result of strokes and I have two individuals in my ranks in the clerk of the court, one who is legally blind and one who is paralyzed on one of his sides because of a stroke but I hired him while he was disabled like that. I hired both of them while they were disabled like that.

I believe in community health and wealth building and I believe that that is for everyone. Especially those that are in the disabled community, and I am committed add mayor of the City of Chicago to ensure that we address the transportation issues. When I was at CTA, I remember how you fought, Access Living and the disabled community, fought for the buses to be accessible. I'm committed to the housing, all the various issues as it relates to the disabled. I have the perfect confluence of background, experience, and a heart to be the mayor of the City of Chicago. As an attorney, and people don't realize that I'm an attorney, I can actually handle the legal law making body of the city council and work with those ordinances and things of that nature related to the disability community. As a CPA and an M.B.A., I can make sure that the finances of the City of Chicago are properly allocated to the disabled community. I am the CEO of a multi million dollar organization, I've been doing that for the last 18 years, people think the clerk is a secretary. No, I'm the CEO of a multi million dollar entity and so ‑‑ and I have the heart, because I came from a set of poor and uneducated parents, my mother was a cook and my father was a laundry worker and I have the heart to help you. God bless you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: By way of background, I come from the south side of Chicago because that's where my grandparents located when they immigrated from Mexico here. My grandpa wanted a better life for his family. He worked in the stockyards for his whole career. My grandmother worked at the A and P bakery on the South Side. They taught me the value of hard work. I learned that value even further when my father bought a little gas station and I worked there pumping gas and towing cars. I know what it's like to work hard. But the event that really changed my life was when I was 13 years old, I broke both hips, and in those days in 1970, the surgery and the recovery was Neanderthal. I had to stay home for my entire freshman year of high school. I had surgery on both legs and I was in a wheelchair for most part of the year. It really taught me what it's like to not have accessibility to things like transportation, even getting down the stairs was impossible, because we didn't have an ADA, where we had people who made ramps, no paratransits, no nothing, this is in my soul. So when Marca Bristo called me and asked me to sit on this board I said yes. I sat on the board and one of the first projects we worked on was building this building. I said to Marca, the city has a great piece of property on Chicago Avenue, let's scheme together to go get Mayor Daley to give you that property and we did. And here we sit today. And a lot of people are better off for it, because this is a centrally located site that's accessible to everyone, and this is where we need to wage the battle to make sure that people with disabilities have access to transit, employment, every facet of life that everyone else enjoys. I look in order to the discussion today. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: Good afternoon, everyone. We have many opportunities over the course of this campaign to speak to different audiences. And I will tell you that of the many things that have been on the calendar, today has been a day I've been looking forward to. And why? Because I'm feeling and channeling my father in this moment. My father was a deaf man. He lost his hearing after a long illness. He was one of his jobs was stoking a coal furnace at a local YMCA and coming out of that heat and cold, he caught a serious illness, spent almost a year in a hospital. The doctors had given him up for dead. Luckily for me he lived but he came out of that experience with total hearing loss. So my entire growing up years of my life with my father, I watched him firsthand struggle, struggle first to be able to find jobs that could take care of his family, struggle with the isolation that comes with being different in a world that frankly doesn't recognize and respect the disabled community. And just struggling to be frankly a black man in America. Having gone through that experience with my father, and watched how it was so difficult for him to be integrated into even family conversations, I can assure you as your mayor that making sure that we eliminate and break down the barriers and the isolation that separate us one from another, that make sure that we have real opportunities and jobs in transit and transportation and recreation, so that people who are disabled have the opportunity to fully enjoy the richness of the city is something that I understand firsthand, and I will be a mayor who puts disability rights first and foremost. There's a lot we can do together, there's a lot that you all have already done, and I will be there with you as a partner to make sure that we continue this fight and the struggle together.

Thank you so much.

(Applause.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: Good afternoon, and thank you for having me here today.

I watched my father, who is probably the strongest man I ever met, he suffered a vehicle accident in 1968. He had his foot cut off. That was the last time the man worked, and I watched him literally stripped of his dignity as he moved forward for the rest of his life until he passed away. And it was one of the most difficult things that I've ever endured in my life.

I watched the strongest man I knew cry, sit in the corner and cry because of what had happened to him.

So that was in 1968. Fast forward, some years later, the very first serious girlfriend of mine who broke my heart.

(Laughter.)

Her parents were deaf, and I spent a couple of years with them learning sign language which I have now, like her, forgotten. But it was quite an experience to watch what the deaf family went through trying to live a life of dignity and normalcy all at the same time, and 36 years after my father, my 16 year old daughter got into a car accident, had her foot crushed, and now at the age of 32 is considering amputation. She's been living with that disability since then. She was a four sport athlete in high school and on her way to playing college softball when this occurred. It's very important that you're here listening to us. People with disabilities, whether it's cognitive, physical or invisible, make up 11 percent of the population which gives you a voice and strength probably that my father didn't have access to. We need a compassionate government. I'm running for mayor because I can't stand by and watch what's happening. We need a compassionate government that pays attention to everybody in the population. We need a compassionate government that pays attention to seniors, people with disabilities, and everybody else. You all deserve dignity. Thank you so much for having me here.

(Applause.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: Good afternoon.

As is true for the other candidates who spoke before me, I have a personal connection to disability. I have a sibling who has struggled with mental illness since his late teens and early 20s, and I ‑‑ although I was away from home here in Chicago and he was back in Minnesota, I know what a terrible toll his illness took on ‑‑ not only on him and his life opportunities and chances, but also on the rest of our family.

So when we were trying to put together our Medicaid expansion program in the Cook County health and hospital system, and Dr. Raju, who was CEO at the time, talked about including behavioral health services and substance abuse services as part of the menu that would be available, I wholeheartedly agreed that that was a good idea and the health and hospital system had not had a very robust behavioral health substance abuse component previous to that, so it was kind of moving into new territory.

I always talk about the importance of neighborhood public schools and how they're different from charter schools, because they take every kid in the neighborhood, whether or not they have a physical disability or behavioral health issues or other kinds of challenges. It's really important that we have strong neighborhood schools that include everybody. And that have to provide services to everybody in contrast to our charters.

When I was alderman, we built 1500 units of housing and three of those developments were for people, seniors and people with disabilities.

I also often talk about police accountability and the importance of training, particularly crisis intervention training and de-escalation strategies that help the police deal with the disproportionate number of people with disabilities with whom they come in contact.

So I thank you for the opportunity to be here today. And I thank Access Living for putting together this forum.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. Vallas.

(Applause.)

>> PAUL VALLAS: Well, good afternoon. Thank you so much for the opportunity to speak before you.

I grew into my 30s as a stutterer and stammerer and I remember my ‑‑ they classified me as special ed and of course my mother challenged that classification for many, many years. But that experience, that experience and the long‑term relationship I had with a gentleman by the name of Bill Malleris, a distant cousin of mine and a lifelong childhood friend and an advocate for accessible living opportunities, gave me a sensitivity to the important role that government can play in providing and ensuring that everyone has accessibility, that everyone in the community has the supports that they need so that they can function and thrive independently, and I was fortunate when I became CEO of the Chicago Public Schools that I appointed a woman named Sue Gam as director of special education services and she introduced me to a woman named Marca Bristo. And from then on it was simple. Whatever Marca wanted, we did. It was as simple as that. You know what I'm talking about. When we laid out the capital plan that renovated 350 schools, asbestos removal and accessibility were at the top of the list. Gary remembers that. So the objective was to reach out to the community and to empower the community to have input in the policies that we developed and that we implemented. From conforming to all the ADA standards to making all of our buildings accessible, to developing a philosophy of least exclusive environment so that everyone could have access to those classrooms. That has been the buzzword. Give the community a voice and listen to what the community has to say, and that's the approach that I'll take as mayor.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

As I mentioned, we have six questions for you. You each will have two minutes to answer. And each candidate will be called to the podium on a rotating basis.

But before we jump into the first question, let me exercise my moderator's prerogative and ask all of you a show of hands this question.

As I believe you're aware, the city is defending itself in a class action lawsuit for its failure to provide affordable accessible housing for persons with disabilities and for permitting tens of thousands of inaccessible housing units to be built in the city over the past 30 years with the use of federal and city funds. In 2016, a similar lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles, which that city settled, agreeing to spend a minimum of 20 million dollars per year over the next ten years to make at least 4,000 affordable units comply to accessibility laws.

If you are our next mayor, by show of hands, are you willing to invest in an amount that's needed to ensure that people with disabilities have access to accessible, affordable house in the city?

(Show of hands.)

(Applause.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Question number one deals with health care. There have been countless number of reports and studies conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control prevention, the academy of science, engineering and medicine and others that reveal that if you're a person with a physical, intellectual, or developmental disability, your life expectancy is less than persons without disabilities. You're at a higher risk factor for early onset of cardiovascular disease. You're more than twice as likely to be obese, you're more than three times as likely to have diabetes, you're significantly more likely to have unmet medical, dental and prescription needs. And if you're a woman with a disability, you're likely to receive poor maternity care, less likely to have received a Pap smear test or mammography than those without disabilities. Those disparities are exacerbated if you are disabled and a person of color, which hits home because almost two‑thirds of people with disabilities in the city are persons of color. As mayor, how will you address disparities in accessing health care and in health outcomes for people with disabilities? And we'll start with Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: Thank you, it's an excellent question.

I think there's no easy answer. I look at it comprehensively, holistically. I think it involves first of all a commitment from a mayor who wants to see the access that we all want to be there. When I was in the mayor's office, I worked every day with the mayor's office for people with disabilities and its director to make sure that there was teeth in that office and that it meant something and that person worked across all of the lines involving transportation, housing, and get this, building construction. I can't tell you how many times somebody wanted to build a building that didn't comply with the ADA, and we stopped it, and we brought them in and made them comply with the ADA. Why do I talk about all these things with regard to health care? It all starts with the discipline of how you view this issue. And I view this as very important at the top. Paul talked earlier about whether we were at the CPS and we made sure that this was a priority in every project we undertook. Not just buildings, but also services. We didn't have a special ed crisis when we were there. We were on top of this issue. I believe that you have to live this every day. You cannot do this part‑time. And I will make sure that health care is universally available to everyone by means of transportation, and I also want to say this. Employment is a key issue here. If you have employment you have health care coverage. I will make sure that my administration has a large diversity of people with disabilities. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: As a vertically challenged person I'm going to take the microphone down every time so you can see me.

Picking up on some of the issues that Gery just indicated are a hundred percent right. A big city mayor has the ability to transform the lives of people. It's all about making these and other issues a priority, and you can use the tools and the bully pulpit of the mayor's office to make sure that first of all, in the health care that's available to city employees, that you're making these issues a priority, but I think you can also go further than that and look at opportunities frankly to press private companies to make sure that they're expanding opportunities for health care. We've got to make sure that expansion of Medicaid is real in our state, and I think again that's an opportunity for the mayor to use her powers to expand Medicare ‑‑ Medicare and Medicaid to make sure that people with disabilities have true access to health care. And I think we've got to look creatively in partnership with organizations like Access Living and other partners who are out there to really bring the case to the private sector. But I think this is a point that Gery said that's right. We also have to make sure as I said in my opening, that we provide real economic opportunity for folks with disabilities, because I will disagree, obviously not every job pays a living wage, not every job has benefits but that's why we have to press for that and make sure that we are bringing folks out of the silos, out of the shadows, providing them with real economic opportunity to make sure that health care is also a part of this. But it does start at the top. It does start with mayor who will make these issues a priority and not just say it and talk about it. But promise it and commit to it and that's what I'm doing here today and every day.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: So the answer to this question goes back to what I started speaking about already, which is a compassionate government. We don't ‑‑ well, let's turn the page on the now to be soon ex mayor and his administration. But let's talk about what's left behind. We have stripped our most challenged neighborhoods of the vital resources that they need to survive. Whether it's social services, mental health centers, water ‑‑ lead in the water. Everything that's happening in those neighborhoods is going to get worse based upon the conditions that the government here in Chicago has created. We need to reopen mental health centers. We need to ensure that medical facilities are accessible for people with physical disabilities. We need to ensure that people can be transported and get cared for in a dignified fashion. We need to ensure that our seniors, people who have worked for the city, have their health care restored. We need to ensure that people can live in safety in those neighborhoods, all at the same time. These are the goals, the rules, that government needs to live by. And my mayoral will be that City Hall will not be in the building. It will be in the field. It will be a City Hall of inclusion, of interest, and it will be a City Hall of compassion to ensure that everybody gets what they need to live a dignified life here in Chicago.

Thank you.

Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: So if you look at the Cook County budget, 50 percent of our resources go to health care. So very early on I made a commitment to make our health care system as effective and efficient and as accessible as possible. And so we spent a year lobbying our state legislature to be sure that they were willing to become part of the Affordable Care Act because the state has to apply to the federal government to be a part of the Affordable Care Act, and then going to Washington to meet with the federal staff people and our congressional delegation so that we could have our own Medicaid expansion program. Our program is called county care and as I said earlier we included in county care for the first time attention to behavioral health and substance abuse issues in addition to physical health issues, where the hospital had not had a very big footprint before. And Affordable Care Act, this Medicaid expansion, is part of President Obama's legacy and it enables people who make minimum wage or less to get federally supported health care, to have a Medicaid card. We have 334,000 people in Cook County in that program, and it includes many people in the disability community. In particular because the income requirement is such that either you make minimum wage or less and we know that many people in the disability community are employed part‑time or not at all, so it provides access to the health care where they may have never had it before.

We also need to look at the behavioral health side of this. The city had 12 mental health clinics. It now has five. And as I say, this was proposed as a cost saving measure. It's a bad idea. It leads people in crisis into our emergency room in hospitals or because they're acting out into our jails, so it's not a cost saving measure. It's a cost shifting measure and we need to invest in not only physical health facilities but behavioral health facilities across the county and the county needs to work in conjunction with the ‑‑ the city needs to work in conjunction with the health and hospital commission.

Thank you, Mr. Vallas.

>> PAUL VALLAS: Thank you very much. First of all you need a commitment. The mayor has got to believe in this, because he needs staying power. Secondly you need to make it a budget priority, and all of my budget from in I was city budget director to when I ran school districts in Chicago and Philadelphia, all the new schools that were built with FEMA money after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city, they are all LEED and a hundred percent accessible. So you have to have a will and make it happen. Third you have to make sure there's full compliance with ADA standards, not only for public buildings but for those buildings that are benefitting from our largest, 700 million dollars in TIF money to developers, you have to make darn sure that those buildings are fully accessible. Fourth is the disabled community, disability community is 11 percent of the population. They should be reflected, they should be reflected in the cabinet positions that they hold. I mean why does ‑‑ you know, we always seem to select the person to be the head of the office of disabilities, someone who is disabled. What about transportation? What about economic development? What about housing? What about housing? What about making sure that we're empowering the community by really empowering the community. That means putting people with disabilities in positions of responsibility so at the end of the day, it becomes the number one priority. What about guaranteeing that every single important board, including the school board, including the police board, have a position, have a ‑‑ select a person or have you select a person from the disability community to serve on that board? That's real empowerment and that's real representation and that's putting your actions where your mouth is.

So it's a matter of are you going to make a commitment? But you've got to create the infrastructure to ensure that it's followed through on and that you have full accountability and that's what I would do as mayor.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Miss Brown.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: So the question is about health care. And ensuring that we have proper access to health care for the disabled community.

Having proper health care is a basic human right. Having access to be able to get a proper exam as a disabled person can make the difference between life and death. Having ‑‑ being able to get proper medicines or being able to access your medicine or being able to read your medicines can be make the difference between life and death. So it's important that we take care of the disabled community.

I as mayor, my plan is this. I have a specific plan. I want to create using a legal entity a special disabled health care fund, and I will work with medical equipment providers. I will work with the pharmaceutical industries. I will work with the hospitals. All the different entities within the health care industry to create this fund, to actually put funds into this fund. Also I will be looking at the TIF funds and we would use those funds to start to help large hospitals to actually have equipment that disabled individuals can actually be able to get your tests done properly. What about being able to get a mammogram as a woman, and you're in a wheelchair? We want to have equipment that you can either stay in place, or you can be able to be transferred to. And so ‑‑ and also when you're visually impaired, you need to be able to read your prescription labels and so we want to work with pharmaceutical companies to make sure that they have equipment to be able to make pharmaceutical labels where you can actually read them.

Having basic health care is a human right, and I as mayor would do everything that I can to ensure that you have proper access to health care so that you can live as a ‑‑ and be able to live a long life. And we can cut down on that mortality rate as it relates to the disabled community.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Second question deals with transportation. As was mentioned some 18, 20 years ago, here in the city, people in wheelchairs engaged in civil disobedience, chaining themselves to grilles on CTA buses to have modifications made. There was a federal lawsuit filed by Access Living which resulted in accessible CTA buses. Today the public transportation options for people with disabilities are still very limited. The city's paratransit service is woeful. You have to call the day before you want a ride to schedule a ride. If you don't call promptly at 6 a.m., your chances of getting the service for your desired time is very slim. And even if you get your desired pickup time, there's no assurance that they'll arrive in time, if at all.

And while all of you can open an app on your phone to hail a ride, those of us in wheelchairs cannot. And it's only approximately five percent of the taxi fleet in the city that's accessible. The absence of reliable on demand public transportation limits our ability to live, our ability to learn, and our ability to earn. If we trust you with our vote, we ask that you address these transportation problems as if a loved one in your family needed them. Our question for you is what will you do to improve and expand access to public transportation, improve paratransit services and provide equal access to ride shares for people with disabilities, and it occurs to me that on your watch, we may have autonomous vehicles in the city. Please address that in your answer as well. Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: The questions so far have hit on I think the big framing issues for how do you create a city where there's a quality ‑‑ a good quality of life for people in the disabled community. We talked about health care, we talked about housing, and obviously transportation is critically important to that as well.

Look, we know the statistics, but I think they bear repeating. The fact is that most CTA stations are not accessible. We've got to change that. Money obviously is a big issue. But I can assure you that part of the City of Chicago agenda with both our Springfield representatives and our Washington, D.C. representatives is to find the moneys so that we can make CTA accessible.

The paratransit issues which you mentioned, I don't know anybody who is not traveled around the city and seen someone in a wheelchair waiting. Waiting for the ride that never comes, comes too late. That is a significant issue, and there again I think that's where a mayor has to step up and work with the service boards to make sure that paratransit not only is a priority, but that this problem gets solved.

Another way in which we can address this issue and you touched upon it is with ride shares. Right? There's a lot of issues to say about ride shares. But obviously we need to make sure that ride shares are accessible, both in terms of being able to hail one and that we have a minimum requirement of a fleet of ride shares that are actually accessible to the disabled community. There's a lot more that can be done but these are I think some of the highlights, and again it really comes down to priorities. Some of these priorities are ‑‑ and like with CTA, are costly and we have to find the money but a lot of it is to have the will to see the issues for what they are and to address them head on and to make sure that the mayor's office for people with disabilities has a larger budget and is more empowered within the city government to make sure that they are at the table when a lot of these cross issues are being discussed because they affect this community most specifically.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

(Applause.)

Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: So I guess this is one of those times when I want to tell you be careful what you wish for. While 40 stations, CTA stations, in the city still do not have accessibility, until we make the CTA safe, I would be very careful getting on it. But at the end of the day, the ASAP program, all stations accessible ‑‑ what's the P? All stations accessible ‑‑ anyway, the ASAP program was going to take 20 years to get the money to upgrade those stations. That's absolutely unacceptable. I don't know how much money we're talking about but we need to be able to find that money in our budget, just like we need for other things. This would not be political spending as I complained about. This would be needs based spending. This is providing a service for the citizens of this city.

Second issue is PACE. PACE is required, paratransit is required by the ADA, but it is horribly run as we know. It's hard to get on. You have to time it perfectly. I say that we sue and take over and make sure it a city agency. This way it's managed. Instead of doing their own self‑reporting, we run it like a city agency, holding business management principles and holding paratransit accountable for getting things done on time and in a customer service friendly fashion.

Lastly, again, I tell you be careful what you wish for. Well, Uber has an app that you can get disability transportation. Ride share is something that scares the heck out of me. It's necessary that it goes across the board and everybody has accessibility, but again until the rules, until the playing field is leveled for the transportation industry and everybody is held to the same standards, we're taking our lives in our hands in some cases, and please be careful for that.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: The national center on aging and disability transportation did a survey, and it found that 80 percent of people with a disability, 80 percent, said they couldn't get to all the activities and errands they needed to or wanted to because they couldn't get around. So we need to invest in the accessibility of our public transit. As you heard earlier, Mayor Emanuel talked about making the system entirely accessible, but the time frame he put on it was 20 years, which is a generation. Clearly that's too far out. We need to improve paratransit, including PACE, to make sure rides are tracked by GPS and on time. We need to have a person with a disability on the CTA board. Let's talk a little bit about those ride share programs. There's no obligation for the ride share companies, Uber or LYFT, to have a percentage of their lift handicapped accessible and they're decimating the cab industry. So the cab industry has requirements for accessibility, the ride share companies, Uber and Lyft and others don't have one and as they drive cabs out of business, there's less and less opportunity for people to get cabs because the cab companies are finding themselves shrinking because of the competition from Uber and Lyft, so we have some real challenges around public transit and we have to invest in accessible public transit for all of our people. Young people now with disabilities, but as you heard earlier, as all of us get older and need canes and walkers and perhaps wheelchairs, the demand for accessible transit is going to be increased significantly.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Vallas.

>> PAUL VALLAS: Great. Look, the issues of people with disabilities need to seize being an after thought, because that's what happened. Every election year, people come in, they say they're going to organize or provide more resources, are committed to this and that, it needs to be institutionalized. You not only need to make a commitment but you need to create an infrastructure to ensure that that curricula, that that commitment is embraced and you need to make sure that there's accountability. So this is what I will do, because I've done it in the past. I will make sure that there is a disability component in my budgets, in my programs, in my allocation of resources. So that we're constantly thinking about people with disabilities in every single decision that we make. Why not having a disability impact statement, anytime there's a new initiative out there. Number one.

Number two, look, anyone who gets a subsidy from the city needs to adhere or gets licensed by the city needs to adhere to certain disability standards or have a plan to implement that. That includes Uber and Lyft.

Number three, we need to really find a way to create a mechanism by which the disability community can have a permanent voice, bringing ‑‑ allowing the disability community to come together to create its own advisory council with direct access to the mayor and to the departments so that there can be constant oversight and accountability. Institutionalize the ability to have almost a blue skies approach where you can clearly see, you can clearly see who is doing what, because we can make our commitments all we want, but unless you have an infrastructure of accountability, nothing happens, and then number four, and I'm going to say this over and over again, every time I get up here. We need to recognize that people with disabilities can occupy more departments and more boards than just departments and boards that deal with people with disabilities. And we need to make that a priority. The way you empower the community is by empowering the community.

Thank you.

(Applause.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Brown first.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: Thank you.

People with disabilities pay their taxes. Just like everyone else. And you deserve to have access to all of the benefits that's offered, including the CTA. Of course the paratransit, that's been transferred to the Regional Transportation Authority, so we have to make sure that we're looking at the Regional Transportation Authority as well. But what I want to do as mayor is to make sure first of all that we have a board position on the CTA that is filled by a person with a disability. I want to properly fund that office of people with disabilities that reports directly to the mayor's office so that that office can look over and make sure that everything including the Chicago transportation authority and the Regional Transportation Authority, the paratransit services are being properly handled. I want to make sure that we have a task force in place specifically for paratransit because I have a lot of friends that use paratransit. A lot of the women that go to various things with me, one of my ‑‑ two of my volunteers actually use paratransit to get to ‑‑ be able to do petitions for me, and so ‑‑ and they had problems with that. And so I am very concerned about the paratransit service. So I would create a paratransit service's tax force to actually reevaluate that entire service and make sure that we are doing everything that we can to ensure that that service is proper for everyone. And I will work with the federal transit administration in DC to come up with the funding, because since we're going to have a Democratic Congress for a while, maybe we can get some funding, get a better budget to make sure that Chicago can actually have the funds that we need in addition to the TIF funds of course to make all the trains accessible. This 20 year plan is offer the table ‑‑ off the table, I want to speed up that so we make every train station accessible. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you, and now Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: Thank you. You know, I don't know if I would have been able to get to you to chain myself to the buses in 1970, so I wasn't even a way to get there, but I applaud your action.

I am one who has never been sued, in order to do the right thing, no matter whether I served in the mayor's office, with the Board of Education, Paul Vallas, the Chicago Park District or the community colleges of Chicago. I believe that we need to model behavior as leaders. I will pick people who are agency heads, both in the CTA and the Chicago Department of Transportation and in the mayor's office of people with disabilities who have direct orders to make sure that this issue is dealt with. I want to make sure that our investment in train stations and equipment is done with people with disabilities in mind, and you won't have to worry about that when I'm mayor.

With regard to the ride sharing companies, these guys need to be taken to task. There's a lot of work to be done with ride share companies. Not the least of which is their offering of services to people with disabilities. We can get this done and I ask for your support to do that.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Our third question relates to employment. There are significant employment gaps between persons with disabilities and those without. While mounting evidence demonstrates that hiring this overlooked talent pool can increase productivity and reduce costly turnover, barriers persist, both in persons with disabilities seeking employment and while on the job. In addition to low educational attainment, barriers include lack of transportation access, lack of employer knowledge about how to provide specific accommodations at a job location. And the ever present stigma associated with disability. According to employment data published by the Nathalie Voorhees Center for neighborhood and community involvement, in the city, if you're Hispanic and disabled, you have a 22 percent employment rate, compared to 49 percent of your Hispanic non‑disabled counterparts. If you're black and disabled, you have a 15 percent employment rate compared to 46 percent employment rate, compared to 46 percent for your black counterparts without disabilities. If you're white and disabled, you have a 22 percent employment rate, compared to 58 percent for your non‑disabled white counterparts. As mayor what plans do you have to increase employment and workplace inclusion for persons with disabilities in the city?

Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: If there's one thing that we've learned from our nation's history, it's that various classes, whether it's ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, or now people with disabilities, have suffered various slings and arrows, whether it's employment, whether it's opportunity, whether it's a voice, and I think that now, especially since we're talking about more than 10 percent of the population, that time has come for people with disabilities to band together and we have to force the change. Change comes hard. Right? People hate change. I like to say there's two things people don't like: The way things are and change. But in this case, there always has come a point, a tipping point, where the change has to be forced. There's laws restricting what we can and can't do, and what we need to do as far as ADA is concerned. And I think that as a city, and certainly as a country but let's just talk about the city, we need to force that change now. So that every city contract that goes out, every grant that goes out, any funding that goes out, anything that we do in this city where we hold the strings, we need to force that change, and make sure that people with disabilities are hired into that workplace. There's no excuse that about 20 plus percent of individuals with disabilities who are seeking employment actually have employment. That means that almost 80 percent of those individuals who are seeking employment don't have it. So it's real simple. We're going to have to force this change. We're going to have to weave it into everything we do. Everybody's already talked about inclusion. That's an obvious thing that I think we all agree on. But in this case, every contract, everything we do in this city needs to have a clause that people with disabilities are employed in those parameters.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: So when Rahm Emanuel was elected but before he took office, he and I sat down and we said we share a building but we don't have much to do with each other. There's very little interaction between the city and county so we put together a task force to look at the ways we might collaborate and cooperate and one of those was around employment and training, so each of us gave up our federal dollars that came in and we put them into a not‑for‑profit organization called the Chicago Cook workforce partnership which is because it was a not‑for‑profit we got corporate support so it dramatically increased the resources for employment changing. We let it be known that the Chicago Cook workforce partnership is as flexible and inclusive as possible when it comes to loose for opportunities for people who are looking for work. And employers we know often overlook people with disabilities. The labor force participation rates for people with disabilities are very modest as you heard. It was broken down by race but very modest in comparison to those who are able‑bodied so we have to use the partnership and its leverage with employers to increase opportunities for people with disabilities. Including creating facilities and jobs with flexible hours and appropriate accommodations, and trying to make sure that our own services meet the needs of the clients that come to us. For example people may not always be ready for the job opportunity. They may need help with putting together a resume or identifying career options and we've got to be sure that we're able to meet those needs.

So we've got to work with the Chicago Cook workforce partnership to be sure that it is addressing the needs of the disability community appropriately.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. Vallas.

>> PAUL VALLAS: You know, once again it's a question of do you have the will. When I took over the Chicago Public Schools with Gery, 80 percent of the buildings were substandard and few were ADA compliant so we found a way over six years to build the 3.2 billion dollars school construction program and we prioritized is asbestos removal, second, ADA, and all of our schools, our approach on special ed with least restrictive environment and we also did a 50 percent minority hiring and local hiring, and I remember the trades said there aren't that many workers out there. Well guess what, 1.8 billion dollars in salaries went to black and Latino workers on construction projects. So it can be done if you set the standards. It can be done if you say when it comes to city buildings, and remember it's not just the city. It's the schools, it's the CTA, it's the airports, it's the park district, and we can go on and on. At the end of the day, the city has a lot of assets at its disposal that should all be accessible and that should all be engaging in the type of practices that hire people from the disability community. And we just spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks and tax incentives and direct grants to developers who should come into full compliance on ADA issues. This is not rocket science. Who has the will to do it? But again I can get up and promise you this, but then who is going to hold me accountable? Well, if you actually create an advisory group that the community selects, that will have a direct impact and will be able to review budgets and issue disability impact notes on any program or any contract that's let, you'll have accountability, and finally and I've told you I'd say it over and over again, if you recruit from within the disability community individuals who can not only fill jobs but individuals who can fill positions of leadership, so that they can be empowered at transportation, at CHA, at CTA, at the school district, then believe me you're going to get accountability because the people who are going to be holding the people accountable are the people who have the power to hold people accountable.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Brown.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: So to increase our access to employment for people with disabilities, I will start with my administration first. And I will make sure that I have people with disabilities within my upper management leadership team, as well as throughout the entire City of Chicago. I will make sure that the human resources department understands that there is no discrimination as it relates to people with disabilities. I will also as I've done in my office, make sure that we have ‑‑ as I talked about earlier, I want it bring it to your attention, one thing. The individual that I told you that had the stroke and I hired. I actually rehired him. He was working for me before he had his stroke and then he left and then I brought him back after he had the stroke. So you know I'm firmly committed to that. But I will also work with the Chicago Cook workforce partnership to find money to help place people with disabilities, to help train people with disabilities, so that they can actually have jobs, and I have an idea. Every year we hire hundreds and hundreds of youth during the summers. The City of Chicago hires hundreds of youth and they put them out in public agencies and private agencies. Why not create a fund and a program where we actually hire people with disabilities and give them an opportunity to go to various private agencies and governmental agencies and work towards permanent employment? I think the important thing is that we raise awareness that we get people ‑‑ give people an opportunity to see that individuals with disabilities are great individuals that work hard and can get the job done, and if we give that exposure, raise that awareness, then we will increase the employment. We will increase the jobs that are available for people with disabilities.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: I believe you start to get at this issue by first enforcing the laws that are on the books. When is the last time the City of Chicago was a party, going after somebody who discriminated by not hiring somebody who had a disability? And it's like we talked about chaining ourselves to the buses. Sometimes we have to take a negative action to model positive behavior. I think we have to do it. It's long overdue. I've learned in the course of this campaign that all of the advisory committees that used to sit have been basically disbanded. Why? To save a buck? I also would say we can't stop with the public sector. We have to view the private sector. I'm a private sector employer. I hire people with disabilities. Sometimes you have to make accommodations but you do it. We've had some great employees who have come to us and helped our firm. We also as part of this committee that I've called for, the advisory committee have to get the private sector in so we're not just sanctioning with punitive measures but we're also encouraging them to do the right thing and to hire people and diversify their workforces. We can do this but it takes a mayor who can model this behavior.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

And Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: Well, what you're going to hear from me are things that are very similar to what's already been said but for me this is incredibly personal. My father lost his hearing when he was in the 1950s. And those of you who are old enough to remember those times, it was like the dark ages. My father was treated as a pariah because of his disability. And worse, there were oftentimes when he was made fun of. But his ability to take care of himself and our family from being able to access good quality jobs, was virtually non‑existent. So this issue is very personal to me.

Clearly the City of Chicago has to be a leader to make sure that we are expanding opportunities, that we give real meaning to the laws against discrimination that are on the books, and as Gery frankly just said, we need to challenge the private sector to make sure that they are doing the right thing, consistent with the law and frankly going above and beyond that, but bringing people out of isolation, making sure that they have real opportunities is critically important. But also what we need to be doing is making sure that we put this as a focus in the CPS and frankly the private school industry here in the City of Chicago. If kids are not given an opportunity because of disability, whether visible or invisible, if they are relegated to the sidelines, and not provided with real opportunity, they are not going to be able to participate meaningfully in the new economy. So making sure that we place great emphasis on this issue everywhere that children are able to learn, both in and outside of schools, is critically important to make sure that we give them the tools that they need to meaningfully participate in the environment and then as I said before, then we need to open up the workplace for people who are well trained, who are ‑‑ have the skills that are necessary to fulfill jobs and make sure that the accommodations are there for them so that they can live fulfilled life. As I said, this is a deeply personal issue for me.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Now we're going to move into the equivalent of a lightning round. Not because of anything you guys have done but we have fallen behind a little bit. So we're going to go to one minute answers because we want to get your closing statements. We will reduce those statements to one minute as well. Bianca will give you a one second cue as you're speaking.

The next question has to deal with education. As mayor, how will you address the educational gaps and further efforts to ensure that students with disabilities in the city are able to secure a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment? Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: So first of all we need to make special education a strategy priority for CPS, disgracefully they had to be attacked, what, lobbied, forced, to deal with kids who have individual education plans appropriately. I mean it's disgraceful. We now have a state monitor to make them do right. It's disgraceful and it reflects on the leadership. We need to look at the TIF program and be sure that the surplus is there. Go to Chicago Public Schools to enhance the support staff that are so important to the success of our kids, special ed teachers, nurses, social workers. We can't have successful schools just with teachers. We have to be sure we have these other professionals and paraprofessionals to support them. We need an elected school board and we need a rebalancing of funding so there's equity of education across the city. We've got very good schools in some communities, and we've got really challenged, resource challenged schools in other areas and those are often areas that are African‑American and Latino.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. Vallas.

>> PAUL VALLAS: Look, we need to enforce our special education rules. That's why Sue Gam has now worked with me in four districts. When I took over the schools in New Orleans, 80 percent of African‑American and Latino kids, most of them African‑American kids, were in ‑‑ who were disabled were in most restrictive environments. When I left only 10 percent were. And the number of special education kids at proficiency and above was in single digits. When I left, they're in the 40 percent. So the question is there has to be a will. There has to be a will. Number one. Number two, look, building new schools, we need to prioritize the next capital plan renovating and making all of our schools accessible, because it can only provide ‑‑ you can only provide those education services if those buildings are fully accessible. So we need to make accessibility a priority again. And finally we just need to hold people accountable. We need to put people in positions of responsibility so that when we lay out our strategies and goals we make sure that people are held accountable for their failure to implement them.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Brown.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: One thing that I did when I went to law school was to specialize in school law, and I learned that individualized education plans were so important as it relates to the disabled. Recently the Illinois State Board of Education had to take over the special education program for the Chicago Public Schools and just this year, 700 positions, teachers, monitors, et cetera, are not filled yet. And the Illinois State Board of Education, they have five monitor positions that are not filled. When I'm mayor I will change that. What I want to do is create an office within the Chicago Public Schools, probably within the inspector general's office, that will actually be a special education compliance office and will make sure that the individualized ‑‑ the electronic individualized education plan is properly working on that every child that is supposed to come together to create that plan for every child, that every child has that plan, and that every school is in compliance with that plan for each child.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: When Paul Vallas and I were at the CPS, we worked our way out of a consent decree and we worked hard by putting the resources there that needed to be there to provide special education teachers in the right amount and make sure that IEPs were done and were enforced. When I was at the Illinois State Board of Education, they would bring rule changes to me that wanted to broaden the amount of class size by putting children with disabilities into these large classes where they wouldn't have special attention. I voted that down. And believe me the staff wasn't happy. But most importantly this is personal to me because my daughter is a special education teacher. And I see the heartbreak that she comes home with whether she says that she couldn't get an IEP done in a timely way for a student and that student couldn't get the nursing or the hearing supplement that they needed to have their education maximized. I care very deeply about this subject, and will be a warrior on it for every time that I'm the mayor of Chicago for every day.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: You've heard I think a lot of good ideas from other people that have already spoken before me and I agree with most of them. But I think where we have to start, given what has happened at CPS over the last seven years, where parents and kids and teachers and other stakeholders have been treated so poorly. When there's been so much harm and injury that has been done with a top down leadership model, that doesn't value the input of people whose lives are going to be most affected by the decisions that are made. Fundamentally we have to recalibrate the relationship between CPS and the parents and the students and other stakeholders. That is where we need to start, and frankly I've said, I think that Janice Jackson right now needs to go on a redemption tour to frankly apologize for a lot of the harm that's already been done at CPS.

(Applause.)

So I can assure you a lot of these great ideas are things that we absolutely should be implemented, but where it must start is with a leader who believes that parents and students and teachers should have a seat at the table.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: I hope you all realize that the toughest position is the last one, because all the things that you want to say, somebody else has already said.

(Laughter.)

So I'm going to sum it up. Accountability, financing, availability. Accountability for the individuals who are not doing what they're supposed to be doing. CPS right now is being monitored by the state, but there's only three people monitoring the entirety of CPS of what's happening with people with disabilities. That needs to be expanded. The city should be doing it themselves. Why are we letting the state do it? We should be doing it, so we should take accountability for that.

Financing, we need the money as has been pointed out, whether it's TIF funding or other sources to identify that funding for the appropriateness of the programs that would immediate the individual education programs that are necessary and we need accessibility. Accessibility both physically as far as getting in and out of those locations, but also there are so many people doing great work in this city. We need a glossary of that that we can pass out to people so when you need something, you just look it up and you get it.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

(Applause.)

So that concludes the questions for panel one. Thank you for your answers. Now we want to have each candidate give a one minute closing statement. Beginning with Mr. Chico.

>> GERY CHICO: Andrés, thank you very much for you and Access Living convening this forum. It is incredibly important that we leave no one out of our city and its future. That has been my career, that has been the behavior that I have tried to model, and the issues that we've talked here today, one of the good things about running for mayor, everybody on this forum right here has good ideas. I've been stealing them all, believe me.

(Laughter.)

And there are a lot of good things that we can take and implement. I hope to have the ability to do that with your support by become the next mayor of the City of Chicago, thank you for hosting this important forum.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Lightfoot.

>> LORI LIGHTFOOT: As I've said now many times, these issues that we've been talking about today have particular resonance with me. They are deeply personal and I think about them through the lens of my father's experience, but I also think about them through the experiences that kids that I grew up with who had various disabilities and again I was a kid who went to school in the 60s and 70s where we were still very much in the dark ages and making sure that we gave real promise to equity and inclusion.

What we need is a mayor who understands these issues, who will make them a priority, but also frankly what we need is people like you and Access Living and the number of other organizations across the city who care deeply about these issues to hold all of us accountable. We are existing in the same ecosystem. I can assure you that I'm committed to and speak and understand the same values and struggles and concerns that you're articulating but you don't have to take my word for it, you can hold me accountable when I'm mayor, so we can make sure that your issues actually have real resonance and priority in the City of Chicago. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. McCarthy.

>> GARRY MCCARTHY: Again thank you for having me here. Thank you for hosting this forum.

This is something as I mentioned earlier that is very emotional to me based upon the way I grew up. I didn't even talk about my nephew, my God son, Michael, who was a hemophiliac who contracted HIV at the age of three years old, and virtually lived as a boy in a bubble until he was 23 and he passed away. But I watched his life, my father's life, get changed, and it really dawns on me and this is something I say all the time, that we have to use the power we all have and you have a voice that you haven't had for a long time and certainly people in my father's era and Lori's father's era did not have. At the same time we need to focus on what makes us the same, not what makes us different. It's not how you look, it's not whether or not you can see or hear the way that I can. It's about the values that we have, and we need values based government that has compassion, that treats everybody the same, a government of inclusion that represents everybody in the city.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Miss Preckwinkle.

>> TONI PRECKWINKLE: First of all, again I'd like to thank Access Living for providing us this opportunity to share our ideas and views. You know, for the last eight years, I've worked hard on providing health care for everybody, access to health care, and we've had great success in our health and hospital system, particularly in the Medicaid expansion portion of it that's provided so much ‑‑ so many people, 334,000 people with access to health care. And Medicaid card, federally supported health care didn't have it before. As a teacher I know the importance of inclusion. I note the importance of ‑‑ I they the importance of having schools that serve all of our kids and not just some of our kids and when I was alderman I worked hard to create affordable housing. We created 1500 units of housing, three buildings for seniors and people with disabilities, and most of the rest of it was affordable rental housing, including housing that was adaptable or had universal designs so that people who had physical disabilities could use them. I hope for your help and support in my race for mayor of the City of Chicago.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. Vallas.

>> PAUL VALLAS: Again thank you so much for the invitation to come here and thank you to Access Living for guiding me and making me a better administrator. From those ‑‑ from the first time we met when Marca came into our office and said you're not going to have a capital plan without an accessibility plan. Let me say this. Look, I'll tell you what I'll make sure. And what I will guarantee will happen. I'll make sure that institutions under the city's control are not only in full compliance but they're being held accountable and I'll make sure that priority is given when it comes to hiring. I'll also make sure that private entities that receive funding from the city are also in compliance, and that they meet standards. And furthermore, I will make sure that we put the infrastructure in place so that there is an infrastructure of accountability and that means empowering the community to select a real advisory board that can review budgets and have the capacity to do pension impact ‑‑ disability impact statements so we can determine the full impact of the programs and the policies. And finally I will appoint people with disabilities to not just one department but to critical departments that impact the quality of individual lives.

Thank you so much.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Brown.

>> DOROTHY BROWN: Thank you so very much for hosting us tonight. And I just want to say like fanny Lou hammer said, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. I'm sick and tired of having to have individuals with disabilities, people from communities of color, African‑American, as I am, to have to fight for basic human rights in this city.

(Applause.)

I'm sick and tired of it. And it's time for us to have a mayor that cares. A mayor that won't get up here and just say all these flowery words to you, but really, really cares and will go to bat for you and fight for you. That's what I have done as the clerk of the court. That's what I have done all of my life. Fight. And I will bring that same fight to the mayor's office for you. If we're going to have a world class city, we will have a world class accessible city. God bless you. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you very much.

Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for all of our candidates.

(Applause.)

Thank you all so very much. And thanks to your campaign staff for making this happen. We wish you all the best of luck.

Ladies and gentlemen, we'll take about an eight minute break. We'll get started back at 4:45. For those of you on the Internet, the Internet connection will be down but it will resume at 4:45.

Thank you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please find your seats.

Thank you. If you would clear the front area so the second panel can come in, please.

Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to get started here in about 30 seconds. So if you could please find your seats. The candidates are on their way in.

Ladies and gentlemen, please be seated.

Please join me in welcoming the second panel of candidates. We have Miss Amara Enyia, Illinois State representative Mr. La Shawn Ford, Mr. John Kozlar, and our state Comptroller, Miss Susana Mendoza.

(Applause.)

As a reminder, each candidate will make a brief two minute opening and closing statement. I will also ask six questions. Each candidate will have one minute to answer. And I will call each candidate by name to the microphone when it's their turn.

Responses will be timed by Bianca Barr seated in front of the podium, our official time keeper. She will hold up a piece of paper to alert you when 20 seconds remain for your questions, except for the opening and closing, you'll get a 30 second remaining notice. And another piece of paper when a minute or two minutes are up. If needed she and/or I will enforce the time by interrupting and saying time. We prefer not having to do that and appreciate your cooperation in that regard and your competitors in the first panel all complied with the rules.

(Laughter.)

So I think you will as well.

So let's get started.

The issues we're discussing are of critical importance to the city's disability community. A community that's made up of people of all ages, religions, economic class, gender, and all types of disabilities. A community that anybody can join at any time, and chances are that if you live long enough, you will as well.

When you look at the photographs adorning the walls of this room, you see a pictorial history of the fight for disability rights. Those advocacy and civil disobedience efforts led to the passage of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The photos tell the story of our past struggles for our rights. And although it's been nearly five decades since the passage of Section 504 and nearly three decades since the passage of the ADA, those struggles continue.

2018 has been a turbulent year for persons with disabilities in the country and here in our city. Here we saw a number of requests for affordable accessible housing continue to climb. We saw more people with disabilities have interactions with the police that tragically ended in violence. We saw the Illinois State Board of Education take unprecedented steps to sanction Chicago Public Schools for years of negligence in special education. We saw a rise in immigration related issues that impact people with disabilities. We saw continued attacks on Medicaid, Medicare, and the social safety net. Our community was also threatened by attempts to rollback protections afforded by the ADA. It's in this environment that we convene our forum. One of you may likely be our next mayor and we're eager to hear you talk about disability issues.

With that let's now hear from our candidates.

In your opening statements, please tell us if you have a personal connection to disability, if your campaign has a disability platform, your vision for the mayor's office on people with disabilities, and whether disability will be represented in positions of leadership throughout your administration. Again you have two minutes. We'll begin with Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: Good evening, everyone.

My name is Amara Enyia and I am running for mayor of the City of Chicago. My first interaction with the disability community, I was in third grade, and we had a program at my elementary school where kids were actually introduced to other children who had disabilities as a way of putting us all together so that we could learn and be in the same spaces with each other and connect with each other and I think that experience actually informs why disability issues have been so important to me, because we were essentially desensitized to the difference and it was an ability to see how we were actually common and the things we had in common. And so one of the things we talked about as we talk about our disability platform is how we make sure that we're building people who have a sensitivity to difference, from a young age. So that it is not become an afterthought when we think about what's happening in the city generally.

For far too long, disability issues have been an afterthought in the City of Chicago, where it's considered late when we talk about development, even when you talk about affordable housing, we don't talk about accessible housing. We haven't used innovative ideas of integrating disability issues into common practice so that it's not seen as something that is extra, but something that is par for the course and necessary.

So a lot of the issues that we talk about from our platform are how we use new ideas to make sure that we're integrating these issues into the platform in a way that shows how important it is for the health of this city moving forward.

It's about advocacy, but it is also about the tangible things that directly affect our quality of life. And so for me, this started maybe 20 years ago, and I see a lot of opportunities for us to continue that work, and work in partnership with members of that community as one community. And so that's part of our platform that we have for this mayoral forum and hope to share more with you. Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you, Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Good evening. And I'm very happy to be here, especially when you can come to a room of people that are standing up and advocating for something that they believe in, so I'm state representative La Shawn Ford. I have relationships with many of the advocates that's in this room and I appreciate working with you.

And so for the last 12 years, we have been protecting the rights of the people with disabilities in Illinois and in Chicago. And I look forward to continuing to work with you and all the people that care about the issues that's important to all of us.

As an African‑American male in the city and in this country, we know what it's like to be discriminated against. And because of me understanding the civil rights movement and understanding how when people are left out, how it feels, I'm very, very sensitive to the fact that we have to make sure that Chicago is inclusive and accessible to everyone. And you have my commitment as your next mayor to make sure that nothing about us without us will be my agenda to make sure that you have a seat at the table so that we can get it right. That's what we have to do. We don't have to really worry about little odds and ends here. We just have to make sure every public space, everywhere we go, is accessible to everyone in this city. Everyone. And that's our goal to make sure that we work together, and of course as a teacher, I've seen how people with disabilities have been affected and how they have not been able to have the equal opportunities to education. So we will work very closely with the Chicago Public Schools to make sure that students have access and the ability to learn just like everyone else. I look forward to working with you and God bless you all.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: Hi, everybody. My name is John Kozlar, today I am 29 years old and tomorrow I will be 30.

(Laughter.)

So thank you all for being here today. I really wanted to pause real quick and thank you for the organizers who put on this event. They had a lot of time to talk to us and they really treated us all fairly. And we can please give a round of applause for the organizers who put this on today.

(Applause.)

Thank you, so I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. I ran a nonprofit for eight years for little league boys and girls ages 3 to 13 and part of the system that we have in place is treating people fairly. There were kids on the South Side who were ‑‑ had disabilities but they weren't allowed to play ball just like everybody else and I provided that avenue so they could be included and that's what we need in Chicago. For some reason the City of Chicago, we keep electing the same people over and over, they go from one city department to county to now back to the city departments and they just ‑‑ it's like a revolving door of recycled politicians. What we don't do is listen to the people from a political perspective and that's disgusting, so in my administration, from a disabled standpoint stars listening to ‑‑ as far as listening to issues, you have people on your team who have these disabilities because they are the ones who can relate to people. You have people come up here as candidates who say we know this and that. We have to check our egos at the door because we don't know everything. But there are people in this room who know a lot more than the people standing up here.

We have a lot of questions to get to and I thank you all for being here today and I hope we get excited for a really good forum, so thank you.

Thank you. Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: I always have to bring the mic down.

Good afternoon. I'm Susana Mendoza, I'm your state Comptroller and I want to share a story with you. On December 5, the day that I was sworn in as your comptroller in 2016, just a couple of minutes after walking off the stage after taking my oath, I read the first email that I received in my official capacity add comptroller, it was a woman who I will call Mary, lived in downstate Illinois and she asked me, pleaded with me to please be here advocate. And she shared her story about how she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of four. And how because the state had been so derelict on paying its bills, and she had been officially guaranteed lifetime health insurance as a result of her severe disability, her parent used to work for the State of Illinois, we hadn't paid the state's bills in six months at that point, and her health care was going to be cut off. Essentially leading to a potential death sentence, a catastrophic result for her. To top that off, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was at the end of her life. The person who for so many years had cared for her daughter with the greatest amount of love possible in her home. In the dignity of her home.

So on December 5, I received that email, saying that if we did not pay that health insurance bill, or get her on a payment plan by December 15, on December 22, her health care would be terminated.

This of course is going to lead potentially to her death and she asked me to please advocate for her. She was completely immobilized at that point and could communicate with me so eloquently as a result of a head mouse, a dot on her forehead that allowed her to put her words into text.

I thank God every day for getting that email and making that the first email that I got as your comptroller, because it has what has set the tone for my entire tenure, taking on Bruce Rauner in his quest to hurt people, first and foremost people with disabilities over 736 days. I'm proud to be a champion for disabilities and as your mayor will continue to lead Chicago with a moral compass and always put people with disabilities first.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you so much.

So as I mentioned, we have six questions for you. You'll each have one minute to answer and each candidate will be called to the podium on a rotating basis. But before we jump into the first formal question, let me exercise my moderator's prerogative and ask all of you by a show of hands two questions. The first question is not influenced by the performance of the first panel, or my anticipation of your performance. But by show of hands, do you favor legalizing marijuana?

(Show of hands.)

(Laughter.)

Second, as I believe you are aware, the city is defending itself in a lawsuit for its failure to provide affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities. And for permitting tens of thousands of inaccessible housing units to be built in the city over the past 30 years with federal and city funds. In 2016, a similar lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles, which that city settled, agreeing to spend a minimum of 20 million dollars per year over the next ten years to make at least 4,000 units comply with disability laws. If you are the next mayor, by show of hands, are you willing to invest on an amount that's needed to ensure that people with disabilities will have access to accessible, affordable housing in the city?

(Show of hands [all].)

Thank you.

Our first formal question. It deals with health care. There have been countless number of reports and studies conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Disease Control and prevention, the academy of science, engineering, medicine and others that reveal that if you're a person with a physical, intellectual or developmental disability, your life expectancy is less than persons without disabilities. You are at a higher risk factor for early onset of cardiovascular disease. You're more than twice as likely to be obese. You're more than three times as likely to have diabetes. You are significantly more likely to have unmet medical, dental and prescription needs than those without disabilities. And if you are a woman with a disability, you are likely to receive poor maternity care, less likely to have received a Pap smear. Those disparities are exacerbated if you're disabled and a person of color, which hits home because almost two‑thirds of the people with disabilities in the city are persons of color. As mayor, how will you address disparities in accessing health care and in health outcomes for people with disabilities? Starting with Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Am I going there?

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Yes, sir.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Thank you for the question. I think that's critical because one aspect that we have to do is make sure that Chicago is healthy. Chicago should be the healthiest city in the nation, and it starts by making sure that everyone has access to health care and access to health insurance. President Obama worked very hard and diligent to make sure that we had a new form of health care and ability to have health insurance. So what we have to do is make sure that we work closely with the state, the city, and the county to make sure that everyone has the proper health care so that it can meet their needs in the City of Chicago.

Does that answer the question?

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: I believe it does. Thank you, sir.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: I mean the fact that we have this question in the year of 2019 is very sad. We don't treat people with respect, we don't treat people fairly and we don't have programs in place to make things accessible. So part of my campaign, it's about fresh ideas. A new approach, and really a new we've of politicians inside ‑‑ wave of politicians in our city. I want to work with everybody in this room. You guys know what the deficits are. You guys know what the issues are facing people with disabilities. And just all about treating people fairly and as human beings, and again the fact that we're even talking about this question in the year of almost 2019 is sad, which means a few things. The people who we elect, they don't have solutions. They don't care about us. But again it's about who we elect, what their actions are. I walked in here today and I saw a big suburban van parked out in front. Toni Preckwinkle had the audacity to park right in front of this place whether a lot of people who here have to walk a few blocks or a few miles and that's wrong, and that's why we need somebody young, fresh ideas not connected to any kind of political machine.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: Well, number one I just want to say I'm a strong advocate in ensuring parity among benefits and treatment programs. Specifically in programs that are serving people with disabilities. But as comptroller, I have to deal with issue every day and so it's a great experience in terms of knowing how I'm going to be as your mayor. Think about what's happening on the West and the South sides of the City of Chicago. Every day, literally almost every week, I have to triage, for example, Roseland hospital. Because they are about to miss payroll, and when they miss payroll, what happens? That hospital will eventually close if we don't come to the rescue and it's not right. So my point is we can't afford to not prioritize hospitals that serve people of color, people with disabilities, who are people of color with disabilities. They have it the worst and if a hospital for example like Roseland were to close, it becomes a health care desert, already in an area that has a much lower life expectancy than an area that does not look like Roseland in Chicago.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So I definitely think that it's important to make sure that everyone has access to health care, but I think it is incredibly important to make sure that when you get access to health care, that the equipment is actually suitable for the disability community. So there's no value to having access to the care if the machines are not properly tailored, if they are not appropriate, and if the hospital doesn't have the equipment that's needed to make sure that they can serve your needs. So one of the things that the mayor's office can do is actually work with hospitals so that they can audit their existing equipment. Audit the existing tests that they have to make sure that when they get individuals that need services that they have the proper equipment to meet their needs. I think that's the first step. Obviously making sure that our hospitals and clinics, the community clinics, that they are serving the populations, that we have enough marketing that people are aware of the services that they need, and hospitals like Loreto hospital on the west side and Roseland hospital on the South Side.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Our second question deals with transportation. Some 18 to 20 years ago, here in the city, persons in wheelchairs engaged in civil disobedience, chaining themselves to grilles of CTA buses demanding the modification of those buses to allow them to ride. The demonstrations culminated in a federal lawsuit filed by Access Living, which resulted in accessible CTA buses. Today the public transportation options for persons with disabilities are very limited. The city's paratransit service is woeful. You have to call the day before you want a ride to schedule a ride. And if you don't promptly call at 6 a.m., your chances of getting service for your desired time is slim. And even if you get a desired pickup time, there's no assurance that they'll arrive in time if at all. And while all of you can open an app on your phone to hail a ride, those of us in wheelchairs can't. And approximately only five percent of the taxi fleet in the city is accessible. The absence of reliable, on demand public transportation limits our ability to live, our ability to learn, and our ability to earn. If we trust you with our vote, we ask that you address these transportation problems, as if a loved one in your family needed them. Our question for you is what will you do to improve and expand access to public transportation, improve paratransit services, and provide equal access to ride share for people with disabilities? And it strikes me that on your watch, we could have autonomous driven vehicles here in the city as well. So you can factor that into your answer, starting with Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: So when it comes to accessible transportation, we have the power to invest in our CTA and have people be allowed to access, whether it's an elevator or different parts, because a lot of the CTA is just outdated. We have not been investing as much as we should and we have not been paying attention to those with disabilities. We more or less put people with disabilities on the back burner and say we're going to take care of everybody else first and then if we have more money, maybe we'll support you. That's the complete opposite of what we should be doing. We should be investing fairly and we should be investing equally, and then as far as the ride sharing goes with Uber, if I take out my phone right now and call an Uber, it's going to get here in ten minutes, but if you have a disability, it could take you 30, 40 minutes and that's where it comes to public policy changes with ordinances in Chicago that we demand from Uber that you must meet our requirements. And part of those requirements is having more cars with disability accessibility.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: Thank you. There's a few things here I want to touch on. Number one I'd assure that the disability seat that's on the CTA board that's going to come open in 2020 will be filled by someone who is an expert and someone with ‑‑ a person from the disability community.

Number two, I think it's really critical that we convene all stakeholders in a fresh way and with a task force that's really going to get too work in terms ‑‑ to work in terms of convening stakeholders to figure out what those needs for accessibility. The lack of accessible street parking. The lack of accessible and timely bus service, as well as secure federal and state dollars from a capital perspective to be able to renovate and really make sure again from the get go that the disability community should not be thought of as an afterthought. They really need to be drivers in the process of what all projects are going to look like. That will happen on my watch.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So I know it's possible because I had a young man that works with a lot of people that I've work with in the community who has a disability, he uses a wheelchair, needed a ride from an event and what we did is we were able to call him a Lyft that was accessible. So we do know that it is possible for them to actually have a fleet of vehicles that are accessible. That is something that the city can specifically do to mandate that ride share services actually offer accessible vehicles for individuals with disabilities.

The other thing is getting on a bus. We actually have to make sure that CTA enforces the seats that are reserved for individuals when they get on the bus. If bus drivers are not enforcing that, if you have a wheelchair, if you're trying to get on a bus, that you will not have a seat and that's a huge problem for every day rides and another component is with paratransit, one of my neighbors uses paratransit and she's always late for church because they're late. They have to enforce timing where they have to report how quickly or timely they pick up their users and if they don't, we have to make sure that we're enforcing timing that's reasonable so they can get to where they need to across the city.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Thank you. And I think it goes to making sure we stick to nothing about us without us. I mean I can always say that I have the answers, but we have to make sure that people are at the table to help us with these problems and come up with the solutions. That's key. But we have to make sure Chicago is accessible no matter where we go, no matter where we turn. If a person without a disability could get there, a person with a disability should get there and have the same opportunities to do so. And it's going to take a public‑private partnership to get there. It's going to take the federal, the state money, but we also have to work with the private sectors to make sure that we're able to help the small businesses that would like to provide these services be equipped with the equipment necessary to do so.

We can't put all of the responsibility on government or on private businesses. So we're going to bring everyone to the table so that we can take care of people in this city and treat them as if they don't have disabilities, but they have the right to have access to a quality life.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Great. Thank you.

Our third question relates to employment. There are significant employment gaps between persons with disabilities and those without. While mounting evidence demonstrates that hiring this overlooked talent pool can increase productivity and reduce costly turnover, barriers persist, both when persons with disabilities are seeking employment and while on the job. In addition to low educational attainment, barriers include lack of transportation access, lack of employer knowledge about how to provide specific accommodations at a job location and the ever present stigma associated with disability. According to employment data provided by the Nathalie Voorhees Center for neighborhood and community improvement, in the city, if you're Hispanic and disabled, you have a 22 percent employment rate, compared to 49 percent for your Hispanic non‑disabled counterparts. If you're black and disabled, you have a 15 percent employment rate, compared to 46 percent employment rate for your black counterparts without disabilities. If you're white and disabled, you have a 22 percent employment rate, compared to 58 percent employment rate for your non‑disabled white counterparts. There are significant gaps.

As mayor, what plans will you have to increase employment and promote workplace inclusion for people with disabilities in Chicago? Starting with Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: I don't know if having two back to back questions answering first is my birthday present. The biggest thing again we keep talking about the same issues over and over again, and we're just not making changes. But the biggest part is treating people fairly. Right? So if you have an organization who is employing people, then you can mandate saying you have to hire at least ‑‑ you give a percentage, 20 or 30 percent of people with disabilities or minorities, whatever the number is, but it's working with the community to identify skill sets. So we're all unique individuals in this room whether you're on stage or sitting down, whatever it is, we all have something to offer life and when we identify that, we identify and recruit people and again this comes out of treating people fairly, not only in society, but again also in the workforce, and the City of Chicago has many jobs that we can give and we always concentrate on the union part of it, but what about the people with disabilities? They should be treated just like we treat people in the unions. Because unions fight to get employed, but we have to make sure we pay attention to people with disabilities to make sure they also get employed.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: So as mayor, I'm going to work to ensure that all city offices are ADA compliant. First and foremost. I'll work to provide access to equal employment opportunities for everyone who wants to work. And I'll also work collaboratively with disability advocacy organizations to ensure that our city government is inclusive and accessible for everyone and reflective of what Chicago looks like. We're the most incredible city in the world because we're all different. And we need to tap into the power of our differences and put it to work for all of us.

It's really about inclusion and accessibility and championing that.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So as mayor, one of the things that I would do, I work a lot with the small business community around the City of Chicago, and we can't leave it up to them to have a full understanding of what the disability community needs as it relates to hiring and employment. We can actually convene businesses from across the city to make sure that they have information on how they can make their workplaces more accessible, how they can make them inclusive and how they can actually meet the needs of potential employees. The other thing that I would do is actually create a network of businesses who know that this is where ‑‑ if you're in the disability community, here's how you can plug into a job. We can actually create that kind of database. We do it right now for young people, we do it in some instances for veterans and there's no reason why we can't have that same database for individuals looking for work. Finally it's not enough to have entry‑level jobs. We also have to make sure we're auditing businesses and companies on how they're promoting and retaining individuals with disabilities within their companies.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: As a teacher I ran for state rep because I knew there were people making decisions about teachers that have no idea what they were doing and how to make public policy to affect classrooms and affect teachers, so I ran for office. So once again I go back to making sure that we have a table that's inclusive so that this group can help us with making the best policy decisions for the workforce.

What's critical is that the City of Chicago hires the highest skilled workers regardless to their ability, their disability, or not, but to hire the best person for the job, and we do know that there are people in this city with a form of a disability that's being left out. The City of Chicago will hire the highest professional for the job. That's our responsibility to have the best city in the country, to have the best workforce is to not ignore people that have been ignored in the past.

So we will be sure to hire everyone that's qualified.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Our next question relates to education. As with employment, there are significant educational gaps between persons with disabilities and those without in the city. Higher educational attainment is linked to long term success in terms of income and employment. It's estimated that 57,000 students with disabilities, approximately 14 percent of the total enrollment, are enrolled in Chicago Public Schools. In the Chicago region, half of the people with disabilities either do not finish high school or only have a high school degree and again significant gaps exist in educational attainment between persons of color who are disabled when compared to their counterparts who are not disabled. Students with disabilities are suspended at a rate almost double than that of students without disabilities, and in Chicago Public Schools the dropout rate for students with disabilities is 25 percent higher than students without disabilities. As our next mayor, how will you address those educational gaps and further ensure that students with disabilities are able to secure a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment? And we'll start with Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: I don't know how you do this in a minute, because it's an issue that makes me so angry. The City of Chicago should frankly be ashamed of itself in how it treats its children with disabilities in our Chicago Public School system. If you live in the City of Chicago and you have a child with special needs, essentially if I want that child to have a good start, many have to leave the city and move to a suburb to provide that service. We are cutting costs first and foremost with the children who can least enforce it. We're not properly diagnosing children with special needs in our school system because we don't have nurses to care for them, counselors that can identify things. Those children get lost in the system and we are creating a school to prison pipeline versus a cradle to classroom pipeline or a cradle to opportunity. This is an area that I feel very passionately about, and I promise you that as your mayor, priorities are going to change in this city and certainly with our children with disabilities if you choose me.

Thank you. Again it's impossible to address this in a minute. I'm sorry.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: For the last couple of years, I worked with a group of lawyers, parents, community based organizations, that had identified the fact that CPS was not giving students their federally mandated services. We followed CPS to get transparency on budget cuts that were disproportionately hurting students that had IEPs. There were decisions made in CPS that excluded parents from having input in their students' IEPs. There are cluster programs that no longer exist. And we worked on this issue for more than ‑‑ for about two years, and as a result of that advocacy work, Access Living was a major part of that. There were law firms that were a major part of that. The Chicago lawyer's committee. The state was called in to take over CPS. It starts with transparency. It starts with having a budget that does not disproportionately hurt our most vulnerable and it starts with having a strong voice at the top levels of city government to advocate for our population.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: So as a teacher, I know what it's like for a student to come into a classroom and not have accommodations. It's pretty hurting to see a student come in and not have the accommodations necessary to learn, and sometimes it creates bullying, so we have to make sure that our schools are accessible and fair to all students. One, students have IEPs and we have to make sure that we live up to those IEPs and give students the resources to deliver on the IEPs so that the students can learn just like all the others and once again it boils down to making sure that nothing about us without us is our goal.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you. Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: One of the reasons why I got in this race is because I honestly do think we need somebody who is young, because when you are young and I'm a product of the Chicago Public Schools, when you're young you can relate to students way better than somebody who has been 40 or 50 years out of education and that's just the truth and the other part of education, a lot of the kids, if they have a disability, they're going through a lot of pressures and challenges where they might be made fun of and that might be a reason why they're dropping out. So we have to discipline the kids who are making fun of others and get that settled, and two, we have to make sure we provide fairness to children. And a program that I have in place is called the little professionals league. I don't care if you have a disability or not, every kid should be treated fairly in this program in the sense of if you want to be a doctor or a teacher or a nurse or whatever, you are going to go in this room and learn early on and shadow a doctor or nurse, shadow a teacher, because then when you know you want to do early on in life, then you're going to know what you want to do moving forward before you get to college. So the program I have in place, little professionals league and we take of kids at an early age before they hit college.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Our fifth question relates to justice and equities. Throughout the country, and in Chicago, youth with disabilities are incarcerated at three times the rate as those without disabilities. Making them most likely to be part of the school to prison pipeline. After release, youth with learning disabilities are almost three times more likely to return to the juvenile justice system, only after six months than those without learning disabilities. As mayor, how will you work to divert people with disabilities and communities of color from the criminal justice system, starting with Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So I think the first step is appropriately identifying disabilities. A lot of times we focus on physical disabilities. We don't take into account mental disabilities or behavioral help and that is directly tied to resources available in schools and in communities, so if we don't have licensed counselors on staff, if we don't have licensed nurses on staff, that has a direct effect on a child's ability to have even the appropriate mindset to be a learner. The other thing is in our communities we have access to the services we need for our physical and mental health. That is directly tied to the ability to sustain yourself with a job that will allow you different alternatives to engaging with the criminal justice system. So it's a holistic approach that requires us to invest not only in the resources necessary in education, but we also have to have a kind of economy that's inclusive where people can plug in and support themselves and we have to expand what disability means and not focusing just on physical but also on the other aspects of health that we need to address.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: So I think what's very important is to make sure that this group is at the table to help us solve those problems. But when you talk about diverting people with disabilities and communities of color from the criminal justice system, it's simple. We talked about education first. People have to have a fair shot and have access to quality education.

Secondly, to keep people out of the criminal justice system, you have to have a trained police force. If the police force is not aware of disabilities in this city, we're going to see people incarcerated that shouldn't be incarcerated, so we have to make sure that our police force is trained and able to recognize when a person has a disability, how to help them through the problems that they're facing. So training the schools and training the police department will help divert people from the criminal justice system.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: I think Mr. Ford hit a crucial part in the sense of training. 'Cause I mean if you think about a scenario, if a police officer goes up to somebody who might be deaf, that can be ‑‑ that could go into a really, really difficult situation, but if that officer is trained properly to treat people with respect, to treat people fairly, to treat people knowing when you go up to them what they have. So it's making sure that we have proper training of the police department and we have to work on that as a city, on many fronts. The other part from an educational standpoint, people with leverage disabilities, you have to ‑‑ learning disabilities, you have to treat them fairly. You can't throw them in the classroom and think they learn at the same pace as everybody else. If students are falling behind, they're left off. So we have to make sure we give the kids what they need and they're treated fairly throughout the process.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: Thank you. I too agree that we have to work very closely with the Chicago Police Department to better train and resource our officers. But I especially think that we need to, when it comes to this particular issue, focus in a huge way, much more than we ever had on crisis intervention training, specifically being able to identify and ‑‑ I mean your job isn't to diagnose but it's to be trained on what a certain situation would look like. Some signals, not even training police but I would advocate even the public and how to report or make a call to 911. If you have information on an individual who is potentially schizophrenic for example, or a child with autism, something that the police should know about before they walk in, there's multiple ways of training and people need to do a better job of reporting.

Having said that crisis intervention training and having officers that are specifically available to go to crime scenes or potential crime scenes is critically important because we want to make sure that we are focusing on de-escalation whenever possible and providing services connecting those situations to services rather than incarceration whenever possible.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Our sixth question relates to immigration. Last year Illinois passed the Trust Act, a law designed to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. It restricts local law enforcement from collaborating with federal immigration agents to detain anyone unless the feds have a warrant. It permits undocumented immigrants to report crime to police without fear of deportation. Including reporting domestic violence. Now, that's significant to people with disabilities as historically people with disabilities are more likely to be victims of domestic violence compared to those without disabilities. Among other things, it also permits undocumented immigrants to seek medical attention without fear of deportation. Our question is twofold. First, do you support the Trust Act, and second, what are your plans to ensure that immigrants with disabilities feel safe and welcomed to seek support within the city.

Starting with Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Thank you very much. Not only do I support the Trust Act but I voted for the Trust Act in Springfield, and I also supported the Illinois sanctuary state, so bring all of those priorities to the City of Chicago, and my administration as mayor is all about fairness. Fairness, fairness, fairness, and inclusion and making sure that everyone in the City of Chicago, regardless of their status, have access to a quality of life so that we all can be productive in this city. It's the only way the City of Chicago could continue to be great and become greater. Give everyone a fair opportunity, a fair shot at life, and that's what you would have. You would have a seat at the table on the fifth floor and you will help create policy that's going to make Chicago the best city that it could be.

Thank you very much.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: I agree. I think we need to keep families intact. We shouldn't be breaking them in. I think the people who we should be deporting are our corrupt politicians and we have a lot of them in Chicago. When you break up a family, which we tend to do for an immigration standpoint, you break up their futures. I am a hundred percent supportive of keeping families intact especially in Chicago, which we are an immigration city. My grandparents came from Croatia and Italy and I think in 2019, we should accept people from outside this country as well.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: Thank you. I'm the proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and I am so proud to live in the greatest city in the world, a city that is a sanctuary city. Of course I was a strong supporter and an outspoken supporter of the Trust Act, and as mayor, Chicago will continue to be a sanctuary city. And the issue of people with disabilities, let me just say that when my parents came over to this country, they didn't speak a lick of English. Now they do, but at the same time, it feels as if from a disability. If you can't communicate. There's many different ways in which you can't communicate, and language barriers is another one of those, and that moment you feel completely helpless if you can't communicate what your needs are, especially in a scary situation when you're being detained.

Having said that, as comptroller, I prioritize every day the needs of this state and one of the other aspects I do include along with prioritizing children and adults with disabilities is the immigrant population and those community groups and not for profits that service people from the immigrant community and people with special needs. So that will continue as your mayor. It's in my wheelhouse, it's what I do every day and I'm going to continue to champion those causes as mayor.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So I come from an immigrant family, so this issue is especially relevant to me. And when you think about what it means to have sanctuary, I think it's the same meaning whether you are in the disability community or otherwise. And is it truly a sanctuary if we can't be safe in our neighborhoods? Is it a sanctuary if you can't access the kind of health care that you need? Is it a sanctuary if you can't get a quality education because the school district is actually cutting your services? So I think we need to think more broadly about what sanctuary means and the city has not done a good job to ensure sanctuary for anyone at this point so for me as mayor it's about tangible steps that we can take to make sure you have access to work, that our facilities are creative about housing in the city, that we can talk to designers that to create housing that is accessible. We no longer use cost as a way of excluding someone. It shouldn't be something we're doing at the back ends. So making the city a sanctuary for everyone including the disability community means that we have to have new ideas that actually move us forward.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

I want to commend all the candidates. We've stuck to the script and on time. And we have just a little bit more time left, so we're into the bonus round.

(Laughter.)

Campaign staff just calm down.

(Laughter.)

Here we go. This evening we talked about health care, employment, education, criminal justice, and immigration. As mayor, how would you prioritize these categories and what would be your first category that you address for people with disabilities?

I'll give you a couple of seconds to think about that.

Again how would you prioritize these categories, and what would be the first category that you attempt to address for people with disabilities?

Starting with Mr. Kozlar. Birthday boy.

(Laughter.)

>> AUDIENCE MEMBER: And young.

(Laughter.)

>> JOHN KOZLAR: I'll try to keep tomorrow as far away as possible. Because I don't want to have a 3 in front of my age.

I would say that the biggest thing for me is actually listening to people, because politicians, they talk a big game during election year but once they actually get elected, they forget about where they came from. And for me personally, I knew where I came from. I know my upbringing. I lived in Chicago my whole life, and I think politicians they think they're better than everyone else and that's one reason I'm running for mayor because I'm like everybody else. We do need the next generation. Going off the topic that you would put number one, education, because education leads to so many different doors and if we close doors on people early on, that can close doors on their life, and I think education as far as an investment goes is probably my number one on that list you just said.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: Number one I want to thank everyone who is running for office, because I think it's important that anyone who wins here is actually going to be a politician. You just want to be a good one. You want to be a good one and that's important because you're entrusting us to make sure that we prioritize you and what your needs are. As mayor all of the issues that we talked about today are important, and I don't think that one has to be done at the expense of the other. The whole point is to continue to prioritize and engage the community and people with disabilities in a way where they are equal partners, where equity is the key driving component, that there is no differentiator between you and me, that we can all agree that we're in this together, and that's going to mean communicating, establishing the task force as I mentioned, which is not just some fluffy word that we're going to use, but actually roll up our sleeves, get our hands dirty. And work for people with disabilities, because I said we're a great city but we can be a lot greater than we are today.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So I don't buy the notion that we have to pick one thing, one area. Unfortunately in the city, we have so many things that have gone wrong. And we have to be firing on all cylinders. I think it's a matter of treating these issues as part of a systemic change that needs to happen and integrating them into our conversation, so there are capital conversations about how we spend money at CPS that are going on right now. That's where we should talk about how to integrate the needs of the disability community. When we talk about housing, we just had a four year housing plan that I think today or yesterday just got passed in city council or approved in city council. We need to be talking about design moving forward before those plans are completed. So there is no one issue that we should lift up and say this is where we will target first. I think as a city we have to do a much better job of addressing these issues on all fronts and actually integrating it into our policy making instead of treating it as an add on.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

And Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: So the saying once again nothing about us without us, I'm telling you that's so important but I have to say health care. I'm going to answer the question as you asked, it has to be health care because President Obama made sure that this country had a new chapter with health care, and right now preexisting conditions are no longer a problem. And so we have to make sure that we have what you call coordinated care for people so that they can get the health care that they need. If you have quality health care, then you can fight for yourself, you can fight with people, so my goal is to make sure that health care is the number one agenda, unless this group tells me it's not.

(Laughter.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Now we're going to move to the closing statements. Each candidate is going to give a two minute closing statement, starting with Miss Mendoza.

>> SUSANA MENDOZA: First of all, thank you so much for having me here today, it's not my first time at access, I love this place, and love so many amazing centers across Chicago that are providing services to people with disabilities. It's usually the best visit that I do in my role as comptroller is when I get to share some time and think of all the amazing innovations and great things that are happening. There are so many things to be proud of and things that we should be ashamed of how we're treating the community of people with disabilities. As your mayor, I've had a great head start. Having served the people of Illinois as your comptroller, prioritizing with a moral compass and making it an absolute mandate to my staff that we put first and foremost, before any of the high priced consultants or anybody else, that we are taking care of people with disabilities, whether they're children or adults or anyone who cares for people with disabilities. Mary's email to me set the tone like I said for my whole tenure. I'm thankful because it reminds me every single day, I think of her every single day when I wake up and at night when I go to bed, I ask myself have I done everything I can and that is what guides my desire to be in public service, it's who I fight for every single day. It's why people should run for public office, because it's not about us. It's about you. And I'm not running to be something. I'm running to do something. It's what I've done in every office that I've ever held. So you know what you're getting with me. I've been your comptroller for the last two years and I hope that you're proud of the work that I've done, fighting for the community of people with disabilities, it's beautiful, it's an awesome community. I am going to be there every step of the way for you the way I have been over the last two years, in the worst fiscal crisis of our state's history. I'm not telling you what I'm going to do. Just look at what I have done. So you know what you're getting with me. I hope you're okay with that. More than okay. I hope you're excited about what the future can be for the people of this city of which you are a beautiful part of it. So thank you very much for your time.

(Applause.)

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Miss Enyia.

>> AMARA ENYIA: So the foundation of my work, whether it was working at the top levels of government or working in the nonprofit sector or working at the grassroots level, has been the fundamental belief that people actually know what they need. That they should be able to articulate what their needs are and that public servants are supposed to be responsive to those needs. And our public policies should reflect that responsiveness. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case, but it's part of what drives me in this journey to becoming mayor. It is based on a fundamental belief that the things that are similar amongst us are far greater than the differences that we have, and that policy making should emanate from the ground up. That there is no other community, even when we talk about the disability community, as though it's some separate thing and it's not. It's my neighbors, it's family members, it's colleagues who are going through some of the things that they express. What's been missing is the kind of leadership that is willing to move away from the status quo, and the way things have always been done in this city. There's no reason why we have to accept the lack of access to transportation. There's no reason why we have to accept children who are not getting the education that they deserve. And we have an opportunity to move the needle on these issues with better leadership.

Finally I do want to thank the people that I was able to work with over the last couple of years on this special education issue, because it takes a lot for CPS to not admit, but at least to be forced to say that we have failed on this. We have failed on this issue and that work was directly tied to the many organizations who came together, the attorneys and the parents who spent a lot of time and energy advocating on behalf of their children. And in everything that we do, I think it's important that we uplift the work of the folks on the ground who actually make it happen.

Thank you.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Mr. Ford.

>> LA SHAWN FORD: Well, I guess these are the closing remarks, so I should say happy holidays and it's been great speaking with you, and it's been great working with all of you in Springfield, and I think you know where my moral compass is about fairness and making sure that everyone has opportunities in this city and in the state. And so what we need is that on the fifth floor. You need to be able to have your very own cabinet in the mayor's office so that it can advise the city about their community needs and that's what you will have with a Ford administration.

And so for that, I have to tell you this has been great, and I think that this has had the most efficient time keeper in all the forums that I've been to.

(Laughter.)

So thank you very much, and happy holidays to you all and I look forward to constantly working with you and pushing public policy that benefits all of us to make this city the greatest city that it can be.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

Mr. Kozlar.

>> JOHN KOZLAR: First of all, if you could give yourselves a round of applause for being here today.

(Applause.)

Seriously, for the fact that you're here shows that you care and we need more people in Chicago who simply care about others. And I want to commend everybody up here on the stage today. It's not easy what we're doing because sometimes you get put underneath the microscope and people are there to judge you or praise you, but thank you guys like I said for being here and I hope you'll be praising us. I want to close by saying this. Chicago is at a crossroads right now. And we can go down the same path we've been going down the last 50 years, electing the same people over and over again and getting the same results over and over again, or we can go to down a different path and elect John Kozlar, but the big thing again is just making sure that we make differences in our city, and if we elect the same politicians over and over again and people who have other positions inside City Hall or different parts of or departments, you get the same results and I'm sorry if we elect the same people over and over again, especially in 2019, that's on us, because we are the ones who empower them and if we don't vote we can't complain and if we vote for the same people then we can't change anything. So again thank you for being here. Thank you so the organizers of this event. It has been one of the most efficient events that I've ever been through, not just getting here today, but again all we had to do was show up. The people who organized this had a lot of hard work that they did to make this possible. So thank you for being here today and I see 30 seconds, I don't know if that's my number tomorrow, but I'll look forward to turn 30. Thank you all.

>> ANDRES GALLEGOS: Thank you.

(Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for all of our candidates please again.

(Applause.)

In closing, I want to thank Access Living, the co‑sponsoring organizations, the volunteers but especially Access Living's Amber Smock and Monica Hamada‑Peña for leading and coordinating these efforts, and to our time keeper.

To the audience, the right to vote is a privilege, to have a say in our government, we have to participate and we participate by voting. Let's ensure that our community who are eligible to vote are registered to vote and do so on February 26. To the candidates, thank you for participating, thank you for your campaign staff for assisting, and we wish you the best of luck. On behalf of Access Living, our CEO, Marca Bristo, the best of luck to all of you, and we'll see what happens in February.

Thank you.

Good night, everybody.

(Applause.)

(End of event.)


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Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility. CART captioning and this realtime file may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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