Chicago — Paul Vallas and Brandon Johnson are going toe-to-toe in a runoff election April 4 that’ll decide Chicago’s next mayor. For some Gen Z, the race boils down to which candidate will deliver on their public safety promises.
According to Chicago Police Department data through February 26, homicides over the past year were trending down compared to 2021, but that hasn’t eased crime concerns residents have, including Will Bailey, a 22-year-old from the South Side.
“You still hear the gunshots,” he said. He hasn’t been paying attention to the mayoral race and didn’t vote in the previous election. He’s also not too knowledgeable on politics. However he knows how it feels to live in fear
“You get kind of numb to it,” said Bailey.
If he did vote, the main issue he’d want politicians to pay attention to would be crime in neighborhoods like his. He isn’t optimistic about that, though.
“People out here know these politicians ain’t really thinking about us,” he said. “It doesn't really matter what party they are in.”
Sean Calloway, 20, shares the same skepticism of government officials, but he has been paying attention to the race. While he isn’t sure which candidate would be best for the city, he wants the one who “will actually do something.”
“Both look like they have ideas but ideas in a city like this means nothing without action,” said the Hyde Park resident.
Vallas and Johnson are both Democrats who represent different factions of the party, opposing each other’ stances on several policy fronts. While some of their goals for addressing crime are similar, others couldn’t be more different.
Vallas, a former mayoral candidate in 2019 and a former Chicago Public Schools official, has often deployed tough on crime rhetoric throughout his campaign. He wants to fire the city’s top cop and beef up CPD’s staff.
All candidates in the Feb. 28 mayoral race, except the incumbent Lori Lightfoot, said they’ll get rid of Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown. He resigned less than two days after Lightfoot’s defeat. His resignation is effective.March 16.
Johnson, a Cook County Commissioner and Chicago Teachers Union organizer, has previously said he supported the “defund the police” movement. He says he’d enact a plan on his first day as mayor “to make CPD more efficient, train and promote 200 new detectives from the existing rank and file, improve transit safety and get illegal guns off our streets.”
He has tweaked his “defund the police” statement to say he supports wise spending within the department.
Kyle, 23, previously voted for Johnson because his ideas about addressing crime were trying “to get at the root” of the problems.
“I never met him, but from what I’ve read, he seems like he really understands what our Black communities face,” he said. “Has Vallas even been to the South or West sides? Who is he?”
Kenneth, a 26-year-old Bronzeville resident, resonates more with Vallas.
“He often speaks of community policing, having officers that are on the ground and who know you,” he said. “We need that.”