The Chicago Mayoral Candidates Forum organized by the Voice of Indian-American (VIA) Voters in Chicago was attended by 7 mayoral candidates and 350 community members at the Taft High School in Chicago, IL, February 10. It was the first event of the VIA Voters, a non-partisan platform for civic engagement of Indian-Americans in Chicagoland and nationally.
The founding members of the group are prominent business persons and community leaders including Dr Bharat Barai, Mr Sanjjeev Singh and Dr. Anuja Gupta. The goals of the group include seeking a better level of engagement with elected officials, creating a more informed voter base and increasing the participation of Indian-Americans in the election process.
‘As a new organization it was a bit challenging to get commitment from the mayoral candidates, but our persistence and hard-work paid off with 7 of the 9 candidates we invited to attend the forum,’ said VIA Founder Sanjjeev Singh. In attendance were Paul Valas, past CEO Chicago Public Schools, Garry McCarthy past chief of Chicago Police Dept, Gery Chico, past president Chicago Public Schools, Bob Foretti, attorney, Amara Enyia, director of Austin Chamber of Commerce, La Shawn Ford, Chicago State Representative and Jon Kozlar, Attorney
The Forum was moderated by Rishi Agrawal, an attorney and candidate for Cook County judge. Questions presented to the candidates included a wide range of topics important to the Chicago people such as increase in violent crimes, economic opportunities, Chicago’s infamous pay to play culture and education disparity in the city.
The candidates were first given a chance to present their agenda followed by questions directed to specific candidates regarding topics they represented. ‘Chicago crime can only change when the city hall culture changes. Corruption starts at the top here and has got to change before anything else,’ said candidate Garry McCarthy, former police chief. Candidate Jon Kozlar, an attorney and the youngest candidate at 30 years of age said, ‘In order for Chicago to change we need a new administration which is not burdened by the baggage from the past. I bring that fresh perspective to the race.’ Candidate Paul Valas noted the disparity of teachers and funding for schools in Chicago. ‘Every child deserves a fair chance for a decent education in the country,’ he said.
The Leadership Team of the group includes 18-20 prominent citizens and leaders of local organizations. They include Gulzar Singh, president Pan Oceanic Inc, Nimish Jani, trustee Schaumburg Township, Kanti S Patel, president, Gujarat Cultural Society, Vidya Joshi, secretary, Bruhan Mumbai Maharashtra, Syed Hussaini, vice-president of commercial loans at Wintrust Bank, Khaja Moinuddin, trustee, Hanover Township, Ulka Nagarkar, member Maharashtra Mandal, Girish Kapur, member United Punjabi Association, Shree Guruswamy, member of Chicago Andhra Association, Vandana Jhingan, TV Asia, Keerthi Ravoorie, member, Indian-American Democrat Org, Savi Singh, Deepti Suri, Dr Rahul Deepankar, Ashfaq Hussain and Gladson Varghese, past-president Indian-American Democratic Organization.
VIA Leadership Team with the Chicago Mayoral Candidates Back row L to R – Syed Hussiani, Deepti Suri, Raees Yawer, Shree Guruswamy, Keerthi Ravuri, sanjjeev Singh, Gulzar Singh, Dr Anuja Gupta, Girish Kapur, Savi Singh, Gladson Verghese, Dr Harjinder Khaira, Rishi Agrawal, Ulka Nagarkar, Muthusamy Selvaraj