MORGAN PARK — The 19th Ward Aldermanic Candidate Forum on Tuesday evening began with a debate about debates.
"Debates are not silly. They are the cornerstone of democracy," Schaible said in her opening remarks. She then asked O'Shea to agree to three more debates before the Feb. 24 election.
Members of O'Shea's staff said not to expect any further debates. The alderman's "silly" comment was based on his experience in the previous election. He said very few undecided voters attended subsequent debates.
Rather, the audiences became packed with ardent supporters of particular candidates who predictably booed, hissed and applauded in favor of their nominee, O'Shea said in previous interviews.
The remainder of the forum was spent with Schaible — a doctor of obstetrics and gynecology for 23 years — pointing to the differences between herself and O'Shea. Schaible finished second to O'Shea in the aldermanic election in 2011. She received 6,526 votes or 28 percent of the total.
O'Shea received 14,426 votes or 61 percent of the total in the last election, which included five candidates. In his opening remarks, O'Shea pointed to his record — a strategy he used throughout the debate.
"I am running on my record. I think we've accomplished a lot," said O'Shea while seated on the stage of the high school auditorium at 1744 W. Pryor Ave.
The two candidates disagreed on strategies for encouraging economic development in the 19th Ward. Schaible said she'd push for a petition to allow table service of beer and wine along 95th Street and on the east side of Western Avenue.
O'Shea said he wouldn't stand behind this blanket approach. But the alderman promised to work with individual developers and business owners interested in changing these "dry" areas, provided the end user was good fit for the neighborhood.
Schaible also criticized O'Shea for his use of tax-increment financing dollars to attract businesses into the area, saying she'd use the money strictly for infrastructure improvements. O'Shea proudly pointed to several projects where TIF dollars were used including the re-opening of Janson's Drive-In and the debut of brewpub Horse Thief Hollow.
Both agreed that overcrowding at public elementary schools was an issue, particularly in Mount Greenwood. O'Shea touted additions at Mount Greenwood School and George F. Cassell Fine Arts School during his tenure. Schaible vowed to do more.
Both lifelong Beverly residents also floated the idea of developing seventh- and eighth-grade programs that would serve as a feeder to the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Mount Greenwood.
Finally on education, Schaible vowed to push for an elected school board in Chicago. O'Shea said such a decision rests with lawmakers in Springfield. Meanwhile, he again pointed to educational improvements made during his tenure as proof he's been able to work with the current board. He vowed to do the same should an elected school board emerge.
"That's what I do. I build relationships," O'Shea said.
Regarding public safety, Schaible promised to work to fully staff the Morgan Park Police District, which protects Morgan Park, Beverly and Mount Greenwood.
O'Shea said such a goal is unrealistic, as police manpower has been curtailed throughout the city. Despite the current staffing levels, crime has fallen in the 19th Ward, according to O'Shea's statistics.
He credited the drop to his strong working relationship with the area's police and vowed to continue to fight for modest gains in staffing. He also recognized the efforts of his own office, which hosts community seminars on identity theft and senior scams.
The aldermanic candidates were then asked about Chicago's looming pension crisis. O'Shea identified the problem as statewide issue. Though he believes a Chicago casino with the proceeds dedicated to the city's underfunded pension liabilities would help.
Schaible said she'd vote against all discretionary spending until the pension crisis is resolved. She specifically pointed to the $400 million plan to build a new arena for DePaul University as well as an adjacent hotel and park.
In the closing moments of the forum moderated by the League of Women Voters of Chicago, O'Shea again pointed to improvements made during his tenure. He specifically noted the 2012 effort that blocked the redrawing of the 19th Ward boundaries.
"I am proud of my record these last four years," O'Shea said.
Schaible countered the incumbent by asking the capacity crowd to take an honest appraisal of the neighborhood before voting on Feb. 24.
"We are not better off and that's why I'm asking you make me your 19th Ward alderman," she said.
Both candidates shook hands, posed for pictures and met with constituents before leaving the auditorium.
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