DOWNTOWN — The mayor and his top challenger tangled anew Thursday in the second televised debate before the April 7 runoff election, with Jesus "Chuy" Garcia telling Rahm Emanuel, "You are not the king of the city."
Garcia, a Cook County Board commissioner who has received strong support from teachers and service employees unions, vowed he would "tell the unions lots of bad news" in the faceoff on FOX32. Although the debate was taped at 6 p.m. Thursday, it was set to air at 9 p.m.
As the challenger widely considered to be behind in the polls, Garcia tried to seize and hold the momentum, while Emanuel was more measured.
Garcia explained his switch of position on using Chicago Park District property for the Obama presidential library by saying, "I think we have to protect parkland," but adding that he bowed to community sentiment in favor of using the parkland for the library.
Yet he dismissed using Park District land for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, calling it "a monument to Darth Vader."
Garcia said the lakefront property between Soldier Field and McCormick Place wasn't Emanuel's to give away.
"You don't make these decisions by fiat. You are not the king of the city," he said. "If you want to put it [Lucas museum] there, ask the voters."
When Emanuel claimed credit for closing coal plants in Little Village and creating La Villita Park, Garcia pounced, saying, "People worked on that 10 years before you were even elected."
Garcia said Emanuel "simply went there and cut a ribbon."
Emanuel challenged Garcia to find three areas where he'd say no to service employees, his major backers. But Garcia turned the tables, saying, "I'm gonna tell those unions lots of bad news, because you've made the city's finances so dire."
On unions, he told Emanuel, "You insulted them. You tried to break the Chicago Teachers Union."
Garcia went on to attack red-light cameras, saying there were based on a "lie" and "are there to pick people's pockets."
Both backed bike lanes, but Garcia said their expansion would have to be cleared with each community. Emanuel agreed, but credited bike lanes with attracting employees in the technology sector.
On education, Emanuel said there would be no new strike by the CTU, saying, "We can work through all of the issues."
Garcia countered that Chicago Public Schools "has only gotten worse" under Emanuel's tenure.
With their talking points honed by months on the campaign trail, both fell back on familiar themes.
Emanuel hammered at how Garcia's financial plan for the city lacked specifics and cited his own track record of balancing four budgets without a hike in sales, gas or property taxes. He said the city would be "bleeding red ink" if Garcia fulfilled such promises as hiring 1,000 more police officers, and he warned businesses and residents would "flee the city."
The mayor backed a new tax on services to complement the sales tax and raise revenue.
Garcia cited other hikes in fees and traffic cameras as "regressive." He again pointed to firms and individuals doing city business and contributing to Emanuel's campaign war chest, now estimated at $20 million. That point was also made independently earlier in the day in a column posted on the Forbes website.
Emanuel closed by citing his ability to make "tough decisions" and touting his leadership.
Garcia countered that a majority of voters on Feb. 24 opted for change and rejected Emanuel's priorities and "broken promises," such as hiring more police officers.
Emanuel showed more spunk in a post mortem with reporters, defending himself by saying, "Attacking somebody is not an agenda for attacking the problems facing the people of Chicago. I've attacked the challenges facing the everyday people."
He pointed to how Garcia had flip-flopped on such issues as the Obama library.
Garcia said he was emboldened by growing support, saying, "The vibe of people across the city of Chicago has been inspirational to me."
In their first head-to-head meeting, Emanuel tagged Garcia early, pointing out he had helped bring on the pension crisis by voting for a pension payment holiday while in the General Assembly. But after that Garcia has been the aggressor, pounding on the theme that the mayor is "out of touch," both on crime and education.
Emanuel led the citywide vote Feb. 24, but failed to gain a majority, pushing him and runner-up Garcia into a winner-take-all runoff.
The two candidates are set to square off again Tuesday on WTTW-Channel 11's "Chicago Tonight" in what is their last scheduled debate before the April 7 runoff.
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