Next Mayor: For the people of the city

Chicagoans fill the oversized green booths at Ronny’s Original Steakhouse, trying to avoid the winter weather, while manager Ronny Munich works hard cleaning off tables, keeping at bay thoughts about the future of his business, which has been in the family for generations.

For the first time in more than 40 years, Chicagoans like Munich are facing a wide -open mayoral race. Crime, education, public transportation and the job market are just a few of the issues on their minds, as at least six strong candidates vie for their attention.
Twenty candidates filed petitions on Nov. 22 at the Board of Elections to be on the ballot. Serious contenders include former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, former Chicago Board of Education President Gery Chico, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and City Clerk Miguel del Valle.

Munich says this election means a lot to him. The steakhouse, located at100 W. Randolph Street, has been around for 50 years. The business has thrived during Daley’s years in office. “Daley did a great job,” Munich said. . “He really helped out and cleaned up the city.”
But Munich also has some complaints. They include the layoffs of more than a thousand CTA workers. This has really hurt Munich’s business, he said, since Ronny’s is a favorite spot of those who drive the L-trains that pass overhead. “I used to feed half of these people daily,” he said. “I need the next mayor of Chicago to put people back to work.”

A Chicago Public Schools teacher is also hoping the new mayor will address educational needs. Lauren Villwock, who teaches at Nathan Davis Elementary, is still new to the CPS system, but from what she can gather, Daley “did an okay job while in office.” At age 26, Villwock is full of hope when it comes to the next mayor of Chicago. “I’m actually pretty anxious to see what happens next,” said Villwock. “He has been mayor for a very long time and it will be, hopefully, exciting to see the new mayor’s approach and focus.”

Villwock suggested there is a lot of pressure on CPS teachers to start boosting grades and be more accountable for their students’ scores on standardized tests. Villwock thinks the school day should be longer so students will have better learning retention. She is also hoping the next mayor will push for more after-school programs and programs forparents and community members.“If the new mayor doesn’t see education as an issue, it could affect us horribly,” she said. Villwock is worried about more funding cuts, which could mean teaching positions lost and even more over-crowded classrooms.

Columbia College undergraduate student Jonathan Broadus agrees that education is one of the most important issues. “I’d love to see CPS students gain better lunches and programs to keep them out of trouble,” Broadus said.

Residents hope the new mayor will continue Daley’s emphasis on arts and culture as a primary economic driver.

Chicago has always been a city of creativity, though in the years before the second Daley administration, a vibrant and safe downtown cultural district was not present. Daley and his wife have instituted numerous arts-related youth programs and public-private efforts.

“Daley has made Chicago one of the best-known cities for culture in the country,” said Robert Gallucci, president of the MacArthur Foundation.

Many are uncertain about the future of Chicago cultural institutions given budget crises and the loss in Daley of a strong political supporter.
“It’s an uncomfortable time because we don’t know who the next Mayor will be,” said Toni O’Neil, a long-time participant in Chicago’s art scene and events coordinator at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs.

Meanwhile Columbia College student Kelly Jandura, 20, wants to see the next mayor prioritize public transportation. She relies on public transit to get to work everyday and hopes to see an increase in CTA staff. “I need to feel safe when using public transportation,” said Jandura.

Chicago is one of few cities worldwide with 24- hour public transit, on both the red and blue line. But the system has suffered major cuts during Daley’s administration.

Many Chicagoans also worry about the city’s high crime rate, exemplified by the shooting deaths of six law enforcement officers this year. Munich thinks the job crunch will make crime even worse – and hurt his restaurant. “More crime once again equals less business,” he said.

Overall, Munich said, he just wants someone who will be fair to the people of Chicago. He is among the many Chicagoans who feel cheated by Daley’s privatization of parking meters. “People don’t want to pay huge amounts of money to park downtown, and then go out to eat dinner,” he said. He also thinks Daley dropped the ball with this year’s Chicago Christmas Tree, located half a block from Ronny’s. he calls it “the worst tree in years.”

Ultimately, he knows no one is perfect.

“After all the hard work Daley has put in, I don’t want to see just another politician coming in and messing it up,” he said. “Being mayor of Chicago is no easy task.”