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Mayoral hopeful Watkins: Let me be heard

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayoral candidate Patricia Van Pelt Watkins had one question at the end of her interview with the Sun-Times editorial board:

“Can you all get me into the debates?”

No, she was told, the Sun-Times has no control over the television stations and public-interest groups holding the mayoral debates.

Watkins, a community organizer, has struggled to get the same attention as the four candidates for mayor who have held elected or appointed public office.

“That’s sin. That’s what that is — sin,” the Pentecostal minister said of the debate organizers’ refusal to let her participate. “They are refusing to allow the voice of the people to be heard. If they could just hear me, if my voice could be heard, the ideas I have would resonate with the people in this city .,, I collected 41,000 signatures. I raised half a million dollars. We’ve got more money than Miguel del Valle.”

Watkins’ largest single contribution is from her pastor.

Watkins, director of the Target Area Development Corporation and a longtime champion of community development, said she is in the race for mayor because “No one else was carrying the voices of neighborhoods.”

For example, she said the state needs to create training and rehabilitation programs for the 24,000 ex-offenders being released into Chicago neighborhoods every year. None of the remaining mayoral candidates are addressing that.

Watkins criticized state legislators for not funding the Ceasefire anti-violence program. Violence rates shoot up when funding for that program runs out, she said. It’s time to elect someone outside the Old Guard of elected officials, Watkins said.

“The city is corrupt. It has been corrupt for years,” Watkins said. “It has cost us entirely too much money I think it’s time to look at new faces and fresh ideas.”

Watkins has been able to debate some of the candidates at neighborhood forums, but not front-runner Rahm Emanuel, whose seat at the forums stays empty. He has participated in one debate so far.

“Rahm has not been out in the neighborhood — he refuses to debate,” Watkins said.

Unlike the major candidates, Watkins said she would consider keeping on Police Supt. Jody Weis.

“I’m not so quick to say I want to get rid of Jody Weis,” she said. “His relationship with the rank and file is a problem, But the murder rate has come down.”

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