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Braun goes after rivals Rahm, Chico in mayoral debate

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Mayoral hopeful Carol Moseley Braun on Thursday accused her two biggest rivals — Gery Chico and Rahm Emanuel — of being in it for the money, while she has never made a dime from public service.

Braun leveled her broadside during a campaign debate on the day the race for mayor turned the page from Emanuel’s residency to the meat and potatoes issues.

Braun painted Emanuel and Chico with the same brush, arguing that both have exploited their government contacts for personal gain.

“Just be honest, Gery, most of your [law] clients are people who do business with Chicago. You have gone from one government revolving door to another. Quite frankly, Rahm, you have gone from one government appointment to another.

“There’s a difference. Public service when it is for the benefit of the public vs. public service when it endures to the benefit of your own private pocketbook. That is a bright line distinction in this race.”

As Braun criticized Chico’s law practice, Chico could be heard muttering, “That’s not true.”

Braun has taken heat for late payment of five of her last six property tax bills as she struggled to keep her small organic food business afloat in the teeth of a recession.

But she turned the tables on Emanuel — by getting him to admit that he, too, was late on a property tax payment. It was two months delinquent after he had moved to Washington to become White House chief of staff.

Chico started the debate by going on the offensive — accusing Emanuel of proposing what Chico called the “single largest sales tax increase” in Chicago history.

Emanuel has proposed a sales tax swap: cut the city rate by one-quarter of 1 percent, but broaden the umbrella to include a host of services not previously taxed.

“This is not the way to get there. We’re talking about imposing a sales tax on barbers, child care, car wash — you name it. Nine percent for people right now who are struggling with a tax they just got from the Illinois General Assembly,” Chico said.

Emanuel’s spokesman insisted that the broader tax would not cover barbers and child care.

But Emanuel did say for the first time that he would cut off the free water spigot to hospitals, churches and other non-profits to solve a structural deficit that could approach $1 billion a year when the city’s pension obligations are factored in.

“Non-profits don’t pay water bills. That doesn’t mean they have to pay the same rate [as homeowners and businesses], but they should pay something,” Emanuel said.

On Wal-Mart’s proposal for a $1 billion expansion that could change the face of retailing in Chicago, Braun said she would welcome it, but only if the world’s largest retailer agrees to pay a “living wage” that’s higher than 50 cents above the state’s minimum wage.

Del Valle accused the city of creating an “oppressive climate” for its citizens with fees galore, red-light cameras and Denver boots slapped on scofflaw vehicles.

“We give people the boot for two tickets,” del Valle said. “They can’t get to work. We want to collect our revenue, but it’s time for us to be sensitive to what is happening out in the neighborhoods of Chicago. We give them the cold shoulder. We need to be more sensitive.”

Chico has promised to hire 2,000 more police officers, without specifying how he’d find the $200 million to pay for it. Pressed for specifics, he cited his track record as Mayor Daley’s chief of staff.

“In 1994 I hired 1,000 police officers. I think I’m the only one who’s ever hired a police officer,” he said.

Braun countered, “Gery, you can’t take credit for what Mayor Daley did.”

Chico replied, “I recommended it.”

Braun closed the debate with a chilling tale of inner-city crime that’s holding residents hostage.

“I was on 87th Street just the other day and gunshots had my staff force me to the floor of the car. We’ve got to make our communities safe, so our seniors are not hostages in their homes, so businesses can get started,” she said.

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