A new tight-knit crowd of mayoral candidates sat together for the first time Saturday afternoon to discuss issues affecting the city’s disabled community.

Seven candidates – community activist Jamel Green; Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson; State Rape. Kam Buckner (D-Chicago); Paul Vallas, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools; Eld. Sophia King (4th); US Representative Chuy Garcia (D-Ill.); and incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot — sat in a row at a long table for a mostly amicable debate at the Access Living Forum in River North.

Garcia said he was “running on fumes” as he moved to Chicago following Friday’s election as speaker of the House as a result of the election of U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf).

Missing from the stage were two candidates: businessman Willie Wilson and Ald. Roderick Sauer (sixth) had both failed to fill a required questionnaire To participate.

Lightfoot bore the brunt of the criticism on stage and faced it almost immediately.

King took aim at Lightfoot in his opening statement, saying, “We need someone who can lead with communication and not be confrontational.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is running for re-election, responds during the Disability Mayoral Candidates Forum on Saturday.

In response to questions about how the city serves residents with mental health conditions, both Vallas and Green attacked Lightfoot, who criticized Mayor Rahm Emanuel for not reopening mental health clinics on the South and West Sides. was closed during his tenure.

Lightfoot, who as a candidate promised to reopen the clinics, stood by her team’s strategy of providing “culturally relevant” mental health care, which she said her administration has made available throughout Chicago. Have done Lightfoot said she also increased funding for mental health care in the city budget, much of which had been set aside for grants to local clinics.

“When I heard from the experts, and what I heard from the patients, was that they didn’t want the kind of physician care that we have in our clinics,” Lightfoot said. “What they wanted were culturally relevant mental health services in their neighborhoods.”

Garcia suggested the city work with the county to combine their efforts on mental health to bring more resources to local clinics.

“We cannot continue to operate in silence,” Garcia said.

Mayoral candidate and US Representative Jesus

Mayoral candidate and US Representative Jesus “Chuy” Garcia speaks during the Disability Mayoral Candidates Forum in River North on Saturday.

Criminal justice reform proved to be a hot button issue and the candidates found ways to differentiate themselves.

Lightfoot said when he took office there were “no resources” for formerly incarcerated people, but argued that a reentry council He had made the move.

“Appointing someone to lead an office is not going to change anything [things]”Valas fired back at Lightfoot. The former school chief said the city needed more education and job training opportunities for those released from prison.

Vallas said he would use police resources to deal with a number of issues around the city, including setting up mental health centers at police precincts across the city and private security hired by Ligfoot’s administration to patrol the CTA. Includes plans to leave. Instead post police at stations and trains.

Johnson called Vallas’ plan a “failed approach”, given the past brutality he said disabled Chicagoans and residents of the city at large have faced at the hands of police officers.

State Representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) accommodates community activist Jamel Green as Ald.  Sophia King (Fourth) looks at Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson during the Disability Mayoral Candidates Forum on Saturday in River North.

State Representative Kam Buckner (D-Chicago) accommodates community activist Jamel Green as Ald. Sophia King (Fourth) looks at Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson during the Disability Mayoral Candidates Forum on Saturday in River North.

Johnson and Vallas, along with Greene and Buckner, were able to find common ground in their desire to fund a city program to clear sidewalks of snow in the winter, which the city currently calls “a”.shared community responsibility, Frozen paths can be treacherous to navigate for residents with physical disabilities.

Lightfoot touted the impact of the Red and Purple Line modernization and Red Line extension projects on improving the transit agency’s accessibility, as well as recently securing a federal grant to help pay for more improvements.

Buckner promised to make the CTA “100% accessible” if elected.

“The [Americans with Disabilities Act] Buckner said, we should have a destination, not our ceiling.

To close out the stage, moderator Andres Gallagos, president of the National Council on Disabilities, urged the audience to use what was said to help them make their decisions on the race next month.

Galagos said, “Get out and vote like your life depends on it.” “Because it could very well be.”

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