By Eric Horng, Channel 7 News
Thirteen candidates for Chicago mayor took part in a forum at Steinmetz College Prep on the city’s northwest side Thursday night.
The wide-ranging forum covered various topics including crime, police reform, and Chicago Public Schools finances.
One of the candidates who was noticeably absent was Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle. Moderators said she had a last-minute conflict.
“Toni Preckwinkle had a conflict for not being here. That conflict was she knew I was gonna be here,” said candidate John Kozlar.
“The fact that she wouldn’t show up and present herself at this community forum clearly doesn’t show leadership,” said Lori Lightfoot, candidate for mayor.
Earlier Thursday Preckwinkle sparred with reporters in defending her new ad which highlights her role in the Laquan McDonald case. Preckwinkle tipped off a reporter to the autopsy that showed McDonald was shot 16 times, nine in the back.
But activists said it was the public, not Preckwinkle, which created a movement for change.
“Toni Preckwinkle should withdraw from the race. She should resign as County Board Chairman,” said Bob Fioretti, candidate for mayor.
Some accused Preckwinkle of using the ad as a distraction after it was learned that Alderman Ed Burke, charged with attempted extortion, raised money for her.
Candidates were asked during the forum about changing a corrupt culture.
“We need to look at this holistically and say you know we can’t have people running for public office to profit themselves,” said Comptroller Susana Mendoza, candidate for mayor.
“It’s way past time any one individual has that unilateral power to grant a license, a permit or a zoning change,” said Gery Chico, candidate for mayor.
They also commented on crime and police reform.
“It starts with accountability. There’s no accountability in criminal justice system in Cook County,” said former CPD superintendent and mayoral candidate Garry McCarthy.
“This is a question of investment, not policing, and the city has to get it right,” said Amara Enyia, candidate for mayor.
Exactly why Preckwinkle was a no-show is unclear. ABC7 Eyewitness News left messages for her spokesperson but did not hear back.
This article originally appeared on Channel 7 News.