February 10th 2019 marked the Chicago Mayoral Candidates Forum for the Indian-American community presented by the Voice of Indian-American (VIA) Voters in Chicago, IL. VIA Voters is a non-partisan platform for civic engagement of Indian-Americans in Chicagoland & nationally. The founding members of the group are prominent business persons and community leaders Dr Bharat Barai, Mr Sanjjeev Singh & Dr. Anuja Gupta. “We felt there was a need for a Non-Partisan group that promoted the civic engagement of the Indian-Americans in the area” said the founders. The top goals of the group include seeking a better level of engagement with elected officials, creating a more informed voter base and increasing the participation of Indian-Americans in the election process.
The Chicago Mayoral Candidates Forum was the first event organized by the group. The event was attended by 7 mayoral candidates and 350 community members at the Taft Highschool in Chicago, IL. Drawing attention from the Chicago mayoral candidates and the community for this cause was a great accomplishment by the founders and their team. “As a new organization it was a bit challenging to get commitment from the mayoral candidates, but our persistence and hard-work paid off with 7 of the 9 candidates we invited to attend the forum” said VIA Founder Sanjjeev Singh. In attendance were Paul Valas past CEO Chicago Public Schools, Garry McCarthy past chief of Chicago Police Dept, Gery Chico past president Chicago Public Schools—, Bob Foretti Attorney, Amara Enyia Director Austin Chamber of Commerce, La Shawn Ford Chicago State Representative and Jon Kozlar Attorney
The Leadership Team of the group includes 18-20 prominent citizens & community leaders of local organizations who feel passionate about the cause including Gulzar Singh president Pan Oceanic Inc, Nimish Jani trustee Schaumburg Township, Kanti S Patel president Gujarat Cultural Society, Vidya Joshi secretary Bruhan Mumbai Maharashtra, Syed Hussaini vice-president of commercial loans at Wintrust Bank, Khaja Moinuddin trustee Hanover Township, Ulka Nagarkar member Maharashtra Mandal, Girish Kapur member United Punjabi Association, Shree Guruswamy member Chicago Andhra Association, Vandana Jhingan TV Asia, Keerthi Ravoorie member Indian-American Democrat Org, Savi Singh, Deepti Suri, Dr Rahul Deepankar, Ashfaq Hussain & Gladson Verghese past-president Indian-American Democrat Organization.
The Forum was moderated by Rishi Agrawal, an attorney & candidate for Cook County judge. Questions presented to the candidates included a wide range of topics important to the Chicago election such as high violent crimes, economic opportunities, Chicago’s infamous pay to play culture and education disparity in Chicago. The candidates were first given a chance to present their agenda followed by questions directed to specific candidates regarding topics they represented. “Chicago crime can only change when the city hall culture changes. Corruption starts at the top here and has got to change before anything else” said candidate Garry McCarthy past police chief of Chicago Police Department. Candidate Jon Kozlar, an attorney and the youngest running candidate at 30 years of age said, “In order for Chicago to change we need a new administration which is not burdened by baggage from the past. I bring that fresh perspective to the race”. Candidate Paul Valas past-superintendent of Chicago Public Schools said “The disparity of teachers and funding for schools in Chicago is incomprehensible. Every child deserves a fair chance for a decent education in the country”