The great debate

By Tyler Vincent

Hopkins Park was the backdrop for the third meeting between DeKalb Mayor Bessie Chronopoulos and her election opponent, former mayor Greg Sparrow, who debated topics from public transportation to liquor laws Tuesday.

The forum was part of the DeKalb County League of Women Voters annual “Candidates Night,” which also featured aldermanic candidates from the 2nd, 4th and 6th wards. Chronopoulos and Sparrow began the rematch of their 1997 race in January.

Both candidates fielded questions from the audience on such diverse topics as public transportation, the liquor commission and capital funds for the police and fire departments. Each seized the forum to re-enforce campaign messages. Sparrow repeatedly referred to what he felt was the sub-par condition of the DeKalb economy

“I sat back for the last four years and saw what I built over 16 years fall apart,” Sparrow said. “Look at the economy. We don’t have the money. If you don’t have development, you don’t have the money. We had the money four years ago, but we don’t now. As to what these people have done over the last for years, Nero fiddles while Rome burns.”

Chronopoulos disputed Sparrow’s conclusion.

“The economy is fine,” she said. “Do we have concerns? Yes, but those are the same concerns that we’ve had every year since I’ve been involved in the city. If he was so darn good at it, then why is it an issue this year?”

Chronopoulos, who has cited as her main issues community-centered economic development, an opening of the city government to what she called a “citizen-driven agenda” and downtown and neighborhood relations, warned voters of some of Sparrow’s past actions.

“Mr. Sparrow cleared out his office and offered no help in the transition period to the city he ran,” Chronopoulos said during the forum. “Development is his one issue. It was back then (in 1997) and it is now.”

Sparrow entered Tuesday’s debate on the heels of his announcement that three DeKalb organizations — the City of DeKalb Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 115, the DeKalb Fire Fighters Local 1236 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 813 — support his campaign. Five DeKalb alderman have publicly backed Chronopoulos.

“It’s important to realize that of the five councilmen that supported her, only one of them was on the council when I was mayor,” he said. “Of these over 150 employees, most of them have worked under my administration and hers.”

Chronopoulos said she did not know why the employees endorsed Sparrow.

“We have an excellent work force,” Chronopoulos said. “I haven’t seen any reasons why they have endorsed Mr.