The city also is suing homeowners who have let their homes fall into foreclosure and have left the empty homes and weed-filled front lawns in serious disrepair. Wharton also announced a $12 million plan to fight poverty by giving financial rewards to residents who get jobs and make sure their children attend school on time.
Despite the city's troubles, Wharton seems to have preserved his popularity.
"His temperament suits this city well," said attorney Stacie Winkler, 33. "He'd be a great mediator, because that's what he does on a daily basis."
Wharton has been going to homes of likely voters on Saturdays. Recently, he was mostly welcomed with smiles and support from residents of well-kept houses in the Hickory Hill neighborhood. Some let him place campaign signs on their lawns.
Wharton stopped to speak with Willie Mack, a 63-year-old courier who showed the mayor the spot where a city contractor had done a poor job fixing a sidewalk and curb along the street in front of his home.
When Wharton said he would try to do something about it, Mack told the mayor, "The deadline is Oct. 6."
That drew laughs from the mayor, his campaign workers and a reporter, but Mack was serious.
Mack said he was reserving a decision on his vote until then. He said politicians like Wharton often support big business over the average worker.
"He's a beautiful front man," Mack said.
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