Public Safety & Police Accountability
It is difficult to “rebuild” trust in communities of color between the police and our communities, when in reality that trust has never existed. Under Mayor Emanuel’s tenure, the city’s violence has peaked to levels not seen in decades. Instead of the City Council moving to expand resources and opportunities in the most hard-hit areas, including parts of the 15th Ward, funding has increased to strengthen the policing of Black and Brown residents. As a Chicago police officer for the last 15 years, I can attest to both the public safety concerns of our neighbors and to the resistance within the department to implement substantive changes to transform our police. 40% of the City’s budget is directed towards the police force and we see that local and federal reforms are long-term strategies that are not meeting our immediate needs. We must re- envision the role of police in our city in a way that it prioritizes transparency and functions as a resource, not a threat.
Police officers are on the frontlines of our city’s government services. From Englewood to Back of the Yards, many residents interact more often with police officers than with their Alderman. When that interaction results in abuse, intimidation, or tragedy, our city as a whole fails. I have been committed to engaging with the communities I serve by listening to residents and facilitating their access to services. We must equip our officers, not with more technology that is used to surveille poor neighborhoods, but with the training and protocols needed when they come across an individual with a mental health crisis or a Limited English Proficient resident in need of assistance. In addition, we need to change the matrix on how police officers are evaluated from a failed punitive and broken window approach to centering police officers in understanding the value of community relations and equipping them with the structures and tools necessary to learn how to build and nurture genuine relations.
Our city deserves law enforcement who will use their discretion to connect someone to social services and provide protection during crisis, not use reactive force or place them on a database. I believe it is time the public has more say on the role of law enforcement, particularly in Black and Brown communities who have been most affected by the systematic racism of the institution of police. As a police officer, I will be a voice on City Council who will advocate for public safety proposals that have the well-being of our communities in mind.
Our immigrant communities are under attack and as Alderman, I am ready to take a multi-faceted approach to ensure our city protects those under threat of deportation. The federal government is undertaking increasing mechanisms to strengthen Immigration and Customs Enforcement,overwhelm our immigration courts, and intensify fear in our communities.
This has a direct impact on residents of the 15th Ward, who have already experienced ICE raids and arrests. Our neighbors’ livelihoods are at risk on a daily basis. We are witnessing this agency use their full discretion in carrying out their operations and cooperating with local law enforcement agencies without due process. Individuals we previously believed were “safe” such as DACA recipients, people without criminal histories, and even naturalized citizens are at risk as well. There is no doubt we are experiencing what we feared when Trump came into office.
For these reasons, I stand for the abolishment of ICE. Immigration status should not lead to criminalization and the government does not have a role to play in assaulting our communities. We are still not a true sanctuary city. Our Welcoming City Ordinance must be amended to prohibit cooperation between Chicago police and immigration officials. I will advocate for efforts to terminate the gang database and that guarantee our city does not collaborate with entities profiting from immigrant detention.
Our city is home to one of the most diverse immigrant populations in the country, yet our government services do not fully reflect the accessibility required for this variety of cultural needs. Last year, the Office of the Inspector General found that major departments throughout the City of Chicago are not compliant with the Language Access Ordinance. That must change. I will support efforts that bolster the role of our public institutions – our schools, libraries, and even transit – so that they are safe spaces for our neighbors and are able to offer everyone high-quality service, regardless of their nationality or language spoken. I will seek to work collaboratively with constituents and partners to create an immigration defense model where we can protect each other in times of emergency. I am ready to be an Alderman that will fight to preserve the rights of immigrants in Chicago.
Census data has a profound impact on most aspects of our society – from the way federal funds are allocated – to local social services, housing, healthcare, transit, and even where businesses decide to locate. We also know that census data effects how districts are identified for political representation.
The 2020 Census is currently facing various threats that may undermine its rollout and further jeopardize the quality of life of hard-to-count communities, which include the neighborhoods that make up the 15th Ward alone. The last Census in 2010 resulted in nearly $20 Billion in federal funding to Illinois for critical programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, Liheap, Headstart and various other programs our families rely on. Not participating in the Census directly affects how resources are allocated to our communities.
Heading into 2020, we are facing severe challenges with the threat of a citizenship question on the Census. We do not know how this information will be used. I will work with partners at different level of government to make sure residents of the 15th Ward can safely and confidently be counted. I am ready to assist our community based organizations in ensuring they have access to needed funding to inform our neighbors about the Census. Our communities will thrive when all our voices are heard.
Our public school system has experienced drastic changes throughout the last decade. We have witnessed the closure of over 50 schools in our Black and Brown communities and the rise of the charter school system. The closure of schools has further reduce opportunities for our youth and families and heighten the disinvestment in our communities and displacement of working families. Chicago Public Schools continues to run low on resources within the classroom, with more time spent on testing than teaching curriculum that allows students to have a critical mind or to have the proper socio-emotional development they need to thrive in the future.
Education is a human right for our children and is the key for a productive future. As Alderman, I will be a strong proponent for English as a Second Language and special education programming within our schools. Our students in both elementary and high schools need more counselors and social workers, not discipline by police stationed as security in schools. Our youth and teachers need the support and resources that come from parent mentors and after-school programs that address the holistic needs of the student. Schools are the lifeblood of a community where families come together and must be safe and nurturing spaces for all.
All of the neighborhoods that comprise the 15th Ward should have the same access to high-quality schools. The City Colleges of Chicago have come a long way in tailoring their classes to match the demands and trends of the labor market. I will work to ensure that our youth have the information necessary for a positive transition into higher education – whether it be into the City Colleges, universities, or in the growing field of trades,. Both youth and adults from the 15th Ward have much to offer the labor force, and it starts with fully funding strong schools in our communities.
Housing is a fundamental aspect of a strong neighborhood. Stability in housing is a basis for stability in jobs, amenities, education, and recreational activities. Over 100,000 households are rent-burdened in Chicago and Cook County, meaning that over 30% of renters’ incomes go towards their cost of living. Not worrying about being able to afford rent or having to search for a new home is also a benefit to mental health. Students are more likely to succeed in school and seniors are able to age in place without such undue stress. Housing should not be a burden to the people of Chicago.
Many of the households in the 15th Ward, both renters and homeowners, have been facing foreclosures or higher costs while incomes stay stagnant. Communities in our Ward such as West Englewood have also suffered from significant population decline. Our Black residents have long been disenfranchised of city resources and this is the time to work towards strengthening our neighborhoods.
As Alderman, I will approach housing as a basic need for all, not a commodity for the few, and will work with partners to expand opportunities that bring stability to the residents of the 15th Ward. I will work to ensure that organizations in our Ward are equipped to inform tenants of their rights, educate first-time homeowners, and assist individuals in need of utility assistance. With the cost of housing increasing throughout the City, our Ward should have the needed resources to prevent displacement and increase pathways to homeownership. Given the industrial history of parts of our Ward, I will also create a community zoning process in which residents have a say in any proposed commercial or housing developments to ensure that our residents’ priorities are addressed. The 15th Ward has the potential to be a model in the rehabilitation and preservation of affordable housing with a people-centered approach.