When Separate Equals Hungry

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1 Party 2 Visions

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Chicago Mayoral Candidates on the Issues

Imagine it is February 2027 and you are four years wiser. What does Chicago look like? Are there still disproportionate vacancies on the south and west sides of the city? Has there been a slowing of displacement from gentrification?

…“I think Black voters are looking for someone who is going to uphold their interests and not tell them what they need but listen to what THEY say they need. I think they are looking for results more than rhetoric.” Katelyn J., local activist  
What does Chicago's Black economy look like? Have banks increased their lending for mortgages in Black communities? Have financial institutions extended historic lines of credit in Black commercial corridors?

…“The next mayor should help create programs that directly benefit small businesses and independent contractors, specifically solopreneurs and businesses with fewer than 20 employees.” E. Nos, music artist of Hard Work Pays Off and Nuance Social

Is there evidence of the shrinking wealth gap between Black and White Chicagoans? Are we celebrating over 75% of Black students reading and math scores above their grade level? Is the Magnificent Mile melanated?

…“My general sentiment of the race seems like politics as usual, and the substance of the policies related to their plans seems to be lacking. It’s a tough job to be the mayor of such a large city like Chicago with so many competing and different interests. Overall, I’m sensing that people don’t see much change in either candidate.” Makinde Adedapo, South Loop resident

Does the city have record low excessive force police complaints? Are there more Black detectives than ever before in the Chicago Police Department? Are there more Black contractors and vendors working for the city and employees in Streets and Sanitation, Department of Water and Chicago Park District?

“Community policing in the 90’s wasn’t popular in the departments. I spent 23 years as a Chicago Police Officer and spent most of my years as a CAPS officer working in schools and implementing programs like D.A.R.E. for public schools and communities. Different activities from athletics, to academics, cultural programs and music are needed to keep kids involved and creative to give them alternatives. If you live in Chicago, you should have the opportunity to serve and protect your community. The next mayor needs to encourage people to live here and see themselves as leaders.” - G. Marshall., retired CPD

Paul Vallas

Just a day ago Vallas was leading Johnson in the polls (at the time of this writing). Public safety, economic development, community policing and youth engagement have been hot topics in the race. Each candidate has made vows to address public safety with equal amounts of quantitative uncertainty.
Chicago voters are divided along what at first appeared to be racial lines. Remnant signs of Ja’Mal Greens’ campaign with “SELL OUT” spray painted on them have been reported. Vallas signs with MAGA associations stand almost as symbolic paper tombstones cementing his connection to the Republican party and anti-Black rhetoric. Johnson has  called out Vallas as a conservative due to campaign donations. Johnsons’ implications sparked tension and debate on Vallas’ ability to govern without undue conservative influence. The race is divisive between municipal employees as well. The Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Police Department are each behind a different candidate.

Johnson says his vision for Black Chicago residents is one of “liberation.”  “We want good schools, good paying jobs, reliable transportation, and health care. We want to be able to afford to live in our communities and we want pathways to homeownership and generational wealth. My vision for Black Chicago is one that is “self-sustaining”.  With the right investments and focusing on these areas of jobs, transportation, health care, housing, health food, environmental justice, and education, these are the dynamics that create self-sustaining communities for generations.”
Vallas shared, “I’ve been enthusiastically endorsed and supported by leaders like Bobby Rush, John Steele and Jesse White because they know I’ve always been driven by a desire to serve all the communities and invest into those that have long been neglected. No one has built more schools in poor Black communities in this country than me or hired more Black administrators than I have. I don’t think there has been a superintendent who has done more for investment in the Black community than me.”
As a Cook County Commissioner, Johnson governs over one of the largest populations of African Americans in a single county in the nation and despite his tenure and political experience, there appears to be a dearth of tangible examples of Johnson's policies or approaches addressing priorities of Black voters at the county level. Vallas sees himself as a unifier despite his misconstrued comments on critical race theory (listen to his comment in its entirety)  and bringing back retired police officers. Visions and vows are great for slogans to garner votes. The Black community will have to be vigilant and vocal no matter who Chicago elects.

Vallas is aware of the fearfulness and tension surrounding retired police officers returning to duty. Black Chicagoans deserve to have competent officers that are civically intelligent and engaged in the execution of the law responsibly. Valla’s position is to be inclusive by working with the newly elected Police District Council Members and is confident of the creation and implementation of a screening process to secure the most capable and competent officers. “We are 1700 officers down from 2018. I do believe returning cops can play a leadership role,” said Vallas. He continued by articulating that the Police District Councils will have the most impactful input working with local district commanders and in the identification of community groups that should get funded.
Johnson shared, “if a public safety plan is about how many cops you have stationed up, you are talking about an occupation plan…not public safety and I don’t believe residents in the city of Chicago want to be occupied.” He seeks to improve public safety through a multi-layered community investment approach that addresses root causes of violence including, mental health, youth unemployment, policing, and violence prevention. “I’m going to ask the business community in the public and private sectors to invest in our young people and hire them throughout the year,” said Johnson.
He too has committed to hiring a new superintendent within the current ranks of the Chicago Police Department and plans on working with the newly formed Police District Councils to improve community relations with the police. “Police officers that serve should know and understand a community. They should come from the community,” said Johnson. He says it’s not about being “tough on crime” but being “smart” about it.  While he says he has no intention of cutting the current police budget, he does intend on reviewing it to save money and eliminate unnecessary positions and expenses.
Both Johnson and Vallas have declined to publicly share the names of prospective Chicago Police superintendents as well as other potential appointees for their administration.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson

Commissioner Brandon Johnson
Johnson says his multicultural, multigenerational campaign is indicative of the type of mayor he would be.  He also says his supporters represent diverse working- class people who he plans to represent.  “My constituency is multicultural, multi-generational with supporters from all areas of life, politicians, labor workers, the business community, progressive labor leaders, educators, and more because I reflect and represent their voices.”
Commissioner Johnson says his first priority as mayor would be initiating a robust youth hiring program but doesn’t distinguish it from the current One Summer Chicago youth job program which served 20.5K last year with 45k youth having applied. His resolve is to create a youth unemployment program and partner with the business community to offer youth year-round employment.”
He intends to pass “Treatment Not Trauma” mental health ordinance and reopen mental health centers. Commissioner Johnson says addressing the root causes of violence is necessary to reduce the violence on city streets. “We have defunded schools, we’ve defunded mental health, we’ve defunded transportation, we’ve defunded affordable housing and public housing. This is the manifestation of failed politics that they continue to recycle” according to Commissioner Johnson.

Paul Vallas
Vallas plans to create a universal work-study program to leverage the purchasing power of the city and the placement of students and talent within city departments. He wishes to provide all high school and city college students with the opportunity to participate in paid work-study jobs in a variety of occupations. This means all Chicago departments and contractors could potentially provide mentorship and experiences for young Chicagoans. Vallas explains “the objective is to really use the city purchasing power and the city's massive budget as a way to leverage job opportunities for Chicago youth. Work study, internships, apprenticeships, and fellowships with our first responders can be a pipeline for the next generation of police officers EMT’s and firemen. He also understands that young people need novel incentives to stay in school and sees a municipal work-study program to build bridges to opportunities through education and employment.

Can you see it? Can you see Black Chicago protected and respected? No? Fast forward to 2031….maybe 2035 or 2039? What will it take for YOU to believe Chicago can become the vision of either candidate…or any candidate for that matter?

Who can take us to that promised land of profit and potential is more than one man, it is the collective City Council, appointed officials, unions, and taxpayers– all of us.  While Vallas and Johnson chart a course to a sustainable and equitable future their priorities and ability to negotiate the path forward will have ramifications for decades to come. And never forget seventy seven (communities) equals one. One Chicago. 1 party  2 visions. Pick one.

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