When Separate Equals Hungry

A 2-part feature exploring food insecurity.

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21st Ward Candidate, Cornell Dantzler

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Retired Chicago Firefighter Cornell Dantzler says he is ready to lead the 21st ward and his military service and work as a Chicago firefighter have prepared him to lead. After serving in the United States Navy, Dantzler became a firefighter with the Chicago Fire Department where he served for 25 years until his retirement. In addition to his work as a firefighter, Dantzler created a mentoring program for elementary school children called “The STEPS Program”. STEPS main focus is to teach children the importance of becoming productive citizens and contributing positively to their community.

Dantzler is seeking to replace the retiring Ald. Howard Brookins, Jr in the 21st ward which includes parts of Auburn Gresham, Brainerd, Longwood Manor, Fernwood and West Pullman neighborhoods. In the Feb. 28th election, Dantzler secured a seat in the runoff and will face community organizer, Ronnie Mosley in the April 4th runoff election. Mosley held 24.7 percent of the vote, while Dantzler held 22 percent.

Dantzler says he decided to come out of retirement to run for office because he saw a need to take the community “in the right direction.”  Dantzler says cleaning up the ward and public safety are his top priorities.

Beautifying the 21st Ward

Dantzler says vacant buildings and businesses that have abandoned their properties create public safety issues in the ward. He says to recruit new businesses to the ward needs to look attractive. “The ward has a lot of businesses that are closed and the ward is in desperate need of cleanup. I've walked every street and every alley. I've seen refrigerators and stoves, washers and dryers, and car engines, and the ward has become a dumping ground. In order to recruit businesses the ward must be cleaned up and that’s one of the things I will work on.”

Dantzler also says improving public safety involves addressing the number of vacant lots and buildings in the ward. “We have around 1000 vacant lots in the ward. That’s TIF money that could be utilized if there was something on that land that was flourishing. The ward also has 600 vacant homes. It’s dilapidated properties that need to be torn down. They are death traps for my fellow firefighters who still run into these buildings to put out fires because of arson. These vacant homes are also safe havens for criminals.  In addition, we also have 233 vacant businesses that are closed but the owners still use the property as a tax write-off.  We have to stand up and hold them accountable.  If you've got any stake in our ward you should be willing to help.”

On Crime and Public Safety

Dantzler says improving communication with law enforcement and residents, offering services for returning citizens and more youth activities are essential to improving public safety in the ward. “We have to make sure we have regular meetings with the commanders, lieutenants, and the beat officers. I want them to come to the community meetings that I'll be having, and ask them to explain what it is that they can do to help them make us all feel safer. We also have to work with our reentry citizens to provide expungement services or help them get jobs and job training.  I also want to continue my mentorship program with young people. We have been doing this work for 40 years. Our young people need places to go which is why I’d like to see all of our parks open with programming for the youth.” Dantzler also says he supports more street cameras or license plate readers in the 21st ward but only in high-crime areas.

On Bringing Economic Development to the 21st Ward.

The 21st ward has seen some recent new developments in the community with the Healthy Lifestyle hub and the promise of a new Save a Lot Grocery store. Dantzler says the community should decide what businesses are needed in the ward. “Our ward is full of fast food, barber shops, beauty supply stores and beauty salons. Now every man has the right to feed their family and I’m not against that but we need to sit down with constituents and come up with a list of the things we want to see in our community. We need an urgent care center and we should have several dine-in restaurants, we need bakeries and optometrists. There’s a list of things we don’t have but I’d like to work with residents to see how we can work together to recruit new businesses to the 21st ward. “

On his Opponent, Ronnie Mosley

Two weeks before the Feb. 23 election, 21st ward candidate Ronnie Mosely was accused of fabricating his academic credentials. Mosely responded to the controversy by saying, “I’ve said “I’ve completed studies” at Morehouse college and that is true but I did not receive my degree.  Dantzler has called for Mosely to withdraw from the race and says the omission is indicative of his character. “I'm a constituent. I want to be informed of the resume and your character. How can I trust you to go down and represent us, when you lie about something like that? With all these years of disinvestment and all of the problems we have within our ward, we need somebody that stands on truth and someone who has integrity.”

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About Author:

Danielle Sanders is a multimedia professional with over 20 years of experience as a writer, journalist, and editor. Danielle frequently covers politics, local news, and entertainment.



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