By Irvin Ibarra
Ten community activists and political hopefuls gathered at Chicago Shiloh Seventh-day Adventist Church the afternoon of Monday, January 2, hosting the first of a series of community hearings about problems, needs, and solutions for Chicago’s 6th Ward.
With current 6th Ward Alderman Roderick Sawyer challenging Mayor Lori Lightfoot for mayor, the aldermanic seat is open for one of 13 current candidates to become the next alderman of the 6th Ward, marking the first time the ward will have a new alderman since 2011.
Aldermanic candidate for the 6th Ward, Patrick Brutus, hosted the first of a series of community listening sessions in the 6th Ward, with the topic of public safety being the focus. Around 30 residents were present for the session.
Brutus said during the introduction that simply pouring money into anti-violence programs cannot be the sole solution to public safety. His public safety plans addresses the need for a combination of approaches through community outreach and reinvestment.
Of the top issues impacting the 6th Ward, comprised of neighborhoods like Englewood, West Englewood, and Chatham, are vehicle theft and shootings across the 6th, 7th, and 3rd police districts which cross over into the ward.
“I want to caution you that that’s simply the beginning of an idea that I believe in strongly, but that also can be shaped by the voices of the residents of the 6th Ward,” said Brutus. “While the shootings are also very important, the day to day crime is what makes everyone feel unsafe.”
Additional topics brought up were the need for mental health intervention, aid and connection to young people on the South Side, and the need for police oversight regarding police accountability and over policing.
“It’s just been disappointing for many of us who’ve come together and [been] working with the police, and to that end, we didn’t decide to stop working with the police, but a number of us just continued to meet amongst ourselves because trying to work with the police just really wasn’t really getting us anywhere,” said Rodney Johnson, community resident and panelist at the session.
Dion McGill, candidate for the 7th Police District council, said the need for an equitable solution for violence prevention in combination with adequate funding for the neighborhood’s Chicago Public Schools would help combat crime.
“Think about when 50 schools were closed in this city, and then think about when mental health facilities were closed in this city” said McGill.
“When you watch the line of crime that started to happen in the city guess what it looked like, a hill.”
The initial session was one of three community listening sessions planned before the upcoming mayoral and aldermanic election.
The goal for Brutus is to gain greater attendance and outreach through these programs as a service for residents, enabling them to vocalize their needs in the community.
CAPS officers for the 3rd and 6th Districts did not respond to Brutus’ invitation or could not attend the community hearing. Brutus hopes this will change for future listening sessions.