If mayoral candidate Dr. Willie Wilson is elected, he is promising to restore education and construction to the Cook County Jail. The humanitarian and business leader says he will work with state lawmakers to expand this goal to all Illinois prisons, ensuring that those returning to society can become viable taxpayers who he says will help reduce crime.
In an interview with the Chicago Crusader, Wilson laid out his plans to make Chicago a safer place to live for all by establishing trade courses for returning citizens.
“I’m a businessperson. I know how to run a business.”
One of the first things Wilson wants to do is to restore the trades curriculum in high schools, in churches and in prisons, and to establish a trade school in the CTA bus terminals to provide easy access to get hands-on training, said Wilson.
He will focus on getting grants to help fund small businesses including “hooking them up to international businesses. That way those communities will flourish. Learning a trade will help reduce crime,” he said.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has already declared her re-election plans. So far, she will be facing six other contenders for the mayor’s office, including Wilson, who declared his candidacy on April 11, Aldermen Sophia King (4th), Roderick Sawyer (6th), Raymond Lopez (15th), Illinois State Representative Kam Buckner (D-26th), Frederick Collins, a Chicago policeman, former Chicago Public School CEO Paul Vallas and activist Ja’Mal Green.
Wilson thinks he is the best of all declared candidates, especially with his strategies for reducing crime.
Wilson said, “You got to reinvest in the communities by way of economic empowerment and economic development. There will always be crime unless you take those neighborhoods and bring economic development and empowerment” to those areas.
He plans to reach out to state lawmakers to help with getting the trades and education courses restored in the prisons.
Of timely note, Representative Carol Ammons (D-103rd) introduced a bill, HJR27, that creates the Illinois Higher Education in Prison Task Force, which will analyze the existing state of higher education programs for those incarcerated. Its goal is to also assess barriers and opportunities for inmates and to recommend a legislative action plan to expand access.
During the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s recent annual convention, Ammons said the bill will reinstitute “all of our higher education into Illinois prisons. This is important because we get a lot of emails and letters from inmates.
“One of things they ask us for the most is why can’t they take classes depending on where they are. If they are at Big Muddy (Prison) or Statesville, you may have access, but if they send you downstate where there are no educational programs, whatever you had been doing at Statesville, just stops,” said Ammons.
“We are trying to build a seamless system in Illinois for all of the (prison) institutions to offer higher education, not just certificates but degrees that will allow them to get out and continue or finish that degree with the institution that they were studying with while they were incarcerated because we know that is the actual answer,” she stated.
In the meantime, Wilson is continuing his humanitarian relief projects to those in Chicago.
On Saturday, August 27, he gave away $200,000 worth of food at the Shop & Save Market, Seafood City and Montrose Deli. He said those stores are in the Polish, Latino, Asian and Black communities.
“Those will be the last ones for this particular moment,” while he plans for November and December giveaways.
He said the weekend’s food giveaway reached his goal of $5.2 million giveaway and added, “We should hit that pretty shortly.”
Discussing another important strategy in his campaign in addition to humanitarian relief, Wilson said he began launching a voter registration campaign project two weeks ago.
“We will conduct voter registration at 26 grocery stores on Wednesdays and on Saturdays and on every Sunday after church services.” Wilson said about 500 churches have signed on to his voter registration campaign.
He addressed the closure of 73 precincts’ polling places during the primary elections in June, saying, “Closing polling places hurts democracy and confuses voters. When it is harder to vote, Black and brown voters, disabled voters and low-income voters suffer greatly.
“The actions of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners are reminiscent of the voter suppression tactics used during the Jim Crow South era,” he continued.
Wilson added, “This is Chicago, and we must make it easier for people to vote, not more difficult. The Board of Elections’ actions must be reversed. If they do not do it, I will file a lawsuit to protect the rights of people to vote, free of voter suppression tactics.
“The primary election in June had a historically low (21 percent) turnout. Only 1 in 5 registered voters came out to vote. I urge the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners to expand access to voting and not go the way of the Jim Crow South.
Wilson had a meeting with 500 pastors on Monday, August 29, 12 noon to 2 p.m. at Monument of Faith, 2750 W. Columbus, and was headed by Pastor Mark A. Henton.
“We’re doing pretty good,” he said. To date, he has registered about 3,000 new voters.
This is Wilson’s third run as a mayoral candidate. When asked why he wants to run again, Wilson said, “I don’t want a paycheck,” referring to Mayor Lightfoot’s $192,437 reported city income. “The paycheck they’ll give me I will give it away to the churches.” “It’s not about putting more money in my pocket because I don’t want it,” he said.
“I don’t owe anything to the Democratic or Republican Party,” he says. Wilson is running as an Independent mayoral candidate.