New alderman draws praises, but concerns remain

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Sophia King

By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader

Last week Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced he had chosen Sophia King to fill the vacancy of Alderman for the 4th Ward created by the resignation of Will Burns. The news left residents of the ward happy they have a representative in the city council. But many remained concerned because they know nothing about their new alderman. Some residents are questioning the selection process.

“I don’t know about this,” were the first words out of Sandra Smith’s mouth when told by the Crusader about new alderman. “I mean we need someone and Will Burns was really bad, like awful, so she can’t be much worse. But I never really like it when a mayor makes the selection. I think it should come from the people.”

Costs prohibit a special election in most cases, although many residents favor spending the money in order to have a say in the matter. Emanuel’s office said nearly 20 people applied for the job and it was an open process. King is a longtime Kenwood resident King and is friends with President Barack Obama’s family. Emanuel said King was his final choice. While she may not be known around the city, King says she has done a lot of work in the community.

“My record speaks for itself,” she told reporters last week. “I’m proud of my relationship with the first family but I have been doing work in the community for 30 years.”

King is the founder of Ariel School in North Kenwood-Oakland. Her husband Alan King is a house music disc jockey and attorney. Originally from Colorado, she grew up in Evanston before settling on the South Side. Residents say unlike Burns, who was from Cleveland and only went to school in Chicago, King understands the issues in the ward and has a pleasant demeanor.

“I’ve known about her work for a while now,” said Ty Holmes, who lives in the ward. “She is a name you hear about often when it comes to different community events. But while you know about her, you don’t see her clamoring for attention and I like that. She just wants to do what’s good for the community and I think it is a good choice.

Another resident Tommy Henderson, said the King family are “really good people” and he said he never knew the wife was interested in politics.

“I know her husband because he is associated with the annual Chosen Few Picnic and he is a guy who wants people to have a good time, yet also be responsible for the issues,in our community,” Henderson said. “I always see the couple together and they are very approachable down-to-earth people. This is the type of person I want in office. I just hope she can negotiate all of the negativity and backstabbing that comes in Chicago politics to get the ward what it needs.”

One of the biggest issues in the ward is parking. For the last two years residents battled former Alderman Burns to get more residential parking in areas around the lakefront and major parks where events are held. Burns refused and his attitude damaged his relationship with his constituents. King said she understands the parking concerns and other issues and is committed to showing residents she can handle the job before the special election is held in February 2017.

“I’m looking at this time as kind of a probationary period on a new job,” she said. “They want to see if I’m capable of handling this and I’m confident I am. Because of my involvement in reducing gun violence and work in employment…I think it all prepared me and led me to this point. I think it’s a good match.”

Some of her other work in the community for the last three decades includes being the founder and president of the non-profit group, Harriet’s Daughters- a group of professional women who work to create, support and secure employment opportunities in African-American communities. She also previously served as a member of the Kenwood Park Advisory Council.

Because the 4th Ward is so diverse socially, economically and culturally, King said there is no one-fit solution to the challenges in the ward. But she believes the diversity of the ward is its strength. She said she will spend the next few weeks meeting with residents and finding out their concerns. She hopes to win over those who are skeptical about how she was appointed.

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