By La Risa Lynch, Special to the NNPA from the Chicago Crusader –
For the first time in 19-year-old Denise Olivarez’s life, the Fifth Floor of City Hall will have a mayor other than Richard M. Daley. That pivotal milestone prompted the Little Village youth to join a newly formed multi-racial coalition. The coalition seeks to hold the ever-growing list of potential mayoral candidates’ feet to the fire in addressing community concerns.
Olivarez, a youth organizer with Enlace Chicago, believes the new mayor should not dismiss youth, but dialogue with them on issues important to them. Youth, she added, want better funded and properly staffed schools.
“The new mayor is going to be the first mayor for a lot of us that isn’t Daley,” she said. “Now we have a true chance of getting someone who is willing to work with us. We are not asking for anything that is out of this planet. We just want equity.”
New Chicago 2011 is a citywide coalition of neighborhood organizations. The coalition plans to educate city residents on candidates’ positions on community issues through get-out-the-vote rallies, questionnaires, and candidate forums. The idea is to weed out campaign rhetoric to hold candidates accountable in fulfilling campaign promises.
“There are many people who talk one thing and get in office and do another,” said Rev. Booker S. Vance, president of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, a New Chicago 2011 member. “That’s why the forum is important. That’s why the questionnaire is important, because we will hold these candidates accountable.”
The coalition has yet to formulate its questionnaire or set a date for its forum. But, it has outlined platforms they believe the city’s next mayor should address. The five-point platform focuses on housing, jobs, school, youth violence, and government corruption. The coalition announced the platforms during a Monday press conference outside the mayor’s fifth floor City Hall office.
“These are what the people say affects their lives, that they care about, and that they want some action and attention on,” said Pastor Monte Johnson, of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Edgewater.
He contends residents want a mayor open to finding evidence-based solutions to address failing schools. He said closing schools have done more harm than good. Residents also want a mayor willing to root out government corruption.
City government, Johnson contends, has a culture of secrecy that breeds “corruption and cronyism.” The next mayor, he noted, should promote open government to ensure “people can participate in the decisions of government in a more democratic way.”
“We can’t do the same old same old over and over again. We need new folks with new ideas and new energy,” Vance added. He noted that the coalition, made of 15 grassroots organizations, wants to ensure resident participation in the election process. The next mayor should not be selected by any backroom deals or closed-door meetings with select pastors, Vance added.
Vance also hoped that a multi-racial coalition will eliminate the racial division in the race for mayor. He said the coalition’s platforms affect every city resident and community. “I don’t care whether you are Hispanic, Black or Caucasian, you are still going to have to deal with the issues because they impact everybody,” Vance said.
Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, agreed. The coalition prevents the issues from being lost among the litany of candidates running for mayor, he said. “We have to be together on this,” Shurna added. “We don’t want to be divided by different agendas. So, if we unite together, we stand together.”
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