Meet the Candidates
Defender Editorial Board
After the resignation of former Ald. Will Burns of the 4th Ward in March 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel appointed educator and long-time resident Sophia King to the post back in April. It’s been 10 months since she has been wearing the hat and the day she accepted the position, it has prepared her to begin the campaign process of maintaining this seat.
She faces four challengers in a special election on Feb. 28, when residents of the 4th Ward will elect a permanent city councilman to represent them. Many have had the opportunity to attend some of the candidate forums, and here’s just a brief introduction of the candidates’ positions and platforms. Except for Marcellus Moore, the Chicago Defender had an opportunity to interview each candidate.
Appointed: Ald. Sophia King
“The state has a stranglehold on the budget. I think long-term, we really must have a better formula for funding schools. The funding formula now is disproportionately adversely affecting Chicago Public Schools. We get around 70 cents per dollar versus most of the suburban schools. It affects other areas in both Black and Brown communities. We need to look at this long-term, to get more equitable funding.”
“On the short-term side, the city needs to focus our resources there. I believe TIF should be used for its purpose, and that is to spur economic development in under-resourced communities. Harold Washington started this. They have abused it, I believe in certain instances. To use TIF in areas that don’t need the money is not a good use of it. I don’t think TIF is a permanent solution to funding schools; however, I believe that good schools can spur economic development. I’ve seen it such as the school we created, Ariel Community Academy, if you look around and see what that does. People like to move into communities where there are good schools.”
“From what I hear in the community, everybody wants police presence. There’s this tension between the police and the community. They are co-existing. The applicant pool that we have is more diverse than it’s been. The hurdle becomes going from applicant to the academy and the steps within, where we, as African-Americans, tend to fall off. How are we going to mitigate this from happening? There’s all kinds of hurdles that put challenges in the way.
“We want to make sure there’s training for those existing officers who are coming from communities that have some history of racism. We need to understand that and try to correct that. I think that will be harder, but we need to concentrate on the new people in moving forward.“
“Right now, 45th and Cottage Grove, there is a development that will start this Spring. It’s a $35 million development. It’ll be mixed rental, affordable housing and retail on the vacant lot in front of Woodson Elementary. There is a joint venture with an African-American construction company. There will be hiring within the community.
“We’re also bringing to the Cottage Grove business corridor between 43rd and 47th, resources to small businesses to continue to build 43rd and 47th Street areas. Even with the monies that the alderman has allocated, about $1.5 million — before I was there, $300,000-400,000 was already spent. I looked at West of Cottage at what things needed to be done — fix sidewalks and streets. I did little in Hyde Park and Kenwood. But most of the resources went to parts of the community that really needed it.”
“The community needs to have ‘step up and step out’ nights. A lot of other big cities such as New York City, they have increased their civilian forces so that police can police. I think we should go that route. We should try some non-traditional things such as reaching out to offenders who are either likely to shoot or be shot, seeing what they really need in their communities — a job or reaching out to other resources. Some of these tactics have been tried in other cities.
Challenger: Gregory Seal Livingston
He says he’s for an elected school board because it’s the “most democratic thing to do.”
“I’m running against the machine —Rahm Emanuel, Toni Preckwinkle. They want someone in the office that will be compliant. They don’t want anyone that is going to stand up to them. I’ve done this consistently.
“When these 50 schools were closed, it costs about $1 million a day to maintain these closed schools. In the winter time you have pipes, security, etc.
Let’s take one of the tech giants like Google and let’s get them to take over some of these closed schools and turn them into digital training centers. They don’t have to go to a college because some of these billionaires never went to college —Bill Gates, Steve Jobs — they were in garages figuring this out. We have untapped geniuses in the community but they need outlets. As this becomes a generator in the community, it attracts other businesses to the community.”
Livingston says, “There was a time where you can talk to the leaders of the gangs. We didn’t condone what they were doing but we had to work with what we had. Boots on the ground teaches you that you think this dude’s mother is going to turn him in and he just bought her a mink coat. It’s not that easy When McCarthy arrested these leaders — you had some bodies without heads — we call them renegades. Now, there are people who have gunfire in their communities.”
“You must bring people together and have real conversations. You must be willing to fight before the people’s emotions erupt. Don’t be afraid of Black people because we get loud. We should learn that we have different ways of communicating, They’re both valid, but let’s bring them together. Don’t look to the police department for community resources, that come out of City Hall, that comes from city council, that comes from budgeting.”
“Chicago is not poor. There’s a misallocation of funds. We need a sports tax. You go to a game and you’re paying $10 for a hotdog. Instead of you making 1,000 percent, you make 900 percent profit. Take that and help build trade centers to train people for jobs.
“There’s a lot of money at stake. This is bigger than the classification that happens in the Black community that can sometimes be worse than racism. It’s about us being wiped out — being displaced — these things our grandmothers and those who worked hard to get.”
“The people’s plan, a series of town hall meetings. The individuals in those neighborhoods know their neighborhoods better than I do. They know the schools, the stores, the areas they’re afraid to go in. There’s no way for me to know this without the input from the community. We bring all of this together, we take that data and take it down to city council. What happens to the 4th Ward affects the entire city because of the incredible diversity.”
Challenger: Ebony Lucas
“I have four kids, three have been in CPS schools. One is in the Chicago Public School, two are in Catholic schools. One of my sons was nervous about the safety of going to a public school in Englewood. We were blessed enough to give them the opportunity to go to private school, but somebody needs to fight for the people who cannot afford to do the same. I feel like we shouldn’t have to make that decision.
“We closed 50 schools with no plans, now they cut the budget. I started looking at the 4th Ward schools, but the schools in the Black and Brown communities disproportionately have a much larger budget cut. If we don’t have an elected school board, this is under our mayor. How are these decisions being made?
“I’m for an elected school board because I think we need people who are specifically accountable and focused on our kids.”
She says she attends the CAPS meetings on a regular basis.
“A lot of people don’t know when their CAPS meetings are when I bring it up. We really need work to bridge the gap between the police and the community. I think that CAPS meetings are a good way of doing this. When you go to the meetings, you hear the same issues and they supposedly addressed them, but they keep bringing back the same concerns. People are frustrated. We have to work differently, we have to work better.
“They’re not as productive as they could be because there isn’t a partnership between the community. I like the idea of CPD’s new idea to do the National Night Out on the residence blocks, which is genius because it gets people to come out.”
Lucas feels she is qualified for this position, being a seven-year resident in the ward.
“I have that educational background to do it. I started in education. I have a master’s in nonprofit management. Not just my education, it’s my professional experience as a teacher and working with nonprofits and working in fundraising. I’m very resourceful in helping to bring people together. My understanding of the law but also my passion for the people and my willingness to get out there and talk to the people.”
Challenger: Gerald Scott McCarthy
He is a native Chicagoan and proud father of one son, Ryan. Gerald was brought up by a single mother, along with his younger sister, and spent his early childhood in K-Town, a long-standing community on the West Side of Chicago. He also spent part of his formative years in Washington Park and later in Chatham before establishing roots in Chicago’s 4th Ward, first in the South Loop and now in Kenwood.
McCarthy says, “I’m a hybrid guy and yes, I support an elected school board.”
“I’m being told there’s a moratorium on charter schools, so we can spin our wheels arguing about them or we can move forward. I chose to be for quality public education. I think Charter schools should be more accountable. I tried to go online to check out a couple of charter school annual reports and I couldn’t find any information. Because they are using our tax dollars, they need to be more accountable. On the same token, we need to get these schools out of Level 3/Level 2. Some of them wallow there year after, year after year. We as a community need to invest our time in making these schools better.”
McCarthy has a 6-Point plan that includes the following:
Making the alderman’s office accessible, accountable and user-friendly
Engaging the community by creating TIF advisory boards
Quality public education
Instituting neighborhood recycling centers
“We can encourage the police to be part of the community. Police should eat. Go to our stores. Walk up and down 35th St. all hours of the night. The main HQ is opened 24/7. Be part of the community — be visible. How come we can’t put these beat meetings on the internet so people can access? I tried to attend one, it was cold and it was canceled. If the CPD can have a sort of webinar, that way we can access the information.”
Although he hasn’t been a regular at these meetings, he says he’s attended a CAPS meeting.
“People are frustrated, especially in the South Loop. There’s a lot of high theft crimes. There’s also a lot of drugs being sold and smoked in the parks over there. The perception is that we’re being ignored. If this was in another neighborhood, something would be done.”
Challenger: Marcellus Moore
According to his website, Moore was born and raised in and around the city of Chicago. He’s lived in various parts of the 4th Ward and has been a resident in Bronzeville for the past decade. He’s an attorney who started his law practice in 2009 specializing in real estate, business litigation and family law.
His involvement in the community includes director of operations and a board member of the Hyde Park Kenwood Legends; secretary of the board of The Renaissance Collaborative; Southside YMCA board member, Northeastern Illinois University Foundation board member and other notable organizations.
Retraction: In the printed publication, a misspelling mistake of candidate, Gerald Scott McCarthy is not Gregory Scott McCarthy.