The Democratic Women of the Southland Region held its Power of the Public Servant Candidate Forum Saturday, May 14. Democratic candidates answered questions and their positions on several important issues that impact the Southland region.
In attendance were 1st District Congressional candidates, Alderman Pat Dowell, 3rd Ward, Businessman Jonathan Swain, Jonathan Jackson, and Charise Williams; Illinois Secretary of State candidate, Alderman David Moore, 17th Ward; State Representative 79th District candidate, Erin Slone; Cook County Board President candidate, Richard Boykin; Cook County Commissioner 5th District candidates, Monica Gordon and Mayor of Hazel Crest, Vernard Alsberry Jr., Cook County Assessor incumbent Fritz Kaegi and challenger Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Kari K. Steele; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner incumbent Mariyana Spyropoulos and candidates, Yumeka Brown and Sharon Waller; Thornton Township Democratic Committeeperson candidates, Mayor of Phoenix and Board Chair at South Suburban College Terry Wells Sr. and Troy O’Quin; and Cook County Sheriff candidate LaTonya Ruffin.
Dr. Kisha E. McCaskill, Founding Member and Chair of the Outreach and Events Committee welcomed the candidates and guests to the second part of the 2022 Candidate Forum. Founding Members, Josh Small, served as the moderator and Tiffany Taylor as the Time Processor.
The forum began with each candidate giving a 30-second opening statement introducing themselves, following with important issues, and telling voters why they are the best candidate. Each candidate was asked a question and given a one-minute response time.
ROE V. WADE, LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS, AND GOV. PRITZKER’S RECENT COMMENTS ON ABORTION
Pat Dowell came out with a statement that overturning Roe V. Wade was a deadly move for women. “We will not go back to “back-alley” abortions,” says Dowell. Dowell agreed with Gov. Pritzker’s comments about protecting abortion rights. “He has put money into the budget to make sure that the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago will always be a welcoming place for women who are seeking abortions and the healthcare they need,” says Dowell.
Jonathan Swain agreed with Gov. Pritzker’s comments that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a travesty and make the country weaker. “I’m an ally in this fight. Clearly, I never had to make a decision that women had to make with respect to abortions. It’s my job to support the women who are taking the lead in that position, but I also know that there need to be advocates for health equity for black women.” says Swain.
Both candidates support federally legalizing cannabis and ensuring access to banking. Dowell believes that African Americans have been penalized for cannabis use and need access to the cannabis market and banking facilities. Swain wants to make sure African Americans take advantage of the business and reap the millions and billions made in the cannabis market.
VIOLENCE AND CARJACKINGS
David Moore stated the need for digital license plates. “Right now, carjacking is an epidemic, not only in Chicago but throughout Illinois. If a car is carjacked or stolen with digital license plates, it will read stolen, and we can apprehend and hold the suspect accountable and even more importantly create a deterrence. It is a 95% rate that the suspect will get caught,” says Moore. If elected, Moore wants to create 122 youth engagement officers throughout the state to give young people a voice and a seat at the table.
KEEPING RESIDENTS AND BUSINESSES FROM LEAVING THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
Erin Slone says there is a lack of hope and economic development in the Southland. “We need to make, not only the State of Illinois, but also the district more hospitable to manufacturers and business,” says Slone.
FLOODING AND DETERIORATING INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE SOUTHLAND
Mariyana Spyropoulos stated that the MWRD acquired over a million dollars to invest in Dolton, Harvey, and Blue Island for streambank stabilization and reducing flooding. “The President has to go to Washington to work with our congressional delegation in order to get the funding and rely on tax dollars. There is still more work to do,” says Spyropoulos.
Sharon Waller would like to initiate a roundtable with local building departments and village engineers for information to be sent out on a local level as to innovative approaches to stormwater management. “We are one of 16 states left without a water reuse policy. We are also one of 12 states that have been sued for the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone. This is an opportunity for innovation before taxation to build resilience for our industry and protect public health,” says Waller.
Yumeka Brown understands the importance of partnering with the various municipalities to discuss the issues that are happening in the community. “I think it’s very important to start those conversations and be proactive instead of being reactive where we are expecting the community to come to MWRD. As a candidate, I will be doing outreach in the communities to make sure that the issues in the Southland are heard loud and clear,” says Brown.
EQUITABLE RESOURCES AND SERVICES IN THORNTON TOWNSHIP
Terry Wells, Sr., says it’s essential to make sure elected officials deliver for the Thornton Township. “Those 17 communities need the help of federal and state representatives. As committeemen, one of my jobs is to pressure them to make sure that we get the best candidates to run for these offices and have the candidates who are going to bring back the services to our communities,” says Wells.
Troy O’Quin’s primary objective is to get voter turnout. “Thornton Township is the largest Democratic voting block in the county. We need to get people back to the polls because showing up at the polls is how people begin to listen, and that’s how the resources begin to come our way,” says O’Quin.
ELECTRONIC MONITORING PROGRAM FOR OFFENDERS
LaTonya Ruffin says those who are repeat offenders will not be let out on electronic monitoring because they will continue to create more crimes. “Do you feel safe? Because I don’t. I will bring more police into the community. Your community in the south suburbs matter,” says Ruffin. If suspects are caught carjacking, Ruffin says they must sit in jail until they go in front of the judge.
FREE AIDE, SANCTUARY, AND DREAMER STATUS FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO ENTER THE COUNTRY UNLAWFULLY
Jonathan Jackson supports the Dreamer’s Act and a pathway for citizenship. “I have seen too many children caught up in the margin that did nothing wrong. I do believe America is big enough to be compassionate and caring enough to make room for inclusion,” says Jackson. Another important issue is that if someone served their time in jail, they deserve to have their voting rights restored. “We have to have a path for restoration of our citizenship rights to have our right to vote returned,” says Jackson.
Charise Williams believes in the Dreamer’s Act, and that immigrants built the country. “I believe that everyone deserves to have a right to citizenship. We have to protect our children. Most of the time, it’s not their fault. They are trying to get a second opportunity in life,” says Williams. Immigrants from Haiti and Panama don’t get the same opportunities. Williams says that all immigrants should be treated the same regardless of the color of their skin.
COOK COUNTY BOARD PRESIDENT CANDIDATE’S TOP PRIORITIES
Richard Boykin’s top priorities are making sure the streets and neighborhoods are safe, dealing with the issues of crime, affordable healthcare, and a fair property tax system in the Southland. “We have to make sure the property tax bills are sent out on time so local school districts can have the resources that they need and municipalities,” says Boykin.
5TH DISTRICT COOK COUNTY COMMISSIONER CANDIDATE’S TOP PRIORITIES
Venard Alsberry’s top priorities are the violence in the Southland, how to address the problem, and property taxes. “We pay high taxes in the Southland, but do we get the same service. The 5th District has been forgotten. We have to be recognized that we are part of the county that needs fair services across the board,” says Alsberry.
Monica Gordon’s top priorities are healthcare, public safety, and economic opportunities. “We have a lot of room for growth in the Southland, and I’m here to address that. As Cook County Commissioner, I want to have town hall meetings where I’m able to inform residents what we can and cannot do,” says Gordon.
SENIOR CITIZENS NOT ELIGIBLE FOR TAX FREEZES AND SENIOR DISCOUNTS DUE TO THEIR INCOME
Fritz Kaegi says the Senior Homeowners Exemption is there for every senior citizen regardless of their income. “We just had a bill that was just passed for seniors where it is income limited and used to have to re-apply to that every year. We just got a bill passed so that we can look at other state programs where you have to verify your income and your senior freeze automatically renews,” says Kaegi.
Kari K. Steele wants to address her senior citizen constituents by remaining engaged as a public servant and increasing community outreach to the larger senior citizen population with community events and robocalls. “When I’m sitting down and going over the assessed value of your property, I will make sure the proper exemptions are applied and provide other services available. Assessments need to be uniformed across the board,” says Steele.
The forum concluded with a one-minute closing from all candidates. Vivian Covington, President of The Democratic Women of the Southland Region, applauded the members, candidates, and the public for a successful candidate forum.
The Democratic Women of the Southland Region (DWSR) was established to create a forum to empower Democratic Women to work together to promote the ideals of the Democratic Party and to foster the participation of women (and men) in all levels of the Democratic Party including but not limited to; disseminating information about current issues that affect the daily lives of voters and prospective voters within the context of local, state, and federal government. Membership is open to all who share these goals. For more information, go to ildwsr.org.
Tammy Gibson is an author, re-enactor, and black history traveler. Find her on social media @sankofatravelher.