By ALLISON MATYUS
With just a few weeks way from the special election, the five candidates running for 4th Ward Alderman took part in a forum earlier today, Feb. 4, hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference (HPKCC) at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.
During Saturday’s forum the five candidates Ald. Sophia King (4th), Marcellus H. Moore, Jr., Gerald Scott McCarthy, Ebony Lucas and Gregory Livingston answered questions about safety, public schools, public transit, affordable housing and new development.
King spoke about the accomplishments she has made in the past nine months as alderman. She said creating a safer environment in the 4th Ward has been a main priority.
“I brought the Safe Passage Program in the summer for the first time ever,” she said.
King added that one of the ways to solve the safety issue is with jobs.
Moore said he would want to look at expanding partnerships with the law enforcement institutions that are already in place.
“I want to investigate the partnership with the Chicago Police Department and the University of Chicago Police Department and figure out if there are ways to cover a [broader] area,” Moore said.
With the constant budget cuts for public schools in the ward and across the city, the candidates turned their focus onto improving the schools.
King said she is currently starting a collective of 4th Ward programming with a focus on after-school activities. She said she is meeting with principals across the ward now.
McCarthy said that the Chicago Public Schools Level One ranking should be the only standard for public schools in the ward.
Turning to public transit, the candidates discussed the increase of fare rates across the city.
“There are certain realities of public transportation and public financing that we have to submit to,” Moore said. “We need to understand what we can do in reality.”
Livingston said that if the $1.1 million Red Line can get an upgrade on the North Side, he would push for upgrades to the South Side’s transportation system.
The affordable housing issue turned into a conversation about keeping current residents in the neighborhood instead of pushing them out.
McCarthy said that people are afraid of change in the neighborhood for a good reason and that new developments should be built with units at a reasonable rent price.
Lucas said that the 4th Ward needs someone who understands what affordable housing is.
“I would require any new developers to have affordable housing in their development instead of them paying a fee to not have any affordable units,” Lucas said.
King cited her success at adding affordable housing units to a project in the South Loop and her continued commitment to affordable housing.
The conversation turned towards developments and what the success of all businesses would look like throughout the entire ward.
“We focus on 53rd Street and the South Loop and completely ignore everything in between,” Lucas said.
Livingston said that the new developments should reflect the people in the community.
“We need infrastructures that meet the needs of the people and not the needs of the developers,” he said. “I would start a series of Town Hall meetings and call them ‘The People’s Plan’ because ultimately, you all understand your neighborhood better than I do.”
Moore said that marketing the 4th Ward as a place to have a business means pitching and selling the vibrancy of the communities.
The candidates hoped to convince constituents to vote for them, but McCarthy reminded attendees of the forum the importance of actually going out to vote.
“We cannot let voter apathy define this election’s outcome,” he said.
The special election will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 28. If necessary, a run-off election will take place on Tuesday, April 4.