Mayoral Candidate Troy LaRaviere hosts community listening session in Hyde Park

Mayoral candidate Troy LaRaviere met with neighborhood residents to discuss various social issues Wednesday evening, Aug. 8, during a “People’s Assembly” listening session at the Parents Cooperative – Early Learning center, 5300 S. Shore Drive. – Spencer Bibbs

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff Writer

Mayoral candidate Troy LaRaviere pledged to “be a candidate of the people,” during a “People’s Assembly” listening session last night at the Parent Cooperative for Early Learning preschool, 5300 South Shore Dr.

LaRaviere, President of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, attacked Mayor Rahm Emanuel as the mayor of CEOs, bankers, school privatization proponents and “vulture capitalists,” saying they have organized to take “great control” of the federal, state and municipal governments.

He praised, on the other hand, “everyday working people” who organize around the issues of housing, education, homelessness and taxation and said his campaign would partner with them.

“We end up having to select from the people who are in the pockets of those who mean us no good,” he said. The goal of his campaign is thus to create a movement “to give everybody a mayor.” He pledged not to take donations from corporations or those “trying to do business with the City.”

Invoking Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign that invigorated the political left in the United States, LaRaviere said he wanted his campaign to “lift up issues and lift up voices that normally don’t get the time of day.”

An aide said that canvassers in Hyde Park had heard many residents’ concerns about education, housing and the community benefits agreement push. LaRiviere invited those at the meeting to suggest topics to talk about in groups, and the audience eventually voted to discuss environmental justice and racism as well as education.

Volunteer event moderator Michael Thompson leads a discussion on the state of the Chicago Public Schools as Talae Perry and event moderator Portia King listen, Aug. 8, during a “People’s Assembly” listening session at the Parents Cooperative – Early Learning center, 5300 S. Shore Drive. – Spencer Bibbs

After aides summarized the group discussions, LaRaviere responded to the concerns they raised. He discussed finding a place to teach his son how to ride a bike, choosing a path near Lake Calumet, near the industrial Indiana border, instead of the crowded Lakefront and 606 trails.

“We got to the spot and rolled down the windows, and the smell was —” he paused, grimacing. “I looked at my wife, and she looked at me. There wasn’t a word said. We rolled up the windows, and we drove back home. We didn’t want to think about ourselves or our son riding in that.”

He said, “There are people who live in this every single day, he said. “They can’t just pack up. Their kids are living in this. Their kids are breathing this everyday, [something] that I didn’t even want my son exposed to for five minutes.”

LaRaviere called for a public information campaign about environmental issues in Chicago, saying, “People just don’t know what their brothers and sisters are going through.” He also appreciated the discussion group’s suggestion to merge environmental justice with the community benefits agreement push, which he endorses. He further endorsed equity frameworks, or equity analysis, wherein governmental bodies judge proposals based on their community impacts and degrees of community involvement in planning processes.

Responding to discussions of education curriculum, LaRaviere discussed his public school-enrolled son’s amazement at the University of Chicago Lab Schools’ foreign language and specialized arts programs when he attended summer school there.

“We know our education system is in shambles. It’s not doing something right,” he said, calling the state of democracy in the United States a reflection of its education system. Civics, he said, should be the most-emphasized aspect of education, with engagement on all levels of government.

A graduate of what was then Dunbar Vocational High School in Bronzeville, LaRaviere also lauded trades-related education, calling it an “avenue” into entrepreneurship and wealth.

LaRaviere endorsed an elected Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board with public financing for elections at the event. He compared the current board with the “thugs” and “gangsters” on the City Council, apparently referencing an incident last month at the Chicago Aldermanic Black Caucus’ annual fundraiser when Ald. Carrie Austin (34th) of the Far South Side and Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) of Woodlawn called young black protesters against the construction of the Cop Academy gangsters.

He later called Chicago Public Schools “the most understaffed school district in the State of Illinois,” saying it ranked next-to-last among the state’s 858 districts in the ratio of students to certified staff. As he said CPS ranked in the top half of expenditures per student, however, he questioned where the money was going.

Mayoral candidate, Troy LaRaviere listens as Mike Strode talks about how businesses can have an environmental impact on neighborhoods, Aug. 8, during a “People’s Assembly” listening session at the Parents Cooperative – Early Learning center, 5300 S. Shore Drive. – Spencer Bibbs

“All of those things that we need that we don’t have, we need because there are not resources for our school system or the resources are being diverted toward the funders of the corrupt gangsters,” he said, identifying corruption as the central root of Chicago’s ills.

LaRaviere was born in Chicago in the early 1970s and raised on the South Side. He served in the U.S. Navy before attending the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. He became a teacher with CPS in 2005, an assistant principal in 2007 and principal at Blaine Elementary School in Lakeview in 2011. In 2016, he became President of the Principals Association.

LaRaviere campaigned for County Commissioner Chuy Garcia in the last mayoral election and served as a Sanders delegate and on the platform committee at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He lives in Beverly.

Some of the participants at the event came from outside of Hyde Park–Kenwood; LaRaviere’s campaign has a South Side reception planned for next Saturday, Aug. 18 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at BJ’s Market and Bakery in Calumet Heights, 8734 S. Stony Island Ave. Additionally, there are People’s Assemblies planned in Uptown and Logan Square next week.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com