By AARON GETTINGER
WOODLAWN — Hundreds of people gathered to hear mayoral candidate Amara Enyia and her most prominent supporter, Chancelor “Chance the Rapper” Bennett, voice their support for jobs and a benefits agreement regarding the Obama Presidential Center.
Speaking at a rally at 63rd and Cottage Grove, Enyia voiced concerns about displacement and affordable housing and said a community benefits agreement regarding the construction of the Obama Presidential Center “absolutely essential.”
“If you lose your home, what else do you lose?” Enyia asked. People shouted back “our wealth” and “schools.” “What about our businesses?” she responded. “So for us, the question is how do we keep ourselves in our neighborhoods, and this is the vision of our campaign. It’s about ideas, and it is about solutions.”
Enyia said Chicagoans have “a unique opportunity to move this city in the right direction for the first time in 35 years, since Harold Washington.” She lauded Bennett as “someone has seen what we can do and what we can be as a city, [who] is not afraid to challenge the status quo in this city.” His father Ken Williams-Bennett, a former aide to Washington and Barack Obama, has endorsed Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle
On property taxes, Enyia lauded the defeat of incumbent Cook County Assessor Joseph Barrios, whose office systematically over-assessed properties in low-income, primarily non-white areas, and she attacked the assessment appeals process as flawed.
“You should not have a system that is based on appeals. You should correct the formula, so that people are assessed properly the first time,” she said, adding that she hopes Democratic nominee Fritz Kaegi will be able to do this. “We will be working on that issue, but for Chicago it’s about making sure that we have revenue that will prevent us from having to raise property taxes [and] making sure that our residents have access to jobs so they can afford to live in their homes even as the cost of living increases.”
She said home ownership and the CBA are part of the “holistic vision that we have for Chicago.”
Saying he was speaking to “every corner from here all the way down to City Hall,” Bennett asked whether anyone in the crowd thought that Chicago needs opportunities, jobs, criminal justice reform and a CBA before any construction begins. He was met with applause.
Enyia said her campaign “is not about one person looking for a job on the Fifth Floor” but “is part of a movement of the people of this city who have said that they want something better than what we have, who have said that this is the time for the change that we have been calling for.
“The first thing they will try to do is tell you, ‘You might not be viable.’ I tell them, ‘Come to 63rd and Cottage Grove,’” she said. “The next thing they will do is say, ‘Well, do you have the experience to lead?’ I say this: the wrong experience has led us to where we are today. We have the right kind of experience to transform this city.
“Finally, they will say, ‘Well, it’s never been done before.’ We thrive on proving them wrong. This is the beginning. What they say can’t be done will be done,” Enyia said. “Mark our words.”
Enyia, who was raised in the south suburbs, holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. A West Side community organizer, she was briefly a candidate in the 2015 mayoral election and declared her current candidacy in August.
Bennett’s endorsement earlier this month brought a brought a surge of attention to Enyia’s candidacy. She received a $73,000 donation earlier this week from rapper Kanye West, who briefly appeared at the Woodlawn rally but left early and did not speak.
Enyia and Bennett are planning another rally on Saturday downtown.