By AARON GETTINGER
With former opponent and Herald editor Gabriel Piemonte at his side as a senior advisor, 5th Ward aldermanic candidate Will Calloway introduced a plan for his first 100 days in office Sunday, two days before the election, with promises for education, housing, health, intergovernmental relations, civil rights, economic development, public safety and constituent relations.
Calloway said that the plan came together with Piemonte’s “huge help;” copies were distributed to meeting attendees at the Experimental Station. While Piemonte said on March 25 that he was not on Calloway’s staff, he endorsed the South Shore community activist right after the Feb. 26 first-round election and has appeared with him frequently on the campaign trail.
Calloway was blunt in his criticism of Hairston, saying, for instance, that he did not think she has a good relationship with many municipal departments: “You can’t get some things done if people don’t like you.
“If they don’t like you, they’re not going to come and try to help you as much, and we should not have to suffer as a ward because people don’t like our alderman.”
On education, Calloway’s plan promises monthly meetings with every local school council head in the ward. His ward office would raise funds for educators and link them to “various supports … including planning and professional development” and “be a resource and advocate for all parents.”
On housing, Calloway proposes that that “owners and renters will sit together on a task force” to develop housing policy — he clarified that he did not want developers on the taskforce and said an application process would determine its members. He said he would index properties that are “not being put to productive use” (e.g. unmaintained problem buildings) and “personally lead inspections of all the rental properties in the ward.” He said that the money Hairston has received from developers ought to be redirected to schools, and he said he would lobby Springfield to lift the ban on rent control.
On health policy, he attacked Hairston’s record on the closings of public mental health clinics. “How many know six mental health clinics were closed?” he asked. “How many know that Leslie Hairston, the incumbent, was part of that process of closing them? She was.”
Hairston had addressed her role in the clinic closings at a March 29 press conference at City Hall, where she said that when Mayor Rahm Emanuel “proposed closing 12 mental health clinics, I was among the aldermen who fought to keep at least half of them open,”
Calloway promised that he would “facilitate wellness checks” on citizens and convene a local mental health council to investigate ways to reopen the mental health clinics. He said his aldermanic communication and outreach resources would connect ward residents to health care opportunities “while collecting data on what needs are not met.”
Calloway said he would appoint a civil rights monitor in an advisory capacity, saying he had some local attorneys in mind but declined to name them. Campaign manager Bobby Burns said Calloway would pay the monitor “independent from city funds until he figures out what range of positions are possible given his limited budget.”
Calloway said a system for constituents to report civil rights violations through texting, voicemail and email is currently under development. He also promised to convene a council on civil rights, “a robust and diverse representation” of ward residents to study and recommend actions on the topic, with members appointed through an application process.
“In communities that look like ours, economics are political” began the economic development section of Calloway’s plan; the candidate clarified that he was referring to predominantly African-American South Shore, not Hyde Park.
He alleged that Hairston’s office does not keep track of developers’ promises on local, African-American and female hiring and promised a “local component to that oversight” to see when the promises are broken.
Hairston’s campaign consultant, Delmarie Cobb, scoffed at this suggestion. “Not only does she do it, she’s been doing it since she took office,” Cobb said. “One of the biggest projects she did it on was when she and a group of neighboring aldermen stopped the $142 million reconstruction of Lake Shore Drive, because there weren’t enough minorities on it.”
Calloway also promised that 5th Ward residents would have a chance to propose a project on any lot before other developers, with support from the ward office to overcome capacity constraints. He promised a community economic development planning meeting in the first 100 days of his tenure, if he is elected.
Calloway promised beat policemen who “are engaged and familiar with the community that they are sworn to serve and protect” on the 53rd and 71st street corridors and safety checks on residents “identified through data analysis” by violence interrupters. He said his office would train neighborhood watches and block clubs to collect public safety data for the police and ward office.
Many of Calloway’s promises concerning constituent services came with dismissive remarks on his opponent’s record in this area, saying that he heard from many voters who were dissatisfied with calling Hairston’s ward office.
He promised communication through a printed and electronic newsletter as well as email and texting, open tracking for ward service requests, streamed ward meetings on Facebook Live, a feedback app “which would allow constituents to ‘rate the alderman’ and ‘rate the ward office’ and a quality control hotline.
On “participatory democracy,” Calloway promised neighborhood councils for the ward’s precincts in Hyde Park, South Shore, Greater Grand Crossing and Woodlawn — council chairs, who would be appointed by an application process, would appoint the other members — as well as another attempt at participatory budgeting.