Firing the First Salvo

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

-Frederick Douglass

“Change means a movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a non-existent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict.”

-Saul Alinsky

By now, the results are in for the Nov. 7 General Election. Congratulations to the winning candidates. We all can now move our focus to the upcoming 2007 Chicago municipal election.

I would like to remind voters that this election, as with all elections, is about power. Organizing for power and the effective leverage of power for equitable community benefit should always be a priority of voters.

The Feb. 27, 2007 City of Chicago election affords the Austin community an opportunity to organize itself to assert community power with our local aldermen.

We all have to remember our elected officials are “elected” to serve all citizens, whether or not a citizen voted for him or her. Citizens, no matter how old or young, are under a civic obligation to demand representation, and be engaged with the election process. If our leaders are representing other interests, they become negligent in their community obligation. Those of us -including myself- from the grassroots organizations who present ourselves as leaders are equally guilty when we do not challenge our local elected officials. Prime example: local elected officials should be present at community meetings hosted by community-based organizations providing legislative updates and detailed budget reports. We know not because we demand not.

When the community does organize major meetings, our elected officials are obligated to either attend or send an informed representative when invited. There has to be impunity when elected officials don’t attend meetings, or at the least, provide a courtesy call.

How many Chicago Board of Education or Chicago Park District meetings did some of the African-American aldermen attend to speak about the needs of their local schools and parks – like the Latino aldermen?

All of us must be reminded that elected officials serving in the legislative branch are there to be informed, and to question and challenge the executive branch. How can we tolerate the silence from some of our West Side aldermen concerning: the Duff minority front scandal; the hired trucking scandal; the City Hall patronage scandal; African-American businesses receiving only 9 percent of City of Chicago contracts since 1999 (two terms for some aldermen); continued police misconduct; problems with the implementation of Renaissance 2010; the redirection of Austin neighborhood students to schools under-performing worst than the old Austin High School; the disparity of resources between neighborhood schools and selective enrollment schools; program reduction at local parks due to Chicago Park District staff cuts; and the lack of TIF oversight and reporting.

The lack of public hearings about TIFs is the most troubling for me. I will host future meetings about the $600 million in TIFs which have been “jacked” by the mayor with very little public comment.

There is little, if any, public comment or hearings concerning the $1.5 million in taxpayer’s money each alderman control for their wards.

The City of Chicago would not need the federal government to monitor or oversee city government if the legislative branch was functional. Our aldermen, who are legislators, would actually do their job if the voters demand it. If we do not organize to demand of and elect our own leaders, then the current city government corruption and scandal is what we want.

Dwayne Truss