A night plagued by thunder, lightning and a terrific downpour of rain did not stop Rev. Gregory Livingston pastor of Mandell United Methodist Church (5000 W. Congress Pkwy) from opening his doors to the community and a political forum hosted by Congressman Danny K. Davis. Originally, last Friday’s forum was scheduled to have Cong. Jesse Jackson Jr. as guest speaker, part of the “listening” tour he had been conducting around the city. However, after the Democrats’ success in the Nov. 7 midterm election, where they regained control of the Congress, the congressman’s plans for a mayoral run changed. Jackson will now be in a powerful position on the House Appropriations Committee when the Democratic majority takes control in January, so the congressman will be too busy to run for mayor.
However, the West Side is never without interesting political news. Though Cong. Jackson did not attend the forum, there was excitement over the announcement of Cong. Danny Davis’ aide, Tumia Romero throwing her hat into the political arena to run for alderman of the 29th Ward against incumbent Ald. Isaac Carothers.
Romero is director of Public Policy and Programs for Davis, for whom she has worked for several years. She worked in City Hall for eight years. Mayor Washington gave her a chance at 19 years of age to prove herself in the Mayor’s press office.
“I’ve had an opportunity to meet with people who live in our community and have tremendous needs,” Romero said, “and what I find a lot times is that there is no one on a local level in the 29th Ward to deal with some of their issues-to deal with people who are returning back to society, deal with people who have treatment issues. I mean in a real serious way. More ex-offenders return to the Austin community than any community in the whole state of Illinois, and HIV and AIDS has the highest incidence [here] than any community in the state. There is also more incidence of child welfare. We really need people to step up and deal with some of those issues.
“There is a void in our community right now that is one part in terms of the social issues facing us. The second part is I truly believe in participatory democracy. Elected officials have a responsibility to communicate on a regular basis with the people in their community, and to ask them on a regular basis what is it you want me to do. How do you want me to vote on the big box, how do you want me to vote on program activities for this ward, how do you want me to interact with you? That’s not happening in the ward. They ask the mayor first and then they say this what we are going to do. I just don’t believe that is how government should operate in a democracy when we’re talking about getting people to participate.
“I want to create a community planning process in our ward, so the community can get engaged and get involved in deciding as a unit, how does she deal with economic development, how should we deal with affordable housing, how should we deal with people who returning to the community, how should we deal with people who are in treatment, how do we deal with our young people, what should we do with vacant lots and abandoned buildings in our ward? I want to engage the people in deciding that. My platform will be developed as I go through the community and after I’m elected. I have the experience and I have the desire to help improve and impact the quality of life.
“Not only do I believe we should encourage African Americans to own businesses in the 29th Ward, on a citywide level I think we need to increase the number of African Americans to receive contracts. I think the number is 15 percent, which is the same as the Asians in the community. And not to diminish their right to have contracts, African Americans are 42 percent [of the population] and maybe more, but we’re getting just 15 percent of the contracts.
“When Harold Washington was mayor we were getting 36 percent of the contracts. There is something seriously wrong with that.”
Cong. Davis will now be the chairman of subcommittee on Federal Workforce and Agency Organizations. That committee has oversight over all the personnel work for the federal government.