The Westside Ministers Coalition (WMC) hosted a cross-section of law enforcement representatives, from police officials to newly elected State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez at their monthly meeting in the Columbus Park Refectory, 5701 W. Jackson Blvd. The coalition, founded in 1978, is an extension of the Westside Ministers Conference, and serves as a political outlet for ministers on the West Side of Chicago. Current president of the coalition is Dr. Phalese Binion.
Radio personality Zelda Robinson served as master of ceremonies, and Rev. Lewis Flowers facilitated the panel speakers. In his opening remarks, Flowers reflected on his 10 years working with the present leadership.
Pleasant Ridge Church pastor, Rev. Joseph Jones, one of the co-founders of the group, said, “Anybody who is a part of the West Side, or any side, who does not belong to the WMC is out of order because WMC attends to all needs. I want to salute Pastor Flowers, a great leader dedicated to his cause.”
State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, elected last November, opened with comments about community justice centers, the first one opening in May on the North Side, the second at 98th & Cottage Gove on the South Side, and the third planned for Oak Park.
“I’m very happy that I was able to keep a campaign promise,” she said, “and we’re going to continue to open more offices. We’ve done some great work down in Springfield with some of our pieces. Not all got through and certain ones, particularly the gun initiative, I’m going to continue to work on. I’ve got a proposal for changing the law that would increase the penalty for known gang members found on the street with a loaded weapon – to take that from a Class 2 offense to one non-probational. That did not pass this time around, but I’m going to continue to work on that and reintroduce at the next session because I think it’s extremely important.
“Obviously, we’ve seen the amount of violent increase with the shootings. But I am proud to say that we were able to get the law changed [about] disarming a police officer. We now have upgraded that to a Class 1 felony, so that was successful. We’re working hard on a variety of issues. It’s been a challenge for me to work on a budget. At the State’s Attorney’s Office, our number one priority is serving the victims of crime. Thanks for your continued support and thanks to law enforcement who are here today for the job you do.”
Representatives from various police districts, including the Oak Park Police Dept., gave updates, including low attendance to some CAPS meetings and information relating to CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), a division of Homeland Security.
CERT is a training program that trains citizens in the event of a disaster. The program takes about 20 hours to complete and provides critical skills in emergency preparedness and response.
Also present at the meeting was former alderman William “Bill” Shaw who is currently running for Cook County Tax Assessor. He said, “Many communities are over-taxed … the assessor today is not running for re-election. I’m running and we don’t have to appeal your taxes. We’ll do it right in the first place. Many taxes, particularly senior citizens’, are out of line and we want to straighten that out. Working people are included in that group. We know how to do it, we will do it, we’re not afraid to do it, and we have to find another mechanism for funding schools other than real estate property tax.”