I voted for Mayor Harold Washington each time he ran. I was young – in my early 20s – and not really into politics during his first run. I got on the Harold Washington bandwagon because my boyfriend at the time was wearing Washington’s button, so Harold became my candidate too.
Many of Mayor Washington’s accomplishments didn’t resonate immediately with me because politics wasn’t my priority at the time. I was single, living on my own and in my view, I had the world at my door. Growing older, having children, and buying a house all contributed to my getting into politics.
My political views have always been jaded. I tend to see things in a very realistic vein. I don’t believe any candidate will come along and “save us.” But what I do subscribe to is that some candidates who get elected will do a better job of making sure the black community is treated fairly. That is what happened when Harold Washington won the election over Bernie Stone. For the first time in over 200 years, a black man was again at the helm of this city and being fair to all of its inhabitants was his number-one priority.
With Washington’s death and the upheavals that came after it, many of the gains we had made as a people slowly eroded. City jobs, access to affordable housing, fairness in the allocation of resources to all of the residents of Chicago had been a trademark of the Washington administration. I can still remember when one of my friends with a vacant lot next door to her house finally got it cleaned up. It was only under a Washington administration that she was able to get the city to come address the issue. She could never get any type of response to her requests under any of the previous administrations. I can still remember her joy at feeling like she mattered for being a part of this city.
Remembering vividly such a small detail is a testament to just how well Mayor Washington delivered and distributed city services to everyone. There was a lot of hope in this city and many residents who never bought into the idea of a black mayor (and these were black people as well) soon found themselves believing because they were seeing it with their own eyes.
We now have the opportunity to again have the kind of city that offers fairness to all. I know some folks think a certain mayoral candidate was sent here by the White House to be anointed our new mayor. Many heard President Obama say that person could be a good mayor. But when I heard it, I heard a boss bidding an employee farewell and saying kind words just to get him out the door. I didn’t hear a ringing endorsement. For what it’s worth, I think the words the president said were spoken by someone glad to see an interloper leave rather than someone who was saddened and would truly miss that person upon departure.
I have been having wonderful debates with a friend who is a supporter of Emanuel. She knows that I support Bill “Dock” Walls. So as we banter back and forth with the politics, I had to ask her a question. Will her candidate, who has spent his time campaigning at el stops ever come into the actual community and talk with people who don’t ride the CTA (like myself), who won’t ever see his commercials on television because they don’t watch it (like myself), but who, like myself, have lots of questions and want answers?
I go and listen at mayoral forums because I want to hear the issues being discussed. I want to know how the next mayor of the city of Chicago will solve our financial problems. I want to know how they will deal with the parking meters issue, in light of the fact that they are now $5 an hour downtown. I want to hear the next mayor’s plan for Austin, for the West Side, for ex-offenders, for schools, for policing issues, for the ever expanding issue of guns and violence. I want the next mayor to not follow the pattern of the existing mayor who made this side of town a seldom-to-never visit.
So I challenged my friend. This Sunday Jan. 16, at Friendship Baptist, 5200 W. Jackson Street from 5 to 8 p.m., there will be a mayoral candidates forum, sponsored by the Westside NAACP. After my last column, the NAACP quickly reached out and invited Dock Walls to participate. All the other major candidates have been invited too. So let’s see if her candidate has the “balls” to come out and answer questions from people who aren’t in a hurry trying to get on and off a train.
Later that same night, we’ll talk politics like we do each and every Sunday night on the Garfield Show. Tune in to WRLL 1450-AM from 10 until midnight.