On the heals of a recent poll showing Rahm Emanuel’s support among Chicago residents at an all-time low just three years in office, a longtime West Sider and Chicago cop is among the candidates looking to unseat the unpopular mayor.
Frederick Collins has been on the force for more than 20 years and has made just one other run for political office. But he announced last month that he’ll challenge Emanuel in next year’s mayoral election. The only other announced candidate is former alderman Robert Shaw. West Side community organizer Amara Enyia is also running for mayor.
According to a new Illinois Observer poll, Emanuel may face an uphill struggle for reelection on Feb. 24, 2015.
Collins, 45, says he felt the need to enter the race.
“I believe the mayor has not acted as a public servant of the people, but instead as a dictator who has simply made decisions independent of the will of the people,” he said. “When I’m elected as the next mayor of Chicago, the will of the people will always be front-and-center in every decision I make.”
Collins’s points to the city’s decision to close 54 schools last year — despite staunch opposition from parents, students and the Chicago Teacher’s Union — as an example of the mayor’s poor leadership.
“The closings were bad enough, but the fact that the mayor never even attended any of the meetings to discuss the closings with parents and school faculty showed his lack of regard for his constituents,” Collins said. “He is a servant of the people, and he can’t even talk to the people about decisions that will impact their lives? It’s unconscionable.”
Collins ran for Cook County Sheriff in 2010, but lost to Tom Dart. Collins said he learned a lot in that race.
“It was very closely-contested and I was able to build a strong grassroots backing which I feel that I can expand in this race,” he said.
Collins was born and raised in the Union Park neighborhood on the West Side, attending William H. Brown Elementary School before attending Crane Technical High School. He later attended Lewis University in Romeoville for a semester studying criminal justice. An illness to his mother, however, forced him to leave before graduation.
He eventually joined the police academy and completed his training in 1993. Despite the fact that he has never held political office before, Collins, a divorced father of three, has been socially active in the community. He’s a Boys and Girls Club volunteer and a member of the West Side Branch NAACP.
“My philosophy has always been that I’ve wanted to go where there is a need,” he said. “There is a leadership vacuum in the mayor’s seat. I feel that is where I can make my presence felt, and give the people of this great city an ear to listen to their issues.”
Collins acknowledges the obstacles he’ll face in the election, including countering Emanuel’s large, and growing, campaign war chest. The mayor has raised a reported $7 million so far.
Collins, however, is undeterred and is laying out his platform.
He wants to hire 50,000 new city employees to improve efficiency and maintenance, as well as build a new hospital on the South Side with a trauma center to treat patients quicker. Providing tuition disbursements for graduating high school students who attend trade schools, or two-year colleges, is another goal — he considers this a “reinvestment in the community.”
“I don’t believe that it would be a controversial position because the taxpayers are already burdened by the escalating dropout rates right now,” he said. “We’re only talking about giving our young people an opportunity to get training in a trade and then become an active participant in the community. It’s an investment that will benefit the entire city.”