Austin has been in the dark and now must move into the spotlight.
This is the key conviction of Maretta Brown-Miller, who has lived in the Austin community for almost 33 years.
It expresses both her love for the untapped potential of the town, as well as her belief that the beauty of the community is muted by a shadowy undercurrent of uncertainty that permeates within it.
“Austin is a most beautiful town, both architecturally and historically,” said Brown-Miller. “I think that if the average person were to do a simple drive through the area, they would be amazed by how rich and vibrant it is.”
However, despite the potential and aesthetic beauty of the town, Brown-Miller believes there are still challenges that the community faces, including overhauling the Tax Increment Funding (TIF) program and deciding whether to raise the minimum wage.
This is why she says she chose to enter the race for Alderman of the 37th ward.
Miller, 53, is one of eight children of parents who lived in K-Town. Miller was part of the first four-year graduating class of Whitney Young High School. She moved to Austin in 1982.
She studied at Eastern Illinois University for a few semesters before attending Concordia University and obtaining her bachelor’s degree in organizational management in 2005. She has worked for the past 14 years as a staff assistant for the Chicago Park District.
The divorced mother of three and grandmother of four feels she can offer the residents of Austin a new vision and pathway toward growth that it is currently lacking under the leadership of 15-year incumbent Emma Mitts.
“I don’t feel that the community is growing or utilizing its resources to move forward,” said Miller. “I see no new ideas to attract businesses and close the technological divide that exists in the area. [Ald. Mitts] is not reaching out to the community on what they want. Great leadership begins with listening to the people you represent.”
This is not the first time Miller has challenged Mitts for 37th ward Alderman. She ran in the 2011 election as well and secured 24 percent of the vote through a largely grassroots campaign.
If elected, Miller seeks to improve the transparency and community involvement with decision-making regarding the TIF program, to support a minimum wage increase across the board for city residents and to invest in performing arts programs to allow area youth to have options after-school to avoid trouble, among other plans.
“Vernell Brown [an instructor in suburban Maywood for the Atmosphere of Tumbling] and I discussed the possibility of engaging the community with a studio that can provide instruction in dance, drumming and orchestra,” she said. “I think it is a wonderful way of encouraging the youth to express themselves creatively.”
Miller also supports opening trade schools in Austin, which she feels would allow residents who choose to forgo college an alternative means of still obtaining marketable skills.
“College isn’t for everyone, so why not build a trade school which will allow students to learning plumbing, or culinary arts, or massage therapy?” said Miller.
“It just makes sense.”
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