Roughly a month into the New Year, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) is reporting progress on numerous fronts. Last November, Ervin outlined three issues he planned to focus on.
Those issues include an effort to collaborate with other elected officials to develop a comprehensive plan for the West Side; a campaign to get more churches involved in community affairs, particularly when it comes to reducing violence; and finding ways to revitalize retail along Madison Avenue, which the alderman said is the heart of his ward.
Ervin presented an update on the action he’s taken on these issues during a Jan. 17 community meeting, the first of the new year, held at the Garfield Park Field House,100 N. Central Ave.
The alderman said on the faith-based front, he and area congregations are hammering out the details of that action plan. In November, Ervin said that he wanted to have churches to do more to help the community. In many cases, he said, congregations only come to the West Side to attend services, and don’t engage with the neighborhoods where the churches are located.
“One hour, per month, per pastor,” Ervin said at the time. “I don’t think that’s too much to ask, because they call [the ward office] for everything. When we all get together in one accord, we can move mountains.”
Ervin also urged his constituents to talk to their pastors about getting more involved in the community. The alderman said that the churches would be considerable leverage for pushing through much-needed changes.
In a recent interview, Ervin said that he has contacted a number of pastors and that they’re currently working on developing a framework for greater engagement and collaboration.
Addressing the nascent comprehensive plan, Erin said that he has been working with U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (7th) and Cook County Commissioners Richard Boykin (1st) and Robert Steele (2nd), among other elected officials, to hammer out the details of that action.
Ervin’s last great priority, Madison Ave., could benefit from a community corporation, the alderman said during the Jan. 17 meeting.
“We are going to form a community corporation — the Garfield Park Development Corporation,” Ervin said. “I’ve been working with the local business business people, talking about investing in this community.”
The corporation would focus on West Garfield Park. As the alderman saw it, any effort to redevelop the area must come from the locals; otherwise, there was a risk that redevelopment could lead to gentrification and, eventually, displacement of residents, he said.
“If we, as a group, don’t focus our resources, none of us will be here,” Ervin said.
In a follow-up interview, he said that he was approached by a group of residents and business owners about the idea, independently of what he and the other elected officials were planning. Ervin said he plans to form the corporation before the end of this year.
“I would like to get it up and going in the maximum of 3 to 6 months,” he said, adding that more details will be announced within the next 4 to 6 weeks.