Austin Coming Together coalition presented the first draft of the Austin Quality of Life Plan during the third and final community planning summit, which was held on June 2 at Michelle Clark High School, 5101 W. Harrison St.  

The plan is designed to provide a framework for future community development and investment based on what Austin residents want to see. ACT has been developing it for the past 16 months, holding two community summits to help narrow ideas, get feedback and gather ideas. The June 2 summit had a similar purpose, giving residents a chance to comment, ask questions and suggest ideas ACT may have missed.  

The organization will now take this feedback to develop the final version of the plan – which it expects to release by no later than October.  

Austin Coming Together is a coalition of a large number of Austin and west suburban businesses, congregations and community organizations — including this newspaper. 

During the first community summit in July 2017, residents’ ideas were split into several subject area groups. Working groups made up of volunteers then took on each group, developing and refining ideas. The ideas were further narrowed down during a summit in December 2016. 

The first draft, which is the culmination of those ideas, includes a range of recommendations across categories, including economic development, public safety, housing, education, health and civic engagement. 

One of the most pressing areas of concern was public safety, which participants said affects all aspects of life on the West Side. The draft includes ideas designed to increase safety and improve quality of life through social improvements and beautification efforts. 

Ideas for improving public safety that made the first draft include implementing restorative justice practices, training local police officers in community engagement and mental health and establishing peer support groups for local youths. The plan also includes ideas for improving the parks and public spaces to make them feel like safe spaces for residents. 

Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), who attended last weekend’s summit, said that she found the draft promising and that it’s a necessary tool “so we can continue to work together. 

The alderman added that she believes that the plan will allow the community to capitalize on resources, bring in new investment and keep Austin thriving. Mitts also said that she was particularly pleased with parts that deal with helping Austin youth get opportunities and deal with trauma. 

“You have to deal with it, [but you need to know] that we are going to do what we can to help,” she said. “That’s what our community has always been about.”

Theresa Jefferson, a West Side resident, said that it was good to see a plan that was truly driven by what the community wants.

“It’s good to see people take ownership of their community and bring their ideas forward,” she said. “I think that [it will lead to] a greater community.”

Temaka Williams said that she liked the plan’s focus on the “good things good people are doing great thing in the community. 

“Overall, I think this plan is comprehensive,” she added. “I like the fact that it includes the whole experience of the Austin community.”


Igor Studenkov is a winner of multiple Illinois Press Association awards for local government and business reporting. He has been contributing to Austin Weekly News since 2015. His work has also appeared...