Looking ahead to the primary next March

Opinion: Arlene Jones

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Last week I wrote about a killing that happened around Avers and Ferdinand. Two people died of gunshot wounds in a car that ended up crashing there. As people from the neighborhood gathered, what upset many was that the police towed the car with the two dead people still inside (something that would never happen if two police officers were killed in a squad car), which showed a lot of disrespect for both the deceased individuals as well as the grieving friends and relatives.

As a huge angry crowd gathered to show their displeasure with what was happening, I questioned whether the anger was enough for them to march on their elected official offices. In that neighborhood, Avers is the dividing line between the 37th Ward of Alderman Emma Mitts and the 27th Ward of Alderman Walter Burnett. I also went back and looked at the number of votes both of them got and there were more people who were protesting the towing of that car than had come out to put either Mitts or Burnett into office.

We have an upcoming primary election scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, 2016. At that time, both Mitts and Burnett will be running to be the Democratic candidate for committeeman of their respective wards. While the aldermanic position that they hold pays them well over $115,000 a year, the position of ward committeeman pays $0. Zilch. Nada. 

So why do two highly compensated aldermen want a position that comes without a salary? It's simple. The ward committeeman wields the most power. It is the ward committeeman who is responsible for promoting voter registration as well as voter education. It is the ward committeeman who puts together forums (now you know why you don't have many — because the aldermen aren't interested in you knowing more and thus maybe becoming an educated voter). 

It is the ward committeeman who picks the polling place so that it's either convenient, like at a school with plenty of parking, or in the recesses of a storefront church where maneuvering to get inside is akin to the labyrinth at an amusement park. 

A powerful ward committeeman can get out the vote and thus is rewarded with jobs and other perks.

The ward committeeman could call and hold a forum on unfair policing or just to educate the community on police tactics. They could hold forums on TIF funding (Tax Increment Financing), how to get contracts with the city, how to appeal your property taxes, how to protest the ridiculous water bills, and on and on. But because an educated voter is not what they want and they don't want to highlight what they do as aldermen to make your life miserable, they pick and choose what they want you to know.

If people are truly concerned with running and becoming alderman to bring change to the ward, then running for committeeman is the first step. But even more important are voters who are savvy enough to know that voter turnout gives a politician power. 

On March 16, 2016 both Mitts and Burnett will more than likely run to retain their ward committeemanship. As voters in the primary for president, we can do them a favor and vote for the opposition. Causing an alderman to lose an election for a nonpaying position will send chills through their bones and cause them to have a sudden resurgence of concern for the people who elected them to represent our interests in the first place.

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