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January 21, 2011

Fourth ward alderman candidates debate education, safety

Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) hosted a moderated forum for the fourth ward’s alderman position January 13 at Sixth Grace Presbyterian Church on East 35th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue. The six candidates addressed concerns regarding housing, education, jobs, and public safety to an audience of 150.

The six candidates who attended the forum were Will Burns (A.B. ’95, A.M. ’98), Brian Scott, George Rumsey (A.M. '77), Norman Bolden, Adam Miguest, and Lori Yokoyama. The other candidates under review, James E. Williams and Valencia “Mother Diva” Dantzler, did not attend.

The candidates questioned the economic disparities between Hyde Park, Kenwood, and Bronzeville, the neighborhoods that make up the fourth ward.

The concept of turning areas in the fourth ward into walking communities was brought up by both Burns and Rumsey. The former suggested narrowing East 47th Street, calling it a dividing line.

Rumsey said his “final step is to get a new business strip, a small business strip on 31st Street.”

Bolden said reducing regulations would be a better way to attract more businesses than increasing development. “Force banks to lower their lending standards. We have to lift the restrictions government is placing on these businesses. We may need to loosen up fees for start-up businesses and pay the fees later,” he said.

To keep tenants in affordable housing, Burns emphasized tenant rights and safety deposit security, whereas Brian Scott and former Hyde Park–Kenwood Community Conference President George Rumsey suggested working with the banks.

Bolden, owner of Norman’s Bistro and Room 43, suggested auditing housing developments and building on vacant lots.

Adam Miguest, a 21-year-old from Kenwood who recently graduated from University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and interned for Representative Bobby Rush in Washington, D.C., said he would improve transparency.

All of the candidates advocated for improving education and reducing youth violence.

Burns and Miguest agreed on gun control as the best prevention against youth violence. Burns applauded the CeaseFire program, in which adult leaders help prevent youth violence, but he said gun control was the next step to reducing shootings.

Burns pointed out that while Chuck’s Gun Shop on Riverdale is known to be the provider of most of the guns involved in community shootings, without changes to gun control laws, it will be hard to regulate gun purchases.

Miguest said that while looser gun restrictions in other states might work fine, it’s not working for Chicago. “That’s fine in Texas if they want to shoot up the animals in their backyard, but we can’t be shooting people on the streets,” he said.

Scott, Bolden, and Rumsey advocated for youth programs and mentoring instead of gun control.

Audience members asked whether the alderman wanted to elect school board members rather than have them appointed by the mayor’s office, and all candidates agreed they should be elected.

Burns also offered the idea of incentives to “high quality teachers” to enter the district, while Rumsey and Yokoyama suggested redesigning curricula.

Elections will take place February 22. Former Fourth-ward Alderwoman Toni Preckwinkle was recently elected as Cook County Board president.

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