State Representative and Fourth Ward Alderman-elect Will Burns (A.B. ’95, A.M. ’98) discussed local issues over lunch with students and community members Saturday in Harper at an event organized by the University of Chicago Democrats (UCDems).
According to third-year and UCDems President Dick Zacharias, Burns discussed a variety of topics relevant to the local community, including funding for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the lack of a trauma center at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC).
“Burns offered a refreshing level of optimism. He was optimistic and excited,” fourth-year and SG Community and Government Liaison Allen Linton said.
Addressing students in the audience who had political aspirations, Burns encouraged involvement in local government. He offered stories from his own experiences working for political campaigns, including then-State Senator Barack Obama’s bid for South Side Congressman Bobby Rush’s seat.
Even though the campaign was virtually impossible to win, Burns said, he learned from all the mistakes that were made. According to second-year and UCDems Campus Outreach Coordinator Stephen Lurie, Burns recommended that young people work on a failed campaign and use it as a source of inspiration for future political work.
Linton, a CPS graduate, questioned Burns about better ways of funding Chicago’s public schools.
Although Burns spoke out against the current property tax system that funds CPS, alleging that the current model favors wealthier areas, he acknowledged the complexity of the issue.
Burns also supports the reinstatement of the UCMC trauma center, but he again identified funding as a real challenge, Linton said. Burns expressed confidence that Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel will bring new opportunities to the city and the fourth ward.
Linton called for additional talks from other aldermen and local politicians to raise awareness of city issues on campus.
Burns is set to fill the seat left vacant by Toni Preckwinkle, who was elected as president of the Cook County Board of Commissioners in November. He currently serves as the state representative for the 26th Ward and will take office in two weeks.
—Additional reporting by Sam Levine