On Mar 20, 2023 IBAI co-hosted Chicago’s Black and Brown Future: Conversations with the Mayoral Candidates at the Chicago History Museum. The conversation focused on education, community & economic development, housing, public safety, and immigration. While all elections are important, this mayoral election is of particular importance to Black Chicagoans. The exodus (or displacement, depending on who you ask) of Black people from Chicago is well documented. The next Mayor will be key in retaining and attracting Black people to Chicago, or they will continue the status quo.
A city’s greatest resource is its residents, and Black people make up approximately one-third of Chicago's population. Many of Chicago's historically Black neighborhoods that were once flourishing and vibrant have suffered decades of disinvestment and inequitable access to resources. Current Mayor Lightfoot’s administration is attempting to address these issues with promising endeavors like the Invest South/West Initiative. IBAI was pleased to hear both Commissioner Brandon Johnson and Mr. Paul Vallas not only commit to continuing the work of the South/West Initiative but also deepening the City’s investment in the initiative. Additionally, the candidates committed to investing in small, community-based, Black-owned businesses and making vacant lots accessible to community members. This included Mr. Vallas’ commitment to prioritizing municipal contracts to Black-owned businesses.
Often with community investment comes gentrification, which leads to Black families being displaced from the communities their families have lived in for generations. Each candidate was asked about rising property taxes and gentrification and both committed to protecting these families, in part by expanding affordable housing. Commissioner Johnson committed to not raising property taxes, saying that it was “crushing the economy.”
Both candidates said they would hire Black talent in leadership roles and appoint Black people to positions in their administration. One key appointment is the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) Superintendent. While neither candidate commented on the position, they both shared their plans for public safety. Mr. Vallas committed to filling the 1000 vacancies in the department, replacing Chicago Transit Authority’s private security with CPD officers, adding more “beat” officers to neighborhoods, and recruiting retired police officers back to the department. While Commissioner Johnson committed to promoting and training 200 detectives, he shared that policing was not the sole solution to public safety. Commissioner Johnson shared that his administration would work with community-based violence prevention organizations and City Council to achieve public safety, stating “I would rather prevent crime than respond to crime.” Preventing crime means focusing on the root causes of crime, which is important to Black voters.
IBAI is committed to Black people throughout Illinois living full and abundant lives. IBAI and our partners look forward to working with the next Mayor of Chicago in furtherance of our work and holding them accountable to the commitments made.