5th Ward forum

(Left to right) Fifth Ward aldermanic candidates Martina "Tina" Hone and Desmon Yancy at a forum at the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave., on Saturday, March 25, 2023.

At the first 5th Ward forum of the runoff election, aldermanic candidates Martina “Tina” Hone and Desmon Yancy talked South Shore business development, public safety and opportunities for area youth.

The forum, hosted by the Voters Engagement Coalition, was held Saturday morning, March 25 at the Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. The first forum since the February 28 municipal election, it drew around 80 attendees.

Yancy and Hone cleared the 11 person ballot in February’s election, with Yancy receiving 26% of the vote and Hone receiving 18.6%, according to the Chicago Board of Elections.

Organizers set the tone for the event with some ground rules: no attacks on the opponent.

“We discourage combativeness between the candidates, because I am not interested in how well you can argue with each other,” said Anthony Crawford of the Voters Engagement Coalition. “I am interested in how well you can serve the community and the community should be able to ask you questions that reflect that.”

In candidates’ opening statements, Hone and Yancy emphasized their respective work experience and history in the community.

Born in Hyde Park and raised in Roseland, Hone is a former educator and attorney who spent more than 20 years in Washington, D.C working in the House Judiciary Committee, the Commerce Department and the American Legacy Foundation. Throughout Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration, Hone served as Chief Engagement Officer for the City of Chicago, stepping down to run for City Council. Beyond her career, Hone emphasized her background as a biracial woman and experiences of seeing the stark difference between worlds. She said a drive to “level the playing field” along racial lines is what motivated her to become a lawyer.

Yancy is a native of South Shore and community organizer, serving as the Senior Director of Organizing and Advocacy for the Inner-City Muslim Action Network. Prior to this, he was a labor organizer with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare and a co-founder of the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and the Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS) coalitions.

Conversation shifted swiftly to the under-construction Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park and the anticipated influx of economic investment in South Shore. Asked of their plans to build up the 71st Street business corridor, Hone stressed her know-how in navigating local and federal government agencies and Yancy pointed to his work as a community organizer.

Hone emphasized pairing short and long term goals. Short term goals include seeking to invest in schools and expanding reentry programs for formerly incarcerated citizens. For the long term, Hone said she would employ her experience in various levels of government, particularly with the federal appropriations process. “One of the experiences I bring back (from D.C. and city government) is my ability to braid funding from state, federal, and local (levels),” she said.

She likened the 71st Street corridor to a hub of transit-oriented development and said she would push to bring in more city, state and federal funds to subsidize new construction. She also defended her partial support for a South Shore Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), saying that the current proposal — introduced by community organizations in the CBA Coalition — does not have provisions for local businesses. Hone added that the South Shore CBA, as proposed, “concentrates poverty.”

Yancy focused on the disparity in resources along 71st towards community-centered development. He pointed to a stretch of 71st between Yates and Stony Island avenues, which has four smoke shops and several vacant storefronts.

“There are many vacant storefronts that could be utilized as job training centers, community centers, youth centers and intergenerational spaces,” Yancy said. He emphasized a bottom-up approach of intergenerational collaborations being integral to guiding any plans for the area.

Yancy has pledged his full support of a South Shore CBA.

Both candidates said they are concerned about absentee landlords, such as those who own vacant storefronts and don’t intend to develop them, and would work to hold them accountable, forcing them to either utilize the property or sell it.

Asked how candidates would work with local and state officials, Yancy listed his endorsements from local Alds. Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Greg Mitchell (7th), state Rep. Curtis Tarver (D-25th) and state Sen. Robert Peters (D-13th) as potential collaborators towards bringing resources to 5th Ward. He has also been endorsed by outgoing 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston.

Hone emphasized her long relationships with the Hyde Park and South Shore chambers of commerce, as well as career in working across levels of government both in D.C. and in Chicago. She also took a jab at Yancy’s name-dropping in his response, to which she was chided by the moderator.

Shifting to public safety, both pointed to their respective campaign’s public safety plans.

In the short term, Hone said she wants to shorten emergency service response times in South Shore and curb loitering. As for long term solutions, she said she supports Treatment not Trauma, a program in which mental health professionals would respond to mental health crises instead of the police, but also stated that “providers are scared” and may need police to be with them for their safety. She also noted that prosecuting gang members for child endangerment and bringing jobs to the community would be a boon to public safety.

Yancy, a police accountability activist and son of a Chicago police officer, agreed that gang violence is an issue but said public safety requires more community-centered solutions. He said he would work with the new Local Police District Councils and community-based violence intervention programs, and emphasized the need for a more equitable distribution of police resources, rather than just “policing our way out of it.” Yancy also noted that with GAPA, he helped push the City Council to create the city's first civilian police oversight board and the Local Police District Councils.

Both candidates spoke on the importance of creating safe zones within communities. Yancy called for Black men to step up and leaned on examples through the safe passage program, Phillip Jackson’s Black Star Project, and violence interruption programs. Hone focused on societal re-entry programs for formerly incarcerated people, such as Ex-Cons for Community and Social Change (ECCSC). She also reiterated the importance of safe passage programs, harkening to how community elders in the past provided a role model of how to institute safe passage today.

Hone and Yancy also both spoke to the importance of improving youth programming in the area and creating jobs programs for high schoolers and young adults.

Voters weigh in

“Change should start within the community, it shouldn’t happen to the community,” said Ticina Williams, program manager with the Woodlawn Chamber of Commerce. Ticina is looking for a candidate who prioritizes ensuring protection to small businesses and business corridors. She is concerned that economic changes and fees could negatively impact the area as new development comes in, forcing current small businesses to move out. She attended to hear the candidates’ plan on involving various stakeholders towards community focused goals.

“Violence prevention is the biggest thing,” said Corey Mason, executive director of F.L.Y, Fearless Leading by the Youth. This nonprofit was instrumental in pushing the University of Chicago to build a level one adult trauma center. A former Wallace Goode supporter, Mason is looking to events like the forum for information on the candidates’ stances on public safety to help solidify his position on who he’s voting for in the runoff.

The runoff election for 5th Ward alderman is April 4. Early voting is open in all 50 wards.

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