Jocelyn Hare, a Harris School of Public Policy project director who ran for 5th Ward alderman eight years ago against outgoing Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), is running again this year. Stressing a policy background, Hare said she will pay individual attention to the ward's distinct communities and uplift constituents' voices in decision-making.
She was born on the West Side, the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, and grew up in Oak Park. She says the western suburb's diversity informed her outlook on life.
Relatives on her mother's side were educators, which Hare says has made public education important to her. She counts herself as lucky to have gone to well-resourced suburban schools. "You had sports opportunities. You had arts, you had music, you had a lot of adults caring about you," she said. "There was a really strong sense of community that supported young people in Oak Park, and that was really valuable."
Hare discovered progressive politics while studying sociology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Openly queer since 1998, she ran a coming-out support group on campus and later formed a Queers of Color Coalition. She also joined protests against then-mascot Chief Illiniwek.
She worked in Chicago Public Schools operations, creating service centers in each of the district’s sub-regions and seeing the state of public education all across Chicago in the process. She later worked as a project coordinator at the University of Illinois at Chicago, simultaneously getting a master's degree from the Harris School of Public Policy, where she has worked since 2014.
Hare commented on the interconnected nature of educational attainment and poverty: "If a kid doesn't have a place to sleep at night, if they're not getting food, how are we even going to start to talk about testing? About teachers? About school improvement? There are some basic needs that really have to get met."
Through a fellowship, Hare worked on a variety of programs under former Gary, Indiana, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, from a land parcel survey analysis of the city to establishing arts and culinary incubators to winning grants to pay for demolishing abandoned buildings. Hare has spent the past six years working on the South Side Housing Data Initiative, mapping properties in Woodlawn, Washington Park and South Shore and analyzing property datasets for the sake of planning for affordable housing.
"Most recently we wrapped up the South Shore Housing Data Project, and the compact's recommendations — it's time to execute those," Hare said.
Despite the relative density of South Shore as a South Side neighborhood, researchers found that there is a high rate of vacancy there. Thirteen percent of properties are vacant lots or buildings, Hare said.
"There is room in all of our neighborhoods, because we know that there's housing vacancy in all of our neighborhoods," she said. "There is room for populations to grow, and we know that a density of people brings in more dollars and increased safety. Filling vacant buildings is really important. Having vacant storefronts is really bad for the community. It makes people feel unsafe. It does not bring any revenue. We've got to address that."
Hare wants to get rid of "policies that incentivize vacancy," like the tax relief property owners get if their commercial properties are vacant. She wants to do more to aid entrepreneurs, namely through getting them business space and animating business corridors.
"There are a lot of stakeholders in these neighborhoods who want to see great things happen," she said, mentioning capital assistance that could come from city and county governments as well as nonprofits. "It's talking to all of them and really figuring out what are the creative ways we can get this done. What are the ways we can do this that isn't just bureaucracy?"
She answered a question about balancing the goals of appreciating homeowners' property values, preventing a rapid rise of property taxes and housing affordability by noting that a 20% down payment looks different for different properties and buyers.
"I think there are multiple levels for people to enter into the homeownership market. It can't just be, 'You are upper-middle class, you make ‘X’ amount of money, you have a double income,' and that's who gets to move in here and buy properties," she said. "We've got to have opportunities for folks at all different levels."
She suggested an inter-neighborhood plan to deal with people moving from, say, Hyde Park to Woodlawn because of rising rents. Through her Harris work, she said people in the neighborhoods are amenable to newcomers but want rental assistance.
"How do we get our property-owners accountable to the community if they're large developers living in New York?" she asked. "We have to work together on all of this. There is not one person or one policy that's going to solve this, that's going to solve crime, all of it. It's got to be groups of people coming together to get this done."
She said she wants to draft a housing plan with groups like South Shore Works, the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Neighborhood Network Alliance and Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors alongside groups in the 20th Ward, which contains more of Woodlawn and Washington Park.
When it comes to public safety, Hare said people who commit crimes or disturb the peace are having "normal reactions to a dysfunctional society." She said that many public safety issues stem from people needing to meet their basic needs or out of mental health issues.
The public knows the physical spaces where problems are coming from, Hare said, and law enforcement resources should therefore be sent there. She acknowledged the difficulty police officers face because of poor community relations, saying, "There's so much that gets caught up in politics and not daily-life things that I'd like to find the people who can work around that."
Beyond the to-be-elected police district councils, she wants to form her own, consisting of representatives from each precinct.
"Everybody has to have an opportunity to be able to speak. I will listen to anyone who comes to talk," Hare said.
If elected, she also promised rapid, transparent constituent services, adding that she is interested in looking at technologies to improve efficient communication between residents, the aldermanic office and city services.