Wallace E. Goode, Jr., who has been executive director of the Hyde Park Chamber of Commerce since 2011, has declared his candidacy for alderperson of the 5th Ward, saying his organizational experience and relations in the community position him well for a run for election office.
He said the timing is right to run now. The chamber moved locations into the Hyde Park Bank Building, 1525 E. 53rd St., late in his tenure. It grew from 187 members when he began to 311 today, and a new executive director, Phil Moy, has been hired to lead it. A run for office would allow Goode to "be more active in the community" with residents as well as businesses.
A Woodlawn native and Hyde Park resident, Goode has a bachelor's degree from Elmhurst University and a master's degree in education from the University of Vermont. He served two terms in the Peace Corps, in the Central African Republic and the Solomon Islands, and has worked both for the city, in neighborhood workforce development, and at the University of Chicago's associate dean of students and director of its University Community Service Center, 6030 S. Ellis Ave.
"I've always been an active organizer in the community, and I think what I've done for 11 years in the chamber is help businesses move from where they are to where they want to go," Goode said. "My new passion is helping residents, neighborhoods and businesses identify where they are and where they want to go."
He candidly said that he is researching now about 5th Ward constituents' needs ahead of releasing detailed campaign positions. "What do the people north of 51st and east of the Metra tracks want and need? What do the people on 71st and Jeffery want and need?" he asked. "They're different, and I don't pretend to know what residents in the north end of the 5th Ward and the south end of the 5th Ward need until I've done my homework and my research."
Goode acknowledged that violence, education, mental health and housing are the age-old public issues, but he said the government is beyond its capacity and has made promises it cannot keep.
"The government cannot educate us. They've tried. They cannot handle their education system to take our children from where they are to where they need to go," he said. "The government can't protect us. Look at the violence. It's not just about police protection. It's about a whole society that's gotten into gun-toting and resolving conflicts with a weapon. The government cannot snap its finger and fix that."
Goode thinks the city should go after gun-smugglers harder and wants to improve the quality of individual classrooms. If elected alderman, he would want to affect policy by being close enough to problems to understand them and then correspondingly push for changes.
He said he believes that the Obama Presidential Center will be a great boon and opportunity to Woodlawn and surrounding neighborhoods as a nearly educational resource, but also that he understands concerns from nearby homeowners about rising property values. He took no position about the transition of the South Shore Nature Sanctuary into a planned golf course, though he said whatever outcome will be a compromise.
Asked about the incumbent 5th Ward alderwoman, Leslie Hairston, Goode said they differ on the issue of term limits. He only envisions serving one four-year term. Goode said, "When you build a strong team, which Leslie has done, you don't always bring in new blood," qualifying that he meant her broader support in the ward. And he stressed their distinction in backgrounds.
Hairston had no comment on Goode's candidacy. She has continued fundraising since her April 2019 runoff reelection win over South Shore activist Will Calloway, in which she won 50.65% of the vote, a 176-vote margin.
"I don't know what my policy issues are yet for the 5th Ward," Goode said. "I think we need to fix potholes. I think we need to address the growing violence. I think we need to deal with mental health. But those aren't policies."
Goode said that people expect too much out of their government: “I hate when people say, ‘Well I pay my taxes’… I've lived in communities and stepped up when the government couldn't take it to the next level. I grew up with that. I believe that. And that's what I expect to do."