KANKAKEE — Kankakee Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong may have never pounded any steel beams into the ground or poured any concrete, but bridge building will be the focus of her re-election campaign.
Community bridges. Racial bridges. Economic bridges. Not those of steel, concrete and rebar, that is.
In the late afternoon on a humid Thursday at Bird Park near the banks of the Kankakee River, Wells-Armstrong, the city’s first African-American mayor and only the second woman to hold the office, announced the start to her re-election campaign.
"This is the next big step in our movement," she proclaimed before a crowd of about 75. "… Together we will move Kankakee forward."
Kankakee Forward has been the theme of the Wells-Armstrong administration since its early days. The theme encompasses new ways of doing business as well as new, bold ideas, such as the plans for the Riverfront development along a 4-mile stretch of the Kankakee River between South Schuyler Avenue to the Riverside Medical Center campus.
But much of her address delivered to family, friends and supporters on this late August evening focused on building bridges, about bringing a community together in some of the most difficult and challenging times faced in many years.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world and nation as well as the Kankakee community, and racial strife has turned many community’s into battlegrounds, Wells-Armstrong expressed hope that Kankakee and its diverse population will come together and prosper.
Before Wells-Armstrong can move forward on her hopes and plans for Kankakee, she will face two elections — the Feb. 23 Democratic primary where she is being challenged by Angela Shea, a Kankakee school board member. If she gets through that election, she will then square off against a Republican opponent in the April 6 municipal election. To date, Kankakee 6th Ward Alderman Chris Curtis is the only Republican candidate to announce plans on a mayoral run.
While stating certain members of the 14-member Kankakee City Council have not agreed with or supported her initiatives, the mayor said she has remained unwavering in her desire to move Kankakee forward.
"I’ve been thinking a lot of bridge-building this summer," she said noting the large amount of division within the community and the nation. "It’s so important to be a bridge builder."
In a community in which physical bridges connecting its many sides and bringing it together as one community, she said that is what she has been attempting since being sworn into office in May 2017.
"We have beautiful bridges in this city," she said noting there are bridges to new opportunity in every corner of Kankakee. "Let’s build that bridge to a better Kankakee."
She then proclaimed she was launching her re-election campaign.
She later added, "I work to build bridges, not walls. No matter what [opponents] spend and say, I will keep on fighting every day."
After her address and greeting many well-wishers, she said it was her mission to embrace people and build relationships.
She said she was not concerned about any opponent. While her opponents have criticized her for pushing people away, she brushed off that attack.
"They don’t know me if they believe I’m a divider," she said. During her speech launching the new campaign, she noted she wants more attention and more development brought to the city’s north and east sides. She said those areas have for too long been left to feed on leftovers.
She noted everyone benefits when the entire city is lifted.
"It’s very important to build bridges. I’ve done that. I’m here to work with anyone who wants to make Kankakee better."
Before the mayor took to the microphone, 7th Ward Alderman Carl Brown, the most-senior Kankakee council member, said neither the mayor nor her supporters can afford to rest because a battle lies ahead.
He said the mayor’s leadership is what supporters need to talk about. He said every move the mayor makes is critiqued.
Brown said Wells-Armstrong simply wants the city’s northside to look like every other segment of the community. He said people criticize her supporters and charge they support her because she is a woman or because she is black.
"We stand behind you on this occasion because we believe that leadership with a vision and leadership with a goal and leadership with a plan has no gender and has no color. This is the story that we stand before you tonight to tell."
via The Daily Journal
August 28, 2020 at 10:09AM