Dowell says run for reelection to City Council will be her last campaign – Hyde Park Herald

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It’s the beginning of yet another budget season for the Chicago City Council, which means Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) new responsibilities in the Budget Committee that she chairs on top of her ward responsibilities.

“I enjoy being the budget chair because it gives me a complete view of city government. I’ve learned a lot about the departments and what they offer, what their capacity is, where some of the deficiencies are,” she said. “And so when my colleagues talk about specific parts of the budget, an area that I may not be deeply steeped in, I can still follow the conversations and bring clarity to the discussions.”

Dowell has announced that she is seeking reelection to a fifth four-year term; she is noncommittal about running the Budget Committee again, citing her interests in housing, real estate and other issues. Dowell is currently running unopposed. 

Whatever happens, she said, if reelected it will be her last term in City Council. A shockingly high number of Dowell’s colleagues, meanwhile, have announced that this current term is going to be their last, as they are retiring, have been convicted or are seeking other offices.

Dowell, for her part, said she hasn’t seen much change in her job since 2007, when she was first elected. She still sees herself as the 3rd Ward’s “mini-mayor,” and her work is still about delivering city services, advocating for the community among bodies like the Chicago Police Department, Park District or Housing Authority and writing impactful ordinances.

“Those roles still continue to be priorities,” she said, “and even with the move to reduce aldermanic prerogative, I think that’s very hard to do, because most of the work and initiatives have to have some kind of City Council approval. So I’m still able to reflect the needs and concerns of my constituents on a host of issues.”

“As a former city planner, I’m loving the ability to be able to turn fallow land into something that is beneficial to the 3rd Ward and the city of Chicago.”

Should she be reelected, Dowell wants to continue developing housing and commercial spaces along 43rd Street, with a particular project at Calumet Avenue, through municipal programs like the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, the Chicago Recovery Grant Program, the Small Business Improvement Fund and tax increment financing. She wants to continue the Invest South/West public-private partnership initiative’s development of 47th Street. 

“When you’re able to bring in public sector money and make improvements in infrastructure, for example, in addition to these infrastructure development dollars, you can begin to see new housing development. You can then start to attract more commercial development, and we’re seeing that happen now as more housing is being built and more city investment is being made,” she said.

Many homes in the 3rd Ward for sale, however, currently go for $500,000 to $700,000. Dowell said she wants to incentivize a somewhat more affordable first-time homeownership option on vacant city-owned land, with houses somewhere between $300,000 to $400,000.

“We’re looking at models that are being tried out in places like North Lawndale,” Dowell said, adding that she’s also exploring a tiny home initiative in the ward.

She doesn’t know what the answer is in terms of public safety, but claimed her constituents “want to see more police walking visible in the community.” 

“They want a reduction in carjackings, shootings, assaults and robberies… It’s a very complicated equation that involves the allocation of police and the resources they need, the improvements of schools, the increase in access to employment and recreation,” she said. 

And Dowell wants to help the Chicago Public Schools in her ward that are still struggling in the district’s academic rating system to improve by getting the resources they need from CPS.

Dowell made no endorsement in the upcoming mayoral election when asked about it, saying she is concentrating on her own reelection bid. In approaching a final term, she has her accomplishments in mind.

“I’m proud of taking a community that had lost population and helping to brand it, make it a go-to community and increase population,” she said. “The population growth in the 3rd Ward is not just in the northern edge of my ward, but it’s also in the southern part of the community. South Loop, Bronzeville and Douglas have seen a lot of growth, and I’m proud of that.”

She’s proud of having brought in the XS Tennis and Education Foundation, 5336 S. State St. which has after-school programming; helping several Black-owned businesses and two Mariano’s supermarkets get established (she would like to bring in a third grocery store to the western end of the ward); and, soon, for getting the Rosenwald Courts Apartments, 4648 S. Michigan Ave., converted into affordable housing.

Asked about her headspace at this moment, which comes after a second-place finish in a crowded congressional primary and an earlier withdrawal of consideration in the Illinois secretary of state race, Dowell said she has had a great summer.

“I think for the first time in a long time, I’ve had the opportunity to do me,” she said, with domestic and international travel, concerts and time on the lakefront she fell in love with as a University of Chicago graduate student years ago, when she was new to the city from New York.

“It has given me an opportunity to regenerate and re-energize, and I’m looking forward to the next four years,” she said.

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August 31, 2022 at 08:34PM

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