Ald. Taylor seeking reelection in 20th Ward that will contain part of Hyde Park – Hyde Park Herald

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City Council will see tremendous changeover next year, with the likelihood of some incumbents losing reelection and the large number of alderpersons retiring. 

But one of the body’s great firebrands, first-term Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th), of Woodlawn, wants another four years, saying she has listened to her community and delivered for it after decades of wayward political leadership.

“I’ve been a woman of my word. I’ve stood up for my community; I’ve stood with my community,” Taylor said in an interview. “I still have a lot of work to do. You can’t change culture and community in four years, but I feel like the community is moving in the right direction.”

She said she has turned power back to the community over her three-plus years in office, specifically gaining constituent input in decisions around development and other ward business.

“There’s a community development team. Those are 15 people who I didn’t know before I got into office, and they look into development with me,” Taylor said. “So I don’t meet with developers one-on-one; I meet with them with the team, and they actually reach out to the community, to get them to have two community meetings and decide whether they want the development to be in the ward or not.”

Development team members volunteer their time; Taylor said they live across the ward and meet two or three times a month. Developments haven’t been turned down per se; the team gives feedback and asks developers to revise plans. 

They asked DL3 Realty and Michaels Development, for instance, to include more family units in the $30.8 million Park Station development to be built at 63rd Street and Maryland Avenue. Forty one of those units will be affordable; Park Station is the first to be built under the terms of the Woodlawn Affordable Housing Ordinance Taylor and Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) passed with Mayor Lori Lightfoot in 2020.

She also said she is ensuring that developers do construction work considerately: “You’ve got to keep it clean, or you’re getting a ticket. You’ve got to start after 8 o’clock, or you’re getting a ticket.”

“We have plenty of business developers who come to our ward who want to develop. It’s about them being able to get up in the community,” she said. “One of the things I hear clearly when I knock doors is ‘I’m tired of coming home and there’s a new business or development that I knew nothing about.’ So (I make) sure that I inform the community and they’re at the table when we’re talking about this. And that takes longer, because the developers have to knock doors, and we have to make time for people to participate and have community meetings.”

Taylor, who has made a habit of giving her personal cell phone number out to anyone who wants it, said she is at her office, 5707 S. Wentworth Ave., for open meetings from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. She also hosts a monthly ward night. 

She said her ward office has made a practice of following up on 3-1-1 city services requests constituents tell them about. “You call this office, we make sure we follow up,” she said. “It’s not a thing of you saying, ‘Hey, there’s a hole in the street.’ I’m asking you to send me that service request number so that we can follow up. And we follow up with the community to make sure those things happen.”

“I have a personal relationship with the people in the ward,” she said. “When they feel that their needs aren’t met, that’s a conversation they can have.”

Taylor called public safety one of the ward’s most-pressing concerns, adding that she wanted to see constituents take more responsibility for the issue and not pass all problems on to the police. She said she has highlighted organizations focusing on violence-prevention, education and youth development to ensure constituents know about their services, specifically touting newer ones like the Woodlawn Restorative Justice Hub, 602 E. 61st St., or LaTanya & The Youth of Englewood, 3135 W. 63rd St., on top of more established ones. 

In terms of quality of life, Taylor said “the ruckus and mess” on 63rd Street’s intersections with Cottage Grove Avenue and King Drive, spots that have had issues with drug-dealing, shootings and loitering, have declined as she has engaged with the state Department of Children and Family Services, community organizations and local churches.

Absent the drug-users getting sober — which remains a goal — Taylor said she would like to have a community conversation about opening some kind of location where people could go off the street, like a small park. 

She said public safety conversations with constituents reflect that the solution often lies in community efforts and investment, as opposed to more policing. 

“I’ve been willing to work with the community, CPD and the community organizations to say, ‘How can we work together to create change and get people what they need?'” Taylor said. “We’ve done it. We don’t want to be 53rd; we want to be 63rd. People forget what 63rd used to be like. 63rd used to be a place you could shop and get anything that you needed right in our own community, and that’s what we want to go back to. But better yet, we want to own the institutions, and we want institutions that look like us in our own community.”

Politically, Taylor is not Lightfoot’s ally on City Council: The alderwoman has voted against the mayor’s budgets, and the two made headlines for their heated June 2021 discussion on the council floor over the terms of the city’s settlement with Anjanette Young, the social worker who was victimized by CPD during a mistaken raid of her home in 2019.

“I can agree to disagree with her, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have to work the floor,” Taylor said, adding that the two have a working relationship: “We are two Black women in a space where there’s not a respect for Black women anyway, and so what will my community gain by fighting with her? Absolutely nothing.”

Taylor said she has learned to trust people more in order to turn the gears of government — both her colleagues and workers in the city’s bureaucracy. But — no surprise, coming from someone who cut her teeth in community activism — she said “the squeaky wheel gets the oil” in regards to delivering municipal services.

“After my first budget meeting, when I went off on a lot of these departments and I told them I’m not a person you can’t talk to. I’m not a person who’s not willing to work with you; I just want to make sure those services get done. I really don’t have any problems,” she said.

The once-a-decade ward redistricting process was chaotic, however. Taylor’s constituency, the 20th Ward, will geographically change. Traditionally Woodlawn’s ward, it still contains most of that neighborhood after the council’s post-census remapping, alongside the southern half of Washington Park and portions of Englewood and Back of the Yards. 

The Black Caucus fought tooth and nail to preserve a large number of majority-African American wards in the city, hence ward boundaries’ tortured lines slicing up communities and neighborhoods across the South and West sides. Beginning next year, the 20th Ward will also contain a small section of northwestern Hyde Park.

Taylor, facing reelection, is running on her record, saying, “For people who are saying ain’t nothing changed in four years, I doubt that very seriously. Because what relationship did you have with the previous alderman?”

Taylor’s two immediate predecessors are convicted felons; the one before them died, and his predecessor was also indicted. Taylor, for her part, wants two more terms.

“We need to have hard conversations about our young people and violence that goes on in our community, but we also need to be realistic about what to do with it. I feel like I bring transparency to the table, and I want to have those hard conversations. And while I don’t have all the answers, I expect the community to help me come up with those answers. Because we have some pretty smart people in the ward, some people who’ve done this, some people who will help us not repeat some of the history that’s happened in the community.

Ino Saves New

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September 22, 2022 at 09:11PM

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