Inside of Bethel New Life, Austin residents made it clear that working with communities and working for the West Side were some of their top concerns when it comes to the 2023 Chicago municipal elections.
Residents on Tuesday listened as eight of the nine mayoral candidates vying for the top vote explained their stances on public safety, transit, education and more during the WTTW News mayoral forum.
Mary Nelson, who has lived in Austin for decades, asked the candidates how they’re going to make sure that community voices are heard as decisions are made around schools, transit and parks. She voted for Mayor Lori Lightfoot in the 2019 mayoral race — but is “a bit disappointed now” and feels that “not enough has really happened.”
Nelson said she has not decided; she is waiting for someone who can make tough decisions.
She wasn’t alone in not having a top candidate ahead of the Feb. 28 election.
Brian Weddington, a Chicago Public Schools teacher and business owner, said he’s still listening to what candidates have to say. During the debate, there’s the theatrics, he said, but not enough time to get to all serious matters.
In particular, Weddington would like to hear more about educational plans. He teaches high school theater and civics, and when his students ask his reaction to the mayoral race, he wants to be able to give them an accurate picture of the race.
“I want to be able to give them some meat and not just the fluff,” Weddington said.
Angelique Orr, a former Austin resident, said Brandon Johnson and Ja’Mal Green stuck out to her, but she’s still undecided. She said it’s hard to pick a favorite because “politics are politics.” And candidates don’t always keep their campaign words once they’re in office, she added.
“Try to be sure that we get someone that actually wants to hear what people are saying — not just people in the well-to-do communities,” Orr said. “You have communities on the West and South Side that have experienced tremendous divestments over the last four decades.”
Morretta Brown-Miller, another decades-long Austin resident, said that West Side perspective is also important to her. Not all candidates have been showing up to Austin to say what they’ll accomplish, she added.