A new nonpartisan poll from Northwestern University’s Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy found that among Black voters, crime, cost of living and police accountability are the top concerns when voting for the next mayor of Chicago. The same survey found the vast majority of likely Black voters support more funding for youth programs, more affordable housing and increased funding for all public schools.
Twyla Blackmond Larnell, associate professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago, said addressing these issues is also a way to address issues of public safety.
“Economic development spans a wide variety of areas,” Larnell said. “This includes affordable housing. It includes access to jobs. It includes job training programs for young people and young adults, particularly all things that relate to the big topic, which is crime, right? We know that Blacks and Latinos in Chicago are also not happy with crime levels — and many of them are living in communities that are inundated with crime — and economic development is a tried-and-true tactic for dealing with crime.”
Kendra Freeman, vice president of programs and strategic impact at the Metropolitan Planning Council, highlighted reliable and safe transportation — particularly after the decreased utilization the last three years — as another major concern for voters.
“I think there are a couple of issues related to transit,” Freeman said. “One is ensuring consistent and reliable public transportation. We certainly need higher quality services to support broad ridership and to ensure that this resource, which is a necessity for so many people, is not lost or decimated. Historically when cuts happen because of low ridership, Black and Brown communities are always disproportionately impacted. So we need to be able to also leverage transit-served locations as resources for development opportunities so that businesses and amenities and housing options are all connected through transit and accessible. Also, I think we need to make it just safer for people to cross the street and that they can use other forms of transit like bikes and scooters for shorter commutes.”
Freeman added that Black business owners are looking for candidates who will improve the city’s support system for business.
“Economic development is also wealth building and creating pathways for people to have local ownership,” Freeman said. “We’ve seen some increase in commitment from the civic and public sector and supported mom-and-pop businesses since 2020, but we really need to sustain and grow those investments and also address the structural issues that make it really hard and expensive to launch Black businesses. And Black and Brown communities and equity needs to be a really explicit goal of that, including how development incentives are deployed — really having some strong outcomes that can be tracked — so the public resources are deployed where they’re needed most.”
Communities United youth leader Jermal Ray will be voting for the first time in this election. He said young voters like him are looking for a leader who will address the city’s pervasive violence, take care of its economically disadvantaged Chicagoans and listen to the concerns of its young residents.
“We want to see … people from different socioeconomic status [are] not discriminated against,” Ray said. “We want equitable changes in our communities, and we want to be side by side with those that we elect to help us provide these changes in our communities. We want to be side by side with them, and we want them to know that we are important in any process of investment in our communities. We want to be part of that change.”
Ray said he would like to see resources for social engagement be brought to all communities across Chicago as a way to reduce crime.
“I would like to see more community centers built for youth,” Ray said. “I would like to see better streets. I would like to see just more investment as far as how we connect. That’s what we want. Putting more police officers on the street is not going provide connectedness when they’re trying to basically label us as thugs or different things. That just basically brings down the people. We want to see more things that will connect us, such as community centers and programs that allow families to connect and also people of the community to connect.”
Larnell said that as the city continues to lose Black population and its Latino population rises, a potential new administration and historic turnover in City Council present an opportunity for the two communities to advocate for mutually beneficial policies.
“We have this increased competition between these two groups who really have more similar of a policy agenda than many of the other folks living on the northern side of the city,” Larnell said. “And so, you really want to just see these groups come together because they both are in need of community centers. They’re both in need of job training, affordable housing. They’re both in need of better schools and should be working together.”