Candidate for Chicago City Council

About the Candidate

Name: Ugo Okere
DOB: Feb. 29, 1996
Family: The Okere Family
Occupation: I am the Community Outreach Coordinator at Evanston City Clerk’s Office.
Political Experience: I have worked as an organizer of Anakbyan Chicago, served as chairman of Fuerza del Sol, and volunteered on the campaigns of Daniel Biss for Governor, Ameya Pawar for Governor, Bernie Sanders for President, and Chuy Garcia for Mayor. I have also worked in Congressman Mike Quigley’s Office and the Chicago City Clerk’s Office. I was a fellow for the Chicago Federal Executive Board and am currently Community Engagement Coordinator with the Evanston City Clerk’s Office.

Candidate Statement

My name is Ugo Okere. I’m an immigrant; I was born in the eastern part of Nigeria and moved to Chicago when I was three months old. I’ve lived in the 40th Ward since I was 9. I graduated from Budlong Elementary School on Foster Street, and Lane Tech. I come from a working class family, my father works as a taxi cab driver, and my mom works in factory just outside the city. My background is in community organizing, working on issues like immigrant rights, racial and economic justice, and fighting back against gentrification as chairman of Fuerza Del Sol on Chicago’s southwest side.

I’ve also worked for our communities in local and federal offices, working to understand and solve the needs of constituents. These constituents are some of the same people I live with in the 40th Ward.

I’m running because we are living in a city where our public school system is segregated not just by race, but also by class. We are living in a city where black and brown residents are fearful of the Chicago Police Department. And we’re living in a city that balances its debts and obligations on the backs of the most marginalized, oppressed and working people of Chicago. We have had leadership in the 40th ward that has done nothing to address the root causes of these problems.

That’s why our campaign is based on 3 tenets. It’s a campaign based on co-governance, the idea that it’s not me going into city council, but it’s all of us, with a seat at the table and government in our hands through policies like participatory budgeting, and a community driven zoning process.

It’s a campaign based on equity, with the understanding that equity doesn’t mean equal. It means investing in places that need it the most like neighborhood Chicago public schools, economic investment into areas of the 40th ward and the south and west sides of Chicago, and expanding affordable housing.

And lastly the campaign is about interconnected struggle, the idea that we can’t keep looking at ourselves as different sides of the city, because when we do that, we allow politicians to divide us up by where we come from, what we look like and how much money we make.

We have a unique opportunity to install a progressive force in Chicago’s 40th Ward this February. Vote for Ugo Okere on February 26th, and help build a 40th ward for everyone, and a Chicago for All.

Candidate Q&A

What is your vision for this office?

My vision for this office, and my campaign is based on three tenets. The first is co-governance, which means it is not just me going into city council, but it is the entire ward going into city council. Through this system, we will build a democracy where average working people have a seat at the table and government in their hands through policies like a Community Driven Zoning Process to stop conflicts of interest between the alderman, real estate brokers, and developers who donate to campaigns; and give the power to working people to shape their ward, rather than allowing business interests and developers to shape it for them. This also includes introducing participatory budgeting into the 40th Ward to give democratic control of the 1.3 million dollars in infrastructure funds given to the 40th Ward every year.

The second tenet is equity, understanding that equity is not the same as equality — it means investing in places that need it the most. This includes investing in Chicago Public Schools, particularly on the south and west sides where schools are regularly neglected, and in 2012 were shut down. This means vigorously fighting back against a Police Academy no one asked for, and instead fighting to see 95 million dollars invested in re-opening shut down mental health clinics. It means properly compensating and supporting teachers in CPS, by hiring social workers, nurses and teachers in every school. This means fighting back against $55 million dollars in TIF funds going towards the revitalization of Navy Pier, when what we need is public and affordable housing for every single resident of Chicago. This means a focus on progressive, rather than regressive revenue through reinstating the Corporate Head Tax, passing a LaSalle Street Tax, Bad Business Fee to tax businesses that fail to pay workers the living wage, and passing an ordinance to make parking violations and tickets progressive to take the burden off of black and brown residents of Chicago.

The third tenet is on interconnected struggle, which is the idea that we can no longer look at ourselves as different sides of the city, because when we do that, we allow politicians to divide us up by where we come from, what we look like, and how much money we make. This city has a history of division, and if we continue to let it flourish, we will understand that we will fall as one, when instead we should be rising as one. That means one of my top priorities is fighting for residents across this city by making principled votes on issues that may not affect my ward, but negatively impact that lives of people across the city.

What is the most pressing issue facing constituents, and how can you help address it?

Overall, affordable housing is the most pressing issues facing 40th Ward constituents. In neighborhoods like Lincoln Square and Andersonville, rents are skyrocketing and our housing supply is shrinking. Rather than building affordable housing in the ward, million dollar houses are being built and 2 flats are being converted into single family housing. Because of this, long time residents are being pushed out of their homes and out of our neighborhood. That’s not right. Improving housing in the 40th Ward is a priority of mine that I will look to achieve through a number of avenues. To start, I will work to pass the Keeping the Promise Ordinance to ensure the Chicago Housing Authority uses its resources to create racially equitable, affordable housing. I will also create a community-driven zoning process so that decisions on ward developments are made by actual residents of the 40th Ward. I will work with state officials to get the ban on rent control lifted and then help enact rent control for Chicago. And I will help create more mixed-income housing opportunities with the input of 40th Ward residents. One of the most basic human needs is housing. We cannot live in a society where we cast those who are most at need into homeless shelters or out onto the street. I will work to move us towards being a city that invests in our most vulnerable, and where affordable housing is available to all.