Paid for by Friends of Bennett Lawson
On the Issues
I am committed to ensuring safe streets and neighborhoods for the 44th Ward and the broader Lakeview community, which has been my highest priority while working as Chief of Staff to Alderman Tom Tunney. To achieve this, I know it is important for the 19th Police District to have the financial and personnel resources to meet the needs of our community.
During the past two years, we have seen a concerning rise in carjackings, assaults, and other crime in our community, lingering from the pandemic and the civic unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd. To address crime in Lakeview and in the city at large, we must take a multipronged approach that both reforms our public safety system, and also supports our police officers on the frontlines of the fight against crime.
To create a truly safe city in the long term, it is crucial to expand officer hiring. Our police department, including the 19th District, is spread too thin, with too many vacancies of frontline police officers. This has resulted in longer work hours and officer burnout which leads to poorer outcomes for all. It is essential that our police department is staffed to address the rise in crime - including resources that can help improve prosecution against perpetrators of crimes - and to give police officers the tools to protect our CTA stops, public spaces, business corridors, and other key high-traffic areas.
In order to ensure that justice is best served for all in our community, I strongly support efforts underway to implement the federal consent decree within the Chicago Police Department. This will lead to important policy changes and training that will ensure marginalized and minority communities in our city, including those in the LGBTQ+ community, can feel safe, welcome, and protected from harm.
Additionally, I would also create a Safe Streets Council to encourage robust resident participation in public safety in our community. This Council would not only have input into issues of policing and crime in the area but also to help inform discussions with 19th Police District leadership and the newly elected District Council representatives for the 19th District.
I will also advocate for a citywide expansion of the CARE pilot program, which has proven successful in the 19th Police District, which re-routes nonviolent, mental health-related 911 calls to the people most capable of solving these issues: mental health crisis responders. This will both decrease the workload of our officers, and also provide the best outcomes for those experiencing a nonviolent mental health episode. In other cities, programs such as these have proven to be successful in reducing 911 calls by providing long-term solutions, reducing visits to the hospital from people at the scene, and increasing the percentage of those who accept help. This pilot program has already seen early success in our ward, which warrants an expansion within its first year.
Our community is one that has a well-balanced mix of transit options - from our Brown/Red/Purple line stops, to our many bus lines, to our lakefront bike trail and pedestrian-friendly streets. It is a priority to me to maintain and improve this infrastructure throughout our community by keeping strong public transit options, as well as safe and sustainable options to walk, roll, and bike as we strive to improve the health of people in our community and improve sustainability in the face of climate change.
Walkable streets will be important to me as your Alderman. I have continually worked with neighborhood Chambers of Commerce and community group partners throughout the 44th Ward to keep our entertainment corridors strong, and encourage outdoor dining corridors, which has been an asset for our neighborhood - drawing visitors who spend on local businesses and creating events and amenities for our residents.
To make our neighborhood friendlier to pedestrians, I will also pursue new protected medians and crosswalks, wider sidewalks, lower speed limits, planters to beautify the area and separate pedestrians from car traffic, benches, community gardens, and increased street lighting for safety at night.
To improve our train infrastructure, I will use my experience in city government to advocate for the continual improvement of our L stops to keep them clean and safe. I will also work with higher city officials to hold the CTA accountable for buses and trains running on time.
I will also advocate for improving our bike infrastructure by installing bike lanes, both protected and painted, wherever possible, and installing additional bike racks in high-traffic areas in the 44th Ward. I will also push for the City to raise fines on those who dangerously park in bike lanes, and work with CPD to increase enforcement of existing penalties. I believe we need a bike grid plan for the north side and will work with my colleagues to bring it to fruition.
There will always be cars in our neighborhood and I will also commit to being creative to use existing assets off-street for new parking options, such as under the CTA. I will ask that any new construction parking be flexible to accommodate residents and visitors to our community.
In fostering transparency and accountability within the Ward, I believe it is important to increase the community’s capacity to have a voice in neighborhood issues.
To do this, I would work to increase membership in the Lakeview neighborhood associations, an already-created infrastructure that connects community members in each area of our Ward. Neighborhood associations help ensure community input into the decisions of their elected officials, and it is key to expanding these groups.
It is also important to install community members into positions where they can act as the voice of their block, on the local level. There are many park advisory councils, local school councils, CAPS and other positions that are vacant throughout the 44th Ward. These positions are the building blocks of true community-first, democratic decision-making, and will be a priority of mine to engage neighbors in more community roles.
I would also create an Arts, Parks, and Green Council in the 44th Ward - a group of residents with real power to suggest and have their voices heard on issues of sustainability and beautification in the community. This council would have input on open spaces, public art, community gardens, and other improvements to public amenities.
Small Business Development
The 44th Ward is a vibrant hub for small business activity - and I intend to keep it that way.
I will continue to support our small business community by enacting business-friendly policies such as an expansion of outdoor dining, cutting City Hall red tape that prevents business owners from thriving, and encouraging transit-oriented developments that contribute to the vibrancy of our community. I plan to make it easy to do business in the 44th Ward and the City of Chicago more broadly - reducing signage regulation in front of one’s business, pursuing a plan to create unitary billing in Chicago (one consolidated bill from the city for one’s water expenses, electricity, fines and, fees, etc.) and reducing permit waiting times. Slow government should never be the barrier between a business and our residents.
Housing Affordability and Development
Lakeview thrives with a diverse housing stock that creates livable options for residents. It is essential that we preserve our existing affordable housing options - both subsidized and naturally occurring. I support an 80-20 model for larger developments where 20 percent of units would be affordable and 80 percent market rate to ensure Lakeview continues to be an affordable neighborhood for all while ensuring development is economically viable.
I believe the density of our neighborhood is a strength. I support transit-oriented development to enhance our pedestrian and commercial corridors and will work to maintain the character and scale of our neighborhood side streets.
I will work to preserve significant structures in our community and encourage rehabilitation and adaptive reuse whenever possible.
I will also re-establish a neighborhood development council to have input on all major projects in the ward.
I am the product of the public school system and the son of a retired public high school teacher.
I will seek to improve the public schools that make the 44th Ward a desirable place for families - increasing their funding, supporting our teachers, and ensuring that they have all the supplies necessary to educate our city’s future leaders and greatest asset - our youth. Our neighborhood elementary schools are some of the strongest in the city and we must help support them with capital funding to improve facilities for future generations. We must also continue to bolster Lakeview High School so it reaches its potential to meet the needs of secondary education for our community.