August 2013 Coalition Power Breakfast – Natashia Holmes, Alderman 7th Ward
Breakfast Recap (by COAL Intern Charles Preston):
Appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel following the resignation of Alderman Sandy Jackson, the newest member of Chicago City Council’s black caucus, 7th Ward Alderman Natasha Holmes, was COAL’s guest speaker for the monthly Power Breakfast held on August 3. Alderman Holmes touched on her plans for 7th ward improvements (making and maintaining the South Shore area as safe, economically viable, and environmentally conscious), as well as her desire to foster dialogue on development of Chicago’s African American community as a whole.
As a new alderman, Ald. Holmes was anxious to answer questions from attendees, but first wanted to address COAL’s expressed interest in hearing about development plans for the southeast side. The Alderman relayed that McCaffery Interests and United States Steel Corporation have formed a joint venture known as Chicago Lakeside Development, LLC to redevelop the former 600 acre U. S. Steel South Works site into a new lakefront community. The master plan includes retail, research and development, institutional and other uses, affordable and mixed income housing, a new marina, 130 acres of lakefront parks and open spaces. The overall project is expected to take 40 years to complete. This will be accomplished through a multi-phased development. The first phase, Phase 1, could begin in late 2014. (See an Historical Timeline for Lakeside here. See more information on the Lakeside Development Project here.)
Alderman Homes emphasized the importance of developing the gateways (or corridors) into the Lakeside area such as 79th and 83rd streets. “Let’s build up on the community we already have.” She stated.
In regards to the aforementioned safety goal, in her short time, the alderman has communicated with police commanders and stated that improvement is “day by day”. Ald. Holmes stated that she needs help from her community to report any loitering to police officials. In her opinion, it is imperative that the streets of her community are clear of any imposing crime and free to walk. Safety is a concern and it will also change the perception of black communities as violent. Ald. Holmes states that “We need to show that we can attract businesses for employment growth”.
During Q&A the Alderman was asked about the Community receiving important information in a timely fashion. Often, our elected officials are disseminate information late and the community suffers from missed opportunities. Alderman Holmes acknowledged this and in response stated that there will be a community meeting on September 5th. The focus of the meeting will be the Lakeside development with many entities that are involved in the project.
To close the meeting, Mr. Wimberly and Ald. Holmes challenged members of COAL and COAL’s larger community-of-interest to push African-Americans in their respective communities to vote. We must demonstrate our satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the city’s political leaders via the vote. Being an active participant in the voting process fuels change, growth, and political awareness in African-American communities.
As a follow-up to this meeting, COAL suggests that 1) Residents of the 7th Ward and business owners should take the Alderman’s offer to tour the Lakeside development site, 2) interested businesses should attend community meetings given by the Alderman, in concert with the Lakeside Development team to learn more about business opportunities, 3) COAL will schedule a follow up meeting with Alderman Holmes to further discuss how COAL can assist the Alderman in achieving her goals for the 7th Ward, 4) Organizations and concerned individuals should start to focus on plans to ensure that our Community votes in large numbers in next year’s ‘off-year’ elections. The Community must demonstrate its ability to back up its support or opposition via the ballot box. This is an imperative.