33rd Ward Working Families

Standing for the interests of our ward's working people

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Mell sides with Rahm in cop academy vote, rejecting resident concerns

Despite desperately underfunded schools and families struggling to pay heating bills as the winter rolls in, Ald. Deb Mell decided that what her communities and others around the city really needed was a $95 million police academy.

The $95 million in question would hardly fill the budget for needed services, but for neighborhoods hammered by austerity measures and bearing the brunt of mass incarceration and police violence, the project has come to symbolize much of what is wrong with the city's priorities. Illustrating this most cruelly is that the academy is to be built just blocks away from two shuttered elementary schools.

For critics, the message to communities like West Garfield Park couldn't be clearer: The city doesn't have the money to educate you, but it has the money to shoot you or lock you up.

As a member of the Housing and Real Estate committee, Mell was a sensible target to make the case to, and Working Families members and others from the ward stayed in contact with Mell to keep the pressure on and encourage her to oppose the project.

Earlier this week, Mell seemed to be able to grasp the outline of the argument, paraphrased by the Tribune:

Ald. Deb Mell, 33rd, said some residents tell her the money would be better spent on programs in neighborhoods to combat racism or used to hike budgets for education and mental health services.

But Mell, as usual, declined to translate these concerns into actual opposition to the project. The alderman, who racked up a 100% voting record with the mayor her first term and was rewarded with tens of thousands of dollars from his super PAC in the last election, again leapt to cast a vote for Rahm's position.

Despite a last-minute plea to the council by Chance the Rapper and a contingent of dozens of community groups, the measure sailed through, 48-1.

Following the vote, observers in the chamber bombarded the council with shouts of "Shame!" and "Vote them out!" according to the Daily Line.

We ought to understand who's not on our side, and take the instruction of those chanting yesterday. Today's a good time for the shaming. Tomorrow, let's start on the latter.

-Nick B, WF33

Statement on Ald. Mell's Suspect Campaign Donations

Note: Last year, Chicago aldermen took more than half a million dollars in illegal campaign contributions, former Chicago Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan charges in a report issued last week (Read "Chicago Clout: How Campaign Finance Rules are Used and Abused in the Windy City."). Implicated in this report is 33rd Ward alderman Deb Mell. 33rd Ward Working Families responds:

We're disappointed, but not surprised, that Alderman Mell has found herself again in the news for taking what appear to be illegal campaign contributions.

We have a deep concern about the implications corruption such as that the report suggests has for our city and for our ward in particular. The 33rd Ward is changing, and as it does, whose voices is the alderman hearing? Who is allowed influence in the process? And are the decisions that are being made providing the greatest public benefit, or the greatest return on a campaign donor's investment?

Chicagoans should be entitled to good representation regardless of their ability to buy a politician. Khan's report lends more evidence to what many of us already recognize: that the system is slanted in favor of insiders and monied interests.

If government oversight bodies are unlikely to hold our officials accountable for corruption, then we as voters must.