She Votes Illinois-Cleopatra Watson

Cleopatra Watson
Feb 2 · 10 min read

1. Tell us about yourself (Provide us with a brief summary about who you are, how long you have lived in the ward, what made you decide to run, and/or why you want to be an alderman.)

Answer: As a Legislative Scholar, I was able to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. Afterward, I pursed my Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Jane Addams College of Social Work as a Patricia Counce Scholar. Over the course of her budding career, I led efforts in raising 6 million in scholarships, and guided over 1,000 low-income youth toward college or trade school options.

I am the founder of United Pullman, a civic community organization nestled in the northern end of the Pullman National Monument. In December of 2015, I became a first-time home owner. We actively engage in the community with our annual back-to-school drive, annual community cleanup, and monthly meetings to organize block-by-block. Additionally, I serve on the local school council as the Community Representative for Corliss High School. I am also the Beat Captain liaison in my community, which allows me to represent our residents and actively participate in our monthly Beat meetings with 5th District Chicago Police Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) program.

As part of the 45th anniversary of the Osaka and Chicago Sister Cities exchange program, I was a 2018 Chicago Delegate to Japan, traveling with a team of Social Workers to examine Osaka’s Social Welfare System. My strategic community outreach methodology and cross-generational relationship building are key drivers behind many of her successes; I pride myself on having a strong sense of character, work ethic, and dedication to the community.

Living in the 9th Ward has been unlike any other experience I have had across the city of Chicago primarily because we do not have one full-service grocery store and its 50,000 residents. Not to mention the collapse and disinvestment in our Roseland business district. When I discovered Alderman Beale, and his tenure was in the realm of two decades and is the Chairman of public transportation and public way, I was utterly appalled and disappointed in his leadership. As a result, I mustered the courage and decided run to be the change agent to improve our quality of life in the 9th Ward. If I earn the support and vote of the residents, I will be the first woman to serve as Alderman.

2. Tell us about the women in your life (Suggestions include: Share with us something about the importance of women in politics, who is your female political idol, who is/was the most influential female in your life, what challenges have you faced as a woman running for alderman and how have you overcome them, and/or any community involvement around women’s services, women’s rights.)

Answer: My mother is passive aggressive. Primarily, she was a stay-at-home mom who loves to cook, clean, and is caring. She was a peace keeper with my father and very seldom rattled the cage. In fact, it was not until I was ten-years-old, I heard my mother use a swear word. Ultimately, it took for my Mother to have my baby sister and a series of upsets to evolve into her own woman and independent thinker. Growing up watching her struggle taught me areas in where I never wanted to become subject or victim to accepting. As result, a number of my mentors are strong, dynamic, and daring to push the envelope.

In the second grade, my mother dressed me as Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm to deliver one of her famous speeches. At that time, I had no clue, I would act of her words of action and wisdom when she said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” She was unrelenting and unwavering to the advancement of women rights. I idolize her leadership to toe the lines of racial barriers and be the first African-American woman to formally submit her candidacy for the United States of America Presidency.

Alderman Sophia King is a champion, leader, and fighter for her constituents in the 4th Ward. She caught my attention when she decided to press the issue and raise questions in her support for the renaming of Balbo Drive to Ida B. Wells Drive. Alderman King defied the Mayor and some of her colleagues to support the vision of a key historical figure to be recognized here in Chicago. Although the first battle died in chambers, Alderman King did not quit. Due to her persistence and ability to uplift the renaming project, Congress Drive will be renamed.

In 2014, my family and I laid to rest Pamela K. Harris. She was affectionately known as “Auntie Pammy!” I loved her dearly. She often called me her ‘Minnie me.’ My Auntie was the first woman in my family I witnessed wear a suit and it was not for a funeral; she was a boss in every sense of the word. For many years, she worked as Postmaster for the United States Postal Service central office located downtown Chicago. She was one the first African-American women, I had ever known of that went skiing in Aspen, traveled the world, drove luxury vehicles, and earned her own independent income. My Auntie taught me what it meant to work professionally and thrive in the workforce as a woman of color.

As a candidate, my challenge at times is being taken serious. This municipal election is a historic movement of women many of whom considerably young stepping up to become public servants and I am proud to be a part of the change. This election has the possibility to elect the 1st women to city council from the 9th ward.

3. Tell us about your Ward (Briefly provide our audience with information about your ward. Suggestions include: What neighborhoods your ward covers; what is unique about your ward; landmarks; favorite places to hang out — consider highlighting women-owned businesses; the makeup of the community — including women’s organizations and services; what’s the vibe like, what is healthy and successful about your ward; and/or what is the most concerning issue impacting your ward.)

Answer: Nestled on the far south side of Chicago is where you will find the Historic Pullman National Monument. As a native of the city, this area was foreign territory to me. The town of Pullman is enchanting and provides a tale of two stories: The Industrialist and Pullman Porters, both of whom, left a long lasting impression into the fabric of movements that occurred and are to come. In December of 2015, as a first time home buyer, I was fortunate to purchase a piece of American labor history. In addition to our first National Park in Chicago, the 9th Ward is home to: Roseland, Rosemoor, Golden Gates, Altgeld-Murray Homes, West Pullman, Chesterfield, West Chesterfield, Roseland Heights, and Washington Heights.

Although we have the most popular “melt in yo’ mouth” Old Fashioned Donut restaurant in Roseland it is the most unenticing shopping business districts due to lack of service centers and blight. The vibe is combated with the fact that Roseland is the number one community for sex trafficking. On the contrary, if invested, the 9th Ward could be the feeder tube for the revitalization of the south side Wards.

Women’s organizations: Women on a Mission Resource Center, Inc.

President and CEO, Bishop Juliette Holmes. Located in Roseland.

Pullman National Park, Being a food desert, limited transportation, Old Fashion Doughnuts, Porter Museum. 4. Platform Questions A. Schools: Chicago’s school population is declining. This means there are fewer students to educate, but the population shifts are not equally distributed. How will you ensure that students in all parts of the city have access to quality and safe education while taking into consideration changing population and the impact of that?

Answer: As an Educator and a Social Worker, I believe that high-quality neighborhood schools should be an option for all. As a consequence of our limited resources, a high percentage of community schools are not equitably funded. I support the specific recommendations made in the Kids First Chicago report on creating high-quality options for all students, including: development of a regional analysis of enrollment and quality seats, improving access and transparency to schools and programs, and involving the community in school actions. Chicago is long overdue to support an elected school board. The first step will be to push this policy once I arrive to our city council.

I would also support a moratorium. Investments should be reconfigured for public schools and unused school properties should be appropriated for various neighborhood needs. Chicago Public Schools and the Mayor’s office need to address charter network oversight and compliance to ensure that evaluation is fair and equitable for youth, parents and communities. I also believe that we need to have a unified police for the acceptance and removal of students within charter schools.

B. Environment: Chicago faces a crisis of water infrastructure and service. Chicago has more lead lines than any other city in the United States and city testing of Chicago homes with water meters has found nearly 1 in 5 have lead in their tap water. In 2015, City Hall considered privatizing the water system after an unsolicited pitch from investment firm Goldman Sachs. Research has shown that privatization of water utilities often see rate increases, workforce reductions, and a backlog of maintenance issues. In Illinois, a typical household with Lake Michigan water pays more than twice for water service using a privatized utility service than from using a public municipality. Additionally, in 2016, 6,351 households had their water shut off, with the shutoffs affecting over 16,000 individuals. What is your plan to address the challenges that Chicago’s water infrastructure system faces? How will you work towards providing safe, accessible, and affordable water service to Chicago residents? (Community Collaborator: Food and Water Action)

Answer: I would begin by establishing and strengthening a relationship with our Water Reclamation Commissioner, Kari Steele. It is essential that we organize and educate residents about water safety through various modes of communication and town halls. As Alderman, I will secure and elevate a space to challenge the city of Chicago to assume the financial responsibility for replacing the service lines for the betterment of our public health. I would also seek additional intergovernmental cooperation from the Federal and State levels of government to funds for water testing and capital infrastructure improvements.

C. Women-Owned Businesses: As showcased by the numerous reports by the City’s Inspector General over the years, there is a perception by many contractors that the lists of women and minority owned businesses are inaccurate and include many businesses that aren’t truly women and/or minority owned. This reputation discourages voluntary use of the list and also may mean that true women and minority owned businesses are not receiving the benefits of the list. What are your thoughts on continuing the use of the list and, if you believe it should continue to be used, should there be changes to how the list is kept and are there ways the City of Chicago can increase confidence in the accuracy of the list?

Answer: Often, I meet women-owned businesses who are disgusted with their journey to being recognized and respected as their male counterparts. Given the long and extensive years of women being shortchanged in the workforce I think this cause demands a special steering committee designed to support and drive outcomes. Yes, this list should live on when enhancements and oversight. D. Community Safety: Community safety is critical for residents and visitors in any ward in the City of Chicago. Recently, the city entered into a consent decree to address policies, training, practices and accountability of the Chicago Police Department in an attempt to ensure police reform. While our homicide rate is not the highest in the US and gun violence in Chicago has been declining in recent years, it continues to garner national attention and some neighborhoods have actually seen an increase in murders over the past year. Youth are among the highest at risk for violence and women often bear the burden of keeping children in their families and community safe. Recognizing that the issues surrounding safety are complex and multi-pronged, what is your highest priority with relating to safety of your ward’s residents and who are you receiving advice from to address that priority? (Feel free to include any necessary context for your answer — context may, but does not need to, include citywide considerations, feasibility of implementation, political challenges, concerns regarding overzealous implementation of safety protocol, or anything else necessary to understand your answer.)

Answer: We need a city-wide task force solely for gun violence armed with a variety of professionals who can help shape policy and action around gun violence as a disease. If we approach it the same way we would approach chronic public health crises, then perhaps we can better eradicate gun violence without the socioeconomic harms that have come with overbearing policing. I strongly believe they’re broader underpinnings of violence: underperforming schools, lack of economic opportunities, loss of mental health clinics, etc.) The birth of the Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) is also step in the right direction to institute a policy that will adhere to community involvement, oversight, and accountability.

5. Closing comments (Suggestions include: Tell us why you should be alderman, the impact you want to have on the community, your goals for the ward and the city of Chicago. Final thoughts.)

Answer: Addressing the quality of our lives in the 9th Ward is my number one priority, which is a direct contrast of the incumbent leadership and resume over the past 20-years. I want to be Alderman because I believe we can deliver a better Ward by addressing the following:

1.) Food Deserts 50,000 people subjected to not having one fresh produce grocer

2.) 9th Ward Elementary and High Schools

The incumbent solely invests solely in selective enrollment schools

3.) Blight Failure to provide upkeep throughout our Ward 4.) Housing Instability Systemically address the growing homeless population

    Cleopatra Watson

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