20th Ward Aldermanic Candidate (Maya Hodari)

She Votes Illinois Questions

  1. Tell us about yourself

I am uniquely qualified to excel as Alderman, being of service to 20th Ward families. I am passionate about improving the day-to-day quality of life for everyday families in the 20th Ward. I spent my career being of service to people: I’ve worked with neighbors, stakeholders & political leaders to redevelop blighted tracks of land across the City.

Additionally, I am a hard-working, proud product of Chicago’s Southside. I have a real understanding of the complex challenges confronting 20th Ward families. I’m deeply rooted and vested in the 20th Ward. I bought my home here in 2004. I’m a mother with a 11-year old son who is growing up in the Ward. I’m a committed neighbor who has been hard at work pushing to improve the quality of life for the last ten years. For example

  • When violent crime increased, I participated in the Mid-South Anti-Violence Collaborative and the Woodlawn Public Safety Alliance to offer safe neighborhood activities for our young people while working to reduce violent criminal offenses.
  • When the 2008 national recession devastated 20th Ward neighborhoods, I joined an organizational Board that supports small businesses as well as business district improvements; I participated in beautification efforts; I advocate for home improvement grants to neighbors as well as a homebuying assistance program.
  • And when property taxes rose, I worked with neighbors linking them with resources to appeal property taxes.

2. Tell us about the women in your life

I have been blessed to have amazing women in my life both personally and professionally. But I must admit my sheroe is my 5’2” mother.

I come from a matriarchy. I am one of seven children — 6 girls and 1 boy. My mother was one of six children — 5 girls and 1 boy. From childhood, I have always had a strong affinity to my mother. Her kind and quiet but strong nature served as my example. Her persistence through some challenging times taught me not to give up in the face of significant disparity.

My parents raised us in a different way. We were vegetarians celebrating Kwanzaa before these lifestyles became more popular. Being different made me and my siblings more independent in nature.

My mother faced quite a bit of opposition to her choices. And she always did so respectfully and with personal fortitude. She shaped who I am in ways she never imagined.

3. Tell us about your Ward

The 20th Ward cuts across the midsouth side of Chicago. It Includes portions of the following communities: Back of the Yards, New City, Englewood, Washington Park & Woodlawn. These neighborhoods have experienced a significant level of outmigration and disinvestment since the 1960s.

The most pressing issue facing 20th Ward families is the combination of:

  • household earnings at or below poverty (i.e. family of 4 earning less than $25,100)
  • higher rates of crime
  • underperforming schools
  • blight & substandard housing

I wish to use my experience, talents and passion to immediately

  • bolster community hiring on 20th Ward construction sites (maintaining an up-to-date resource listing of 20th Ward subcontractors & neighbors interested in construction jobs). I wish to refine the GC targeted area to identify potential community hires.
  • monthly taskforce meeting with 20th Ward Principals about needed CPS resources so we offer “properly resourced” schools.
  • Advocate to have a “Micro Markets Recovery Initiative” in place targeting sections of the Ward
  • Institute monthly 20th Ward Safety Taskforce meeting with CPD Commanders
  • Initiate community visioning to implement development activities at 4 other location beyond the OPC site.

4. Platform Questions

A. Schools

In terms of executive oversight at the municipal level, I favor an elected Chicago school board. I believe it will improve transparency and allow for a diverse group of representative/members. As a mother of a CPS student, I favor and believe it’s important for everyday neighbors to have a decision-making role in our children’s school system. At the end of the day, we all share the common goal of giving all our children a strong academic foundation.

More specifically, 20th Ward neighborhoods have experienced significant population loss starting in the 1960s thru the present. Communities such as New City/Back of the Yards saw a 14.2% reduction in population between 2000 and 2010: Englewood’s population saw a 23.85% reduction during this same period. CPS’ shrinking enrollment is one of the consequences of outmigration. I implore us to look at more than CPS’ budgetary constraints tied resulting from issue.

Higher rates of population loss in 20th Ward runs a fowl with 20th Ward families’ fundamentally right to access schools where children receive the best education possible. I recommend we shift our conversation/focus to also weigh in “properly resourced” schools. This can help CPS parents & stakeholders outline nuanced strategies that bridge the divide between high performing schools vs underperforming schools while grappling with CPS’ budgetary limitations.

B. Environment

The truth is the City has grown more and more reliant on the existing Tax Increment Financing dollars to cover the cost of replacing the city’s infrastructure (water and sewer mains). At the same time, the City has increased fees paid by property owners for water and trash removal.

In the very short term, the City and Alderman need to bolster citizen education about the lead level in drinking water and disseminate water filtration kits. The Alderman and City officials must share its comprehensive implementation plan to complete water main work in each neighborhood. In existing TIF Districts, the Alderman should be transparent about any use of TIF funds to cover the costs of needed water main replacement.

C. Women-Owned Businesses

Encouraging Women-Owned Business (WBE) participation on the City’s investment projects must continue to be a priority. I acknowledge there have been some deceptive practices with firms alleging to be WBEs that weren’t. I believe the City and others should adopt strong audit and enforcement standard to confirm the WBE firms.

D. Community Safety

I propose the following 3-fold strategy:

  1. Improve residents, access to economic opportunity (permanent & construction jobs) or income via small business development. Additionally, we should continue small business contracting opportunities through the Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy (CASE) initiative.
  2. The Chicago Police Department (CPD) should continue recruitment and hire of minority police officers. At the same time, CPD must increase the positive community engagement of Beat Officers to begin to gain public trust over time. [To further underscore the importance of this, currently, less than 17% of homicide cases are solved. Typically, these cases will not be solved without witness testimony. This requires the trust between community and police.]
  3. Expand and/or increase neighbor to neighbor connections, relationships, events, beautification/clean & green initiatives. When neighbors know each and are more active on blocks then it diminishes opportunities for crime.

5. Closing Comments

I am so honored for this race to become the next 20th Ward Alderman. As a first term Alderman, here is the vision I have.

I See Growth in the 20th Ward. I see Neighbors leading Community Conservation Councils to advise about development projects, TIF Advisory Councils. I see everyday residents having robust discussions in Participatory Budgeting Forums. I see no school closures: I see monthly 20th Ward CPS Principal Working Groups moving us in the direction of having well-resourced schools (offering libraries, nurses, social workers & art/music/foreign language/cooking class or home economics).

  1. I see three significant developments under construction increasing non-residential spaces as well as new housing.
  2. I see infill housing completed on our tree lined residential blocks, new working families moving back to the 20th Ward. I see longtime renters becoming homeowners through initiatives similar to the Chicago City Lots for City Living Affordable Housing Program.
  3. I see activity on our well maintained retail corridors and increased customers for our small businesses.
  4. I see Chicago Police Officers (CPD) talking to neighbors, playing basketball and football with neighbors and children in our neighborhood parks. I see more positive community and police engagement, as well as lower 911 police responses to emergencies.