Growing up in a multiracial household as the granddaughter of first-generation Chinese immigrants, candidate Jocelyn Hare ( who identifies as queer ) is a longtime activist for underrepresented groups. She has been a board member of the Illinois Safe Schools Alliance for six years, a supporter of increasing the minimum wage, and a believer in a woman's right to choose. With a master's degree in public policy from the University of Chicago, Hare spent the past decade implementing policy initiatives in CPS and wants to "modernize approaches to economic development, city services, and community outreach" in the 5th Ward.
Windy City Times: Why run for alderman?
Jocelyn Hare: One of the best ways to make a positive change in the city is through local government. With the policies you make at the local level, you're able to see the impact of them right away. I decided to run in the 5th Ward for a variety of reasons, one of which is that there are many opportunities down in the 5th that aren't being capitalized on. You have the north side with more resources, it's a bit more diverse, crime is down, schools are good, folks are generally happy with their quality of life. And then as soon as you get south of Hyde Park into areas such as Woodlawn, you have totally different concerns. Issues with schools, gun crimes … much more dire needs. I'm concerned about how we solve these issues on a Ward level.
WCT: What distinguishes your campaign from the other candidates running?
JH: I don't come from a background in politics and I'm not tied to Chicago routine or politicians. I come from public policy, making decisions using data. It makes a lot of sense for us to make decisions based on not only policy best practices, but also talking with experts and working with residents in the community.
WCT: What do you want to accomplish in your ward?
JH: I would really like to even out the resources and opportunities … or maybe "increase" is the better word … particularly in the southern part of the Ward. We're lacking a grocery store in South Shore. It's unconscionable to me that we have a food desert in our neighborhood. We should not have a 71st street that looks more like Gary, IN than it does 53rd Street in Hyde Park. What I'm hearing from residences is, "I want to be able to go shopping in my neighborhood and all we have is Walgreens and a Starbucks; what's the business plan?" Under the current alderman, there hasn't been a plan for education, for business development, or a plan for public safety. How do we grow if we don't have any benchmarks and we can't measure where we're going against what we've done? I think I can change that dramatically.
WCT: What do you think the causes of, and the solutions for, crime in Chicago?
JH: I think the cause is clear: lack of opportunities. Anytime we have opportunities for folks, the crime rate goes down. I also think we need to be able to fund the police department at the level that they need. Some of the concerns mentioned when I talked to the Fraternal Order of Police were budgetary. The police working right now don't get to take a sick or a vacation day and they are incentivized to work overtime.
It's a weird reverse set of incentives that we have going on when we play with the budget, so we really need to make sure that all departments are funded at the level that they need to adequately operate. Another is improving relations overall. It's not a Ward-specific issue that we have conflict between police and communities of color. That's not new to Chicago; it's not new to our country. But what we can do is start having discussions about other models of policing. What are other ways that we can operate that are not punitive? What are ways we can engage with our youth that don't take them out of school and send them to prison? There's got to be a better way.
WCT: Perfect segue into what you would recommend to have a better relationship between the police and the citizens they serve, including marginalized groups such as people of color and the transgender community...
JH: As a city, we need to look at our lawswho are we criminalizing and why? Through the war on drugs in the '70s and '80s, we switched from a public health perspective to a criminal perspective … drug users as criminals instead of folks who could use resources to get off drugs. We are locking up poor kids who don't have funds to pay their bonds. What good does that do anyone? My time working in bond court was purely awful. I watched young Black man after young black man who was there for possession of weedno violent crimenot being able to pay their bonds and being sentenced to trial.
When we treat people that poorly and with that much disrespect and disregard, our relations are bound to be messed up. But we can't just come out and say it's just the police's fault, because they're following policy and the law. We need to look at our laws and adjust them to match our values. Beyond that, we have to change the relations between police and the community. What that means is training: training on LGBT issues, training on how to interact with homeless folks and trans folks. And really increasing interaction. I know that's distasteful to a lot of folks, but really getting to know the police in the area; figuring out what the crime concerns are for the neighborhood and then targeting what those concerns are instead of just punishing people because it's the law, even if the law doesn't make sense.
WCT: You're quite the activist. Can you tell us about your experience in regards to LGBT-related issues?
JH: I grew up in Oak Park, which is a super diverse and gay-friendly community, but I was not comfortable coming out in high school. But today, it's so exciting for me to see that kids are coming out as young as grade school. We're starting to create environments that are safe and welcoming, which is pretty cool. I got into activism in part because I had a pretty easy coming out experience. But, I saw it wasn't easy for others. When I was down at [the University of Illinois], I was asked to help co-facilitate a coming out group and that was really a life-changing experience. It was such a variety of people, that it totally emphasized to me that gay people are everywhere.
Around that time, I was also politicized with regards to anti-racism and pro-woman issues. I became really outspoken and developed a network of LGBT folks and allies, who really gave me the strength to do the work I do. I like the feeling of communityit's part of my life and of course I'm going to advocate for the things that I would want as a part of that community … to be able to marry a women, to adopt, to not be bullied in school because of sexual orientation. These are very basic things that we haven't achieved yet, but we're getting there.
For more information on Hare, check her out on Facebook ( www.facebook.com/hareforchifive ) and Twitter ( twitter.com/hareforfive ) .