Leading up to the October 16 council meeting, the first in a three-part series profiling the voting records of South Side aldermen. When it comes to addressing South Side violence, the city’s aldermen are mostly of the same mind and have cast uniform votes on gun control and other anti-violence legislation. However, the similarity of their voting records belies both real disparities between the rates of violence in their respective communities as well as the outspokenness of some members on certain anti-violence strategies and initiatives. Next week: Education.

Hanna Petrowski

Carrie Austin

34th Ward

“My grandson called me: ‘Granny, you gonna be upset. Jaylin got shot down the street.’…That boy just came home from school. That was devastating. I didn’t even know.”
On the murder of Jaylin Johnson, a friend of her grandson’s, in Roseland, September 15, 2012 (Chicago Sun-Times)

Austin has been a vocal supporter of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy’s “Operation Impact” initiative, which implemented foot patrols in twenty designated neighborhoods. In June, she came under fire for suggesting that Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s 2012 stroke influenced his June proposal for the arrest of 18,000 Gangster Disciples.

Hanna Petroski

Ricardo Muñoz

22nd Ward

“One of the things we do very effectively in the spring and summer is we encourage people to develop block clubs. Because a lot of times, neighbors know each other as ‘the driver of the red car’ or ‘the grandma of the gangbanger,’ but don’t know each other as Mr. Martinez, Ms. Caldwell, Mr. Washington, Mr. Linares, and that way, when neighbors know each other and come together as a block club, we’re able to prevent the crime and not necessarily just react to it.”
On “holistic” anti-crime strategies in the 22nd Ward, April 10, 2013 (CAN TV)

Muñoz is a member of the Stop Concealed Carry Coalition, an alliance of gun control advocates throughout Illinois, as well as the City Council’s nine-member Progressive Reform Coalition, which includes support for “well-trained, fully staffed public safety departments” among its policy objectives.

Hanna Petroski

Howard Brookins, Jr.

21st Ward

“I won’t be able to stop my members from calling for his head because the public is calling for our heads. The clock is ticking on all of us.”
On public disapproval of Superintendent of Police Garry McCarthy’s handling of the city’s crime, February 25, 2013 (CBS 2)

Brookins has been one of the most vocal critics of Superintendent McCarthy’s handling of the city’s crime, a fact that earned him the criticism of Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed, who, in March, cited Brookins’ recent work as a defense attorney for a member of the Gangster Disciples as an example of the alderman “talking out of both sides of his mouth.” However, in recent months, Brookins has been supportive of McCarthy’s “Operation Impact.”

Hanna Petroski

George Cardenas

12th Ward

“Why not use drones in safe passage??”
A tweet referencing an article on the non-military uses of drones in The Telegraph, August 27, 2013 (DNA Info)

Safe passage is a city initiative aimed at providing safe routes of transportation for children traveling to school through violent neighborhoods. Cardenas recently proposed implementing $5 “safety and security” fee charged on Commonwealth Edison electric bills to raise $70 million dollars for the hiring of 700 additional officers. The August violent crime rates of 12th Ward neighborhoods South Lawndale (0.7 per 1,000), McKinley Park (0.4 per 1,000), and Brighton Park (0.4 per 1,000) are among the lowest in the city according to police data.

Hanna Petroski

Michael R. Zalewski

23rd Ward

“I did tell [Superintendent Garry McCarthy] that…you know, every time they show a map in these newspapers about the shootings and the killings, there’s a big blank spot out on the Southwest Side, which is great.”
At a community meeting convened by the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch, July 15, 2013 (Southwest Chicago Post)

Zalewski is a regular speaker at events held by the Garfield Ridge Neighborhood Watch. According to police data, Garfield Ridge’s violent crime rate for the month of August (0.3 per 1,000) is among the lowest in the city. Zalewski is the father of State Representative Michael J. Zalewski (D-Riverside), a staunch gun-control

Hanna Petroski

James Balcer

11th Ward

“Crime is always a problem, gangs, graffiti, drugs, bad buildings…you work to contain them and if people cooperate…and work with the police we’re able to eradicate. Their tips have helped lead to the arrest [and] convictions of [gang members].”
On infiltrating gang circles to work with potential targets of violence, August 7, 2013 (ChicagoTalks)

Balcer is the chairman of the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. In February, he drafted an ordinance to create a $1 million dollar police tip program funded by city businesses and community organizations. This was tabled upon the announcement of the police department’s own new tip program. In February, Balcer called for hearings on the effects of violent video games.

Toni Foulkes

15th Ward

“It’s your son out there, and he’s a gang-banger with a gun on him…How is that my fault? I didn’t raise him. I just get pissed off when they say, ‘Where are these no-good aldermen?’ I’m like, ‘Hey, we’re living in this environment, too.’ ”
On constituent complaints about council inaction on violence, September 15, 2012 (Chicago Sun-Times)

Foulkes, like Cardenas, is a member of the Council’s Progressive Reform Coalition. According to police data, West Englewood, part of which is located in the 15th Ward, has the second highest violent crime rate in the city (3.0 per 1,000) for the month of August.

JoAnn Thompson

16th Ward

“Overall in Englewood, the good people outweigh the bad…I get on the defensive because I’m always getting asked how I can stop the violence. If I could stop the violence, it would have been done a long time ago. All I can do is put trust and faith that the police department will somehow put an end to it.”
On violence in her home neighborhood of Englewood, September 15, 2012 (Chicago Sun-Times)

According to Chicago magazine, Thompson is one of twenty-one aldermen who have never voted against Rahm Emmanuel in a full council meeting. She is likewise a firm supporter of Emmanuel-led crime initiatives like the “school safety zone” ordinance proposed in June, which would create gun-free zones around schools and safe passage routes. The ordinance, which Thompson co-sponsored, will likely pass in the next Council term.

Illustrations by Hanna Petroski

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