Monday, September 5, 2016 || By Isiah Brandon || OPINION
Over a year ago, when I campaigned to be one of your board trustees, I pledged that I would work hard for the citizens of Maywood, and that I would work to meet a high standard – a standard of excellence – in representing you.
As I knocked on your doors and spoke to you at community events throughout this village, I told you that I would work feverishly to raise our local government’s operating standards, improve our public image, and encourage economic development.
I said in doing all of those things, I would help to create a thriving community. As such, I have been diligent in the conduct of your public affairs business. As part of the pledge I made to you, I want to update you on the progress we’ve made since I’ve been in office.
I believe you will agree that I have been a steadfast and faithful steward of the public will.
The right of the citizens to feel safe in their community is a hallmark American value and one about which I care deeply. One of the reasons people move to suburbs like Maywood is to get away from some of the unfortunate happenings in large cities.
My commitment to public safety is sacrosanct and uncompromising on both a macro and micro level, and I do not mind taking a hands-on approach when I can. As an example, one evening when I was chatting with a constituent, I received a phone call from a daughter, on behalf of one of our beautiful elders, who stated that her mom was afraid to come out of her house for the enjoyment of sitting on her porch.
I immediately went to her block to assess what was taking place. In fact, there were several young men present, and one can easily understand how an elder might feel intimidated by people with whom she is unfamiliar.
I was able to resolve the situation, but it made me think more broadly about how important it is for people in our community to know and communicate with each other. It is also important for us to empathize with each other’s position.
I want everyone to understand the village ordinances, like our loitering laws, and how they exist to establish the community norms upon which we have all agreed. Collectively, the Board of Trustees has been a unified front with regards to improving how village services are performed, with numerous board members pushing for higher police productivity and quicker response times.
We have worked in collaboration with the Maywood Police Department to cut down on loitering and to address other quality of life issues. We’ve also advocated for more police patrols in high crime areas and better responses to citizens’ concerns. We will continue pushing for more initiatives that will keep Maywood safe.
I am deeply invested in putting Maywood to work. In that regard, I have established a relationship with some of our local businesses, including Cintas, to engage them in more community events, and to encourage and assist them with identifying some of the wonderful talent we have in Maywood.
I am pleased that some of my efforts are already beginning to bear fruit. For example, Cintas hired a young Maywoodian, Alono Span, who, within the span of less than a year, has already been promoted to a higher position.
Also, I have reached beyond the borders of Maywood to engage with other businesses in surrounding communities.
For example, Jimmy’s Popcorn in Forest Park has given me the green light to begin identifying young people who might fit in with their company.
Reinforced by results like that, I have begun to redouble my efforts, in terms of reaching out to other businesses all around that may have job opportunities for our residents. Fundamentally, economic distress is at the core of many of our problems.
This community was once home to businesses like, American Can Company, that anchored the community and made it possible for Maywoodians to thrive economically.
When people experience the dignity of work, it allows them provide for their families and take pride in their livelihood.
When the economic base of a community works, communities work. Now that those companies no longer exist, it is imperative that we lay a foundation to attract businesses that will create opportunities for our residents.
I have often checked in on business owners, so I can understand their needs. I want to maintain strong relationships with the business community so we can get maximum service for our residents.
Board collaboration has resulted in major developments in the village, including the buildup of our much anticipated new Metra station area. I stood strongly against moving the trains tation from 5th Avenue to 8th Avenue, because it did not align with our collective vision, as expressed in our comprehensive plan, to revitalize the downtown area. That was a critical vote.
When that magnificent train station is finally built on 5th Avenue, we intend to have several shops there to accommodate community needs.
In terms of my business philosophy, I am constantly on the lookout for businesses that could contribute to the strength of our economy. However, I have to let the village staff do their jobs and properly vet business proposals when they come in.
I, then, analyze the merits of those prospective business proposals on a case-by-case basis when they come across the board’s desk.
My desire is to judge each business’ worthiness based on how it would benefit the future health of our town. The established process for evaluating development opportunities is clear and should be followed, no matter how controversial the proposal. I welcome vigorous public debate on any and all development prospects.
Regarding Lacey’s Place, in particular, which has generated a little concern, we need to bring in additional revenue. Several local business owners, whose budgets are already strained by high taxes, have stressed that bringing in other businesses to share that load would be much appreciated.
Therefore, I welcomed the proposal by Lacey’s Place to locate a video gaming cafe on Roosevelt Road. I also welcomed public discussion on its merits. Those of us who voted on the video café did our due diligence and discerned that the café would not jeopardize the quality of life in the village. These cafes are operating unremarkably in some of our neighboring villages.
In the months to come, I insist on placing strategic focus on blighted areas, such as Fifth and First Avenues.
Lastly, on the issue of economic development, I understand the need for a more aggressive approach to attracting businesses into Maywood, but there has also been a culture of saying “no” to businesses that has existed prior to my election.
We need to change this culture and create a more business-friendly environment. One way we can do that is by making sure we remove a lot of the red tape that intimidates and challenges prospective businesses.
We also need to make sure our streets are clean, well patrolled, and inviting, and that we are being responsive to the needs of our current businesses.
We have to repair our somewhat tarnished image in the business realm, and that is why I have already started the conversation!
I have kept my promise to be highly visible and engaged.
In March, I traveled to Washington,D.C. to attend the National League of Cities. I brought business sponsors on board, so several youth delegates could attend and gain invaluable exposure to the inner workings of the federal government. It was the first time Maywood youth were represented and the first time some of the youth delegates had ever traveled by air.
I absolutely enjoy working with our seniors! I regularly conduct “Senior Check-ins” wherein I visit senior facilities to connect with them and discern how we can better serve that community. I also enjoy the wisdom and advice that I walk away with. I always feel enriched when I walk among seniors, and we’ve had some great adventures, including attending a movie and laughing through a beautiful luncheon I sponsored for them.
The Safe Summer Initiative, which my nonprofit, Youth on the Move, launched four years ago, has become stronger than ever and a true community-wide project. With the trustee board’s formal support, the number of concert events, recreational activities, jobs and volunteer opportunities, as well as business and non-profit organizations who buy in, has increased dramatically.
Going forward, I will strengthen the communication between myself and residents, as I advocate for a more aggressive approach to attracting businesses to our community. Also, I will continue to advocate for a clear map for residents to see the status of infrastructure needs and improvements throughout the village.
My intention is to always be present and prepared at every single board meeting, having read all of the materials that will be up for discussion. I want to bring well-conceived questions to the table,so I can be well informed before I cast my votes. So far, I have met my own standards. I have a perfect record of attendance and I have asked the hard questions forcing us to get clarity on issues that impact Maywood. VFP
Isiah Brandon is a first-term trustee with the Village of Maywood. To contact him, call (708) 261-9217 or email email@example.com.