Monday, January 30, 2017 || LETTERS || @maywoodnews
Around four months ago, I fulfilled a campaign pledge I made to you, the voters, that I would regularly update you on the progress we’ve made as a village while I’ve been a trustee. This second update is an extension of that pledge.
Since my last community report in September, Maywood has made significant progress on numerous fronts, but it’s always been my philosophy that progress demands a certain degree of dissatisfaction. So, although we’ve made strides, I’ve devoted my time on the board to ensuring that we continue to push ourselves as a village to do better.
Here are some of our successes and some ways that we can be even more successful.\
Last December, the board, along with the collaboration of the police department, began the process of modernizing our surveillance camera system with an agreement with Verizon to install several battery powered motion sensor cameras in the high-crime area near 17th and Madison St.
These cameras will be equipped with the latest Wi-Fi and energy-saving technology, enhancing the crime-fighting capabilities of our local police department.
In addition to making investments in our public safety infrastructure, the board also strengthened our ordinances so that we might crack down on businesses that sell illegal cigarettes, which are correlated with loitering problems.
These investments and policy adjustments, in addition to the great work of our police department, paid off. In 2016, the number of homicides in Maywood decreased by 62 percent from the number sustained in 2015. Overall crime is down as well.
But we can do better, which is why I’ve been advocating for the village to get much tougher on illegal fly-dumping.
I also was among board members who approved funding for our officers to go through de-escalation training, which will go a long way towards reducing the mounting costs of legal fees that result from complaints.
Lastly, we’re gearing up for our Fourth Annual Safe Summer Initiative, which is aimed at keeping our young people off the street.
Although the village’s unemployment rate is something that’s largely beyond the control of local elected officials, there are still things that we can do to make sure that as many of our residents who want them have access to jobs.
One of the most obvious ways to make that happen is by leveraging the power of our Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. Although funds from TIF districts are often used to give tax incentives and financial support to businesses either already here, or looking to come here, TIF money can also be spent directly on job development.
Even before I was elected trustee, I was a fierce advocate of the village using our TIF funds to pay for job training programs for our residents. Since my election, I’ve looked at how the Roosevelt Road TIF, which is active, can be leveraged in a partnership with Loyola University Medical Center — Maywood’s largest employer — to create a job-training program for residents who may want to go into the medical field.
I’ve also been working with Congressman Danny K. Davis’s office to create a program in Maywood that would help lower our unemployment rate and create jobs right here.
More immediately, I am currently working with the mayor’s office to plan a Put Maywood to Work Youth Job Fair, which will take place this April.
Since September, the board passed an ordinance that would prohibit the village from issuing any additional Class M Liquor licenses, which are issued specifically to video gaming establishments.
Although, as I’ve expressed in the past, I prefer to look at development on a case-by-case basis, I voted for the ordinance out of respect for the will of the people, a majority of whom voted in favor of the prohibition on a referendum during the Nov. 8, 2016 election.
The village has recently made significant investments in our infrastructure. Those investments, I believe, will enhance our ability to attract businesses to our town.
Not only did we break ground on a brand new, $2.3 million Metra train depot that is nearing completion, but we also voted on over $1 million of street repair projects throughout the village, which includes a project in one of our most important business districts.
In addition to those investments, the board recently voted on a series of zoning changes designed to lower the burdens for businesses looking to locate in Maywood.
But as I mentioned during board discussions of these changes, the zoning adjustments have to accompany more vigilance on the part of code enforcement to make sure that existing businesses, in addition to the village itself, are taking care of their properties.
Along with these infrastructure investments, I and my board colleagues have been working hard to assess the current state of our business climate and to make sure we attract new businesses to the village.
That means, literally, walking through sites like the former Maywood Market with prospective developers — one of whom is a grocer that sees potential in Maywood.
That also means attending conferences like the International Council of Shopping Centers and the National League of Cities summit in Pittsburgh in order to advocate for the village and to absorb information about economic development that might help me become a better steward of our local economy.
But community is about more than jobs and businesses — it’s also about people. That’s why I’ve made sure to be a presence at schools, senior citizen homes, local restaurants and beyond.
This holiday season, for instance, I had the pleasure to read to students at District 89 schools and collaborated with Mayor Edwenna Perkins to deliver dinner to community members.
I also teamed up with the Maywood Fire Department Union to hand out food to seniors and with the mission outreach department of Progressive Life Giving Word Cathedral in Hillside to help administer their annual Soups Up event.
Turning to the youth, this year we’ll continue our National League of Cities youth program. Last year, I took five students from District 209 schools to Washington, D.C. This year, I’ll take eight students from District 209 schools and Walther Lutheran — my newest partner in this endeavor.
I also launched a series of community conversations in the village with residents in order to listen to their concerns. These conversations will be ongoing and will take place within businesses and homes.
As we head into Black History Month, I look forward to continuing to serve you in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., who authored one of my favorite prayers: “Use me lord, show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.” VFP
— Isiah Brandon, Maywood trustee
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