Michael Finney of the Examiner sat down with Alderman Sawyer in his ward office for an interview. Here's some of the pertinent things that you will find interesting in this exchange:
Finney: Being someone who has spent his childhood and adulthood in the Chatham area, what changes have you noticed during your time as a resident in the 6th Ward?I'm going to applaud the first response in this series. If the expectation was for Bronzeville to change only for the economy to sour with the last four or so years, then Chatham at least should be in a better position. You would have to build in Bronzeville whereas in Chatham there are already storefronts available to rent especially along some portions of 79th Street. Even the Chatham Executive Center.
Sawyer: The biggest change that I have seen is the presence of Black-owned businesses in the area. Over time those businesses have been vanishing due to either lack of patronage or providing a service that was unsatisfactory to the consumers in the neighborhood.
Finney: With the opening of Garrett’s Popcorn in the area and with much more business opportunity being offered by the 6th Ward, what type of businesses would you like to invite to the neighborhood?
Sawyer: I would like to invite economic engines such as light industrial, manufacturing or technology businesses to consider development in the 6th Ward for a number of reasons. The cost of square footage would obviously be more cost effective in the 6th Ward than it would be in areas such as downtown Chicago, Bucktown, and the South Loop. By offering these types of economic engines, we then open the door for other businesses such as hospitality, service, etc.
Finney: We often hear and read about how the African-American community doesn’t have an adequate number of residents that are prepared and trained for jobs when the opportunity for economic prosperity arrives. This has been an accusation that has been made by the business community as well as politicians, what’s your response to this assumption?
Sawyer: The 6th Ward has TIF areas. We have the space, potential infrastructure, and a pool of well-trained candidates for employment opportunities once businesses make those opportunities available.
Finney: With the unanimous approval of the Mayor’s budget, what changes should residents in the African-American community expect to take place?
Sawyer: Smaller increases in patrols that I was pushing for such as in the bureaus of electricity & forestry. The number one call we get into our office is for street light repairs, so safety is priority. If residents don’t feel safe leaving and returning to their homes we can’t expect them to be the community members that cares. I was upset about the decrease in clinics, health centers, and libraries but the understanding is that efficiency in those areas would be improved drastically. I think more than anything, this budget is requiring us to live within our means. For decades we’ve spent a lot more money than we actually had to spend and that has to come to an end if we expect to compete with not only other major cities across the country but also in the global economy.
BTW, I wonder where any possible industry or light manufactuing will be located. There are certainly places not only within the ward but also in surrounding wards where this will be feasible.
There's just no reason the neighborhoods of the Sixth Ward couldn't be competitive with downtown Chicago, Bucktown, or even the Sloop for example!