Unions, Harold Washington Center big issues in Third Ward race
By Aratee Martin
The 3rd Ward Aldermanic race goes to a runoff Tuesday, April 17. In the Feb. 27 election, no candidate received more than 50% of the vote, so the race comes down to 24-year incumbent Dorothy J. Tillman and challenger Pat Dowell.
"I've been reelected each time, and I will be reelected this time," Tillman said.
"I don't see Pat Dowell as my opponent. I see the union and all outside forces as the opponent."
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) contributed $121,000 to Dowell after Tillman voted against the big-box ordinance, which would have required large retailers to pay employees a living wage and adequate benefits.
According to Tillman, Dowell’s union support will force her to keep connections to a group Tillman said “failed to support the 3rd Ward.” Tillman added she is confident the union's interests eventually will conflict with the people in the community and force Dowell's opinions to reflect the views of those who funded her campaign.
"I don't think I'm going to try to win over the union," Tillman said. "I've never tried to have their support. With all their money and all their lies, we're still standing."
Dowell believes Tillman's attack on her support from organized labor exemplifies Tillman’s disregard community members who belong to unions.
"I am outraged that she would try to deflect attention away from what she's not doing and putting it on the support that I have when there are thousands of union members in the ward that need representation," Dowell said. "This is an election that is a referendum on Dorothy and her poor leadership in the ward. I think she's been a tremendous civil rights leader, but she hasn't taken care of her own backyard, which is the ward. To me the election is about that, and not about the unions."
Dowell has been endorsed in the race by Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr.
"It's time for a change," Jackson said. "It's time for good jobs, better schools, and safe streets. Her [Dowell’s] fresh perspectives, new ideas, and integrity will ensure that constituents, not special interests, always come first."
Experience in urban planning places Dowell on a path to success, according to Jackson, who believes Dowell can improve the 3rd Ward neighborhoods of Bronzeville, Fuller Park, and Back of the Yards.
Mell Monroe, an urban planner who ran in February and obtained 16.6% of the vote, has endorsed Dowell and supports her efforts to return the ward to the people by unseating the incumbent.
"The Hat [Tillman] has tried to enrich herself and her family and friends instead of the ward residents," said Monroe. "Simply put, Dorothy Tillman does not include the citizens of the ward in her decisions."
Tillman did not flinch on hearing Monroe endorsed her opponent, noting Dowell and Monroe “were a team from the beginning.” She added Congressman Jackson should “be paying more attention” to his own job.
Tillman is endorsed by Congressman Danny K. Davis and Congressman Bobby Rush. She believes she has been consistent in serving the 3rd Ward and fighting for freedom and equality. She said she “has a history with the ward and experience that aids my decision making process and fuels my confidence.
"My doors have been open for 23 years since Harold Washington appointed me, and I've been reelected each time," Tillman continued. "I will be reelected this time."
Dowell believes most of Tillman's focus has been on the Harold Washington Cultural Center at the corner of 47th and King Drive. Dowell believes resources need to be expanded and funding should be used in other areas of the ward. Dowell also pointed out that “failure to move away” from that particular corner has caused Tillman “to fail when it comes to community development.”
Tillman strongly supports the center
as the cornerstone of Bronzeville economic development; it lost money after
it opened but made a $50,000 profit last year. Some in the community feel it
is underused and believe Jimalita Tillman, the Alderman’s daughter and the
center’s executive director, should be more proactive in her job.
Dowell, a former city planner, helped create the Bronzeville Development Plan. A deputy commissioner of neighborhood planning for the City, until recently she was executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corp. Dowell also was the founding executive director of the Mid-south Planning and Development Commission.
"I'm very happy and excited about the possibility of representing the residents in the 3rd Ward," Dowell said. "I'm happy to be in the runoff and looking forward to the challenge with the incumbent. I believe that the residents in the 3rd Ward are ready for change and new leadership."
Tillman feels she has worked hard as Alderman to help new businesses take off while maintaining a sense of culture in the 3rd Ward. She pointed to the 47th Street Marketplace boom, with Black-owned shops, restaurants, and galleries that provide jobs for residents. She added she created more jobs in the State Street corridor and construction jobs for the Park Boulevard and Legend South projects.She also noted her work to help create Grand Boulevard Plaza, one of the ward’s first major developments in decades, which provided 200 jobs.