La Shawn Ford started life in the Cabrini Green housing projects on the West Side and was brought up with his sister by his grandmother in the Austin neighborhood.
Thanks to his grandmother and his own initiative, he went to Loyola University, became a history teacher and basketball coach for the Chicago public schools, a real estate investor and broker who founded Ford Desired Real Estate and then, a state representative who has represented the 8th District since 2007. As such, Ford says that he has a history of legislative success “that shows I am about positive political action. When I say I plan do something, I mean it.”
In the Illinois General Assembly, Ford chairs two committees: Financial Institutions and Restorative Justice. His committee assignments are: the Appropriations Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education; Appropriations Committee on Human Services; Higher Education; Insurance: Property and Casualty; Tourism, Hospitality and Craft Industries; and Veterans’ Affairs.
Ford is a member of the Medicaid Managed Care Oversight Task Force and the Violence Prevention Task Force, which seeks to increase awareness of resources, jobs, and opportunities to prevent violence and to assist violence prevention groups and other social institutions in providing safe places for those at risk of violence.
N’DIGO recently chatted with La Shawn Ford about his intentions on becoming Mayor of the City of Chicago.
N’DIGO: You are a state legislator; why are you running for mayor?
La Shawn Ford: The mayor of Chicago should reflect working families. I am willing to take on the years of corruption that have represented too much of what our city symbolizes. Chicago must take a break from the years of business as usual. My campaign is based on fairness to all families in every corner of the city, not along political, geographic, or ethnic lines.
That said, I think all Chicagoans should feel a shared responsibility to bring about a fair and equitable city. We have to better acknowledge how many of our residents are in situations of poverty. Through building better bridges and hard work and some significant sacrifice, we can begin bringing about more prosperity for all, which will benefit all, including the overall economy, and then further bridges will be built.
We need more affordable housing, rent control and homeownership. We need more revitalization without gentrification. We need more public and private sector partnerships that will keep all of our neighborhoods strong, but lift up those neighborhoods that have for too long struggled and fallen behind. We need mental health and substance abuse services, stronger and more equitable schools, and generally be a stronger city together.
I am the candidate that not only represents the working community, but I also have the legislative background that shows in the most sustainable way that I will be committed to these issues for as long as I work in politics.
I am running for mayor because I want Chicagoans to know that in the best ways we can be a more model city. In some new ways we can become a better model for the nation and the world.
What is your assessment of Chicago in 2019?
We have so much to be proud of – our beautiful downtown, unique neighborhoods, architecture, cuisine, and culture are only a start. But we can also become a more equitable city. We can do so much more with a greater shared responsibility for all residents. We can keep up and strengthen our best assets in the city, but we can also ensure that every child has realistically fair opportunities for success in life.
We can do so much more to help ensure that everything is done to make the health and well-being of all Chicagoans the best it can be. We can better maximize the ability of every school to care about every student.
We can become a better and more unified city by addressing poverty. We can take it on in every corner of the city. We can do things differently. We can better listen to and be guided by residents who for too long have never had a voice.
Our city has a legacy of those in power making top-down behind-the-scene decisions. Oftentimes those decisions have been very good. At other times they have unjustly benefited select groups. Too often through back room deals they have resulted in corruption. We need to put that corruption behind us.
Too often those in power get caught up in serving their own needs. Instead we can more intently listen to the less powerful and ensure those employed to serve the city are working everyday for all Chicagoans. This city’s history of machine politics has often left the less powerful in a progressively worse place.
I think that we can become a model city in restorative justice. There is no reason that through tough, honest, and restorative negotiations we can’t build a mutual trust and respect between our community members and our police.
I think one of our city’s greatest assets is our self-recognition as a sanctuary city. If we are to be a truly equitable city, to increase health and well-being and bring fair opportunities, we have to ensure Chicagoans can live their lives free of fear. A true sanctuary city is one where no level of government creates policies or engages in them in ways that escalates fear in any group.
Immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, people of color, commuters, students, veterans, religious minorities, the formerly incarcerated who are refused work, and everyone else, deserve a city that values their civil and human rights.
Chicago can and should be a city that is a model in recognizing the dignity of all people. And these are the areas that I will continue to put at the forefront of my attention.
What would you change about Chicago immediately, in your first 90 days in office?
I would ensure accountability and take on corruption throughout the city of Chicago.
How would you bring business development to the South and West Sides of Chicago?
As mayor, I would drastically change what we do with TIFs. What is clear is that the TIF mechanism has too long been used outside its original intention, which was to revitalize neighborhoods, bring in local businesses, and bring back jobs.
Instead, we see in some cases 50 percent of TIF funds being used in the Loop and the immediate surrounding area. The other neighborhoods, many of them struggling, and potential local business owners get relatively little. We are talking about millions on millions of dollars that should be invested in small businesses throughout the city, particularly places that are most struggling, like the South and West sides.
Who would be your first hire in City Hall and in what position?
My first hire would be a civil rights attorney.
What would you most like to accomplish in a La Shawn Ford administration?
1. A Holistic Approach To Education, Health, And Well-Being – education, health and well-being for all Chicagoans.
• Equity across all Chicago schools.
• Improving healthy practices, prevention and access in every neighborhood, ensuring that Chicago is the most insured city in the nation.
• Placing wrap-around, multi-pronged approaches toward well-being support in schools and returned to our neighborhoods.
• Keeping immigrant and migrant groups free from fear and obtaining services in our sanctuary city.
• Seeking input from youth throughout the city to understand their vision.
2. Safe Communities, Cultivating Peace and Ensuring Justice – A sense of safety in every home, every street, and at all times
• Renegotiating commitments between community members and police toward a new, restorative culture.
• Ensuring re-entry support for felony-holding Chicagoans to transform their lives.
• Increasing student and school safety by addressing disruptions caused by closed schools.
• Supporting block clubs and greater activities and opportunities for youth.
• Creation of Genius Hubs that provide underserved youth with training – after-school arts, technology, woodshop, sewing – and revenue for entrepreneurship.
3. Sustainable and Renewable Economic Development – Economic stability for families and business throughout the city. (Growing economic vibrancy in businesses and financial institutions).
• Providing support for greater co-ops, collaboratives, and entrepreneurship.
• The building of technology and manufacturing educational centers and innovation hubs, particularly those focused on green innovations.
• Free CTA for students in need.
• Universal childcare.
4. Transparency, Equity, and Accountability
• Ensuring systems are fair and people driven.
• Civilian police accountability.
• Fairness in contracting.
In your years of politics, what have you learned for sure?
In my years serving as a state representative, I have learned that justice and the people are worth fighting for.
Who is your favorite politician, living or dead?
Former Mayor of Chicago, Harold Washington.
What do you like most about Chicago?
I like that Chicago has a $650 billion dollar economy and its possibilities for every family to be successful in this city.
Name three people you would most like to have dinner with (living or dead)?
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Nat Turner…and Harriet Tubman, as well.
What would like to leave your children?
I would like to leave my daughter and grandchildren a city that is fair and just for all people.
Who is the best entertainer?
What should we know about you that we don’t?
I cannot dance.