Sawyer pushes ordinance on young activists’ peace book amid summer violence: ‘We want long-term solutions’
CHICAGO— Aldus. Roderick Sawyer (6) and a handful of his City Council allies are pushing to reallocate tens of millions of dollars into a new regime of public safety programs that emphasize non-policing community outreach, saying existing structures failed to stem the violence.
The proposals were among more than a dozen new citywide ordinances and resolutions presented to City Council on Wednesday, including Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s the long-awaited “Connected Communities Ordinance” to stimulate development near public transport. They come as the city braces for a wave of summer violence, and less than a month after Sawyer announced his candidacy for mayor.
Sawyer deployed an order (O2022-1890) on Wednesday that would create the Office of Neighborhood Safety, a new office tasked with drafting a “comprehensive long-term plan to address violence.” It would replace the mayor’s existing Community Safety Coordination Center system, which Sawyer called a “flash in the pan” with no ongoing funding or resources.
The proposal is co-sponsored by Aldus. Leslie Hairston (5), Aldus. Jeanette Taylor (20) and Aldus. Harry Osterman (48). In addition, Aldus. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33), Aldus. Matt Martin (47) and Aldus. Andre Vasquez (40) stood behind Sawyer as he touted the proposal at a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s city council meeting.
“We want to get to a point now where we can codify these issues and really work on long-term solutions to address gun violence, and we think that’s the right way to do it,” Sawyer said. “I hear a lot lately about having tools in toolboxes. But before, tools were like pitchforks – they weren’t the real tools to fight what we have to fight in our communities right now. It’s that real tool.
The ordinance would establish a baseline of 1.5% of the city’s enterprise fund budget — about $100 million — to fund the Office of Neighborhood Safety and staff it with at least 19 employees. The office commissioner would be empowered to “coordinate the city’s efforts to address gun violence using a public health approach that prioritizes human dignity and community empowerment” and “[c]collect, monitor and report data on the illegal firearms market, gun violence, causes and responses,” among other responsibilities.
Sawyer’s measure, which is backed by the group Live Free Illinois, would also convene a 16-member advisory board to “provide guidance and oversight to the Bureau of Neighborhood Safety.”
Lightfoot took office in 2019 with a similar push to strengthen and consolidate the city’s anti-violence efforts by launching the city’s Office of Public Safety Administration to coordinate the efforts of the Chicago Police Department. , the Chicago Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications. And in 2021, her administration launched the Community Safety Coordination Center, which she promoted as a “whole of government” coalition to coordinate anti-violence responses across multiple city departments.
But Sawyer pointed out that the coordination center is a function of the mayor’s office that is not included in the city budget with autonomous funding.
“We want long-term solutions — we don’t want a flash-in-the-pan style solution that works this week and is gone next week,” Sawyer said. “We want to make sure that whatever investments we make are safe… long-term investments with community commitment with an official title.
Ordinance “Book of Peace”
Good Kids Mad City organizers also joined Sawyer and other aldermen on Wednesday to formally introduce the Peace Book Ordinance (O2022-1891), a proposal that circulated for years, but had not been officially introduced in prescription form until this month.
Aldus. Derrick Curtis (18) diverted the ordinance of the Book of Peace to the Rules Committee, delaying discussion of the proposal. Curtis said The daily line he thinks the proposal belongs to the rules committee.
“I have things that I am against [the proposal], but overall I like it,” Curtis said. “But there are still things to talk about.”
Although aldermen often send proposals to the rules committee when they want to scuttle them, Curtis said “there’s no reason [committee chair Ald. Michelle Harris (8)] would just keep it within the rules.
Hairston, who is the main sponsor of the ordinance, said The daily line after the meeting that she was “very upset that Alderman Curtis was doing the administration bidding”.
“The mayor personally made commitments to these kids – these kids did everything we asked them to do,” Hairston said. “They deserve to at least have this go before the committee and be heard.”
Good Kids Mad City youth organizers called on aldermen to support the ordinance at a press conference Wednesday morning.
“The Peace Book Ordinance was created with the knowledge and understanding that what the City of Chicago has done to protect, empower, and support the people of the city, especially our youth, [has] didn’t work,” said Assata Lewis, a restorative justice practitioner with Good Kids Mad City. “Every day someone dies, and sadly we have become desensitized to the seriousness of what it means when someone dies.”
A draft order says he would create a “youth-led violence reduction organization” that focuses on “inter-community violence reduction and over-policing.”
Additionally, under the draft ordinance, a peace book published in multiple formats would serve as a “public safety resource” with contact information and a directory of youth services for those living in “communities.” targeted by excessive policing and mass incarceration”.
The Peace Book Ordinance would create “Neighborhood Peace Commissions” that would be tasked with establishing neighborhood initiatives that promote peace and safety. A city-wide “peace commission” would include representatives from each of the ward commissions and would distribute funds and resources to and support the ward commissions.
Peace Book supporters said Wednesday they intended to implement the ordinance as a pilot program initially, with an eye on the 5th, 3rd, 4th and 20th Wards.
According to the draft ordinance, 2% of the Chicago Police Department’s budget would be allocated to a fund supporting the Peace Book and its commissions.
Lewis said the proposal is “more than a bill, it’s more than a document. It’s alive, breathing and created by the community.
“The power resides in our community, and it’s time to invest in those communities and divest from perpetuating the damage done by those who are meant to protect us and those who have no relationship with our communities,” said Lewis.
Rodriguez-Sanchez said she’s been working with Good Kids Mad City for years trying to figure out the best way to introduce the peace book to city council.
“I am committed to fighting like hell to achieve this because this is a time and an opportunity that we must change direction, change the course of the strategies we have used to deal with the crisis of violence that we have in this city,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.
“I am convinced that the problems of young people could all be solved by youth solutions,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6). “We will support the ordinance of the Book of Peace. We are going to see it work and we are confident that it will succeed.
“The administration needs to listen to the kids,” Hairston said. “Everyone says they want a solution – well, they have a solution.”
Hairston said she’s asking Lightfoot’s administration “to be responsible and listen to the kids who have solutions.”