Former 37th Ward precinct captain wants to move up

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At last week’s Chicago Westside Branch of the NAACP forum, four of the six candidates running for 37th Ward alderman sat patiently in their seats as they prepared to answer the first of many questions they would be asked that night.

Suddenly, in the middle of the second question a gentleman arrived. He spoke to the moderators, then sat down next to the other candidates.

“Good evening, my name is Steve Elliott Pleasant,” he said.

Pleasant quickly answered the next question, but he didn’t stay long. Pleasant, 59, was at a loss for words, and by the fifth question he excused himself and left.

Recounting the incident a week later, Pleasant says he didn’t stay because he wasn’t prepared. He didn’t know the forum was that evening until a friend called him right before it started, he said, and when he got there he was disappointed to find the 29th and 37th Ward precinct captains ushering people in.

Everyone they had brought to the event was applauding for only one person, he said – the incumbent, Emma Mitts.

“It really upset me,” Pleasant said. “I wasn’t angry, but I was really upset. I had to get up and go because I couldn’t tolerate that anymore.”

Other 37th Ward Candidates

  • Tommy O. Abina (story published Sunday)
  • Maretta Brown-Miller (story published Monday)
  • Shanika J. Finley (story published Tuesday)
  • Emma M. Mitts (story published Wednesday)
  • Minerva V. Orozco (couldn’t be reached)

With more than three decades of experience in Chicago politics, Pleasant said he’s used to seeing this kind of behavior. It’s why he’s running for alderman; he wants to make the 37th Ward a better place, too.

“Up to now, it seems that all three of the wards [in Austin] are deteriorating and going back downhill,” Pleasant said. “I don’t want it to be like that, so I’m here to change that immediately.”

A Chicago native, Pleasant moved to Austin in 1970. He was joining his cousin Leo Jones, who was in the Marine Corp. and someone he looked up to.

From the beginning he felt at ease in the community, Pleasant said.

“It felt like I was at home,” Pleasant said. “Everything was convenient to me, and everywhere I went it was relaxing. So I just stayed over here.”

Today he still lives in the same home he and his wife Carolyn bought in 1983 on North Central Avenue.

But Pleasant says Austin isn’t the same as it used to be. Back then, seniors could walk by themselves late at night and get home safe, kids didn’t hang out on the streets, and there were fewer shootings.

“It’s turning ghetto,” Pleasant said. “It’s just turning ghetto. It’s not beautified like it used to be.”

Pleasant would like to have a “better 37th Ward like we did in the 1980s,” and if elected, he promises to tackle issues like drugs, crime and helping seniors.

Some of his plans include working with the city to bring more jobs into the ward and creating youth activities to keep kids away from gangs and drugs. Pleasant also supports any modifications that can be made to improve the schools in the ward.

“My plan is to call a meeting with the superintendents so I can be of assistance for a higher education,” he said.

Pleasant said he would draw on his experience in the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, where he’s worked as a deputy for 27 years, and his political knowledge to help solve the ward’s problems.

Over the years, he’s worked as precinct captain in various wards across the city, including the 37th Ward, and has volunteered for then-Ald. Ike Carothers, recently retired Ald. Ed Smith and Ald. Mitts.

Two years ago, Pleasant said he and Mitts got into a disagreement, and he decided to run for alderman shortly after that. He said Mitts was a good alderman in the beginning, but the ward has gone downhill since.

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