Park District worker sees beauty in the 37th Ward

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Austin is a beautiful place to live.

That’s what Maretta Brown-Miller thinks. Ask the Chicago Park District staff assistant why she’s lived in the area almost 30 years, and she talks about her love for the people and what makes her neighborhood so aesthetically pleasing.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Brown-Miller said. “These homes, you would be surprised by the architecture. It’s just a beautiful place to be.”

Not to say that there isn’t work to be done. The mother of three also understands there are plenty of challenges facing the 37th Ward, which is why she’s decided to run for alderman against incumbent Emma Mitts and four other candidates in next week’s election.

A Chicago native, Brown-Miller moved to the West Side 28 years ago from K-town. She had always liked this side of town, Brown-Miller says, and when she found a good apartment she decided to move.

Other 37th Ward Candidates

  • Tommy O. Abina (story published Sunday)
  • Shanika J. Finley (story coming Tuesday)
  • Emma M. Mitts (story coming Wednesday)
  • Minerva V. Orozco (couldn’t be reached)
  • Steven E. Pleasant (story coming later this week)

Back then, the area was much different than it is today, though. More people were working, Brown-Miller says, and the commercial strips along busy streets like Chicago Avenue and Division Street were thriving. Today, vacant storefronts are common in Austin, and residents worry about crime. It’s time for a change, Brown-Miller says.

“We aren’t getting accessibility, accountability and responsibility to what the residents need,” Brown-Miller said.

That’s why Brown-Miller says her No. 1 priority is cleaning up the streets of the 37th Ward.

When asked at last week’s Chicago Westside NAACP candidates forum how she planned on helping businesses in the area, Brown Miller proposed creating a special council that would meet with the alderman monthly. The group would discuss economic issues in the ward while also holding businesses accountable if their storefronts are messy and unsanitary.

“The current businesses that we do have, if you notice, a lot of the stores have dirty curbs,” she said at the forum. “There’s debris everywhere, and even sometime when you walk in to those establishments they smell. What I would do is I would hold them accountable. If you’re not going to clean up your businesses, your business will have to leave.”

Her answer got more than a few “amens” from the crowd of about 50 people who attended the forum held at Lafollette Park.

Brown-Miller says if elected, she would talk to commanders and sergeants in the ward about increasing the number of police officers in the neighborhood, which is needed to help residents and businesses feel safe.

“We need for the police to have more visibility,” she said at the forum. “We also need more policemen on the ward. That is what’s lacking in our community.”

She also says she would like to set up a community council to focus on safety. The key is for residents work together to solve these problems, Brown-Miller says.

“We also need to get our community residents involved,” she said. “The men, the women and also the children, because our children are the eyes and the ears and they know a lot of what’s going on.”

Brown-Miller hasn’t raised much money for her campaign. The most recent finance report she filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections – which details her finances from Nov. 19 though Dec. 31 – shows she raised $2,410. Her largest contributor was Robin L. Ferguson, a dentist on the South Side.

But Brown-Miller says her first run for political office has been amazing. She says it’s wonderful and “very enlightening” to meet the different people in the ward, and if elected, she hopes to work with the residents to empower them.

“It’s about serving the people, and that’s what we have to do,” she said.

Hear what Brown-Miller had to say at a recent candidates’ forum

Campaign office: 5301 W. Chicago Ave.

Phone: (773) 295-5261


Campaign finance report filed with the Illinois State Board of Elections

Didn’t complete candidate questionnaires for the Chicago Tribune, Sun-Times or AustinTalks.

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