West Side residents voted Saturday on proposals to be included in a qualify-of-life plan being created for Austin and being led by Austin Coming Together.
“This plan is for us by us,” Austin Coming Together’s Darnell Shields told the roughly 100 people gathered at Michele Clark High School. “We are all involved in this process.”
The plan will outline actions to be taken over the next five years to improve the Austin neighborhood.
Speakers from seven different working groups presented their proposed ideas on to issues including education, housing, public safety and civic engagement.
Those groups were determined based on feedback from a community summit held in July that drew over 200 residents.
The process has funding and support from the Local Initiatives Support Corp., a non-profit that has shepherded similar plans in many other Chicago neighborhoods.
Representing the housing group, Athena Williams emphasized the need for initiatives that addressed the concerns of lower-income residents, seniors and homeless youth.
“We need to create a housing stock that is viable for everyone,” Williams said.
Bradley Johnson from the youth development organization BUILD addressed the impact of public safety on schools, housing and economic development.
“Austin gets a bad rap,” Johnson said. “We’re known and defined by our perception of safety.”
Political activist Deborah Williams shared ideas to engage more youth in the civic process.
“It still takes a village to raise our kids,” Williams said. “We need to train up the next generation of leaders.”
After the presentations, attendees used different colored stickers to select actions they wanted to see happen immediately and projects they believed would be transformative for the community.
“We want to make sure that we’re hearing those people and what their needs are,” explained Ruth Kimble, an Austin Coming Together board member.
State Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) called her involvement with the education and civic engagement working groups “a rich and eye opening experience.”
“I’m excited to see how I can be a part of these outcomes,” Lilly said.
ACT plans to hold a third community summit to further discuss the plan in May 2018.