As 2009 approaches, Alderman William B. Cochran (D-20) finds himself entering the middle of his four-year term and ready to continue working with constituents to get a handle on crime, blight and improving retail in his neighborhoods.
Cochran's ward spans the economic and racially diverse communities of Woodlawn, Washington Park, the Back of the Yards and Englewood.
Cochran holds a degree in public administration from the Illinois Institute of Technology and retired after 25 years as a Chicago police officer.
Before running for office, Cochran served as a community organizer for the Woodlawn New Communities Program.
He defeated incumbent Alderman Arenda Troutman, who pleaded guilty in federal court to bribery charges.
As a first-term alderman, Cochran serves on the Committee on Committees, Rules and Ethics; Committee on Parks and Recreation; Committee on Transportation and the Public Way, and the Committee on Aviation.
Cochran recently sat down with the Daily News to answer questions about the status of his campaign promises to improve services, public safety and affordable housing, and to help spur economic development in his challenged ward.
Q: How is the crime issue being addressed in the community? One noticeable change is the installation of security cameras in numerous areas.
A: I have been working closely with the mayor on an abandoned building ordinance to have appropriate security closures and alarms on vacant, abandoned properties. If an alarm goes off, the police can respond.
We ask for the owner of an abandoned, vacant property to find a reliable person for the property. If the owner doesn’t act then the city takes over the property, turns it over to receivership and eventually turns it into a viable property.
Abandoned businesses are done the same way, meaning if the business is not turned over to a reliable person, the city takes over the building and turns it over to a receivership. This removes the abandoned building or business as an eyesore and as a danger.
Crime has increased everywhere, across Chicago, not just in our area. Gun violence is plaguing America. We rely on the police to be innovative in their application in the deployment of specialized units to be aggressive in their approaches and prevention of crime.
Cameras are a deterrent. They make it easier when you have to make an apprehension. You will see more cameras, and I expect to strategically place cameras so we can review activity in the neighborhoods. We encourage private owners to install cameras, so we can utilize them.
Q: Do you think our community can ever regain the life and hope it once had with major retailers, small entrepreneurial interests, community resources, doctors, dental offices and venues to attract economic interest?
A: One of my goals is to increase retail offerings in the community. Currently, a retail market study is taking place here. This study will tell the income, ages and the seepage of monies leaving the community and that way we can determine what level of buyer we have and what retailers can expect when they come to the 20th Ward.
Q: With the current rate of foreclosures, what can you do to help residents keep their properties in this unstable economy?
A: I have talked to representatives of a local neighborhood financial institution about foreclosure versus keeping the homeowner in the home. The institution’s response is to keep homeowners in their homes.
However, the institution also states that homeowners at times are elusive…avoiding telephone calls from them, or the homeowners don’t reach out for assistance.
Our interest is to utilize programs we have and extend services to inform the homeowners about any new information (to help them keep their properties) as this whole crisis unfolds.
Q: How will residents already living and owning property in your ward be affected by changes in affordable housing and residential property in general?
A: The more the community improves, the healthier it becomes. It means improved resources for schools, more professional people who represent stabilized families, and communities. It means an improved tax base. An increased population means more economic interest from persons looking to establish their businesses here.
Q: What’s the biggest change you have seen in the 20th Ward during your short tenure as alderman?â€¨â€¨
A: Better response from the Streets and Sanitation Department, cleaner streets, vacant lots are kept better, more sidewalks have been replaced, more streets have been resurfaced, better tree trimming, and better access to the alderman and to information and to resources.
Q: How will you work to increase the availability and number of quality, meaningful employment opportunities in the area?
A: A career initiative known as CARA (Career Pathways Initiatives) was established. They are a job and career training placement center. They are located at 950 E. 61st St. CARA partnered with U of C (University of Chicago) private vendors.
Also I have worked with the Mayor’s Workforce Development office to assist in job training and career placement. I have worked with Dawson Technical Institute for training in the trades as well as the trade Unions to assure we receive announcements for tests. In turn we encourage individuals to participate in that process.