Zerlina earns more endorsements for alderwoman of the 29th Ward
When Zerlina Smith says, “I am not a politician. I am a grassroots community activist,” she says it with an intensity that is hard to miss.
Zerlina Smith’s well publicized community activism has won her endorsements from the Chicago Teachers Union, Action Now, United Working Families, SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana, Illinois Citizens Action, Grassroots Action Illinois, the Green Party of Chicago, the Caucus of Rank and File Educators and the International Socialist Organization-Chicago.
Smith developed her thirst for justice while living in the Cabrini Green and ABLA housing projects. Inspired by her grandmother Cora Smith, who organized for improvements from the Chicago Housing Authority, Smith says, “I am a fighter. I’ve known poverty and what it feels like.”
Now a homeowner and the mother of a 5 year old daughter, Smith is dedicated to quality education and helps lead the battle against school closings, against racist allocation of educational resources and against standardized testing abuse saying, “We cannot allow corporate education profiteers to take over our schools.”
She has rallied with the Fight for $15 movement to work for a Chicago minimum wage of $15 an hour and union rights for low wage workers. Not satisfied with the $13 an hour minimum wage that won’t start until 2019, she says, “We need to end poverty wages now and build strong unions so we can support our families and stabilize our communities.”
Recognizing that the West Side has a public safety problem, Smith believes that more police is not the answer because:
“The best way to stop a bullet is with a job and it’s better to prevent a crime than solve a crime. Money allocated for more police should be spent on more programs for youth, for ex-offenders and for job creation and training.”
Smith favors the creation of a civilian-police review board to investigate police crimes because:
‘While there are fine police officers working in Chicago, there is also a long history of police brutality and corruption. Innocent people have been sent to prison and the city has paid out millions of dollars to victims of police misconduct.”
Saying that shelter is a “basic human right” Smith wants more affordable housing in the 29th Ward and has protested against the big banks who foreclose on peoples’ homes. These are the same banks whose criminal acts brought on the 2008 financial crash and whose corrupt practices continue even today.
Very familiar with picket signs, bullhorns, colorful banners, and protest marches, Smith is not afraid to sharply question the wealthy and powerful at public hearings. But she also knows how to run committee meetings and analyze complex budgets far from the TV cameras and public spotlight.
A strong advocate for early childhood education, she has served as chairperson of the CPS Early Childhood Policy Committee as well as the DCFS Policy Committee for Early Childhood Education.
As part of her early childhood committee work, Smith has reviewed multi-million dollar budgets saying, “This experience gives me the tools to analyze city budgets in a town where the Mayor’s office tries to conceal its back-room deals and ‘pay to play’ practices.”
As a successful district manager in the fast food industry she saw firsthand how the corporate world exploits distressed communities:
“I’ve seen how the rich rob the poor and then use that money to promote policies that hurt working people and the unemployed. I’ve seen why we need aggressive enforcement of employment discrimination laws so that people are not kept in poverty because of race or gender.”
Having once owned her own cosmetology business it, angers Smith that small businesses which provide jobs are struggling, “…as huge corporations are showered with special tax breaks and subsidies while the 29th Ward has been subjected to systematic disinvestment.”
Residents of the 29th Ward have seen businesses leave, jobs lost, schools closed, community services cut, homes foreclosed and their neighbors moving away in despair. Smith believes that, “Too much public money goes to downtown office towers and hi-priced condos when it is really needed in the working class neighborhoods.”
As alderwoman she will aggressively push for taxing wealthy corporations and reforming the TIF program while seeking grants and negotiating fair-minded private investment to create jobs. The 29th ward deserves a thriving local economy. But she cannot do this alone. Community involvement in economic development is a must.
“I want to see a good mix of socially responsible businesses that are locally owned, non-profits that serve our community and co-ops that we can take pride in. I want to see people making a living wage and receiving full pensions. I want to see fully funded neighborhood schools with strong community involvement. I want to see solar panels on rooftops with local people installing and maintaining them because green technology means both good jobs and a healthy planet. In short, we need to take charge of our economic future.”
She believes that her record of community activism, her passion for quality education, her support of the labor movement and her business experience make her the most qualified candidate for alderwoman saying, “Please vote for me and then join with me to fight for a better 29th Ward. For without struggle there is no progress.”