Since 2007, Ald. Pat Dowell has represented the 3rd Ward, which encompasses the South Loop, Bronzeville, Douglas, Oakland, Kenwood and Hyde Park. One of the most independent aldermen, Dowell voted against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s speed camera ordinance, and was critical of his Infrastructure Trust, although she ultimately supported it. In 2010, Dowell received the Best Aldermanic Voting Record from the IVI-IPO. Highlights of the historic 3rd Ward include Columbia College, the Illinois Institute of Technology, South Side Community Art Center, the Chicago Bee Library, and the well-known soul food restaurant Pearl’s Place.
1. What has been your most significant achievement as an alderman?
Passage of the Vacant Property Ordinance which holds banks accountable for their abandoned properties, creating and maintaining an open and accessible office with an excellent staff to serve my constituents and investing in the ward's parks and infrastructure.
2. Why and when did you decide to run for the City Council?
I had been involved in the community for some time in my role as the director of a non-profit organization and could see that many of the concerns of the residents were not being addressed and that my investment in my home was at risk. I thought my previous experiences would be a benefit to the ward. I ran for the office in 2003, lost that race and won in a run off election in 2007.
3. Do you have a political mentor? Why do you admire this person, and how did he or she influence you?
I have always looked up to former New York City Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress. I grew up in New York and followed her career closely. She was serious, effective and always in the community. In Chicago, I admired greatly Mayor Harold Washington. As a member of his staff, I found him to be bright, confident and a hard worker who loved Chicago.
4. What project is your ward most in need of?
Although we have added a new grocery store in the South Loop, we still need additional stores in the parts of the ward that remain food deserts. I am continuing to work aggressively towards that goal.
5. Has crime increased in your ward this year? What do you think are the causes of, and the solutions, for the citywide increase in violence?
There has been an overall decrease in crime in the ward, but we have seen an uptick in burglaries. There are multiple causes for the increase in violence. Chief among those causes is the loss of family stability and a lack of employment options. The solutions must be multifaceted too. We need an increase in moral values which for many can come from a stronger belief in Jesus Christ. We need to make education in our schools more relevant to today’s students. We also need the political will to create jobs in the US and not outsource them overseas.
6. Have the installation of parking meters affected traffic or commerce in your ward? What could Chicago Parking LLC do to make things easier for business in your ward?
No. In parts of the ward I have worked with them to have reduced rates in areas where businesses have struggled.
7. What feature is your ward best known for?
We have a number of buildings and churches that have been important landmarks in the history of Chicago as well as its black community. Every year the Bud Billiken parade, the largest in the country, takes place in the 3rd ward. 2012 marks the 83rd year of the parade. We also have access to great transportation with the Dan Ryan expressway, CTA Red Line and Green Line and Metra trains all running through the ward. We have great educational institutions such as the Illinois Institute of Technology, Vandercook School of Music, Illinois College of Optometry, Northeastern University and Columbia College where great research and education is taking place everyday.
8. How do you feel about transferring street sweeping and garbage pickup to a grid system, rather than leaving them under the control of the alderman?
If the grid system improves the collection of garbage, provides better service to our citizens, and saves the taxpayers money, then it’s a good thing to do. As Aldermen, however, we need to have the resources readily available to handle issues unique to our particular wards at a moment's notice.
9. How would you spend an ideal Saturday afternoon in your ward?
Riding my bicycle through the ward, stopping at various community events, enjoying its rich diversity and talking to the people I serve.
10. What is your favorite book, television show and meal?
I have many favorite books. Currently, I am reading No Higher Honor, a memoir by Condoleezza Rice. My favorite television show is Chopped on the Food Network. A good medium rare steak, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus and sweet tomatoes sautéed in olive oil and corn bread.
11. Do you have a tattoo?
12. What are your thoughts on social media?
Social media is a good way to get and share information, but it’s really hard to control when used maliciously or when information is shared without regard to whether its correct or not.
13. How do you feel about food trucks?
I will support them in limited quantities and in designated areas.
14. Will you vote for Obama or Romney?
15. Have you ever bought a Groupon, and what was it?
Yes, for a spa.
This month, Ward Room blogger Edward McClelland’s Young Mr. Obama: Chicago and the Making of a Black President will be available on Kindle for $2.99. Tracing Obama’s career in Chicago from his arrival as a community organizer to his election to the U.S. Senate, Young Mr. Obama tells the story of how a callow, presumptuous young man became a master politician, and of why only Chicago could have produced our first black president.