Considering that public safety is perhaps the No. 1 issue consistently emerging as a headline-grabber in the race for 46th Ward Alderman, it should come as no surprise that a seven-year officer with the Chicago Police Department, Michael Carroll, has emerged as a strong contender for the post. In a recent conversation with the Windy City Times, Carroll spoke about his campaign.
Windy City Times: What motivated you to join this race?
Michael Carroll: I entered the race because I love my neighborhood. I love my community and I'm unhappy when I see things not going well. I've always been involved. After college, I did a lot of public service and I was a police officer, which I also think of as public service. I think this is the next step for me in serving my community.
In college, I did a lot of volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and I worked abroad after college, was in the Peace Corps and went to Morocco. After that, I lived and worked with the poor in an AIDS hospice and orphanage in Bangkok, Thailand. When I first moved into Uptown, I didn't get involved. I knew politics but I wasn't really involved [with it]. I spent my time being involved with neighborhood groups and volunteering at the food pantry at my church. I just got to know more and more and I felt that with my background, my knowledge and my experience fighting crime and on schooling, I'd be a good fit to be the voice of our community.
WCT: What are your biggest priorities should you be elected alderman?
MC: My first priority is public safety and stopping crime. When [Chicago Police Department Superintendent] Jody Weis was on TV saying crime is down citywide, that's great, but it's not in my neighborhood and that's terrible. No one here deserves that. It doesn't matter where a person is from, what culture they come from or how much money they make, everyone wants the same exact thing. That has no bearing on their right to safe streets.
The next step of that would be job development and we'll be opening businesses on the Wilson, Broadway and Sheridan corridors. How are these empty storefronts good for our community? I think one of the biggest things preventing shopkeepers from coming is the crime, so if I can put a handle on that, I'll let the business owners know Uptown is open for business and I'd do whatever it takes to ensure that your business does well. I want the Wilson Red Line stop to be a hub for business, a destination.
My third biggest priority would be infrastructure, which is parceled with the first two. Our three stops of the Red LineSheridan, Wilson and Lawrenceare in terrible condition, the worst of which is Wilson. It should be a better place crime-wise and services-wise. Another thing that needs to be changed immediately is that it's not ADA compliant -- none of ours are. We're missing a golden opportunity here that will bring in more tax revenue to the city to pay the bills, hire more cops and have better schools.
WCT: How do you respond to those who say your police background lacks the direct political experience an alderman should have?
MC: I think they should look at my whole background because I'm not Mike the cop; I'm Mike the public servant. I finished my master's degree at Northwestern on public policy and did my masters thesis about crime prevention and how to keep these people from committing crime, which goes into the schools and the vast importance of these juveniles staying in school and addressing the biggest issues I see with schools: truancy.
WCT: There have been some complaints in the last year of harassment of LGBT people at the hands of the Chicago Police Department, such as Officer Richard Fiorito. How do you seek to increase police presence in the ward without alienating LGBT residents?
MC: Being a police officer, I hate hearing stories about police officers doing things they shouldn't be doing. It makes me very, very unhappy because it gives me a bad name. To that end, the police have to be concerned with every community and this is one thing they can't pass up because if they do they aren't doing their job. Talking about certain officers, such as Fiorito, I know about the issue. I was on the CAPS beat and the District Advisory Committee for some time and a group came into the meeting to express their displeasure with that officer ... That incident was a vocal incident and I haven't heard about it recently. I think that [the investigation] will continue until it is soundly resolved.
WCT: Why do you hope to have the support of LGBT voters in the ward?
MC: To have their support would be them saying they believe I can be their voice in City Hall. It's really important to me that everybody not only thinks but knows that they are part of this community and that they belong. ... There's a phrase I often heard as a police officer coming on the job that I learned: "It's not my father's department." You think about all these things that happened in the late '60s with the police after Dr. King was murdered, Bobby Kennedy was murdered and then the DNC in '68. Those were some pretty heavy things that happened and scarred our department and it's been how many years since then? And now there's John Burge. I mean, shoot, that was some 20 years ago and he's still in the news giving us a black eye when this guy hasn't been an officer in forever.
I have the background, the knowledge and the constitution to deal with these terrible things we've been dealing with and I want to make sure you and this community don't have to deal with that anymore. If it's the bullying, kids shouldn't have to deal with it. If it's the overall abuse, it shouldn't happen that way and I'll do everything in my power to ensure that never happens.
See www.carroll46.com .