I talk to a lot of people in my neighborhood, including businesspeople. They all complain about the same things. Sometimes, they complain to or about the alderman. For whatever reason, some of their complaints fall on deaf ears, or they get the usual response, “We’re working on it.” The issues or problems persist.
I find this phenomenon all over the city. People seem to think they are helpless when issues persist. People should not think. They should act. They should organize their neighbors, create a plan to solve or mitigate the problem. It is called community organizing. Elected officials do not like community organizers. It makes them look like what they are, useless.
Community organizing is merely people deciding, as a group, to solve a common problem(s) in their community. It is not some political- lefty or righty- concept. It is merely people getting together to resolve issues. Many times, their solutions are more effective than those offered up by elected officials.
Some examples of community organizing are school parent groups, area business associations, block clubs, or neighborhood groups for or against specific issues such as housing, traffic concerns, quality of life, etc.
Occasionally community groups work with their elected officials, sometimes against, and many times despite them. People see an issue or problem and decide to resolve it when politicians take too long or do nothing.
Our city works when ordinary, well-meaning people try to make their communities better every day. We need to become more aware of issues in our neighborhoods. What is the problem? How many people does it affect? How do we fix it? Find out what works—identifying and attacking issues is not enough. Whatever action is taken must be results-oriented.
I know one thing. If we, as a community, see a problem, we can solve it together. All the political rhetoric aside, we citizens can do it. That is what Chicago is all about. Citizens have been solving problems, big and small since this burg was a swampy trading post.
Most of us want to see some common sense, honesty, and integrity from our elected officials. We get none of that. All we get are excuses and failed policies repeatedly. If Chicago is the city that works, people need to work to help solve our neighborhood problems.
We are the problem solvers. Citizens cannot just argue, complain to each other or the alderman when neighborhood problems persist. We live there. We can find solutions. We can do things. We should do something. It is people helping people.
Activism is not a political ideology- right or left-wing. It is not merely protesting or putting cutesy signs on lawns or in windows to feel good about ourselves. It is taking group action to solve a problem or issue. It is up to us if the politicians or bureaucrats will not do it or take too long.
There are many people in this city doing good work on a small scale. Whether it is dealing with homelessness, lack of food resources, poverty, violence, abuse, beautification projects, or any other myriad issues in our neighborhoods. There are opportunities in every community to volunteer. If you have different talents, you could put them to use, writing or graphic arts, for example.
People can demand better from their alderman by banding together and flooding their office with calls or emails over an issue. Use petitions to get attention. You can organize your neighbors to do things. There are neighborhood organizations you can join.
There are 2.7 million people in Chicago. We have the numbers. There are things, big and small, people can do in their communities.
If nothing else, we can hold the politicians’ feet to the fire by organizing, emailing them, going to their offices, attending community meetings, anything to make our voices heard. If they get defensive or angry, as some ruder ones do, remind them who they work for. Then, organize to get rid of them and elect someone else.
Like the Nike slogan, “Just do it.”