A group of Southeast High School students participated in Illnois Public Media’s Civics Youth Engagement Summit in March. They came up with ten questions to ask.
Illinois Public Media emailed questionnaires to the candidates for city council. Below are the submitted responses from Ward 10 candidate Rob Patino. Ward 10 Ald. Ralph Hanauer and candidate Olajide John Animasaun did not respond.
Patino: I hope to represent Ward 10, which includes the southwest side of Springfield. That being said, I also need to look out for the city of Springfield as a whole and I have a lot of affection for the East Side since I’m a graduate of Southeast High School. The East Side of Springfield has suffered blight because it has more crime per capita than other parts of Springfield. Businesses are reluctant to move into the area because there is a greater risk of business being vandalized or trespassed during afterhours, which adds additional costs and uncertainty. The higher crime rates are likely due to the poverty that is experienced in this area as parents struggle to provide for their families while their children have less oversight. To help make the area more attractive to businesses, the area needs to be marketed as “safe” while given additional economic incentives to invest in the area. This effort likely includes a commitment from the city to provide additional resources in these areas such as increased community interaction with law enforcement outside of official duties and investment dollars to induce business development in the area. Some ideas for each of these include having city employees from police to firefighters to economic development professionals give an elective class on civility and understanding how to interact with these city services. Another idea is to have an investment fund that can be made available electively by CWLP customers to local entrepreneurs. Perhaps additional consideration can be given to companies that elect to locate in blighted areas in various parts of the East Side. . . as an example.
Patino: There are several things the city is already doing to tear down vacant homes and making landlords more responsible for their properties. TIF districts have been proposed to help these areas attract new development. However, this effort does not do enough to change the momentum of economic opportunities for the local residents. I believe more engagement by groups such as the Boys and Girls Club to have more programs related to entrepreneurship and civic engagement would go a long way in educating younger people about starting businesses where they see a need and about how government, including police, firefighters and city operations interact and impact the residents of neighborhoods located on the East and North sides of the city.
Patino: I think more could be done around the city basketball tournament. One thought is to expand this city tournament into a multisport (activity) competition to include girls basketball, wrestling, and other winter sports/activities and then create an award around that which could be more inclusive and get the entire community together. This should not be seen as a “competition” where the local high school are at odds with each other but designed in a way to where the sporting teams (and other clubs) compete in giving back to the city in some way.
Patino: I think more could be done to make downtown more attractive during the day and safer at night to hang out. This is a complex issue because it deals with taking care of the homeless and beggars while adding beautification projects to the area. At night, there are often fights and other acts of criminality that make the downtown area feel a bit unsafe. However, I think if Springfield wants a “game changer” downtown, I think it needs a long-term capital plan that ultimately converts the underground parking area around the Old State Capitol into some buried roads that could make for a very attractive pedestrian area for the community that is free from traffic. I’m not sure if that is feasible, but some day down the road, the underground parking is going to have to be rehabbed and this is something that should be explored.
Patino: I was not aware that UIS was looking to expand. I believe any expansion needs to be thoughtful; however, if there was a justified need, then I think it should be supported. Most of this effort/cost is up to the university to fund and I don’t look at this as a strong city action other than to accommodate any desired expansion that makes sense for the community.
Patino: The schools need to improve . . . period. Many young families looking to move into the area look at the schools and then decide where they want to live. This action often leads them to move into areas that have Chatham or Rochester schools. That being said, there are many alumni of the 186 school district such as myself that can give back and show what great schools these are. I graduated from Southeast High School and my family gives away the Jamie Patino Math and Science Scholarship to a senior at Southeast High School every year. Showing that Springfield has quality schools will help attract more people to move here. I do hope that the new funding formula passed by the state will help funnel more funding and resources into the Springfield school district to invest in new projects, programs and educators.
Patino: Civic Engagement. What I hope to do is have people who work for the city, including elected officials, give an elective course within the high schools about Civility and Civics. Volunteers could come in and educate the students about how taxes are levied and spent, how to deal with a police officer if you get pulled over, and things you need to think about when your house catches on fire. Getting the younger generation knowledgeable about city government will make them and their parents more aware about the decisions made during city council meetings.
Patino: Yes, way too much. The licenses need to be capped and new licenses need to be withheld until some new procedures can be put in place to make these more challenging to obtain. The state has already made it legal and business are exercising their rights, but many of these businesses will not last forever and many of those licenses need to be retired and not renewed.
Patino: I will refer you to my previous question about Civic Engagement. I suspect there could be more and creative way, and the young people need to be asked directly about their own ideas that they might wish to share.