Sunday, April 30, 2006

Serving two flocks

Rick Kogan profiles another Englewood alderman. The other was Ted Thomas of the 15th ward. Alderman Shirley Coleman represents Chicago's 16th ward. She is also the only ordained minister on Chicago's city council. And in this article she says that she tries to keep her religious and political business separate...

"A congregation is not that dissimilar to a constituency. Both jobs serve the needs of the people. I do, however, try to keep them separate. I save my sermons for Sundays."
Here's a little more about her road to alderman...

She's been a Baptist minister for 11 years-delivering sermons and teaching Bible classes at the Spiritual Wholistic Church on 50th Street-and an alderman since 1991, when she won election over eight candidates, none of whom played gently with the only female in the field. Things got rougher the next time around. Months before the 1995 election, it became public that Coleman's ex-husband, Hernando Williams, was awaiting execution after being convicted of rape and murder long after the two were divorced. Her opponent, Hal Baskin, said that Williams might have committed his crimes because Coleman "may not have been giving [Williams] what he needed at home."

The alderman was outraged, calling Baskin's statements "malicious and despicable." She says now, "It made me stronger but also able to speak more openly about issues such as domestic violence."

She grew up in Englewood and saw the neighborhood thrive and then decline after Dr. King's assasination. Also she ran for alderman after the incumbent, Chicago's first female alderman Anna Langford, retired in 1991. A little more about the 16th ward...

Crime and poverty remain serious problems in her ward, which includes parts of Englewood, West Englewood, New City, Back of the Yards and Gage Park, as well as the gem of the Chicago park system, Sherman Park...
Ald. Coleman does have some regrets but there is a coming bright side...
Out on the 63rd Street sidewalk, amid a long stretch of empty lots, Coleman says, "That is one of my biggest regrets I have, so much tear-down. Beautiful graystones that might have been restored. But too many were open and dangerous. We had to tear down in order to build up."

A few blocks to the east, there is rising a new campus of Kennedy-King College (in Osgood's photo). "It was a very long time in coming but it will provide the economic engine that is needed for that area around 63rd and Halsted," says the alderman, who plans to run again next year. "It will help bring this neighborhood back to what it was when I was young."

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