Alderman Michele Smith (43rd Ward) spoke to the DePaul Democrats Tuesday night on topics ranging from the responsibilities of an alderman to her upcoming re-election campaign.
With students from around the country and world attending DePaul, the city’s political process can be confusing. So in her talk, Smith started with explaining the role of an alderman in Chicago.
“First of all, we are politically responsible for the delivery of constituent services,” Smith said. “What that really means is that I am politically responsible for the voters for everything they see or experience after they walk out their front door.
“So when you walk out the front door of your dorm, you’re on a street that needs paving, a light that needs changing, trash that needs picking up, public safety, flooding in the streets, you name it,” she said. “Literally anything out your front door, your alderman in the city of Chicago is responsible for.”
The other main responsibilities of alderman in the city are acting as legislators in the city council and playing a large role in the development that takes place in the ward.
Each ward consists of roughly 56,000 people, and Smith said that her office dealt with about 20,000 constituent service requests last year. While Smith did not deny the amount of work that an alderman must put in, she firmly believes that it is one of the best political jobs to have.
“A lot can be done in Washington, but truly, Pres. Obama’s vision and policies are really being driven by the cities in this country,” Smith said. “In particular, in Chicago, because our mayor Rahm Emanuel was Pres. Obama’s chief of staff and helped come up with some of those policies.”
Students who attended appreciated Smith for coming and liked what she had to say.
“I always appreciate a woman in political positions,” DePaul sophomore Hope Herten said. “And she was obviously passionate about her role as alderman.”
From a small town in Colorado, sophomore Kyla Patterson’s favorite part of the discussion was the explanation of what aldermen do for their constituents.
“I really enjoyed getting her two cents on what it is to be an alderman as I’m from out of state from a really small town,” Patterson said. “Like my small town wouldn’t even be a ward in Chicago, so it’s nice to figure out all the things that the alderman do for us and it’s really inspired me to reach out to my alderman to install a crosswalk so I don’t get hit while I’m walking home.”
DePaul Dems treasurer Cameron Erickson, the executive board member who worked with the Smith’s office to arrange the alderman’s visit, said that he like how she emphasized how all politics is local.
“I think the part that she really stressed was that the issues that we deal with on a national level are also dealt with locally, but with the caveat that when you deal with it on the municipal level, you actually have to get things done,” Erickson said. “So even when things are gridlocked in Washington, we can still facilitate change by electing good people to office like Michele Smith in the 43rd Ward, and wards around the city.”
Smith, along with every other alderman, is up for reelection this February.