Chicago mayoral candidate Amara Enyia visited Rogers Park’s Heartland Cafe Monday, where she spoke to 65 community members, officials said, and raised awareness of her campaign. Rogers Park residents listened to Enyia speak about her platform and asked her specific questions about policy stances.
The event was part of a effort to collect signatures so Enyia can get on the ballot for the February 2019 mayoral election. Chicago candidates need a petition with 12,500 valid signatures — meaning they must be witnessed by whoever circulates the petition — to get on the ballot.
More than a dozen other candidates have also formed campaigns, and Rahm Emanuel, the current mayor, announced he isn’t running for reelection, The Phoenix previously reported.
Enyia previously ran for mayor in 2015. Since announcing her 2019 campaign, she’s received high profile contributions from Chicago musicians Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Enyia spoke about how she came from a family of activists, and continued that activism in Chicago after receiving a master’s degree, law degree and doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She’s the executive director of the Austin Chamber of Commerce and has worked in multiple levels of city government, according to her website.
Enyia said she wanted to speak at Heartland Cafe because she grew up in Rogers Park. However, she added Loyola’s proximity was a bonus because her campaign appeals to young people. Heartland Cafe, located at 7000 N. Glenwood Ave., is approximately one mile from Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus.
Residents asked questions on a variety of topics, including public health, Chicago Public Schools, police accountability and Enyia’s plans to create a public bank — a bank run by the city government.
Enyia said these issues directly relate to college students and their ability to live in the city during school and after graduation.
“One of the things for college students is making sure that they have the opportunity to actually live and work in the city,” Enyia told The Phoenix. “So, when I talk about access to the economy that is with students in mind. When I talk about housing affordability, it’s so that our college students can actually stay in Chicago.”
While addressing the audience, Enyia stressed giving attention to all areas of the city and strengthening government institutions. She also emphasized Chicago residents’ power to change the city, particularly with the chance to select a new mayor.
Sarah Rhee, a Rogers Park resident for 13 years, said she remembered Enyia from the previous mayoral election, but the event was the first time she had come to hear her speak during this campaign.
“I’ve really admired the way that she actually shows up to community events,” the 46-year-old said. “I wanted to have a chance to hear what her platforms were, also just to be in support.”
The Chicago Public School system is an issue Rhee said is important to her, and she hopes Enyia would address it as mayor.
“As a mother with a child in [a Chicago Public School], her issue around education, and quality neighborhood schools, that would be really important to me,” Rhee said. “I really do believe when she says that we have a really inequitable education system in our city.”
Rhee said she was impressed with Enyia’s experience and platform after hearing her speak.
“She’s definitely brilliant, and articulate and basically everything you want in a candidate for political office,” Rhee said. “I think she is more than capable of running a city government, and I think she’s demonstrated that in all her answers tonight.”
Aviva Stein, a 26-year-old Rogers Park resident, said she heard about Enyia’s campaign from Chance the Rapper’s endorsement and came to hear her speak because she wanted to get involved in local politics.
Stein, who’s lived in the area for about a year, said Enyia’s support of police reform is something she cares about.
“I think [residents of Rogers Park] have a lot of privilege that a lot of over-policed communities don’t, but we’re still very over-policed,” Stein said.